Magazine: Twentieth Century Literature, Summer, 1990
A thorough study of Joseph Conrad's influence would require a whole book. In this essay, I want to describe, for the first time and in general, the enormous extent of his legacy. I hope that in future work others will explore and elaborate the specific details. Conrad has affected not only novelists, but also some playwrights and poets, and his influence has lasted until today. Though Conrad's major novels have had the greatest impact, nearly twenty of his works, from Almayer's Folly (1895) to Suspense (1925), have influenced at least thirty-five American, Latin American, English, German, French, and Polish authors.
Conrad was still writing when the first generation of modern authors reached maturity around the time of the Great War. His techniques and themes, his passionate concern with the "tragedy of existence, the weakness of human nature, political violence, fidelity to lost causes, human dignity, the weight of moral responsibility, and the rigid demands of art" as well as his serious, vital ideas--moral transgression and individual responsibility, lost honor and personal redemption, the terrors of loneliness and consolation of the secret sharer--have profoundly appealed to the modern sensibility, which he helped to create.
In "Swinburne as Poet" (1920), T. S. Eliot praised Conrad's idiom, a precursor of the current avant-garde, for expressing the spirit of the age: "the language which is more important to us [than Swinburne's] is that which is struggling to digest and express new objects, new groups of objects, new feelings, new aspects, as, for instance, in the prose of Mr. James Joyce or the earlier Conrad." Eliot, an obsessive borrower, makes good use of this language. The biblical-sounding line from Book I of The Waste Land (1922), "I will show you fear in a handful of dust," which provided the title of Evelyn Waugh's novel of 1934, was taken from a thematic phrase in "Youth": "the triumphant conviction of strength, the heat of life in the handful of dust." And the pessimistic observation in Burnt Norton (1936): "Human kind / Cannot bear very much reality," comes directly from Winnie Verloc's belief in The Secret Agent: "She felt profoundly that things do not stand much looking into."
The original epigraph of The Waste Land, deleted on Pound's advice, was Kurtz's brilliantly suggestive words: "The horror! The horror!" They could refer to Kurtz's fascination with the African jungle, his recognition of what it did to him, his self-pity, his realization that he must die, the condemnation of his personal corruption, or his perception of the possibility of evil in all men. They certainly suggest that though he has been conquered by a lust for power, he has retained his moral conscience. The lost souls in The Waste Land also strive for this devastating self-knowledge.
Conrad actually supplied the epigraph ("Mistah Kurtz--he dead") as well as the character and content of "The Hollow Men" (1925). In the Congo men have to meet the destructive chaos with their own inborn strength. But this is impossible for the Europeans who lack internal resources. The accountant is like a hairdresser's dummy, the manager has nothing within him, the brickmaker is a papier-mache Mephistopheles. Their hollowness expresses "the negativity, the vacuity, the lack of desire, and the 'tepid skepticism' which inform. . . the whole of 'The Hollow Men.' "
Eliot's contemporary Eugene O'Neill, following Conrad's example, worked on ships as a young man. He studied Conrad carefully and had a complete set of Conrad's works at Tao House in Danville, California, where he lived from 1937 until 1944. Travis Bogard writes that until 1920, Conrad's impact on O'Neill "was deeper than that of any other writer." Bogard shows the influence of "The End of the Tether" on O'Neill's one-act play Warnings (1914), of "Tomorrow" on his only story, Tomorrow (1917), of The Nigger of the "Narcissus" on Bound East for Cardiff (1916), and of Heart of Darkness on The Emperor Jones (1920). Unfortunately, Conrad did not reciprocate O'Neill's admiration. When asked by a Polish interviewer about the phrase, "that old devil, the sea," in Anna Christie, Conrad bridled up, exposed the playwright's weakness, and exclaimed: "That's exactly how I feel but I wouldn't put it in quite the same words as Mr. O'Neill; he has no sense of style."
Conrad's influence was particularly powerful on the three major writers who were born a decade after Eliot and O'Neill: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Faulkner. In 1923, while working as a reporter on the Toronto Daily Star, Hemingway went up to Sudbury, north of Lake Huron in Canada, to expose a fake coal company and consoled himself by reading The Rover in the Nickel Range Hotel. "When morning came I had used up all my Conrad like a drunkard," Hemingway wrote describing himself as Conrad's literary heir. "I had hoped it would last me the trip, and felt like a young man who has blown in his patrimony."
The following year, back in Paris, Hemingway contributed to the "Conrad Supplement" of Ford Madox Ford's Transatlantic Review, which appeared shortly after Conrad's death. The young Hemingway, just beginning his literary career, paid tribute to the novelist by favorably comparing him (in his worst jocular style) to Eliot, who had recently published The Waste Land, and by acknowledging the lesson of the master: "If I knew that by grinding Mr. Eliot into a fine dry powder and sprinkling that powder over Mr. Conrad's grave Mr. Conrad would shortly appear, looking very annoyed at the forced return and commence writing, I would leave for London early tomorrow morning with a sausage grinder." Hemingway concluded by affirming: "from nothing else that I have ever read have I gotten what every book of Conrad has given me."
Conrad's emphasis on stoicism, on a heroic ethos and a code of honor, and on testing oneself in violent and extreme situations, profoundly affected Hemingway. In The Sun Also Rises (1926) he adopts Stein's phrase about Lord Jim, "one of us," to characterize Count Mippipopolous, who had been wounded by arrows in Abyssinia. And the description of Ricardo carefully shaving before meeting Lena in Victory may have influenced "all that barbering" that Robert Cohn does to prepare himself for Brett Ashley. In A Farewell to Arms (1929) Catherine Barkley is as completely 'self-effacing as Lena, who tells Heyst: "if you were to stop thinking of me I shouldn't be in the world at all!. . . I can only be what you think I am." "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" (1936) re-creates the great Conradian theme of moral failure and recovery of self-esteem just as The Old Man and the Sea (1952) portrays Conrad's theme of victory in defeat.
Conrad's belief in "scrupulous fidelity to the truth of my own sensations," expressed in his Author's Note to Within the Tides, is echoed in Hemingway's desire to portray "the actual things which produced the emotion that you experienced." The most important lesson came from Conrad's aesthetic pronouncement, the Preface to The Nigger of the "Narcissus," which stressed the visual element in fiction: "My task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word to make you hear, to make you feel--it is, before all, to make you see." Hemingway repeated this artistic credo when he insisted that the novelist must "find what gave you the emotion; what the action was that gave you the excitement. Then write it down making it clear so the reader will see it too."
A description of a Mediterranean landscape from The Rover--which resembles a cinematic tracking-shot that moves from the sky and the mountains to the trees on the plain and the red-tiled roofs of the farmhouses--shows quite precisely how Hemingway learned from and imitated Conrad in The Sun Also Rises:
There were leaning pines on the skyline, and in the pass itself dull silvery green patches of olive orchards below a long yellow wall backed by dark cypresses, and the red roofs of buildings which seemed to belong to a farm.
[The mountains] were wooded and there were clouds coming down from them. The green plain stretched off. It was cut by fences and the white of the road showed through the trunks of a double line of trees that crossed the plain toward the north. As we came to the edge of the rise we saw the red roofs and the white houses of Burguete ahead strung out on the plain.
Later on, the older Hemingway was more severe on Conrad's character. In February 1944 Hemingway, distracted by the war, criticized Conrad's self-pity and complaints (following the agonized tradition of Flaubert) in a letter to his editor, Max Perkins: "I miss writing very much Max. You see, unlike the people who belabored it as a dog's life ce metier de chien Conrad and old Ford were always suffering about. I loved to write very much and was never happier than doing it."
Fitzgerald, also a keen student of Conrad, shared Hemingway's admiration of his art and discussed Conrad's technique with his friend. During Conrad's celebrated visit to America in 1923, Fitzgerald, in a characteristically childish episode, got drunk with Ring Lardner and danced on the lawn of the Doubleday estate in Oyster Bay, where Conrad was staying, in order to pay homage to the novelist. But he was apprehended by the caretaker and thrown off the grounds for trespassing before he could gate-crash the house and attract Conrad's attention.
Fitzgerald's letters reveal that Conrad's art was a constant touchstone for his own. He cited Nostromo as "the great novel of the past fifty years," and explained his choice in a letter to Fanny Butcher of the Chicago Tribune:
I'd rather have written Conrad's Nostromo than any other novel . . . because Nostromo, the man, intrigues me so much. [Conrad] took this man of the people and imagined him with such a completeness that there is no use of any one else pondering over him for some time. He is one of the most important types in our civilization . . . one that always made a haunting and irresistible appeal to me.
In June 1925, Fitzgerald told H. L. Mencken that he had "learned a lot from [Conrad]" and had consciously imitated him in The Great Gatsby (1925). This influence can be seen in Fitzgerald's style, symbolism, plot, narrator (Nick Carraway is modeled on Charlie Marlow), and theme of romantic illusion. Both Hemingway and Fitzgerald learned from Conrad to use a more subtle and suggestive conclusion in their fiction. As Fitzgerald remarked to John Peale Bishop in April 1934: "It was Ernest Hemingway who developed to me, in conversation [and demonstrated in the last sentence of A Farewell to Arms] that the dying fall was preferable to the dramatic ending under certain conditions, and I think we both got the germ of the idea from Conrad. Two months later, speaking of Tender is the Night (1934), Fitzgerald told Hemingway: "The theory back of it I got from Conrad's preface to The Nigger, that the purpose of a work of fiction is to appeal to the lingering after-effects in the reader's mind."
Fitzgerald may also have been thinking of Conrad's Author's Note to Youth, where he explained the lingering musical effect he intended to achieve in the last sentence of Heart of Darkness: "That sombre theme had to be given a sinister resonance, a tonality of its own, a continued vibration that, I hoped, would hang in the air and dwell on the ear after the last note had been struck." Conrad concluded his dark novella by connecting the Thames to the collective unconscious of the Congo: "The tranquil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed sombre under an overcast sky--seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness." Fitzgerald, adopting the psychological suggestion of the riverine metaphor, imitated Conrad's technique in his concluding sentence: "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."
Faulkner, like Fitzgerald, said he "got quite a lot from Conrad." He claimed to have read Conrad every year, and listed Heart of Darkness and The Nigger of the "Narcissus" among his favorite books. He stated: "the two books I like best are Moby Dick and The Nigger of the "Narcissus," and echoed Fitzgerald's phrase about Nostromo: "I'd just like to have written those two books more than any others I can think of." Faulkner tramped through Kent in October 1925, admired the "quietest most restful country under the sun," and remarked to his mother: "No wonder Joseph Conrad could write fine books here." Faulkner even named his sloop The Ring Dove, after one of the ships in "The End of the Tether."
Richard Adams decisively states: In the whole of Faulkner's work, the influence of Conrad is the strongest and most persuasive." He was influenced by Conrad's muddled chronology (which also affected the narration of Tender is the Night), his lush descriptions of jungle wilderness, his contrast of light and dark imagery, his scenes of passion that occur near flowing streams, and his fictional characters and settings that recur in several works. Stephen Ross shows that the impressionist techniques and moral insight of Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim had the strongest impact on Absalom, Absalom!.
Faulkner's 1950 Nobel Prize acceptance speech--which echoes not only the overblown diction but also the idea of man's triumph over entropy in Conrad's 1905 essay on Henry James-is his most blatant appropriation. In this speech, a notable example of a negative influence, Conradian rhetoric is transformed into Faulknerian bombast. Conrad wrote:
When the last aqueduct shall have crumbled to pieces, the last airship fallen to the ground, the last blade of grass have died upon a dying earth, man, indomitable by his training in resistance to misery and pain, shall set this undiminished light of his eyes against the feeble glow of the sun.
And Faulkner repeated:
when the last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking.
Conrad's influence, via Faulkner, on the teeming, thickly vegetated, formless, and overwritten Latin American novels of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Mario Vargas Llosa, is pervasive, though not always fortunate. Jorge Luis Borges, author of "Manuscrito Hallado en un Libro de Joseph Conrad" (a poem that has nothing to do with the writer), called Conrad "one of the greatest novelists and short story writers in the English language." Nostromo had a significant influence on his story "Guayaquil." And Carlos Fuentes has recently expressed his great admiration for Nostromo.
Conrad's influence on postwar American writers, though not as powerful as on Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Faulkner, is still significant. Saul Bellow, adopting a rather fanciful analogy in his Nobel Prize speech, admired Conrad's rootlessness, exoticism, and cosmopolitan. ism:
Conrad appealed to me because he was like an American--he was an uprooted Pole sailing exotic seas, speaking French and writing English with extraordinary power and beauty. Nothing could be more natural to me, the child of immigrants who grew up in one of Chicago's immigrant neighborhoods than--of course!--a Slav who was a British sea captain and knew his way around Marseilles and wrote an Oriental sort of English.
James Dickey's Deliverance (1970) follows Conrad's plot and themes in its exploration of violence, self-testing, and inner discovery as a boat penetrates a wild, primitive, swampy Southern heart of darkness. Robert Stone, a major contemporary American writer, took the long epigraph to Dog Soldiers (1974) from Heart of Darkness. And his novel about violent revolution in Central America, A Flag for Sunrise (1981), was clearly influenced by Nostromo. In a recent Paris Review interview, Stone acknowledged his debt to Conrad. He praised Conrad's healthy skepticism and sense of political reality, which makes him seem like "one of us":
I'm beginning to frame [a theory of fiction]--and along rather Conradian lines. . . Conrad was a man of the world and a skeptic who worked not on the basis of ideology but of common sense. He saw things as they are without wanting to reduce them to theory. In that respect he's closer to the temper of our own time and certainly closer to my own ideas about reality and how to explore it in fiction.
Conrad's appeal to writers of our time is reflected in two books published in the last two years: Howard Norman's collection of stories, Kiss in the Hotel Joseph Conrad (1989), and the omnium-gatherum, heavily footnoted Hermit of 69th Street (1988) by Jerzy Kosinski, which has more than sixty allusions to his compatriot's life and works.
Orwell explains--more clearly than anyone else--why English novelists were attracted to Conrad. Responding to a question about Conrad's place and rank in English letters, published in a Polish emigre journal in April 1949, Orwell praised Conrad for his political insight and for putting English literature in touch with the European tradition:
I regard Conrad as one of the best writers of this century, and . . . one of the very few true novelists that England possesses . . [He had] a sort of grown-upness and political understanding which would have been almost impossible to a native English writer at that time . . . Conrad was one of those writers who in the present century civilized English literature and brought it back into contact with Europe.
Four months later, he told his publisher that he was planning a long chapter on Conrad for a new book of essays. But Orwell died in January 1950, before he could complete this project.
Like Conrad, Orwell spent his youth in the East. Conrad's descriptions of exotic Asian characters influenced Orwell's first novel, Burmese Days (1934), and his political ideas influenced Orwell's late works, Animal Farm (1945) and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). The Burmese judge U Po Kyin is clearly modeled on the physical characteristics of the Malay chief Doramin in Lord Jim. Both Orientals are lavishly dressed and enormously fat, both need assistance to rise from their chairs, and both habitually confer with their wives:
Doramin was one of the most remarkable men of his race I had ever seen. His bulk for a Malay was immense, but he did not look merely fat; he looked imposing, monumental. This motionless body [was] clad in rich stuffs, coloured silks, gold embroideries . . . the flat, big, round face [was] wrinkled, furrowed . . When he walked, two short, sturdy young fellows . . . sustained his elbows; they would ease him down and stand behind the chair until he wanted to rise. . . and then they would catch him under the armpits and help him up . . It was generally believed he consulted his wife as to public affairs.
Unblinking, rather like a great porcelain idol, U Po Kyin gazed out into the fierce sunlight. He was a man of fifty, so fat that for years he had not risen from his chair without help . . His face was vast, yellow and quite unwrinkled . . . He wore one of those vivid Arakenese longyis with green and magenta checks . . [His wife] had been the confidante of U Po Kyin's intrigues for twenty years and more.
Animal Farm, though radically different in style and form, has the same political theme and pessimistic ideology as Nostromo. Both novelists believe that the revolutionary, once in power, becomes as tyrannical as his oppressor. Orwell writes of post-revolutionary Animal Farm: "In the old days there had often been scenes of bloodshed equally terrible, but it seemed to all of them that it was far worse now that it was happening among themselves." And Dr. Monygham, in one of the crucial thematic passages in Nostromo, condemns the unprincipled capitalist revolutionaries:
They have their law, and their justice. But it is founded on expediency, and is inhuman; it is without rectitude, without the continuity and the force that can be found only in a moral principle. The time approaches when all that . . . [it] stands for shall weigh as heavily upon the people as the barbarism, cruelty, and misrule of a few years back.
In Under Western Eyes Conrad expresses, with pessimistic perception, the theme of the revolution betrayed: "the unselfish and the unintelligent may begin a movement--but it passes away from them. They are not the leaders of a revolution. They are its victims: the victims of disgust, of disenchantment--often of remorse. Hopes grotesquely betrayed, ideals caricatured--that is the definition of revolutionary success." And in Nineteen Eighty-Four Orwell develops, in a horrifying way, the inevitable corruption of revolutionary idealism and the bitter disappointment that occurs when the rebels replace the leaders they have destroyed.
The nature and extent of Conrad's influence on Ford is difficult to measure. He was intimately involved in Ford's personal and artistic life during the first decade of the century, when they collaborated on three unsuccessful novels: The Inheritors (1901), Romance (1903), and The Nature of a Crime (1906; published 1924). Their endless and fruitful aesthetic and technical discussions, which often lasted far into the night, certainly helped prepare Ford to write his masterpieces, The Good Soldier (1915) and Parade's End (1924-28). Ford's mistress Violet Hunt said that he "adored Conrad. I never heard him speak of Conrad without the most reverent affection . . [His attitude was] of almost cringing respect." Ford, acknowledging his debt, quite simply confirmed: "I learned all I know of Literature from Conrad."
After their bitter quarrel in 1909, Ford satirized Conrad as Simon Bransdon in The Simple Life Limited (1911), and also portrayed him as Macmaster in the opening pages of Some Do Not (1924). Thomas Moser calls Ford's A Little Less than Gods (1928) "his fictional farewell to Joseph Conrad" and writes that this novel "conscientiously follows Suspense, and makes explicit what Conrad only hints at in his fragment: that the heroine is the illegitimate daughter of the hero's father and hence the hero's half-sister."
Conrad helps to define a significant literary tradition that runs from Ford and Graham Greene (who edited Ford's works) to John le Carre, V. S. Naipaul, and Paul Theroux (an American, living in London, who has written a book on Naipaul), Greene mentions Conrad as an unconscious influence in his Paris Review interview (1953) and admits that his first three novels were influenced by Conrad. Kurtz and Marlowe are characters in The Name of Action (1930). The Carlist War theme in Arrow of Gold influenced Greene's Rumour at Nightfall (1931). And the genre and themes of The Secret Agent were continued in Greene's It's a Battlefield (1934), A Gun for Sale (1936), and The Confidential Agent (I 939).
Heart of Darkness, which is mentioned three times in Journey without Maps (1936) and clearly inspired his voyage to Africa, clarifies Greene's ambivalent attitude to civilization and his quest for primal memories. "Something had happened" to the three predecessors of the District Commissioner in Kailahun, just as it had to the predecessors of Marlow on the tin-pot steamboat. And the secretive innocence of the naive and ignorant German in beachcomber's dress, who "gave no indication of why he had come or why he was going or what he was doing in Africa at all," closely resembles Conrad's Russian in motley. Like Conrad, Greene draws analogies between the primitivism of the Africans and the ancient Britons: "in England too there was a time when men dressed as animals and danced." And, like Heart of Darkness, Journey without Maps is both an exorcism and a journey into self.
Greene writes that "Heart of Darkness impressed Africa as an imaginative symbol on the European mind," and mentions Conrad five times in the first thirty-seven pages of In Search of a Character (1961). Greene notices how often Conrad compares the concrete to the abstract, and asks if he has caught the trick; and he writes:
Reading Conrad--the volume called Youth for the sake of Heart of Darkness--the first time since I abandoned him about 1932 because his influence on me was too great and too disastrous. The heavy hypnotic style falls around me again, and I am aware of the poverty of my own. Perhaps now I have lived long enough with my poverty to be safe from corruption. One day I will again read Victory.
But Greene was not quite safe from Conrad's influence, for in his African novel the tin-pot steamboat, the oppressive jungle, and the symbolic significance of the Congo are very like Heart of Darkness.
Though Conrad's novella was in Greene's thoughts when he was writing A Burnt-Out Case (1961), it is Victory, which Greene called one of the "great English novels of the last fifty years," that exerts the most powerful influence on Greene's novel. Greene follows Conrad's ironic plot rather precisely, for both novels concern the flight to a remote tropical retreat by a lonely man who attempts to extinguish all human emotions. Both heroes are nonbelievers who, on two related occasions, become unwilling subjects of a pernicious legend. Both are victims of an police raid in the United States, jumped bail (as Jim jumped ship) and became a sailor in the Indian Ocean. An immoral but fundamentally decent character, Jack seeks moral redemption and sacrifices himself for salvation. For low pay, but in return for a work permit that allows him to remain in Singapore, he toils as a water-clerk (Jim's job) and, through his contacts with European ships, brings trade to the Chinese chandler. Captain Brierly's suicide in Lord Jim is reflected at the end of part I of Theroux's novel when William Leigh, the accountant who has come from Hong Kong to examine the company's books, suddenly dies of a heart attack. The apparently ironic title of the novel contrasts the conventional idea of sin to a more idiosyncratic but equally valid morality. The novel reveals goodness beneath evil (Jack's entrepreneurial whorehouses are the equivalent of Jim's adventures in Patusan), describes a religious quest, portrays the salvation of a sinner, and--despite his vices--suggests the possibility of achieving grace.
There are also minor but significant references to Conrad in the works of English novelists outside the Conradian tradition I have defined. Saki's "The Unrest-Cure" in Chronicles of Clovis (1911) is--like Max Beerbohm's parody of Conrad's "The Lagoon" in A Christmas Garland (1912)--a satiric response to Conrad's first collection of stories, Tales of Unrest. Clovis tells the hero-victim of the story: "You've heard of Rest-cures for people who've broken down under stress of too much worry and strenuous living; well, you're suffering from overmuch repose and placidity, and you need the opposite kind of treatment." Clovis then proceeds to bombard him with a series of imaginary difficulties in order to jolt him out of his comatose complacency.
Somerset Maugham's Ashenden: or The British Agent (1928) followed the realistic espionage genre that had begun with The Secret Agent in 1907. Maugham traveled to exotic locales--which Conrad had sailed to in the course of his maritime career--in search of fictional material. And he paid tribute to Conrad in his story "Nell MacAdam" (1933), when one of the characters defends Conrad by asserting: "I don't think it's a mean achievement to have created a country, a dark, sinister, romantic and heroic country of the soul."
The Informer (1925) by Liam O'Flaherty, who published a pamphlet on Conrad in 1930, shows the influence of Under Western Eyes. In Conrad's novel, Razumov is punished by Russian revolutionaries in Geneva after confessing that he had betrayed Victor Haldin in Saint Petersburg. O'Flaherty's novel also concerns an informer who is hunted by the shadowy executioners of an Irish revolutionary organization. Two characters dominate the tragedy of betrayal and retribution: Gypo Nolan, the hulking giant who, under stress of poverty, discloses the whereabouts of the wanted Frankie McPhilip; and Dan Gallagher, the egotistical commandant of the militant organization that has sworn to hunt down and kill the unknown informer. The fine, underrated writer Francis King also pays tribute to Conrad's Genevan novel in his latest work, Punishments (1989), when a character exclaims: "Conrad! Well, fancy that! Under Western Eyes. Far greater than any novel Dostoievsky ever wrote."61
Joyce Cary was, like Conrad, a man of action: a soldier in the Balkans and the Cameroons, and a colonial administrator in Northern Nigeria. He acknowledged Conrad as one of his masters. The name of the eponymous heroine in Cary's African novel Aissa Saved (1932) is taken from the wild Aissa in An Outcast of the Islands, who fatally attracts Williams and is finally shot by him. In Cary's novel, the equally destructive Fulani girl Aissa, a primitive bush pagan, is also torn between two worlds: A new and ardent convert to Christianity, she is branded as a witch by enemies who still believe in ju-ju. As rioting breaks out between Christians and pagans, Aissa allows her foot to be cut off to rid herself of demons. Divided by secular and spiritual love, she sacrifices her beloved baby in a last mad moment of violent ecstasy.
One of the best--and uncharacteristically comic--scenes in Conrad's first novel, Almayer's Folly, inspired the bizarre, black-comic conclusion of Evelyn Waugh's A Handful of Dust (1934), whose title (as we have seen) came from Conrad through Eliot. After Lakamba, the Malay rajah, tells his adviser, Babalatchi, that he must poison Almayer to prevent him from revealing to the Dutch the secret of the gold, Lakamba demands music. And Babalatchi must, reluctantly and incongruously, provide it. Nearly falling asleep while he mechanically turns the hand-organ, Babalatchi fills the unresponsive jungle with alien yet soothing sounds. As Lakamba dozes comfortably in his armchair, and the music plays, Manrico, captured in battle and about to be beheaded, sings his farewell to life and to Leonora in the last act of Verdi's II Trovatore. Waugh brilliantly transforms this scene when the weary Tony Last, captured by the bored Mr. Todd, is forced to read Dickens endlessly in the remote regions of the Amazon jungle.
The British Guianan novelist Wilson Harris, who has written an interesting essay on Conrad, used him in his first major novel, The Palace of the Peacock (1960). Ian Watt points out that, like Heart of Darkness, "it deals with a journey up a river, which eventuates in a more or less transcendental discovery, a symbolic 'dance of all fulfillment.' " experiences in Cambodia and strongly influenced by the dark fate of Kurtz. After finding the sculpture, the hero Perken penetrates deeper into the jungle to search for Grabot. He is an adventurer, rumored to dominate the remote and primitive tribes, who has disappeared among the Mois. Perken finds that Grabot, far from being a powerful chief, has been captured and tortured by the natives he had intended to conquer. He is now a blinded slave, forced to walk on a treadmill. Perken (Marlow) rescues Grabot (Kurtz); but he, not Grabot, dies from a septic wound on the journey back.
The Walnut Trees of Altenburg (1943), like Heart of Darkness, is narrated through a circular frame story. And there are close stylistic affinities between Conrad's famous description of the overwhelming prehistoric jungle that reduces man to an insignificant insect and Malraux's evocation of the African wilderness that also seems to nullify man:
On we went again into the silence, along empty reaches, round the still bends, between the high walls of our winding way, reverberating in hollow claps the ponderous beat of the stern wheel. Trees, trees, millions of trees, massive, immense, running up high; and at their foot, hugging the bank against the stream, crept the little begrimed steamboat, like a sluggish beetle crawling on the floor of a lofty portico. It made you feel very small, very lost.
The endless succession of days under the dusty firmament of Libya or the heavy leaden sky of the Congo, the tracks of invisible animals converging on the water points, the exodus of starving dogs under the empty sky, the time of day when every thought becomes a blank, the giant trees gloomily soaring up in the prehistoric void.
Conrad's works influenced the leaders of the Polish as well as of the French Resistance, and it is significant that the most vital Polish political movement in modern times is called "Solidarity." Najder, a Polish critic, writes that "in his motherland he became not only one of the most popular authors of fiction translated from a foreign language but also a very influential writer, one of the most powerful and deeply felt voices in modern Polish literature. . . [and] one of the chief moral authorities for the young members of the Polish resistance." This admiration of Conrad's code of behavior, moral strength, and of his ability to create a "heroic country of the soul" is confirmed by Jan Szczepanski, who poignantly observes in "The Conrad of My Generation" (1957)78: "For us Conrad was more topical than ever before. His books became a collection of practical recipes for men fighting lonely battles in the dark."
1 For a similar study, see Jeffrey Meyers, The Legacy of D. H. Lawrence (London: Macmillan, 1987).
2 Zdzislaw Najder, Joseph Conrad: A Chronicle, trans. Halina Carroll-Najder (Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1983), p. 492.
3 T. S. Eliot, "Swinburne as Poet," Selected Essays, 1917-1932 (New York: Harcourt, 1932), p. 285.
4 Joseph Conrad, Youth, Kent Edition, 26 volumes (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1926), 16:37.
5 Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent, 13:177.
6 Leonard Unger, "Laforgue, Conrad, and Eliot," T. S. Eliot: Moments and Patterns (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1966), p. 113. Robert Secor and Debra Moddelmog, who have gathered useful bibliographical information on Eliot, O'Neill, Fitzgerald, and Faulkner, write in Joseph Conrad and American Writers: A Bibliographical Study of Affinities, Influences and Relations (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1985), p. 113: "sources have been found for Eliot's poetry, plays and essays in over a dozen different works by Conrad."
For a discussion of Conrad's influence on another American poet, see Harry Gilonis, "Dark Heart: Conrad in Louis Zukofsky's A," Conradian (London), 14 (1989), 92-101,
7 Travis Bogard, Contour in Time: The Plays of Eugene O'Neill (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1972), p. 39. See also pp. 24, 38-42, 93-94, 135.
8 Quoted in Roman Dyboski, "My Encounter with Conrad" (1932), in Conrad under Familial Eyes, ed. Zdzislaw Najder, trans. Halina Carroll-Najder (Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1983), p. 264.
9 Ernest Hemingway, "Conrad Supplement. III," Transatlantic Review, 2 (1924), 341-42.
11 E. M. Forster employs this phrase, with irony, when Mr. Turton says of Ronny in A Passage to India (New York: Harcourt, 1924), p. 25: "Heaslop's a sahib; he's the type we want, he's one of us." Robert Lowell also uses this phrase, ironically, to describe Mussolini, in "Beyond the Alps," Life Studies (1959; New York: Farrar, 1967), p. 3: "He was one of us / only, pure prose." The poem, about his loss of religious faith, contrasts poet and ruler, Christian and Pagan, Duce and Caesar.
12 Joseph Conrad, Victory, 15:187.
13 Joseph Conrad, Within the Tides, 10:viii.
14 Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon (New York: Scribner's, 1932), p. 2.
15 Joseph Conrad, The Nigger of the '"Narcissus," 23:xiv.
16 By-Line: Ernest Hemingway, ed. William White (New York: Scribner's, 1967), p. 219.
17 Joseph Conrad, The Rover, 24:17.
18 Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises (New York: Scribner's, 1954), p. 108.
19 Ernest Hemingway, Selected Letters, 1917-1961, ed. Carlos Baker (New York: Scribner's, 1981), p. 557. The French phrase appears in Ford Madox Ford, Joseph Conrad: A Personal Remembrance (London: Duckworth, 1924), p. 113.
20 F. Scott Fitzgerald, "10 Best Books I Have Read," Jersey City Evening Journal, 24 Apr. 1923, p. 9.
21 Quoted in "Fitzgerald on Joseph Conrad," Fitzgerald Newsletter, ed. Matthew Bruccoli (Washington, D.C.: NCR Microcards Editions Books, 1969), pp. 313-14 (May 19, 1920).
22 F. Scott Fitzgerald, Letters, ed. Andrew Turnbull (1963; London: Penguin Books, 1968), p. 501. This letter responds to H. L. Mencken's review "The Heirs of Conrad" in the Chicago Sunday Tribune, 24 May 1925, and suggests that Conrad also influenced Joseph Hergesheimer's Java Head (New York: Knopf, 1919) and The Bright Shawl (New York: Knopf, 1922) as well as Somerset Maugham's novel about Gauguin, The Moon and Sixpence (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1919). See Robert Stallman, "Conrad and The Great Gatsby," Twentieth Century. Literature, 1 (1955), 5-12; James Miller, F. Scott Fitzgerald.' His Art and His Technique (New York: New York Univ. Press, 1964), pp. 92-94, 111-13, 121-22; and Robert Emmet Long, "The Great Gatsby and the Tradition of Joseph Conrad," Texas Studies in Literature and Language, 8 (1966), 257-76, 407-22.
23 Fitzgerald, Letters, pp. 383-84.
24 Ibid., p. 329.
25 Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, 16:xi.
26 Faulkner in the University, ed. Frederick Gwynn and Joseph Blotner (1959; New York: Vintage, 1965), p. 20. See also pp. 50, 150.
27 Lion in the Garden: Interviews with William Faulkner, 1926-1962, ed. James Meriwether and Michael Millgate (New York: Random House, 1968), p. 21.
28 William Faulkner, Selected Letters, ed. Joseph Blotner (New York: Vintage, 1977), p. 30.
29 Richard Adams, "The Apprenticeship of William Faulkner," Tulane Studies in English, 12 (1962), 129-35.
30 See Stephen Ross, "Conrad's Influence on Absalom, Absalom!," Studies in American Fiction, 2 (1974), 199-209.
31 Joseph Conrad, Notes on Life and Letters, 3:13.
32 Quoted in Adams, "The Apprenticeship of William Faulkner," p. 135, which noted the source of the Nobel Prize speech five years before Eric Solomon, "Joseph Conrad, William Faulkner, and the Nobel Prize Speech," Notes and Queries, 14 (June 1967), 247-48.
33 Jorge Luis Borges, "Manuscrito Hallado en un Libro de Joseph Conrad," Poemas, 1923-1958 (Buenos Aires: Emece, 1958), p. 86; and Jorge Luis Borges, Introduction to English Literature, trans. Clark Keating and Robert Evans (1965; Lexington: Univ. of Kentucky Press, 1974), p. 60. See Jorge Luis Borges, "Guayaquil," Doctor Brodie's Report, trans. Norman Thomas (New York: Dutton, 1972), pp. 99-107.
34 Carlos Fuentes, conversation with Jeffrey Meyers, Boulder, Colorado, Sept. 18, 1989.
35 Saul Bellow, "The Nobel Lecture," American Scholar, 46 (1977), 316. Bellow's African novel, Henderson the Rain King (New York: Viking, 1959), may have been influenced by Heart of Darkness as well as by his readings in anthropology.
36 Robert Stone, Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews, 8th ser., ed. George Plimpton (New York: Viking, 1988), pp. 364, 366.
37 George Orwell, "Conrad's Place and Rank in English Letters," Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters, ed. Ian Angus and Sonia Orwell (New York: Harcourt, 1968), 4:489.
38 Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim, 2:259.
39 George Orwell, Burmese Days (1934; London: Penguin Books, 1967), p. 5, 14. In Lord Jim, 2:239, the captain of the ship that takes Jim to Patusan says that a certain man "was many times falser than the 'weapons of a crocodile.' " In Burmese Days, p. 43, Veraswami tells Flory that U Po Kyin "bass [sic] the cunning of a crocodile, its cruelty, its bestiality."
40 George Orwell, Animal Farm (New York: Harcourt, 1946), p. 72.
41 Joseph Conrad, Nostromo, 9:511.
42 Joseph Conrad, Under Western Eyes, 2:134-35.
43 Violet Hunt, I Have This to Say (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1926), pp. 38, 32; Ford Madox Ford, Letters, ed. Richard Ludwig (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1965), p. 127.
44 Thomas Moser, The Life in the Fiction of Ford Madox Ford (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1980), pp. 255-56.
45 Graham Greene, Journey without Maps (New York: Viking, 1961), pp. 66, 109.
46 Graham Greene, "Fiction," Spectator, 10 Feb. 1933, p. 194; Graham Greene, In Search of a Character (New York: Viking, 1961), p. 31.
47 Graham Greene, "Remembering Mr. Jones," The Lost Childhood and Other Essays (1951; New York: Viking, 1962), p. 99.
48 Quoted in Miriam Gross, "The Secret World of John le Carre," Observer, 3 Feb. 1980, p. 35.
49 John le Carre, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (New York: Bantam Books, 1983), p. 15.
50 John le Carre, The Looking-Glass War (New York: Bantam Books, 1984), p. 137.
51 John le Carre, Smiley's People (New York: Bantam Books, 1982), p. 151.
52 See David Monaghan, The Novels of John le Carre (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1985), pp. 74-86.
53 V. S. Naipaul, The Mimic Men (New York: Vintage, 1985), pp. 151, 138.
The actual title of Clifford's book is In Court and Kampong (London: Grant Richards, 1897). Conrad reviewed Clifford's Studies in Brown Humanity (London: Grant Richards, 1898); Clifford reviewed Youth (Edingburgh: Blackwood, 1902). See Harry Gailey, Clifford: Imperial Proconsul (London: Rex Collings, 1982).
54 Naipaul, The Mimic Men, pp. 242-43. See Joseph Conrad, A Personal Record, 6:69-70.
55 Paul Theroux, V. S. Naipaul (London: Andre Deutsch, 1972), p. 28.
56 V. S. Naipaul, "Conrad's Darkness," The Return of Eva Peron (London: Andre Deutsch, 1980), p. 216. See Conrad, Nostromo, 9:521.
57 See Conrad, Lord Jim, 21:330.
58 Paul Theroux, Saint Jack (New York: Ballantine Books, 1976), p. 19.
59 [H. H. Munro], The Best of Saki, ed. and introd. by Graham Greene (New York: Viking, 1970), p. 46.
60 W. Somerset Maugham, "Neil MacAdam," Complete Short Stories (New York: Washington Square Press, 1967), 4:1601.
61 Francis King, Punishments (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1989), p. 19.
62 Ian Watt, Joseph Conrad: "Nostromo" (Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1988), p. 90. See Wilson Harris, "The Frontier on Which Heart of Darkness Stands," Research in African Literature, 12 (1981), 86-93.
63 Conrad, Under Western Eyes, 22:4.
64 lbid., 22:3.
65 Thomas Mann, Doctor Faustus, trans. H. T. Lowe-Porter (New York: Knopf, 1948), p. 3.
66 Quoted in Najder, Joseph Conrad, p. 379.
67 Quoted in Kathleen Raine, "St.-John Perse's Birds," Southern Review, 3 (1967), 257.
68 Conrad, Lord Jim, 2:212.
69 Conrad, The Secret Agent, 13:33.
70 Andre Gide, Travels in the Congo, trans. Dorothy Bussy (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1962), pp. 292-93.
71 See Frederick Karl, Joseph Conrad: The Three Lives (London: Faber, 1979), p. 285n, quoting Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Journey to the End of the Night, trans. John Marks (1934; New York: New Directions, 1960), p. 124.
72 Jan Szczepanski, "The Conrad of My Generation" (1957), in Najder, Conrad under Familial Eyes, p. 280. Vercors is the pseudonym of Jean Bruller (b. 1902).
73 Conrad, The Nigger of the "Narcissus," 23:xii.
74 Clara Malraux, Memoirs, trans. Patrick O'Brien (New York: Farrar, 1967), p. 246.
75 Conrad, Heart of Darkness, 16:95.
76 Andre Malraux, The Walnut Trees of Altenburg, trans. A. W. Fielding (London: John Lehmann, 1952), p. 113.
77 Najder, Introd. to Conrad under Familial Eyes, p. xxi.
78 Jan Szczepanski, in Najder, Conrad under Familial Eyes, p. 279.
79 Conrad also influenced a vast audience through the sixteen films that were inspired by his works: Victory (1919); Lord Jim (1925); The Silver Treasure (based on Nostromo, 1926); The Road to Romance (based on Romance, 1927); The Rescue (1929); Dangerous Paradise (based on Victory, 1930); The Woman Alone (based on The Secret Agent, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, with Oscar Homulka and Sylvia Sidney as the Verlocs, 1936); Razumov (based on Under Western Eyes, directed by Marc Allegret, with Jean-Louis Barrault as Haldin, 1937); Victory (with Cedric Hardwicke as Jones, Frederic March as Heyst, and Betty Field as Lena, 1941); An Outcast of the Islands (the best Conrad film, directed by Carol Reed, with Trevor Howard, Robert Morley, and Wendy Hiller, 1951); Face to Face (based on "The Secret Sharer," with James Mason, 1952); Laughing Anne (1954); Lord Jim (1964); The Rover (1967); The Duellists (based on "The Duel," 1977); and Apocalypse Now (based on Heart of Darkness, 1979). David Lean is now directing and Robert Bolt writing the screenplay for Nostromo.
By JEFFREY MEYERS
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Source: Twentieth Century Literature, Summer90, Vol. 36 Issue 2, p186, 21p.