Guardian Newspaper 1000 Novels discussion

Lord Jim
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Monthly Book Reads > Lord Jim - July 2018

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Darren (dazburns) | 757 comments Mod
this month's War & Travel selection - who's in...?

Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 565 comments I'm in for both this month, but a little later, I think.

Jackie | 88 comments I'm in too, I will be starting soon.

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Christopher (Donut) | 245 comments It's been so long since I read it, but I don't think I have a copy "around."

Jackie | 88 comments Christopher, I found my copy free on kindle if that helps.

Darren (dazburns) | 757 comments Mod
I'm a bit over-Conrad'ed atm
I'm intending soon to re-read Nostromo and Heart of Darkness and I also have Secret Agent lined up, so might give this one a miss...

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Lia Darren wrote: "I'm a bit over-Conrad'ed atm
I'm intending soon to re-read Nostromo and Heart of Darkness and I also have Secret Agent lined up, so might give this one a miss..."

Have you read Lord Jim before, Darren?

You know Charles Marlow, the intrepid seafarer-narrator (sounds like Odysseus), shows up in a few of Conrad’s novels? If you’re going to Conrad-Binge, it might be worth reading Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim back to back. Youth, Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim can be read as some kind of trilogy. I find it rewarding to see Marlow transformed by each encounter, and grow up from each attempt to pick up the shattered pieces of his world, and put it back into a new and more considered narrative. It’s a lot like reading Tolstoy, following each character from insufferable naive romantic youth, to brutal disillusionment, to wizened(?) maturity.

I'll be reading with this group, but probably start late as well. I'm kind of caught up in something right now, I've also committed to too many books for this month.

message 8: by Christopher (last edited Jul 04, 2018 09:32AM) (new) - added it

Christopher (Donut) | 245 comments Jackie wrote: "Christopher, I found my copy free on kindle if that helps."

Oh, sorry- please redact my message. I thought I was posting to the "Lucky Jim" thread.

Lord Jim- yes, I have the Kindle (fre)e-book.

Lord Jim

eta: but I am reading Under Western Eyes with another group right now, not sure I want to read two Conrads at once.

Darren (dazburns) | 757 comments Mod
HofD and Nostromo are the only 2 Conrads I've read so far
I want to read Secret Agent next precisely because it is a different kind of story!

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Lia Cphe wrote: "I was going to attempt Lord Jim before I start Moby Dick but perhaps I should be reading Heart of Darkness first?????"

Good for you :D It's not necessary, Lord Jim is ostensibly about Jim, Marlow is just one narrator, you can enjoy the self-contained novel without having read any other Conrad. But if you've been following Marlow's stories, it can also be read as Marlow being transformed by narrating Jim's story.

Heart of Darkness is short, you can read it in an afternoon, I'm tempted to say why not, but that's probably how I ended up with an out of control pile of TBR. Also, even though it's short, it probably needs to be read more than once . (like most modernist novels.)

Darren wrote: "HofD and Nostromo are the only 2 Conrads I've read so far
I want to read Secret Agent next precisely because it is a different kind of story!"

Ah okay, I reckon you should nominate Secret Agent for next month's group read then, it's in the "Crime" catalogue of G1000!

message 11: by Phil (new) - rated it 2 stars

Phil (lanark) | 467 comments 60 pages in, I have a few observations.

i) I'm having to slow down my reading pace considerably to make sense of Conrad's dense sentence structure. Not a bad thing in itself, but it does involve a change of approach.

ii) this is going to be a looooooooooong night for Marlowe's friends of he's going to be narrating this whole book for them over a windjammer and some sandwiches.

iii) I'm enjoying Conrad's character description: this ship's captain looking like he'd been carved from a block of fat; Brierley as an über-confident alpha male, a paragraph detailing how he considered himself superior to every other human on earth, ending with the sentence, two months later he committed suicide.

iv). Jim's contrary view of himself contrasted with his actions. Seeing himself as a brave, moral, man of action when all his actions point to his cowardice and ability to be easily led by the morally dubious (while always able to explain away his acts).

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Fay Roberts | 363 comments Phil wrote: "60 pages in, I have a few observations.

i) I'm having to slow down my reading pace considerably to make sense of Conrad's dense sentence structure. Not a bad thing in itself, but it does involve a..."

I haven't started yet and I've only read Heart of Darkness by Conrad but I remember thinking the same about your point ii) when reading that :-)

@Lia, is this a style he uses in all his books?

Jackie | 88 comments I agree about the sentence structure. I started a few days ago and Conrad's style is striking. I like it very much, it is almost as if he savours each word and you have to take your time to read it to get the full meaning. Even though more modern, something about him reminds me of the Russian writers. Does anyone else feel the same way?

Darren (dazburns) | 757 comments Mod
Conrad was Polish-born, so English wasn't his "first" language - although obviously he got pretty proficient with it! ;o)

Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 565 comments Jackie wrote: "Even though more modern, something about him reminds me of the Russian writers. Does anyone else feel the same way? ..."

Hello Jackie--I haven't started LJ yet, but for another group, I'm mid-way through Under Western Eyes, which deals with a political act of terrorism during the Tsarist days in Russia. Talk about reminding one of the Russian writers! I don't know if Conrad meant to or not, but he certainly seems to be channeling Dostoyevsky in that novel.

The part of Poland that Conrad was born in was actually controlled by Russia, and his father was active in trying to restore the former boundaries of Poland, and was sent into exile for a time, during which Joseph's mother died of TB.. Wikipedia (from where I some of those details) seems to have a pretty good run-down on Conrad's early years if you are interested.

Jackie | 88 comments That does explain a lot doesn't it. It just goes to show that the way you express yourself isn't all about the language you write in. Useful to know when reading something and wondering about the translation!

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Fay Roberts | 363 comments Just about to start :-) Should I bother guys?!?!

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Lia Yes, I'm still planning to read this. Please don't leave me alone in here talking to myself!

Jackie | 88 comments I am nearly finished. It is worth it I think, though it does drag in the middle before sorting itself out into a redemption novel. Not a light summer read for sure, Conrad probably wasn't the sunniest of souls.

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Fay Roberts | 363 comments Oh I really like this so far (just about to start chapter 8). I see what you mean about the writing style but I loved those early chapters. The long meandering sentences really captured the long lazy early days of Jim’s life at sea for me and the similes that made up most of them really helped me capture his dreamy and imaginative inner life. I like the distinct difference between the third person narrative and Marlow’s story telling style and the way Marlow has incorporated other stories into his narrative. I went in “blind” like I normally do so for a few chapters I’ve been captured up in the “what could possibly have happened to be that bad?” I’m pretty sure I’ve pieced it together but it’s been fun guessing. I nearly read the introduction to this one as well so I’m glad I didn’t because it’s really added to my experience.
@Jackie - did you feel finish? What’s the verdict? I like it better than Zorba so far, how about you ;-) ?
@Lia - how’s the reread? Have you noticed anything that passed you by?
How about you other first posters? Did you finish? What did you think?

message 21: by Lia (last edited Jul 17, 2018 03:14PM) (new) - added it

Lia I’ve been doing a Conrad binge lately, I’ve reread Heart of Darkness earlier this month, and I’m reading Under Western Eyes for the first time with another group.

Another member from a different group mentioned the prominence of the narrator in Conrad novels, and I agree. That’s true for Under Western Eyes, but I think especially true for Lord Jim.

Another thing I’m noticing is the upbringing of a character and how that seems to affect his preoccupations, consequential choices, responses in key moments, and the spin he puts on it.

I also noticed Lord Jim and Under Western Eyes both start with the theme of a key character “jumping ship” when reality clashes violently and unexpectedly with their preconception of how the world works, and the rest of the book seems to about a number of people with extremely different views of the world and habits of thoughts react to and explain that.

I also really like the contrast of a ... “generic” (?) narrator giving us what “they” say, vs someone with a particular background, particular life story, prejudice, and sympathy.

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Lia Another really noticeable thing that seems common in Lord Jim and other Conrad novels is the introduction of a peculiarly “private” figure, who is actually trying to hide something, but people seem to conflate that with loftiness. (Then again, these characters also seem to look down on everybody else. They seem like a less extreme version of Kurtz, the legendary hollow-man.)

Jim being “poisoned” by romantic literature reminds me of Don Quixote and Madame Bovary! Beware of words! They can deceive kill!

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Lia Hi Fay,

In the other thread (Silence), you discussed the difficult balance between “too foreign” and “too English.” I’m really curious about how you place Conrad’s novel.

I’m especially interested because he’s “English” by choice, and this novel seems preoccupied with the Victorian ideal of duty and restraint. There’s also the somewhat biographical note about his “need” to “make you see” (as an ESL speaker who constantly struggled to make himself understood all the time.) His obituary in TLS by Virginia Woolf insisted on his foreignness and his “guest” status.

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Fay Roberts | 363 comments Hi Lia - if I hadn’t known that English was his second language I wouldn’t have known. His style of writing is distinctly his own, at times it is poetic and lyrical but his descriptions of life at sea and in the colonies seem no different in essence than those in Money Dick.
I’m only part way through so maybe can’t comment too much yet on Victorian restraint although his “anecdote ” about Brierley seems to capture the essence of this.
Conrad is a lot bleaker in his prose, plot and themes than say Stevenson or Verne (or it seems bleaker due to his style, when I really think about it Verne and Stevenson on the surface seem to be rip roaring adventures but a small scratch shows their similar views of mankind’s nature).
So far I would have to say that it seems typically “British”. Do you think this was to do with his time at Sea mixing with other nationalities?
I found Graham Greene “too English” because I felt as though he imposed his English belief system on a foreign culture; he had only visited the country and never lived there and so I don’t feel he had as much of a grasp on the culture he was trying to create (I really enjoyed the book by the way - it’s just easier to pinpoint what you don’t like than verbalise what you do). In Silence a Japanese author transferred his own cultural clashes with a “Western” belief system onto a Portuguese narrator so the whole psyche of the novel was “foreign” to me and I found it difficult to slip into some of the finer and subtle shades of religious doubt despite the fact that God’s silence and the concept of evil are universal struggles with Christianity.
How successfully do you think Conrad assimilated?

Jackie | 88 comments Third attempt to see if the app will let me post...

Jackie | 88 comments THAT it posts! I just wanted to agree with you on how valuable an outsider's viewpoint is. I thoughly enjoy Conrad for that, his grasp of English is incomparable, and the image of the steamer dreamily making its way is one that will stay with me. So Fay, I enjoyed this much more than Zorba, though there were a couple of times where the white colonial attitude made me cringe a little, not to the extent of Zorba which made me want to scold Kazantzakis.

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Lia Fay wrote: "How successfully do you think Conrad assimilated?”

Not very successfully, at least psychologically, based on his emotionally volatile and vulnerable letters. I think it’s the psychological struggles that supplied him the materials for such complex novels. I tend to see Conrad as the harbinger of the ‘lost generation,’ not necessarily traumatized by war, but by a heightened sense of never-ending homelessness as a perpetual stranger alienated in a globalizing world, where people constantly remind you that you’re an outsider.

I wonder if that’s why Conrad keeps writing about an English narrator who uniquely understands. It’s probably all he ever wanted.

I also think it’s interesting tha Conrad writes such “English” characters, as does Kazuo Ishiguro — another Englishman by choice, not by birth.

message 28: by Phil (new) - rated it 2 stars

Phil (lanark) | 467 comments i'm now 200 pages in, 60 to go and reading this now feels like a boat dragging its anchor. Up until the "sinking" of the Patna and the early bits of the trial were interesting enough, but since Jim went on his travels, for me it's got more and more sluggish and I can't imagine at all how Marlowe's audience haven't lost the will to live.

message 29: by Phil (new) - rated it 2 stars

Phil (lanark) | 467 comments Just finished this. Some books I finish and enjoy them so much I want to start again; some I finish and detest; some I don't particularly enjoy, but appreciate how influential and important that could be; some I finish and wonder how the hell they can be so well-regarded by anybody to be on a list like this. Lord Jim, for me, definitely falls into the final category.

The opening section with the "sinking" of the Patunas is interesting enough, Conrad has good describing chops etc, but then the story meanders and heads down anecdotal tributaries and doesn't go anywhere.

Marlowe is a horrible bore. he's supposed to be telling 200 pages of this book as a story in his club: well, I'm surprised nobody clubbed him. No-one else gets a word in, the level of description is unbelievable as an oral tale, the nested quotation marks are a pain to decipher and even after the end there is no real justification for Marlowe's obsession with Jim.

In fact,I'd go as far as to say there's nothing in Conrad's book to justify a 260 densely typed novel about Jim.

Considering all the books that could have been in here in place of this book, I don't think it justifies its place in the 1000.

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