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Lord Jim (1900)

by Joseph Conrad

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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9,164115897 (3.69)322
This work set the style for a whole class of literature, a work that the critic Morton Dauwen Zabel calls an example of Conrad's "central theme ... the grip of circumstances that enforce self-discovery and its cognate, the discovery of reality and truth ..." It is a novel about a man's lifelong efforts to atone for an act of instinctive cowardice. The young Jim, chief mate of the Patna, dreams of being a hero. When the Patna threatens to sink and the cowardly officers decide to save their own skins and escape in the few lifeboats, Jim despises them. But at the last moment, dazed by horror and confusion, he joins them, deserting the passengers--eight hundred Muslim pilgrims--to apparent death. Tormented by this act of cowardice and desertion, Jim flees to the West. Living among the natives in Patusan, a remote trading post in the jungle, he is able to cease sacrificing himself on the altar of conscience. When he defends Patusan against the evil "Gentleman Brown," his efforts create order and well-being, thereby winning the respect and affection of the people for whom he becomes Tuan--or Lord Jim.… (more)
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» See also 322 mentions

English (105)  Spanish (3)  Czech (1)  Danish (1)  Piratical (1)  Italian (1)  Dutch (1)  Portuguese (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  All languages (115)
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A young man believes in his own courage, but is scarred by an act of cowardice and spends years trying to live it down. A bit of a tough read, due to nothing more than the unfortunate absence of paragraph breaks. I had not known that Marlowe is a recurring character in Conrad. ( )
  adamhindman | Feb 5, 2024 |
Just returned from a trip to the south western Atlantic coast of France for a few days, staying in a hotel with a view of the surf pounding on the shore line. Capbreton is perhaps the surfing capital of France and walking on the broad endless beaches backed by sand-dunes is an intoxicating experience. I envied the people, young and fit enough to get up on their surf boards in those great Atlantic rollers. I had consciously chosen a book that would have some flavour of a sea-going experience hence Josephs Conrads Lord Jim, but it felt in essence a million miles away from the carefree lifestyle that seems to encompass the world of surfing. I looked up from my book and thought about the Beach Boys. I only got halfway through the book on vacation and only connected with the book when I got back home and finished the read.

Lord Jim is really a book of two stories, but without a dividing line. They are told by the narrator Marlow who tells a tragic personal story of love and loss to a group of his cronies. In the first Jim is a young adventurous seaman who faces an extreme moral dilemma when the Patna; a rusty old tub of a boat, overcrowded with pilgrims starts to sink after a collision with an obstacle in the ocean. Jim is the Mate; second in command in a crew of four disparate Europeans. The Patna becomes a "cause celebre" especially after the public inquiry, which will decide whether the crew should lose their licences to practice as seaman. Marlow then tells how he tried to help Jim get over the trauma of the inquiry by finding work for him along the seaboard and the second story takes place on a remote island that Conrad calls Patusan probably part of Indonesia. Jim earns the title Lord Jim (Tuan Jim) as the representative of a Dutch trading enterprise working alone in a hostile environment and becomes the de facto head man of the island and takes a native wife, however when a pirate ship visits, the underlying tensions on the island come to a head.

Jim is a powerfully built, attractive man and a parson's son. He never loses his thirst for adventure, he is a romantic who wants desperately to do the right thing, he has a boyish air about him, which he never quite loses. An injury suffered while training to be a seaman and then the incident on the Patna causes him deep trauma, which he is unable to get over, they colour all his subsequent actions, he feels a need to atone for deficiencies of character which take him outside the company of normal men. The soul searching, the desire to make a better fist of things lead him to take solace at times with Marlow. His relationship with other men is certainly homosocial and maybe homosexual, but Conrad is careful never to make this explicit.

Lord Jim was published in 1900 a year after Heart of Darkness and has a similar viewpoint on colonialism which of course leaves it open to accusations of racism. Marlow expresses views on colonialism in a letter which would have probably been a la mode at the time:

You said also - I call to mind - that giving your life up to them (them meaning all of mankind with skins brown, yellow or black in colour) "was like selling your soul to a brute." You contended that: "that kind of thing" was only endurable and enduring when based on a firm conviction in the truth of ideas racially our own in whose name are established the order, the morality of an ethical progress. "We want its strength at our backs" you had said. "we want a belief in its necessity and its justice, to make a worthy and conscious sacrifice of our lives......

It is by no means an easy to read adventure story. The narrative is told to us mostly by Marlowe, but also by letters and so there are some different interpretations of character. Conrad conceals from the reader the fate of the Patna for some time, by jumping backwards and forwards in time. The reader is constantly invited to read between the lines especially in the conversations between Marlow and Jim and it is by not always clear where we are in the timeline of the story or who is actually doing the talking. It is a psychological portrait of a character who finds it difficult to express his thoughts and emotions. It took me some time to get to grips with Conrad's style, but he has a way of describing events and the natural world that put this reader right in touch with the late 19th century.

Jim is never given a formal name and when we are told Jim's story on Patusan I could not help thinking of captain James T Kirk of the starship Enterprise. In reflection Jim has a similar modus operandi when dealing with alien species (in this case natives) in trying to impose his culture onto theirs.
A 4 star literary read ( )
  baswood | Oct 2, 2023 |
Una novela en la que se percibe la pasión del autor por la navegación. Muy buena, aunque lenta a veces. ( )
  InigoAngulo | Sep 2, 2023 |
I did not finish this book. I think I definitely gave it a fair shot ... I was at 63% on a kindle version before I realized that, not only was I not enjoying it anymore, the words were no longer even registering as coherent thoughts. I thought the earlier part of the book, watching Jim unravel as he internalizes the very essence of courage and cowardice was simply brilliant. To me, the book could have stopped after the trial with maybe one or two chapters dealing with the aftermath. The latter half of the book just didn't do it for me. I wanted Jim's thoughts and perspectives, not the ever-changing point of view that resulted in a messy, unfocused narrative. Life is too short to read books that don't speak to you. And the latter part of this one lost me. ( )
  AliceAnna | Aug 12, 2023 |
Very uneven, almost as if Conrad patched together two or three unalike books. Rather imbalanced ratio of plot to exposition, and I'm one who likes plenty of exposition. ( )
  judeprufrock | Jul 4, 2023 |
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» Add other authors (104 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Joseph Conradprimary authorall editionscalculated
Adams, J. DonaldIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Crossley, StevenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hampson, RobertEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lorch, FritzTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mathias, RobertCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Monod, SylvèrePrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Monsarrat, NicholasIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mursia, UgoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prinzhofer, RenatoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sherry, NormanIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Siciliano, EnzoForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stafford, EdForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ward, LyndIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Watts, CedricEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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"It is certain my Conviction gains infinitely, the moment another soul will believe in it."

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To Mr. and Mrs. G. F. W. Hope
With Grateful Affection
After Many Years
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He was an inch, perhaps two, under six feet, powerfully built, and he advanced straight at you with a slight stoop of the shoulders, head forward, and a fixed from-under stare which made you think of a charging bull. His voice was deep, loud, and his manner displayed a kind of dogged self-assertion which had nothing aggressive in it. It seemed a necessity, and it was directed apparently as much at himself as at anybody else. He was spotlessly neat, apparelled in immaculate white from shoes to hat, and in the various Eastern ports where he got his living as ship-chandler’s water-clerk he was very popular.
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This work set the style for a whole class of literature, a work that the critic Morton Dauwen Zabel calls an example of Conrad's "central theme ... the grip of circumstances that enforce self-discovery and its cognate, the discovery of reality and truth ..." It is a novel about a man's lifelong efforts to atone for an act of instinctive cowardice. The young Jim, chief mate of the Patna, dreams of being a hero. When the Patna threatens to sink and the cowardly officers decide to save their own skins and escape in the few lifeboats, Jim despises them. But at the last moment, dazed by horror and confusion, he joins them, deserting the passengers--eight hundred Muslim pilgrims--to apparent death. Tormented by this act of cowardice and desertion, Jim flees to the West. Living among the natives in Patusan, a remote trading post in the jungle, he is able to cease sacrificing himself on the altar of conscience. When he defends Patusan against the evil "Gentleman Brown," his efforts create order and well-being, thereby winning the respect and affection of the people for whom he becomes Tuan--or Lord Jim.

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