Dan Sandman

51: Heart of Darkness & Other Stories by Joseph Conrad

In Adventure, Books, Fiction, Short Stories on 16/12/2016 at 12:00 pm

heart-of-darkness-other-stories-by-joseph-conradWhen I was as an English undergraduate, Joseph Conrad was hurled at me — poor young thing. Apparently, Conrad was the grandfather of something called modernism, and, therefore, he was a very important man. Sadly, as fate would have it, I opted for an essay about James Joyce’s Ulysses. It wasn’t until a decade later, at an interview, that Conrad and I would get to know each other better.

I had turned up on time, despite having miss-navigated. The first thing I was ordered to do was sit in a room and write an essay about a Derek Walcott poem — something to do with slavery. Then I was called into a room, where I was to present a lesson plan, one-to-one, to a kind and intelligent man. Afterwards, he asked me questions about what my father did. I said my father had been an academic, but that he was now retired. In return, he said that his son was learning to play the guitar. It was a nice meeting, which inevitably led to a discussion about books, but, more unexpectedly, ended with a short tutorial on English grammar and the novels of Joseph Conrad. He seemed to pity me for failing, time and time again, to get onto a course.

As it turned out, he had only been allocated a small number of places, all of which he had already offered to previous candidates. I thought about the long and arduous journey that had led me to this room. I saw myself, stupidly dressed in an M & S suit, of which, in future, would only be used at weddings and funerals.  Lastly, I gave him my observational report, which he gracefully accepted, as our meeting — and my failed venture towards a conventional career — came to a long awaited close.

There was nothing left but Conrad.


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