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Victory by Joseph Conrad

Victory (1915)

by Joseph Conrad

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
I enjoyed this novel from the pen of Joseph Conrad - it may be my favorite of his works although Conrad has the knack for writing consistently good novels that makes it hard to rank them. Victory's most striking formal characteristic is its shifting narrative and temporal perspective with the first section from the viewpoint of a sailor, the second from omniscient perspective of Axel Heyst, the third from an interior perspective from Heyst, and the final section. I found the character of Axel interesting primarily due to his complexity. On a superficial level the novel reads like a melodrama more suited to a muddled opera libretto than a serious work of literature. But upon reflection the allegorical and psychological implications of the action, landscape and narrative structure redeem it as a modern novel worthy to be included with the best of Conrad. I am always more impressed when the author can make a serious work of literature appear on the surface, to be merely a "good story" (eg. Moby-Dick). The story line follows: through a business misadventure, the European Axel Heyst ends up living on an island in what is now Indonesia, with a Chinese assistant Wang. Heyst visits a nearby island when a female band is playing at a hotel owned by Mr. Schomberg. Schomberg attempts to force himself sexually on one of the band members, Alma, later called Lena. She flees with Heyst back to his island and they become lovers. Schomberg seeks revenge by attempting to frame Heyst for the "murder" of a man who had died of natural causes and later by sending three desperadoes (Pedro, Martin Ricardo and Mr. Jones) to Heyst's island with a lie about treasure hidden on the island. The ensuing conflict does not end well and has been compared to the ending of an Elizabethan drama where the stage is littered with corpses. The robust romanticism of Axel and Lena's story continues to haunt the reader long after one puts the novel down.
Another of my favorite writers, Joan Didion, had this to say about Victory:
"I often reread Victory, which is maybe my favorite book in the world… The story is told thirdhand. It’s not a story the narrator even heard from someone who experienced it. The narrator seems to have heard it from people he runs into around the Malacca Strait. So there’s this fantastic distancing of the narrative, except that when you’re in the middle of it, it remains very immediate. It’s incredibly skillful. I have never started a novel — I mean except the first, when I was starting a novel just to start a novel — I’ve never written one without rereading Victory. It opens up the possibilities of a novel. It makes it seem worth doing.” — From a 2006 interview in The Paris Review ( )
1 vote jwhenderson | Mar 19, 2017 |
I didn't know anything about this book when I started it other than 2 facts: it was written by the author of The Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad, and it was on the Guardian's list of 1000 novels everyone should read.

After I started, I quickly found myself engaged in this somewhat odd story about a very odd man, Heyst. A little farther into the story, I went back to find in which category the Guardian's list had placed this book & was surprised to find it was in the "Love" category rather than the "War and Travel" category I had expected. By the end of the book, I understood the placement! If I had to describe it in one sentence, it would be as a cross between his earlier book Heart of Darkness and Romeo and Juliet. Heyst and Lena are surely just as star-crossed as Romeo and Juliet and their end is just as tragic. ( )
2 vote leslie.98 | Apr 27, 2016 |
Fantaisie, étrange et un peu morbide, apour improbable et haine. ( )
  Gerardlionel | Apr 1, 2016 |
Victory (sometimes published as Victory: An Island Tale) is a psychological novel by Joseph Conrad (1857 – 1924), first published in 1915. Through its publication, Conrad achieved popular success. The novel is seen as a highly complex allegorical work, with a narrative structure and psychological development laying the basis for the modern novel. Victory is initially somewhat difficult to follow because of the shifting narrative and temporal perspective. Part 1 of the book is written from the viewpoint of a sailor, Part 2 an omniscient perspective ofthe main character, Part 3 from an interior perspective of the main character, and Part 4 from the perspective of an omniscient narrator. The novel is very rich in literary allusions, and an annotated edition, such as by the Oxford University Press is recommended.

Like many of Conrad's novels, Victory is set in the Indonesian archipelago, then the Dutch Indies. The story is fairly straight forward, although the narrative develops slowly. Axel Heyst, a Swede, resides on the virtually uninhabited island where a business venture failed. During a holiday trip visiting another island, he meets and unhappy young English woman, who is attached to a music band. They steal away together. This angers and frustrates the owner of the hotel, Mr Schomberg, whose wife is a hovering presence in the background. Out of spite, Schomberg puts three desperados, Mr Jones, Ricardo and their servant on Heyst's trail, suggesting that Heyst guards a hoard of money. The three men, ruthless, sail to the island, but Mr Jones idea of finding Heyst alone, and an easy prey, runs completely awry. On the island, Jones meets his nemesis.

The novel is beautifully written, and each character fits perfectly into the plot. The psychology of each character is very convincing, despite a slight sense og exaggeration. The plot and the outcome of the story are very compelling. Various elements and characters of the story suggest a strong relation between the book and Shakespeare's play The Tempest. ( )
2 vote edwinbcn | Feb 20, 2016 |
In the first part we get an outsider's view of Axel Heyst's character, actions and motives without being certain who he is or what actually drives him. I found this off-putting until the second part shared Heyst's perspective and we discover he's oblivious to being the centre of so much attention. In retrospect the first seems a case study foreshadowing what will come: Axel finds happiness through distance, but succumbs to connecting with the world through bouts of empathy that reward in the short term but later steer towards disaster. When real danger threatens it remains to be seen what else can stir him to action and whether he will prove to be 'wild' or 'tame'. What happens when the perpetual observer's hand is forced to commit action?

The joys of this novel come through in the dialogue, the divulging of character through confession and interplay. Being able to relate personally to Heyst's philosophy didn't hurt my enjoyment any, thrusting me into contemplating how I would react to similar pressures. Heyst lacks self-awareness, not realizing the advantage that he has in his opponents being unable to get a read on him. The disarray this lends to their plans is almost comical as they struggle to answer his supposed moves. The ending was a fitting answer to that comedy, tying everything together.

Authors of this period were learning to face the difficult challenge of retaining literary value while appealing to a broader audience and achieving greater sales. I found this to be a wonderful addressing of both objectives, very suspenseful and yet extremely engaging in its character portrayals. ( )
1 vote Cecrow | May 28, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (26 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Joseph Conradprimary authorall editionscalculated
Giachino, EnzoEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gorey, EdwardTypographysecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gorey, EdwardCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140189785, Paperback)

Axel Heyst, a dreamer and a restless drifter, believes he can avoid suffering by cutting himself off from others. Then he becomes involved in the operation of a coal company on a remote island in the Malay Archipelago, and when it fails he turns his back on humanity once more. But his life alters when he rescues a young English girl, Lena, from Zangiacomo's Ladies' Orchestra and the evil innkeeper Schomberg, taking her to his island retreat. The affair between Heyst and Lena begins with her release, but the relationship shifts as Lena struggles to save Heyst from the detachment and isolation that have inhibited and influenced his life.

Marked by a violent and tragic conclusion, Victory is both a tale of rescue and adventure and a perceptive study of a complex relationship and of the power of love.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:31 -0400)

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"Set in the islands of the Malay Archipelago, Victory tells the story of a disillusioned Swede, Axel Heyst, who rescues Lena, a young English musician, from the clutches of a brutish German hotel owner. Seeking refuge at Heyst's remote island retreat on Samburan, the couple is soon besieged by three villains dispatched by the enraged hotelier. The arrival on the island paradise of this trio of friends sets off a terrifying series of events that ultimately ends in catastrophe."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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