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The Shadow-Line

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  3,485 ratings  ·  227 reviews
Written in 1915, The Shadow-Line is based upon events and experiences from twenty-seven years earlier to which Conrad returned obsessively in his fiction. A young sea captain's first command brings with it a succession of crises: his sea is becalmed, the crew laid low by fever, and his deranged first mate is convinced that the ship is haunted by the malignant spirit of a ...more
Paperback, Oxford World's Classics, 136 pages
Published September 1st 2003 by Oxford University Press (first published 1916)
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Luís C.
An inexperienced sea captain, on his first voyage at the helm of a ship, faces two crisis: his crew is dying because of a fever and there are no winds to sail. To escape this dead end, the arrogant captain will have to cross the line of shadow that separates all experience limit. The novel was written by Conrad when his son Borys fought in the First War.
For no apparent reason, a young man from the English merchant navy decides to abandon his life at sea.
It is decided from the distant eastern
Ahmad Sharabiani
Typhoon and other Tales, Joseph Conrad
Typhoon is a novella by Joseph Conrad, begun in 1899 and serialized in Pall Mall Magazine in January–March 1902. Its first book publication was in New York by Putnam in 1902; it was also published in Britain in Typhoon and Other Stories by Heinemann in 1903. Typhoon is a classic sea yarn, possibly based upon Conrad's actual experience of seaman's life, and probably on a real incident aboard of the steamer John P. Best (according to the book by Jerry Allen on
Jan 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
"a man should stand up to his bad luck, to his mistakes, to his conscience and all that sort of thing Why--what else would you have to fight against?"
-- Joseph Conrad, The Shadow-Line


One of Conrad's later novels. This one was published in 1917. The story is pretty straight forward, the plot direct. It isn't an elaborate story, but one that explores that moment, that shadow-line between youth and adulthood. The basic story involves a young officer, suddenly thrust into command. During his first
Ivana Books Are Magic
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing

The novella opens up with a young narrator, who actually does a pretty good of explaining the novel’s title (the shadow line) in the first paragraph:

" Only the young have such moments. I don’t mean the very young. No. The very young have, properly speaking, no moments. It is the privilege of early youth to live in advance of its days in all the beautiful continuity of hope which knows no pauses and no introspection.
One closes behind one the little gate of mere
May 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
The Shadow-Line by Joseph Conrad describes that demarcation line in the journey of life that divides the happy, bright, fantastic and irresponsible youth with the darker ages of manhood. Conrad goes on to delineate this vision as being beyond the “charm and innocence of illusions”.

The Shadow-Line is one of his most accomplished nautical tales and stands close to Typhoon and Youth as almost entirely about the sea and man’s relationship to a vessel. Whereas Youth was of a young man’s first
Apr 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This novella, told in the first person by a young Englishman who is unnamed, is set, as are so many of Conrad’s stories, in a seaport in the Far East. The narrator has suddenly resigned a comfortable position as mate on a ship, apparently resigning what he acknowledges is a good position in a fit of vague malaise, a sense of inexplicable dissatisfaction, intending to book passage home to England. Abruptly, the position of master of another ship becomes available and is offered to him, and just ...more
Free download available at Project Gutenberg.

"Worthy of my undying regard"

To Borys And All Others Who,
Like Himself, Have Crossed In Early Youth
The Shadow-Line Of Their Generation With Love

—D'autre fois, calme plat, grand miroir De mon desespoir. —BAUDELAIRE

2* Amy Foster
2* The Secret Agent
3* Heart of Darkness
3* The Secret Sharer
3* The Lagoon
4* Lord Jim
4* Victory
3* The Shadow-Line
TR Nostromo
TR An Outcast of the Islands
TR The Idiots

About Joseph Conrad:
Joseph Conrad by Hugh Walpole
The English Novel:
Apr 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Joseph Conrad pens this fictionalized autobiography, which, for the most part is going to be difficult if not impossible to describe. Were I able to tell you, however, you would have the sense of it in the same way that you experience a fly buzzing the ether unseen. Enthralled within the movement of words, with eyes not wanting to leave the page, you will hear the story – whispering from behind the shadow line of it’s exquisite prose.

Every page a gift.

This book is about a young captain who is
May 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Middling Conrad is still leagues ahead of most everything else. He sticks to the autobiographical script, probably to the story's detriment: it could have used a bit of embroidery. As it is, we, like the narrator, wait for the thunder and fear the lightning but get precious little of either. Had Conrad the energy to develop more of the crew as characters, there might have been more (or more complex) dramatic tension; but perhaps that would have been a misstep, too: this is, after all, a tale ...more
Eddie Clarke
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: abe, fiction, classics, lgbt
A very beautiful late novella by Conrad, returning to the naval themes of his first books. It follows the course of the youthful, inexperienced hero’s first voyage as a captain of his own sailing ship. He is rushed out to Bangkok to pick up his ship with its existing crew.

It transpires the previous captain was a madman who replaced the ship’s medicine cabinet with (opium? - it’s not made clear) before falling ill, dying & being buried at sea by his crew. On his deathbed he cursed them all.

May 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: conrad, novella
I usually read a work and wait a day before reading anything the author has written ABOUT it.
But in the case of THE SHADOW-LINE, I realized that, as is usual with Conrad, the "Author's Note" would be welded onto the story. You almost CAN'T discuss anything by him without taking into account his own commentary.
His note on THE SHADOW-LINE essentially confirms what I thought his intention was in the story itself. If you read this novella (for it is a novella, not a novel, Conrad flourishing at a
John David
I picked up this book much too casually and without any forethought, and because of this, didn’t give to the book the time and energy that it deserved. This is one of Conrad’s later stories, and happens to have a lot of autobiographical elements, in that it focuses on a young man who gets a commission to lead a ship into the Orient. Conrad’s first command was to sail a ship called the Otago from Singapore into Bangkok. Despite the death of the previous captain and the less-than-auspicious ...more
Jun 12, 2014 rated it liked it
(It's tough to rate books like these. For writing skill, I'd easily give this 5* - Joseph Conrad is a master of his craft, and his grasp both of the seafaring life itself and also of human nature is unsurpassed (in my opinion) by any other writer. But for sheer enjoyment - 3*. Not every great book draws me in - does that make sense? I find it very tricky to rate because of this, and have often given a lesser novel a higher rating because I just flat out enjoyed it, when a really excellent book ...more
Patrick Sherriff
Mar 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
A solid novella following the trials and tribulations of a newbie captain on his first voyage in command. It's all about coming of age, and what it means to be responsible for others and the toll that takes on the individual. It's Conrad, it's pretty deep, well-written and there's subtexts and all that going on below the surface. Worth a read, but in my humble opinion, not as good as Typhoon which is astounding in its depiction of man against nature, or The Secret Sharer, which is a lesson in ...more
Nov 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Shadow-Line is another one of Conrad’s stories that deals with a hero who is faced by a problem that comes from an unexpected source, and for which he is unprepared. On this occasion, the menace comes not from a storm or an accident or a mutinous crew, but from the very calmness of the sea itself.

It seems hard to imagine in our day, but there was a time when a calm ocean was almost as much to be dreaded by sailors as a tempest. When Mendelssohn wrote his overture ‘Calm Sea and Prosperous
Aug 04, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Joseph Conrad ‘The Shadow Line, a Confession’

“Wisdom comes not from age, but from education and learning.”
Anton Chekhov

In the years when Joseph Conrad wrote (1915) and published (1917) his short novel Shadow Line, A Confession, London was the capital of the world, as later Paris and now New York and perhaps in a few years Shanghai will be.
Artist and writers from all over the world gathered in London in those years, as did a constant stream of refuges mainly from Eastern Europe, among them
Vicky Hunt
Mar 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A marvel of a classic from late in Joseph Conrad's life, and the first of his works I've discovered, The Shadow-line is the story of a young man's first command on a ship. It is a coming of age story, a bildungsroman of sorts.

The sentence structure is simple, but the word choice is fresh and descriptive, with an ample vocabulary, which just feels light and airy, but satisfying. It embodies the delight of every sea-tale you have ever read and loved.

A young man comes suddenly upon a chance
"a man should stand up to his bad luck, to his mistakes, to his conscience, and all that sort of thing. Why- what else would you have to fight against?"

On the surface this work tells a decent story with a non-preachy didactic feel. It is about a struggle for survival not by an independently strong and able hero, but a hero that uses his strength and abilities together with his crew to overcome their difficulties. This may seem formulaic but Conrad creates this world and meaning without seeming
Dec 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
No reason not to love Joseph Conrad. This brief bildungsroman (5 cents, cha-ching!), supposedly autobiographical, tells the story of a young captain whose first command is a boat of deathly malarial sailors, caught in the doldrums and short on quinine. It's gripping, chilling, etc. No one writes about sick men on boats (set adrift in all sorts of ways) like JC. I suppose now I should read Nostromo and Lord Jim.

Jeff A. gave me this paperbook, a Vintage reissue snagged from work. Thanks, dude.
Mar 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This short novella tells the story of a young man transitioning to being a mature more self conscious adult. After throwing in his job on a ship on a whim he fortuitously lands the job as a captain on a sailing ship. He then is plagued with bad luck with disease infecting his crew, the ship becalmed and the evil legacy of the past captain arising. In the end it is a story of morality and fortitude.
Tyler Jones
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: the-sea-the-sea
Here is some fantastic writing. Conrad breaks all the rules. He takes forever to get to the point. He foreshadows one thing and then goes somewhere else. He builds up one character then discards him and then brings a minor one out of the shadows. He delighted me with his circuitous prose, his numerous digressions, and his over use of the word "sagacity". I give it 4 stars but if you give it 2 because you found it pointless and frustrating, I would understand.
Monty Milne
Nov 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is much more Conradian than the last couple of Conrads I read (Nostromo, The Secret Agent). Like all the best Conrads, it is about the sea. And it has that careful consideration of human evil, and human strangeness. Although it is relatively short, it still suffers from Conradian convoluted wordiness at times, but at its best this helps us to dive deep beneath the surface of things. Strange, unsettling, and rather good.
Dec 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Conrad’s story features strongly characterized people in events that could turn them upside down and out if they don’t hang on. I enjoy stories of the sea, anyway: wind, wave, stars, sails, spars, mainmasts.
Apr 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
Ah, the satisfaction of the short novel. Clocking in 132 pages, I was able to move swiftly through The Shadow-Line, which gave the narrative something of the sense of a deep inhale.

Among the overused tropes in book reviews--from 'Dickensian' to 'limn' to 'poignant'--count in the phrase 'deceptively simple.' And yet, much to my personal consternation, that's the phrase I want to pull here about Conrad's book. Because, dammit, it is deceptively simple.

In first-person retrospective prose marked by
Jim Leckband
Jan 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Titles are significant with Conrad. Heart of Darkness, Lord Jim, The Nigger of the Narcissus and Other Stories are in themselves great titles, but the secret sharer sauce is the weight of their words to the stories themselves - the irony of "Lord" Jim, the symbolism of the heart of the "Darkness", the mirror of the "Narcissus". So what is the "Confession" in "The Shadow-Line: A Confession"?

The story itself doesn't show anything that needs a confession. For once Conrad uses a straight first
Apr 06, 2016 added it
Conrad starts by portraying thoughts between the time of "boyishness" and entering "the enchanted garden" of adulthood, where every turn of the path has its delightful seduction. And time does on "till one perceives ahead a shadow-line warning one that the region of early youth, too must be left behind."
The young sailor signed on the steamer "Melita" leaving London for Bangkok that evening. And once in an exotic Malay port, he is given task of being the replacement Captain of a fine-looking
Right now, I’m also reading a book called Extinction Game, a so-so “infinite realities” tale that like much current fiction (especially sci-fi, fantasy and YA) is all story but pretty poor writing. The Shadow-Line, however, is just the opposite – all style but very little plot. The story in total is: a fairly young and whiney sailor quits his ship in Singapore to return home, but instead is offered an opportunity to captain his own ship. He meets his ship in Bangkok, but then they get becalmed ...more
Apr 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Shadow-Line is a Conradian tale of mishaps and trials at sea graced with his usual stunning descriptions of the wastes of time and water but most valuable for an exceptionally acute portrait of a man clumsily approaching maturity while unhappily being forced to eat the bitter meal of his ambitions.

Our narrator calls his account a confession. So it is. The novella opens with him leaving one ship because he's somehow lost his spirit and interest in things. Then he's given a chance to move from
Mar 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Here is the Author's Note to the Shadowline. It was not included in the early print editions, but was added by the author in response to assertions by hopeful religionists that Conrad's writings insinuate his belief in a deity...

"The world of the living contains enough marvels and mysteries as it is; marvels and mysteries acting upon our emotions and intelligence in ways so inexplicable that it would almost justify the conception of life as an enchanted state.
"No, I am too firm in my
Aug 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Typical Conradian fare in one sense: a man gets elevated to captain - partially because he's able to, partially because he doesn't want others to take such a position - on a ship. His first mate though, Mr Burns, is haunted by the memory of the previous captain and said captain's megalomania to drive the ship into the ground (or the abysses of the sea, your metaphor to choose). The captain must cross that 'shadow-line' between child-like naïveté and adult-like understanding/realism/sorrow. It's ...more
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Reading 1001: The Shadow-Line by Joseph Conrad 4 12 Feb 25, 2016 01:43PM  

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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
“All my moral and intellectual being is penetrated by an invincible conviction that whatever falls under the dominion of our senses must be in nature and, however exceptional, cannot differ in its essence from all the other effects of the visible and tangible world of which we are a self-conscious part. The world of the living contains enough marvels and mysteries as it is—marvels and mysteries acting upon our emotions and intelligence in ways so inexplicable that it would almost justify the conception of life as an enchanted state. No, I am too firm in my consciousness of the marvelous to be ever fascinated by the mere supernatural which (take it any way you like) is but a manufactured article, the fabrication of minds insensitive to the intimate delicacies of our relation to the dead and to the living, in their countless multitudes; a desecration of our tenderest memories; an outrage on our dignity.” 33 likes
“The world of the living contains enough marvels and mysteries..acting upon our emotions and intelligence in ways so inexplicable that it would almost justify the conception of life as an enchanted state.
No, I am too firm in my consciousness of the marvellous to be ever fascinated by the mere supernatural...”
More quotes…