Nostromo (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

Nostromo (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)


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Nostromo, by Joseph Conrad, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:
  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

One of the greatest novels of the twentieth century, Joseph Conrad’s Nostromo is an immensely exciting tale of love, revolution, and politics set in the mythical South American country of Costaguana during the 1890s.

Ten years after his father is murdered by a brutal dictator, Englishman Charles Gould arrives in Costaguana to reopen the family silver mine. But instead of ushering in a shining era of prosperity and progress, the return of the silver engenders a new cycle of violence as Costaguana erupts in civil war, initiated by rival warlords determined to seize the mine and its riches. In desperation, Gould turns to the only man who can save the mine’s treasure—Nostromo, the incorruptible head of the local dockworkers, who protects the silver from rebel forces by taking it out to sea. But disaster strikes, burdening Nostromo with a terrible secret that forever alters the fate of everyone involved with the mine.

A stunning monument to futility, Nostromo reveals how honor, idealism, and loyalty are inadequate defenses against the inexorable assault of corruption and evil.

Brent Edwards is an Associate Professor in the English Department at Rutgers University. He is author of The Practice of Diaspora (Harvard University Press, 2003) and co-editor of Uptown Conservation: The New Jazz Studies (Columbia University Press, 2004).

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781593081935
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Publication date: 11/01/2004
Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 75,694
Product dimensions: 5.18(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.24(d)

About the Author

Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) grew up amid political unrest in Russian-occupied Poland. After twenty years at sea with the French and British merchant navies, he settled in England in 1894. Over the next three decades he revolutionized the English novel with books such as Typhoon, Nostromo, The Secret Agent, and especially Heart of Darkness, his best-known and most influential work.

Date of Birth:

December 3, 1857

Date of Death:

August 3, 1924

Place of Birth:

Berdiczew, Podolia, Russia

Place of Death:

Bishopsbourne, Kent, England


Tutored in Switzerland. Self-taught in classical literature. Attended maritime school in Marseilles, France

Read an Excerpt

From Brent Hayes Edwards's Introduction to Nostromo

Joseph Conrad called Nostromo his "largest canvas," and since its publication in 1904, it has rightfully been considered one of the first great modernist novels in the English language. He also called it an "achievement in mosaic," and in some ways this is the more precise description: for Nostromo is not just a single novel, but a stunning orchestration of many novels at once. It is an adventure story, narrating the extraordinary exploits of the courageous Italian sailor of the title; it is a comedy of errors, offering scene after scene of the entire spectrum of human failings, from unmerited arrogance to the self-destruction of the grandest plans; it is a masterful symbolic architecture, as the silver of the San Tomé mine comes to take on a diabolic significance for every character who comes near it; it is a story of hidden treasure; it is a novel of political intrigue, the double-crossing and scheming behind the scenes of monumental historical events; it is the tale of a particular place and people, recounting the violent origins of the Republic of Sulaco; it is a love story, drawing the reader into the courtship between the strong-willed daughter of the aristocracy, Antonia Avellanos, and the skeptic Martin Decoud, the "idle boulevardier" and disillusioned journalist who is driven to action by his passion; it is a novel of imperialism, a many-layered portrait of the effects of European and U.S. intervention in the affairs of a small country in South America. In his "Author’s Note" to the 1917 edition (included here), Conrad explains that for him, Nostromo marked "a subtle change in the nature of the inspiration [for his writing]," and the novel is important in his oeuvre not only because it is his most ambitious work, but also because it signals the transition between his two most fruitful periods: from his works dealing with European colonialism in Asia and Africa, especially Lord Jim (1900) and Heart of Darkness (1899), to what are sometimes termed his political novels, stories of revolutionary unrest set mainly in Europe, including The Secret Agent (1907) and Under Western Eyes (1911). For the first time, Conrad attempted in Nostromo a novel more of the land than of the sea ("A Tale of the Seaboard," as the subtitle puts it almost wistfully), and a novel only tangentially based on his personal experience as a sailor.

The novel began as a short story, and expanded in length and scope as Conrad worked on it assiduously from December 1902 until August 1904. From the beginning, it was a traumatic enterprise. Conrad had traveled to South America only once in his life, when in 1876, working as a nineteen-year-old steward on the French ship the Saint-Antoine, he sailed to the Caribbean, stopping in St.-Pierre in Martinique, Cartagena in Colombia, Puerto Cabello and La Guaira in Venezuela, St. Thomas, and Haiti. He was ashore only briefly in South America: twelve hours in Puerto Cabello, three days in La Guaira. Not surprisingly, when he attempted to draw on his memories of this experience for Nostromo, he was not able to dredge up much. As he began working on the book, Conrad wrote to his lifelong friend R. B. Cunninghame Graham, the famous Scottish aristocrat, radical socialist, and accomplished writer who had lived many years in South America, almost shamefacedly asking for help: "I want to talk to you of the work I am engaged on now. I hardly dare avow my audacity—but I am placing it in Sth America in a Republic I call Costaguana" (May 9, 1903, in Collected Letters, vol. 3, p. 34; see "For Further Reading"). Cunninghame Graham provided invaluable information to Conrad, but in July 1903, the latter was still writing to say that he was "dying over that cursed Nostromo thing. All my memories of Central America seem to slip away. I just had a glimpse 25 years ago—a short glance. That is not enough pour bâtir un roman dessus [to build a novel upon]" (July 8, 1903, in Collected Letters, vol. 3, p. 45).

Conrad’s correspondence of the period is filled with elaborate descriptions of what he termed the "atrocious misery of writing": In one letter to the novelist H. G. Wells, he wrote that he was "absolutely out of my mind with worry and apprehension of my work. I go on as one would cycle over a precipice along a 14 inch plank. If I falter I am lost" (November–December 1903, in Collected Letters, vol. 3, p. 80). In his autobiographical A Personal Record (1912), describing the composition of Nostromo, Conrad would again figuratively describe the writing process as a kind of extreme nautical distress:

Neglecting the common joys of life that fall to the lot of the humblest on this earth, I had, like the prophet of old [Jacob in the Old Testament], "wrestled with the Lord" for my creation, for the headlands of the coast, for the darkness of the Placid Gulf, the light on the snows, the clouds on the sky, and for the breath of life that had to be blown into the shapes of men and woman, of Latin and Saxon, of Jew and Gentile. These are, perhaps, strong words, but it is difficult to characterise otherwise the intimacy and the strain of a creative effort in which mind and will and conscience are engaged to the full, hour after hour, day after day, away from the world, and to the exclusion of all that makes life really lovable and gentle—something for which a material parallel can only be found in the everlasting sombre stress of the westward winter passage round Cape Horn (pp. 98–99).

By December he was calling it a "disastrous year," and moaning, "if I had written each page with my blood I could not feel more exhausted at the end of this twelvemonth" (Conrad to David Meldrum, December 26, 1903, in Collected Letters, vol. 3, p. 100). Conrad had reason to worry, because he had agreed to publish the novel in serial form starting in a few weeks. Nostromo appeared in TP’s Weekly from January 29 until October 7, 1904, and Conrad found the regular demands of this pace nearly impossible to meet. The Conrad family was renting lodgings from the novelist Ford Madox Ford during the spring of 1904, and—having already established a close friendship and an (unsuccessful) series of collaborations (including the novels The Inheritors in 1901 and Romance in 1903) with the younger writer—Conrad was forced to ask Ford to help him keep up with the installments. Ford composed a small section of Nostromo: about sixteen manuscript pages of chapter 5 in the second part of the novel. (Ford would also be integral to the composition of Conrad’s The Mirror of the Sea [1906], and scholars have suggested that he may have written part of Heart of Darkness as well.)

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Nostromo 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
Livingstone More than 1 year ago
I really struggled to get through this book. I mean really, really struggled. Whereas I can usually get through a book this size in about 10 days, it took a month and was highly unenjoyable for the first half. Now I really didn't like Heart of Darkness to begin with, but this story is completely written differently. In that book as well as Lord Jim, Conrad uses Marlow as a narrator who tells a progressive, linear story. I hear that Nostromo is written in a way similar to Ulysses, In Search of Lost Time, and To The Lighthouse in that it is not a flowing, chronological story--but a sting of scenes that appear in an order that has no rhyme or reason. It's supposed to be part of the "fun" for the reader to piece together, but I found it difficult when the author digresses to something that happened who knows when in relation to the main plot. The characters were also hard to form a picture of as Conrad refers to each one with several different names. Nostromo is also known as Capataz de Cargodores and Gran Battista--none of which are his actual name! And the way the author uses words from French, Italian and Spanish is also confusing, but the B&N Classics edition is good at providing footnotes. All of this notwithstanding, the basic plot is a good one. It has a moral and a powerful tone. Among the redeeming qualities, it compares the incorruptible, pristine silver to the "incorruptible" Nostromo (who barely appears in the novel until the latter half). At the end of the novel (a few pages from the finish), there is an exchange between said main character that did bring tears to my eyes and a sympathy to a seemingly incorruptible man. The message of the book is timeless, and that's why I suspect this is hailed as one of the best of all time--though I considered it a tough read. Conrad considered it something, but not what he was hoping for. I agree, but I'm glad I read it. Conrad was rushed by his publisher and even had to have Ford Maddox Ford help him with the manuscript (thanks for an informative introduction Barnes and Noble). If one wishes to try their hand at reading this, I suggest not to get bogged down trying to keep track of all the characters or what's happening to whom--hang in there until Deccoud's letter to his sister (about halfway) and it will become much better.
Atthebeach More than 1 year ago
Decided to read Nostromo when I read that F. Scott Fitzgerald said if he could have written any book, it would be Nostromo. High praise. I think if Fitzgerald had written it, it would have been at least 100 pages shorter. It is high literature. The writing is colorful and even elegiac at times. There pages and pages of description without any action. And chapters and chapters of dialogue without action. It takes a very long time to get into the plot or even know what it is. But I knew I was reading something great and kept going. The first half was very slow. The third quarter started to fill out the story. And the last quarter tells the whole of the story. By the end, I was very happy that I stayed with it. The characters, once totally revealed, the full story, once totally told, are grand. The ending is far beyond imagining. It takes some patience, but it is very worth the read.  
Guest More than 1 year ago
NOSTROMO was a long book to get through - I had to stop a few times to look up a word in the dictionary, but it was a fascinating story that sparked me into critical thought. However, this is not a book for someone looking for a quick literary revelation, so to speak. Even as an advanced placement (AP) English student in the middle of my senior high school year, it took patience and concentration to get drawn into this book. But once that was done, the richness of the characters, the descriptive narratives, intricate symbolism, and enlightening themes drew me into the author's mind. And having finished NOSTROMO, it would almost be an understatement to say that Conrad must have been brilliant. If you absorb this book with all of its essential elements, it is absolutely incredible what lessons you can learn for your life just from the pages.
ngmcd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Like all Conrad books, the reader has to concentrate to fully appreciate it. The ending could be accused of being melodramatic but the best thing about the novel is the vast array of characters. As a political-historical novel, it is excellent.
whiteberg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent book once you get into it. Liked the shifting perspectives and the thick irony. I don't understand why this has been labelled as a book on colonial exploitation - the capitalists in this book seems to be the only half-sensible human beings around, even though money only leads to more greed and more robber barons throwing themselves up as 'democrats'. Noone escapes Conrad's irony though and all characters are flawed and helpless in the end.
jackkane on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
'Nostromo' is good, but it is a difficult read. The thematic focus is uniformly dark and unpleasant. Every single character of the large cast is defeated. Conrad must have been depressed out of his mind when he wrote this work. The language is heavy but strong. On a technical level a very impressive novel.
Aerodynamics on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The story of 'Nostromo' hinges on the enormous wealth of treasure contained in the mountains of the fictional South American country of Costaguana. I felt as though I carried that silver on my back from page one to page four-hundred and fourty-four. Judging from his correspondence of the time (Nostromo was published in 1904), Conrad felt much the same about the writing of it.The plot of this novel is tangled, its characters largely inscrutible. An early work of the Modernist peroid of literature, it's time line is fractured and scattered. Nearly every page contains words or lines in Italian, French, or Spanish. I read 'Nostromo' with a dictionary close at hand, in order to devine the meanings of such words as "stentorian" or "imprecation" or "execrable".Despite its anguished genesis and it's dense and difficult nature, Conrad's prose is lovely and he litters the page with profound comments on society and human nature. There is much to think about here.This is a novel rife with ambiguity. Conrad seems to be struggling to come up with answers, and arriving a none. Despite this, the struggle seems paradoxially worth the effort, as though the very act of raising these questions and battling these demons has value in itself, even if the battle is ultimately lost.I know that the characters, places, themes, and ideas of 'Nostromo' will be with me for a long time to come. Lacking a satisyfing conclusion or resolution, the reading of 'Nostromo' was nevertheless a worthwhile endeavor. It has been said of 'Nostromo' that it is one of those books you can't read without having read it before. We'll, now I've read it once.
gypsysmom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In high school we read Victory by Joseph Conrad. Any one I have mentioned this to since can't believe that it was considered a good idea to have Conrad read by high school students. Certainly it did nothing for me and, as a result, I refused to read anything else by Conrad. Until now when some online friends were reading Nostromo and I decided to join them.I am happy to report that as an adult I managed to make it through the book and even found parts of it to admire. The story can be summarized quite briefly. In a fictional South American country, a large silver mine run by an Englishman, Mr. Gould, flourishes and brings prosperity to the local economy. However, in the rest of the country political unrest is common. When Mr. Gould learns that the moderate president has been unseated and that the revolutionaries are going to come for the mine he decides to send all the silver bars off-shore for safekeeping. The person chosen to undertake this dangerous mission is Nostromo, an Italian sailor who has become indispensable to the town and seaport. In the dark the small boat carrying the silver is sideswiped by a boat of revolutionaries coming to take over the seaport. One man on board, a stowaway, manages to grab hold of the anchor rope and he is brought up onto the boat. He tells the master that the silver has sunk with the boat. In fact, Nostromo and another man have survived and manage to get the boat onto a nearby island. They hide the silver there and Nostromo returns to the town. There he is persuaded to undertake a hazardous ride and bring help which he does. By the time he returns the man left on the island has killed himself so no-one knows that the silver is safe. Nostromo decides to keep the silver for himself.In the style of the times, I suppose, there is a lot of description and slow movement of plot. Conrad is fond of long, multi-phrase sentences that are often difficult to follow. Although Nostromo is the title character, he doesn't appear in much of the narrative. I found this strange and awkward.However, having broken the curse of hating Conrad I may try Heart of Darkness which many people feel is his greatest work.
hudsy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A bit of a snooze so far. Read Lord Jim instead.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I didn't finish the book. The characters were two-dimensional, the exposition difficult to follow, and the premise disappointing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago