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Nostromo (1904)

by Joseph Conrad

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4,439562,228 (3.81)207
(Book Jacket Status: Not Jacketed)Conrad's foresight and his ability to pluck the human adventure from complex historical circumstances were such that his greatest novel, Nostromo -- though nearly one hundred years old -- says as much about today's Latin America as any of the finest recent accounts of that region's turbulent political life. Insistently dramatic in its storytelling, spectacular in its recreation of the subtropical landscape, this picture of an insurrectionary society and the opportunities it provides for moral corruption gleams on every page with its author's dry, undeceived, impeccable intelligence.… (more)
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» See also 207 mentions

English (46)  French (2)  Dutch (2)  Swedish (1)  Spanish (1)  Portuguese (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (54)
Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
Capitalists clash with politics in a generic South American country that is constantly changing governments with military takeovers. Naturally, the natives are their innocent victims. ( )
  burritapal | Oct 23, 2022 |
The most interesting aspect of this novel - for myself, at least - is Conrad's reason for writing it, as outlined in his introduction. Having read the tale of a sailor who made off with a small boat and its cargo of silver, he thought to himself: "Can I write a tale of this episode, in which the sailor is not a craven thief, but rather a man of scruple and integrity?"

Yes, yes he can. ( )
1 vote mkfs | Aug 13, 2022 |
"for life to be large and full, it must contain the care of the past and the future in every passing moment of the present. Our daily work must be done to the glory of the dead, and for the good of those who come after."

Located just outside the coastal town of Sulaco, in the fictional South American country of Costaguana, the silver mine of San Tomé is a source of great wealth for its English owner, Charles Gould, the local economy and the Costaguanan government in the way of bribes. When yet another political revolution brings down the Government of President Ribiera, Gould’s initial inclination is to shore up the tottering regime. However, other voices in Sulaca have another suggestion- break up the nation and set up an independent state with the mine at its heart.

As forces of the leader of the latest revolution converge on the town, Nostromo, the incorruptible and indispensable “Capataz de Cargadores” is asked to take a lighter loaded with the latest shipment of silver offshore so that the revolutionaries won’t get hold of it. An accident as he is leaving port means Nostromo has to hide the silver on an island in the bay whilst he returns to the town to take on yet another perilous mission.

Set around the turn of the 19th/20th century, this novel looks at the destructive nature of economic colonisation by capitalist nations on those countries whose resources they exploit whilst taking no responsibility for the impacts of their actions. The major capital investment in the mine comes from America but neither Britain or Spain escape Conrad's scorn, Gould is English, and Spain, through its historical economic control of the continent. All the major characters in the book, and in Sulaca, are foreigners either by birth or heritage, while the indigenous natives are relegated to being poor helpless pawns and onlookers.

Costaguana is apparently based on Colombia, but in terms of its political identity, it could be any one of a number of Southern or Central American, or even African states who were colonised and their people and natural resources exploited.

Nostromo is an incomer, Italian, but for him wealth is not the major motivation instead he wants to be respected, for his character, integrity and courage. The leaders of Sulacan society trust him absolutely and turn to him whenever they have a problem but they never treat him as one of their own. This treatment eventually takes its toll on the very integrity for which he is so valued. However, the corrosive nature of greed is also a major element of this book.

Gould is a third generation resident of Costaguana, but sent home to England to be educated and when it’s time to marry, naturally selects an English bride. None of this makes him feel he doesn't have the right to use his economic power to influence the politics of this country with little concern for the needs of its people. Nostromo, Gould and his wife, Emilia, are particularly well drawn but then so too are many of the secondary characters.

In some respects this is one of the more straight forward Conrad novels that I've read, however, its fragmented time-line and a text that is sprinkled with Spanish terms meant that I really had to concentrate and back-track on a few occasions so as to keep a handle on what was happening. All of which meant IMHO it falls short in comparison with say Heart of Darkness or even The Secret Agent, a real shame because despite being written over 100 years ago I feel that Conrad's message is insightful and unfortunately still relevant today. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Oct 30, 2021 |
Another solid Conrad novel, which I liked just a bit more than The Secret Agent. I thought the book's main points about corruption - specifically, how wealth twists and perverts people - were very effectively conveyed by Conrad's decision to set the book in the fictional Latin American country of Costaguana. Latin America is notorious for its long history of unstable caudillo government caused in part by the exact type of resource extraction displayed here in Charles Gould's silver mine, around which all the action of the book revolves (foreign companies wanting to avoid Hugo Chavez-style nationalization/expropriation of assets would do well to pay attention to how Gould handles the threat here). The back-and-forth rebellions and secession threats that the protagonists get involved in are drawn straight from real life, making this a very interesting historical read.

But the actual story is interesting too. The main character Nostromo is maybe a little too superheroic (Conrad reminds the reader just a few too many times how incorruptible/indispensible/untiring/etc he is), but it makes his eventual fate all the more ironic. Lesser characters like the mine-owning Gould couple, French revolutionary agitator Decoud, expatriate Italian Garibaldist Viola, and the others are all well-drawn, with Conrad's typical psychological insight. The only thing I don't like about Conrad's writing is that he's so good at turning out these long, well-balanced sentences that it makes the paragraphs they're embedded in a little hard to parse; sometimes I'd find myself pausing to digest a well-turned phrase and then realizing that I had no idea what the larger context was supposed to be. He can also get a little heavy-handed with his symbolism - at times it felt like he was beating the reader over the head with how metaphorical things like the silver lode were supposed to be.

But all in all it was a great novel, both on its own fictional terms and for its historical and contemporary resonances. ( )
  aaronarnold | May 11, 2021 |
Ü: Lore Krüger
  HelgeM | Jan 20, 2021 |
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» Add other authors (51 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Conrad, Josephprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hogarth, PaulIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Järvenpää, HeidiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lavery, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Matthis, MoaPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Petersen, HenrikTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Söderberg, StenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Seymour-Smith, MartinIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Warren, Robert PennIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"So foul a sky clears not without a storm"

- Shakespeare, [King John, iv. ii. 109]
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To John Galsworthy
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In the time of Spanish rule, and for many years afterwards, the town of Sulaco—the luxuriant beauty of the orange gardens bears witness to its antiquity—had never been commercially anything more important than a coasting port with a fairly large local trade in ox-hides and indigo.
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(Book Jacket Status: Not Jacketed)Conrad's foresight and his ability to pluck the human adventure from complex historical circumstances were such that his greatest novel, Nostromo -- though nearly one hundred years old -- says as much about today's Latin America as any of the finest recent accounts of that region's turbulent political life. Insistently dramatic in its storytelling, spectacular in its recreation of the subtropical landscape, this picture of an insurrectionary society and the opportunities it provides for moral corruption gleams on every page with its author's dry, undeceived, impeccable intelligence.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141441631, 0141389443

Recorded Books

An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

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Tantor Media

An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

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