Monday, March 17, 2014

Victory by Joseph Conrad (1915)

I am very happy with Victory; the story motors along a little jerkily for the 1st 3rd but really picks up steam through the rest of the book; it becomes quiet compelling and hard to put down.

I am a Conrad fan and need a vintage copy of the Heart to get back into that.Conrad's insights into the seedy side of human nature are amazing.

Conrad's characters are extreme, like distant points on a circle, they are as different from one another as they can be. And then they are placed in a far away place so as to further isolate them another level. Each one is "from someplace" and this informs the reader as to their motivation or mindset.

To me there was an intriguing multiple references to the "English Gentleman" this is something that we may think we know about but through Conrad's continual references I am beginning to realize I may not have a clue. I am wondering if there is a classic that would enlighten me with a more in-depth description and analysis of the "English Gentleman."

Conrad has a wonderful abillity to leave the reader with multiple scenerios swimming around in his or her head as each paragraph unfolds... what would I do?

Strangley enough this 1923 printing was improperly assembled! Two of page grouppings were swaped and I had to read through them both untill I figured out what happened... so I tore them out and rearranged it myself.

As for some of my favorite Quotes:

   Hatred does get ones blood to boil!
You see we had on the whole liked him well enough. And liking is not sufficient to keep going the interest one takes in a human being. With hatred, apparently, it is otherwise. Schomberg couldn't forget Heyst. The keen, manly Teutonic creature was a good hater. A fool often is.

  I too have become enchanted by the dream of the "Islands" through my readings:

The islands are very quiet. One sees them lying about, clothed in their dark garments of leaves, in a great hush of silver and azure, where the sea without murmurs meets the sky in a ring of magic stillness. A sort of smiling somnolence broods over them; the very voices of their people are soft and subdued, as if afraid to break some protecting spell.

   And this wonderful summary of "Women"
It astonished Heyst. No wonder, it flashed through his mind, women can deceive men so completely. The faculty was inherent in them; they seemed to be created with a special aptitude.
   I am noticing now tiny theme regarding some males attitudes towards women at least maybe gentlemen in the 1800's; there seems like there may have been a class of men who shunned women altogether, like Mr. Jones.

   The best (or only) description of us in the Coffin:
And then he smiled at his naiveness; for, being over five and thirty years of age, he ought to have known that in most cases the body is the unalterable mask of the soul, which even death itself changes but little, till it is put out of sight where no changes matter any more, either to our friends or to our enemies.

   Here a little truism regarding "pay for work"
"There!" began Ricardo quietly. "That's just what a man like you would say. You are that tame! I follow a gentleman. That ain't the same thing as to serve an employer. They give you wages as they'd fling a bone to a dog, and they expect you to be grateful. It's worse than slavery. You don't expect a slave that's bought for money to be grateful. And if you sell your work—what is it but selling your own self? You've got so many days to live and you sell them one after another. Hey? Who can pay me enough for my life? Ay! But they throw at you your week's money and expect you to say 'thank you' before you pick it up."
   Ay, but what else can we do?

  A little reference to religion:
"I won't bother you with the story. It was a custom-house affair, strange as it may sound to you. He would have preferred to be killed outright—that is, to have his soul dispatched to another world, rather than to be robbed of his substance, his very insignificant substance, in this. I saw that he believed in another world because, being cornered, as I have told you, he went down on his knees and prayed. What do you think of that?"
Heyst paused. She looked at him earnestly.
"You didn't make fun of him for that?" she said.
Heyst made a brusque movement of protest
"My dear girl, I am not a ruffian," he cried. Then, returning to his usual tone: "I didn't even have to conceal a smile. Somehow it didn't look a smiling matter. No, it was not funny; it was rather pathetic; he was so representative of all the past victims of the Great Joke.    I have to admit I have never heard it referred to as the Great Joke but that was a time of questioning.

   This is, I suppose, why I like Conrad:
He raised her hand to his lips, and let them rest on it for a space, during which she moved a little closer to him. After the lingering kiss he did not relinquish his hold.
"To slay, to love—the greatest enterprises of life upon a man! And I have no experience of either. You must forgive me anything that may have appeared to you awkward in my behavior, inexpressive in my speeches, untimely in my silences."

   An amazing insight into Duplicity as a viable form of self presevation:
 Duplicity—the refuge of the weak and the cowardly, but of the disarmed, too! Nothing stood between the enchanted dream of her existence and a cruel catastrophe but her duplicity. It seemed to her that the man sitting there before her was an unavoidable presence, which had attended all her life. He was the embodied evil of the world. She was not ashamed of her duplicity. With a woman's frank courage, as soon as she saw that opening she threw herself into it without reserve, with only one doubt—that of her own strength. She was appalled by the situation; but already all her aroused femininity, understanding that whether Heyst loved her or not she loved him, and feeling that she had brought this on his head, faced the danger with a passionate desire to defend her own.