Dan Sandman

52: Nostromo by Joseph Conrad

In Adventure, Books, Fiction on 27/12/2013 at 12:00 pm

Nostromo by Joseph ConradBook 52, this year, is a 1975 Penguin Modern classics edition of Nostromo by Joseph Conrad. It has four hundred and sixty-three pages, several infrequent page folds (I’ve always preferred a bookmark), and is water stained across its golden sides. I therefore can deduce that this book has had a long shelf life and its previous owner is or was over the age of sixty. I like playing Sherlock Holmes with secondhand books – it keeps my imagination revolving.

Speaking of revolutions, there were a disproportionate amount of them during the nineteenth century, especially in South America. And where there are revolutions, there are stories; where there are stories, there are novelists.

Written in 1904, Conrad’s novel, a complex study of how human beings react to social and natural environments, is one such work. Loosely based on a story Conrad heard as a seafaring teenager and a secondhand biography the writer had come across, it takes place in the fictitious republic of Costaguana. The story explores revolutionary politics alongside the corrupting effect of valuable natural resources. During its course, characters grapple with their passions and desires amid grandiose scenery. Ambitious and exciting, Nostromo is clearly the work of a brilliant writer, panoramic in style and beautiful as art.

But it is a serious book and not for the casual reader. It requires a great deal of patience and concentration to fully enjoy. The plot is hard to follow and much is merely implied or insinuated using long tracts of dialogue. Yet, this reader enjoyed being plunged into a fluidly presented revolutionary chaos. However, readers be advised, prepare your skills or run the risk of turning back pages in frustration. Find a quiet room without distractions and a comfortable chair to sit in.

Worth the effort.

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