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About the Author
Joseph Conrad, christened Josef Teodor Konrad, Nalecz Korzeniowski, was born on December 3, 1857, in a part of Russia that had once belonged to Poland. His parents were members of the landed gentry, but as ardent Polish patriots, the suffered considerably for their political views. Orphaned at eleven, Conrad attended school for a few years in Cracow, He soon concluded, however, that there was no future for a Pole in occupied Poland, and at sixteen he left his ancestral home forever.
The sea was Conrad's love and career for the next twenty years. In the French merchant marine, he sailed to the West. Indies, smuggled guns to Spanish rebels, ran into debt, and bungled a suicide attempt Then in the British merchant navy, he rose to first mate and finally to captain, sailing to Australia and Borneo and surviving at least one shipwreck. In 1890 he contracted to become captain of a Congo River steamer, but the six months he spent in Africa led only to disillusionment and ill health; this episode would become the basis for Conrad's masterpiece, Heart of Darkness. Reluctantly leaving the merchant service, he settled in England and completed his first novel, Almayer's Folly, already begun at sea.
Hi subsequent works, many of which drew upon his sea experiences, include The Nigger of the "Narcissus" (1897), Lord Jim (1900), Heart of Darkness (1902), Youth (1902) Typhoon (1903), Nastromo (1904),The Secret Agent (1907), The Secret Sharer (1910), Under the Western Eyes (1911), and Chance (1913). The man who was twenty-one years old before he spoke a word of English is now regarded as one of the superb English stylists of all time. Conrad died almost literally on his desk in 1924, at the age of sixty-six.
Date of Birth:December 3, 1857
Date of Death:August 3, 1924
Place of Birth:Berdiczew, Podolia, Russia
Place of Death:Bishopsbourne, Kent, England
Education:Tutored in Switzerland. Self-taught in classical literature. Attended maritime school in Marseilles, France
Read an Excerpt
By JOSEPH CONRAD
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 2017 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
There is, as every schoolboy knows in this scientific age, a very close chemical relation between coal and diamonds. It is the reason, I believe, why some people allude to coal as "black diamonds." Both these commodities represent wealth; but coal is a much less portable form of property. There is, from that point of view, a deplorable lack of concentration in coal. Now, if a coal-mine could be put into one's waistcoat pocket — but it can't! At the same time, there is a fascination in coal, the supreme commodity of the age in which we are camped like bewildered travellers in a garish, unrestful hotel. And I suppose those two considerations, the practical and the mystical, prevented Heyst — Axel Heyst — from going away.
The Tropical Belt Coal Company went into liquidation. The world of finance is a mysterious world in which, incredible as the fact may appear, evaporation precedes liquidation. First the capital evaporates, and then the company goes into liquidation. These are very unnatural physics, but they account for the persistent inertia of Heyst, at which we "out there" used to laugh among ourselves — but not inimically. An inert body can do no harm to any one, provokes no hostility, is scarcely worth derision. It may, indeed, be in the way sometimes; but this could not be said of Axel Heyst. He was out of everybody's way, as if he were perched on the highest peak of the Himalayas, and in a sense as conspicuous. Every one in that part of the world knew him, dwelling on his little island. An island is but the top of a mountain. Axel Heyst, perched on it immovably, was surrounded, instead of the imponderable stormy and transparent ocean of air merging into infinity, by a tepid, shallow sea; a passionless offshoot of the great waters which embrace the continents of this globe. His most frequent visitors were shadows, the shadows of clouds, relieving the monotony of the inanimate, brooding sunshine of the tropics. His nearest neighbour — I am speaking now of things showing some sort of animation — was an indolent volcano which smoked faintly all day with its head just above the northern horizon, and at night levelled at him, from amongst the clear stars, a dull red glow, expanding and collapsing spasmodically like the end of a gigantic cigar puffed at intermittently in the dark. Axel Heyst was also a smoker; and when he lounged out on his verandah with his cheroot, the last thing before going to bed, he made in the night the same sort of glow and of the same size as that other one so many miles away.
In a sense, the volcano was company to him in the shades of the night — which were often too thick, one would think, to let a breath of air through. There was seldom enough wind to blow a feather along. On most evenings of the year Heyst could have sat outside with a naked candle to read one of the books left him by his late father. It was not a mean store. But he never did that. Afraid of mosquitoes, very likely. Neither was he ever tempted by the silence to address any casual remarks to the companion glow of the volcano. He was not mad. Queer chap — yes, that may have been said, and in fact was said; but there is a tremendous difference between the two, you will allow.
On the nights of full moon the silence around Samburan — the "Round Island" of the charts — was dazzling; and in the flood of cold light Heyst could see his immediate surroundings, which had the aspect of an abandoned settlement invaded by the jungle: vague roofs above low vegetation, broken shadows of bamboo fences in the sheen of long grass, something like an overgrown bit of road slanting among ragged thickets towards the shore only a couple of hundred yards away, with a black jetty and a mound of some sort, quite inky on its unlighted side. But the most conspicuous object was a gigantic blackboard raised on two posts and presenting to Heyst, when the moon got over that side, the white letters "T. B. C. Co." in a row at least two feet high. These were the initials of the Tropical Belt Coal Company, his employers — his late employers, to be precise.
According to the unnatural mysteries of the financial world, the T. B. C. Company's capital having evaporated in the course of two years, the company went into liquidation — forced, I believe, not voluntary. There was nothing forcible in the process, however. It was slow; and while the liquidation — in London and Amsterdam — pursued its languid course, Axel Heyst, styled in the prospectus "manager in the tropics," remained at his post on Samburan, the No. I coaling-station of the company.
And it was not merely a coaling-station. There was a coal-mine there, with an outcrop in the hillside less than five hundred yards from the rickety wharf and the imposing blackboard. The company's object had been to get hold of all the outcrops on tropical islands and exploit them locally. And, Lord knows, there were any amount of outcrops. It was Heyst who had located most of them in this part of the tropical belt during his rather aimless wanderings, and being a ready letter-writer had written pages and pages about them to his friends in Europe. At least, so it was said.
We doubted whether he had any visions of wealth — for himself, at any rate. What he seemed mostly concerned for was the "stride forward," as he expressed it, in the general organisation of the universe, apparently. He was heard by more than a hundred persons in the islands talking of a "great stride forward for these regions." The convinced wave of the hand which accompanied the phrase suggested tropical distances being impelled onward. In connection with the finished courtesy of his manner, it was persuasive, or at any rate silencing — for a time, at least. Nobody cared to argue with him when he talked in this strain. His earnestness could do no harm to anybody. There was no danger of any one taking seriously his dream of tropical coal, so what was the use of hurting his feelings?
Thus reasoned men in reputable business offices where he had his entrée as a person who came out East with letters of introduction — and modest letters of credit, too — some years before these coal-outcrops began to crop up in his playfully courteous talk. From the first there was some difficulty in making him out. He was not a traveller. A traveller arrives and departs, goes on somewhere. Heyst did not depart. I met a man once — the manager of the branch of the Oriental Banking Corporation in Malacca — to whom Heyst exclaimed, in no connection with anything in particular (it was in the billiard-room of the club):
"I am enchanted with these islands!"
He shot it out suddenly, à propos des bottes, as the French say, and while chalking his cue. And perhaps it was some sort of enchantment. There are more spells than your commonplace magicians ever dreamed of.
Roughly speaking, a circle with a radius of eight hundred miles drawn round a point in North Borneo was in Heyst's case a magic circle. It just touched Manila, and he had been seen there. It just touched Saigon, and he was likewise seen there once. Perhaps these were his attempts to break out. If so, they were failures. The enchantment must have been an unbreakable one. The manager — the man who heard the exclamation — had been so impressed by the tone, fervour, rapture, what you will, or perhaps by the incongruity of it that he had related the experience to more than one person.
"Queer chap, that Swede," was his only comment; but this is the origin of the name "Enchanted Heyst" which some fellows fastened on our man.
He also had other names. In his early years, long before he got so becomingly bald on the top, he went to present a letter of introduction to Mr. Tesman of Tesman Brothers, a Sourabaya firm — tip-top house. Well, Mr. Tesman was a kindly, benevolent old gentleman. He did not know what to make of that caller. After telling him that they wished to render his stay among the islands as pleasant as possible, and that they were ready to assist him in his plans, and so on, and after receiving Heyst's thanks — you know the usual kind of conversation — he proceeded to query in a slow, paternal tone:
"Are you interested in —?"
"Facts," broke in Heyst in his courtly voice. "There's nothing worth knowing but facts. Hard facts! Facts alone, Mr. Tesman."
I don't know if old Tesman agreed with him or not, but he must have spoken about it, because, for a time, our man got the name of "Hard Facts." He had the singular good fortune that his sayings stuck to him and became part of his name. Thereafter he mooned about the Java Sea in some of the Tesman's trading schooners, and then vanished, on board an Arab ship, in the direction of New Guinea. He remained so long in that outlying part of his enchanted circle that he was nearly forgotten before he swam into view again in a native proa full of Goram vagabonds, burnt black by the sun, very lean, his hair much thinned, and a portfolio of sketches under his arm. He showed these willingly, but was very reserved as to anything else. He had had an "amusing time," he said. A man who will go to New Guinea for fun — well!
Later, years afterward, when the last vestiges of youth had gone oft his face and all the hair off the top of his head, and his red-gold pair of horizontal moustaches had grown to really noble proportions, a certain disreputable white man fastened upon him an epithet. Putting down with a shaking hand a long glass emptied of its contents — paid for by Heyst — he said, with that deliberate sagacity which no mere water-drinker ever attained:
"Heyst's a puffect g'n'lman. Puffect! But he's a ut-uto-utopist."
Heyst had just come out of the place of public refreshment where this pronouncement was voiced. Utopist, eh? Upon my word, the only thing I heard him say which might have had a bearing on the point was his invitation to old McNab himself. Turning with that finished courtesy of attitude, movement, voice, which was his obvious characteristic, he had said with delicate playfulness:
"Come along and quench your thirst with us, Mr. McNab!"
Perhaps that was it. A man who could propose, even playfully, to quench old McNab's thirst must have been an utopist, a pursuer of chimæras; for of downright irony Heyst was not prodigal. And, may be, this was the reason why he was generally liked. At that epoch in his life, in the fulness of his physical development, of a broad, martial presence, with his bald head and long moustaches, he resembled the portraits of Charles XII of adventurous memory. However, there was no reason to think that Heyst was in any way a fighting man.CHAPTER 2
It was about this time that Heyst became associated with Morrison on terms about which people were in doubt. Some said he was a partner, others said he was a sort of paying guest, but the real truth of the matter was more complex. One day Heyst turned up in Timor. Why in Timor, of all places in the world, no one knows. Well, he was mooning about Delli, that highly pestilential place, possibly in search of some undiscovered facts, when he came in the street upon Morrison, who, in his way, was also an "enchanted" man. When you spoke to Morrison of going home — he was from Dorsetshire — he shuddered. He said it was dark and wet there; that it was like living with your head and shoulders in a moist gunny-bag. That was only his exaggerated style of talking. Morrison was "one of us." He was owner and master of the Capricorn, trading brig, and was understood to be doing well with her, except for the drawback of too much altruism. He was the dearly beloved friend of a quantity of Godforsaken villages up dark creeks and obscure bays, where he traded for "produce." He would often sail through awfully dangerous channels up to some miserable settlement, only to find a very hungry population clamorous for rice, and without so much "produce" between them as would have filled Morrison's suitcase. Amid general rejoicings, he would land the rice all the same, explain to the people that it was an advance, that they were in debt to him now; would preach to them energy and industry, and make an elaborate note in a pocket-diary which he always carried; and this would be the end of that transaction. I don't know if Morrison thought so, but the villagers had no doubt whatever about it. Whenever a coast village sighted the brig it would begin to beat all its gongs and hoist all its streamers, and all its girls would put flowers in their hair and the crowd would line the river bank, and Morrison would beam and glitter at all this excitement through his single eyeglass with an air of intense gratification. He was tall and lantern-jawed, and clean-shaven, and looked like a barrister who had thrown his wig to the dogs.
We used to remonstrate with him:
"You will never see any of your advances if you go on like this, Morrison."
He would put on a knowing air.
"I shall squeeze them yet some day — never you fear. And that reminds me" — pulling out his inseparable pocketbook — "there's that So-and-So village. They are pretty well off again; I may just as well squeeze them to begin with."
He would make a ferocious entry in the pocketbook:
Memo: — Squeeze the So-and-So village at the first time of calling.
Then he would stick the pencil back and snap the elastic on with inflexible finality; but he never began the squeezing. Some men grumbled at him. He was spoiling the trade. Well, perhaps to a certain extent; not much. Most of the places he traded with were unknown not only to geography but also to the traders' special lore which is transmitted by word of mouth, without ostentation, and forms the stock of mysterious local knowledge. It was hinted also that Morrison had a wife in each and every one of them, but the majority of us repulsed these innuendoes with indignation. He was a true humanitarian and rather ascetic than otherwise.
When Heyst met him in Delli, Morrison was walking along the street, his eyeglass tossed over his shoulder, his head down, with the hopeless aspect of those hardened tramps one sees on our roads trudging from workhouse to workhouse. Being hailed across the street he looked up with a wild worried expression. He was really in trouble. He had come the week before into Delli, and the Portuguese authorities, on some pretence of irregularity in his papers, had inflicted a fine upon him and had arrested his brig.
Morrison never had any spare cash in hand. With his system of trading it would have been strange if he had; and all these debts entered in the pocketbook weren't good enough to raise a milrei on — let alone a shilling. The Portuguese officials begged him not to distress himself. They gave him a week's grace, and then proposed to sell the brig at auction. This meant ruin for Morrison; and when Heyst hailed him across the street in his usual courtly tone, the week was nearly out.
Heyst crossed over, and said with a slight bow, and in the manner of a prince addressing another prince on a private occasion:
"What an unexpected pleasure. Would you have any objection to drink something with me in that infamous wine-shop over there? The sun is really too strong to talk in the street."
The haggard Morrison followed obediently into a sombre, cool hovel which he would have disdained to enter at any other time. He was distracted. He did not know what he was doing. You could have led him over the edge of a precipice just as easily as into that wine-shop. He sat down like an automaton. He was speechless, but he saw a glass full of rough red wine before him, and emptied it. Heyst meantime, politely watchful, had taken a seat opposite.
"You are in for a bout of fever, I fear," he said sympathetically.
Poor Morrison's tongue was loosened at last.
"Fever!" he cried. "Give me fever. Give me plague. They are diseases. One gets over them. But I am being murdered. I am being murdered by the Portuguese. The gang here downed me at last among them. I am to have my throat cut the day after to-morrow."
Excerpted from Victory by JOSEPH CONRAD. Copyright © 2017 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Wow! is all can say after reading Victory. Jack London once said that he was glad to be alive, if only for the reason of having read this book. Well, actually the story IS that good--provided one has the imagination for it. The story has wonderfully interesting characters and an equally captivating plot.
"Victory" is a difficult story for Conrad to relate. His principle characters have always been haunted fellows, such as Kurtz in his jungle hide-away, but here the emphasis seems to be on romance more than adventure, and Conrad struggles to make it work. The problem lies at the heart of his lead, and the fact that it is so difficult to involve the reader in a romance when one of the figures in that romance is such a closed book.
I like Conrad, and this was no exception. The story is typically Conradian in pondering big moral issues. It examines if we are able to escape the society and live far away from the evils of this world. And then, how we deal with evil when confronted by it. The question of what makes one a hero, as pondered by Conrad in other novels, and probably most famously in Lord Jim, surfaces here again as well. The main character is an idealistic gentleman who lives by himself on a small island somewhere in the tropics. Life doesn¿t leave him alone though, and through a chain of events he has to confront a situation of life and death.
Lol i know.
Da fu.ck is wrong with these fu.cking spammers?
(Im home schooled and i think non of my rps that i know are active right now which sucks ) leaves to to the camp
Thorns soul floated out of his mind and body. As his body grew cold, his body caved in. For he was just a peice of magic. Fir he had failed his pourpose, so the power must go back to what it came from. The shadow empire.
The tiny dragonet watched the soul.
He couldn't purr or hum, so he just lay there silent and awkward.