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The Nigger of the Narcissus

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  1,814 ratings  ·  145 reviews
This scarce antiquarian book is a facsimile reprint of the original. Due to its age, it may contain imperfections such as marks, notations, marginalia and flawed pages. Because we believe this work is culturally important, we have made it available as part of our commitment for protecting, preserving, and promoting the world's literature in affordable, high quality, modern ...more
Paperback, 112 pages
Published June 17th 2004 by Kessinger Publishing (first published 1897)
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Jan 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british, novella, 2020
"The were the everlasting children of the mysterious sea. Their successors are the grown-up children of a discontented earth. They are less naughty, but less innocent; less profane, but perhaps also less believing; and if they had learned how to speak they have also learned how to whine."
- Joseph Conrad, The Children of the Sea

"All work that aspires, however humbly, to the condition of art should carry its justification in every line."
- Joseph Conrad, Introduction to The Children of the Sea


IN a
Mar 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Obviously the title alone puts it somewhat beyond the pale for a high school curriculum - even the reader with a broader experience of the evolution of racial attitudes is going to approach in hopes of a more progressive stance than s/he's likely to get.
The title character is a West Indian (St. Kitts, I think) with an aristocratic demeanor and a resonant voice (one can imagine James Earl Jones in the part) who can mete out twice the disdain he receives, a sailor hired on in India for a trip back
J.M. Hushour
Feb 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"He was at all extremity."

Forget the title for a minute, though I'll say something about that shortly.
This is one of Conrad's finest works, and its tight, succinct, and scathing effectiveness as a morality tale might even set it higher than "Heart of Darkness".
The plot is simple: a black English sailor is dying aboard the Narcissus during its journey home. Initially, he is seen as a shirker, but as it becomes apparent that he actually is dying, the swarm of roiling humanity among the morally
Ivana Books Are Magic
Jul 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
I did like this novella, but in comparison to his other works, I must admit that I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this one and I don't mean just the unfortunate title. In many ways it is similar to other mariner stories of his that I have read, (for example The Typhoon) and yet there is something different about it. The writing is brilliant as always, Conrad creates an interesting cast of characters, the narrative kept my interest, but for some reason my heart wasn't completely in it. I ...more
Jun 23, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: modern-brit
First, let's get the book 'title issue' out of the way. Don't come to me with your cowardly, censuring, squeamishness. If you can't handle classic novels as their authors originally wrote them, then go get yourself a job in a government ministry in a totalitarian state somewhere, get yourself a job in a small-town library where you can have Czarist powers, go get yourself a little rubber stamp and a little pot of whitewash and maybe an armband. I am reviewing this book under its original title-- ...more
Wow, i really struggled with this. I found it really challenging to read, with its oppressive format. For me it is pain to endure a book with paragraphs over a page long. The last time I tried it was that awful book The Flanders Road which was absolutely unreadable.
This book was a little better, but not enough for me to read it fully. I don't mind admitting that I had already given up by the midpoint, and I skimmed after that.

I didn't enjoy it enough to persist. Strange, as I enjoyed most of the
Mar 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I confess that I read this as part of a "Typhoon and other Tales", but is was so awesome that I felt it deserved a rating all of it's own. It was so twisted and true how Conrad played out and expressed the actions, self interests, unspoken trusts, mistrusts, deceptions, and weaknesses of this crew of a sailing ship. Granted I wasn't initially interested in all the British Sailor talk and trying to figure out what they were saying with their thick accents and sea faring lingo, but ultimately that ...more
Richard Thompson
Sep 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Although Conrad is famous for his seafaring tales, I have generally preferred his books that are set mostly or wholly on land. This is my favorite of all of his seafaring tales that I have read so far,; it is better for example in my opinion than Typhoon or The Shadow Line, which are both good stories, but not up to Conrad's best.

This is one of the best stories told from the perspective of the crew of a sailing ship that I have ever read by any author. The only one I can think of that I enjoyed
Yigal Zur
Sep 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
great story great writing
Tristram Shandy
The Story by Which, as a Creative Artist, I Shall Stand or Fall, or: Preferring Not to, Part II

Writing a review on a novel by Joseph Conrad is always very hard for me because I have the feeling that whatever approach I choose, I could have chosen an even better one, his texts being so multi-layered and full of whisperings ambiguous, mysterious and manifold. Okay, before I start dabbling in Conradese myself something Id undoubtedly fail in I had better get my tuppence ready with regard to The
Mar 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"She was born in the thunderous peal of hammers beating upon iron, in black eddies of smoke, under a grey sky, on the banks of the Clyde. The clamorous and sombre steam gives birth to things of beauty that float away into the sunshine of the world to be loved by men."

'The Nigger Of The Narcissus' is considered as one of the early definitive works in the oeuvre of Joseph Conrad and with good reason. It seems, in many places, very much the sophomoric work of a brilliant writer blessed with a
Sep 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: uni-books
An absolutely engrossing tale that takes place on board of the Narcissus, a ship bound for England. It explores the microcosm on board of this ship and examines human nature and power relations as more and more strain is put on the crew. While the language was sometimes very dense and hard to get through (and I struggled with the nautical terms, despite there being a glossary), it was such a rewarding reading experience in the end. Dark and fascinating.
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Joseph Conrad is one of those extraordinary, singular anomalies in the annals of literature. Born into Polish nobility during turbulent and troubled times, he was raised partly in the Ukraine, partly in the Warsaw Citadel where his father was imprisoned, partly with his parents in exile in one of those northern Russian towns you hope you never have to see, and mostlyfollowing the death of his parentsin Poland by an uncle.
He was a sickly child and a poor student. His first language was Polish,
Jim Leckband
Jun 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 13, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nautical

I enjoyed this book even though it was a tough read. It is one of those novellas that feels like a really big book. It was like a men on a mission sort of story set on a merchant ship as it travels from Bombay to England. The sailors violent interactions with each other within the confines of the ship and their struggles to save the ship from the terrible storm takes up much of the pages. Jim Waite, a West Indian sailor is the character in the book's title. His arrival and
Feb 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A beautifully written book (admittedly with possible the worst title imaginable, which is why I chose this ironically censored title to review), though admittedly very dense in its prose, slowing my reading to a crawl. I found the book to be a fascinating look at how a ship in this time as a law and an entity unto itself, a tiny society, representing both the noble and the reprehensible through Conrad's skillful use of layers of meaning and allegory on their journey to the "Mother of Ships," ...more
Brian H.
Feb 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a tough slog. If I didn't like Conrad so much, I may never have finished it. The book really takes its sweet-ass time getting to the point! But Conrad wants us, like the characters, to question what the whole point of busting our asses doing whatever it is we do if we all just end up dying in the end. Eventually, Conrad gets around to providing an answer, but I think he wants the reader to fumble around in the dark for a bit.

Some might say this should've been a short story instead
Mar 23, 2012 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
This edition of Nigger Of The Nostromo offers an alternate, more PC title to that of the original, which makes sense to me, since the N-word in the other title actually only became the nasty word it is today, in the interim since Conrad had published this.

I'd never read this before, I suspect partly because of it's offensive original title. I'm curious about it though, since I've heard that Conrad did not wrote it as a racist work. Of course, I personally don't think he meant to write Heart of
Mar 12, 2013 rated it did not like it
A thoroughly unpleasant reading experience--and I like Conrad!

While there are moments of spectacularly beautiful prose, high marks for style alone can't compensate for a rather disappointing plot and unlikeable characters. Yes, the description of the storm is striking, but eventually I found myself tired of the whole thing.

The best part of the book, and the part that is truly worth reading, is the brief preface which serves as a sort of manifesto for Modernist literature.

As he says in his
Aug 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
My thoughts on reading the unfortunately named The Nigger of the Narcissus by Joseph Conrad were not only that this 1897 novella is a gripping tale of sailors and the sea in the late 19th century but that incredibly English was the authors third language. Born in a Poland carved up by Prussia, Austria-Hungary, and Russia, Conrad spoke and wrote Polish and French as a boy but did not pick up English until he was 20 years old.
Conrad uses the vast inventory of English words in his wonderful
Paul Cornelius
A voyage from East to West. A voyage through life. A voyage into eternity. Conrad takes the reader along all three journeys. Along with Lord Jim, I feel The Nigger of "Narcissus" captures the author at his height and in his most pure form. Another one of his shorter works, a novella, The Nigger of the "Narcissus" condenses into just over a hundred or so pages the style and preoccupations that will characterize most of his later work. The shifting perspectives, the psychological observations, ...more
Dennis Ashendorf
Aug 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
Narcissus has been on my list for 40 years. Conrad dominated my high school and college free reading. Let's dispense with the n-word issue. A sailing ship in the 1800s labelled people. Perhaps this book started a stereotype! Mr Wait was big and lazy. Other sailors were lazy or conniving or small-picture or too loyal.

Too many years have passed for my ability to see the symbolism in this book. It's closer to the novella Youth than to the novella Heart of Darkness. I'm not sure why the title of the
It's awkward picking up and reading a book with such a word in the title, but context, context, context.

The title character is James Wait, a West Indian black sailor on the Narcissus sailing from Bombay to London. While aboard the ship Wait becomes ill and is at the mercy of the other sailors on the ship. There is a division between the men - those who risk their own lives and limbs to help Wait and those who do not.

Apparently American publishers even at the time would not publish the book with
Controversial - and not only because of its most unfortunate, and wildly racist, title. Jim, the titular character in question, boards a ship with a sickness that will kill him. Through this sickness, his crew at first sneers at him, sees him as a burden. Slowly they come to appreciate his being, his offerings to the crew, and what he teaches them - indirectly - about themselves (and how they can stand up to authority). That is the nice version of this novel. The bad version is that this is ...more
Timothy Riley
I plan on going through about a dozen of Conrad's novels this year (maybe in two years). After about three or four I would say this is my favorite so far. It is striking that Conrad's first language was Polish and how he writes like a natural Englishman, especially in his accounts of the sea. Without giving anything away, there is a black man in the novel who is the central character, besides the the first person narrator. The story has drama, nail biting, and definitely some serious morality ...more
David Mann
Sep 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
As by the storm at sea described within, I am totally blown away by the masterful writing of this short Conrad novel. There is a lot of ambiguity in the book, especially surrounding the central character, as well as quite a bit of subtlety. There is much food for thought, though in our present trigger-warning obsessed world there are perhaps few willing to look past the outdated racial language of the book and savor its beauty.
Eric Ruark
Apr 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: maritime-novels
You should really read this book in conjunction with Mark Twain's THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN. Both books call on the reader to reassess their views on who the real 'nigger' is in their stories. Brilliant writing. Brilliant storytelling. The kind of book that should make you think about the right and wrong of various issues.
Jul 17, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another seafaring novel from Joseph Conrad, written circa 1897, having to do mainly with the psychology of a small group, as the ship is basically "... a fragment detached from the earth... like a small planet." Dense and sometimes disturbing.
Jun 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Highly poetic, I can't tell if I enjoyed this book or not. There is some beautiful language in here, but at times it gets in the way and you begin to feel like you're reading someone's attempt to extrapolate on the mundane to cash in on a word count. Not too bad otherwise.
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Joseph Conrad (born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski ) was a Polish-born English novelist who today is most famous for Heart of Darkness, his fictionalized account of Colonial Africa.

Conrad left his native Poland in his middle teens to avoid conscription into the Russian Army. He joined the French Merchant Marine and briefly employed himself as a wartime gunrunner. He then began to work aboard

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