Lord Jim, Paperback Book
4.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


Introduction and Notes by Susan Jones, St Hilda's College, Oxford. First published in 1900, Lord Jim established Conrad as one of the great storytellers of the twentieth century.

Set in the Malay Archipelago, the novel not only provides a gripping account of maritime adventure and romance, but also an exotic tale of the East.

Its themes also challenge the conventions of nineteenth-century adventure fiction, confirming Conrad's place in literature as one of the first 'modernists' of English letters. Lord Jim explores the dilemmas of conscience, of moral isolation, of loyalty and betrayal confronting a sensitive individual whose romantic quest for an honourable ideal are tested to the limit.

In this novel, Conrad draws on his background as Polish emigre, as well as his first-hand experience as a seaman, to experiment radically with the presentation of human frailty and doubt in the modern world.


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Reading Joseph Conrad sometimes feels downright intimidating. Every one of his stentences is so erudite, so perfectly formed, and so detailed that it's hard to even imagine how he -- or anyone else -- might improve on it. Conrad just might be the platonic ideal of an English-language prose stylist, and he's so good that he can be scary. At the same time, I'm glad that there are plenty of authors who don't write like him. His stuff can be dense and slow; I suspect that some authors could reel off three novels and two short stories in the space it takes Conrad to get things exactly right in one. "Lord Jim," then, is vintage Conrad. It's dense and weighty and immaculately written -- each one of its chapters seems so perfectly self-contained might as well be a short story in itself. It covers much of the same ground, in a sort of roundabout way, that he would revisit in his more widely read "Heart of Darkness." At the center is Jim himself, a curiously hollow character whose likable exterior conceals an eerie emptiness and makes him particularly unsuited for life in the East. It's often been said that it's this concern with interiority that marks Conrad as a modernist writer, and I'd agree. In a sense, though, the novel's most original and intriguing modernist figure is Stien, an organized, perceptive mentor to the book's narrator who, in my eyes, bears a striking resemblence to Sigmund Freud. This is all the more astonishing when one considers that "Lord Jim" was written at about the time that "The Interpretation of Dreams" was published. "Lord Jim" has many of the pleasures that you find in other Conrad novels -- the author's familiarity with the exclusive fraternity of experienced seamen makes one the reader feel part of a privileged circle, and there are some lovely period details for readers who find the age of sail, or the age of empires, romantic and exciting."Lord Jim," like many of Conrad's books, is told through a complex and effective narrative frame and it's an undeniable pleasure to spend some time with Marlowe, his favorite narrator, who is at once one of the most charming and the most throughtful men who ever sailed the fictional seas. There are, I admit, some equally familiar Conrad problems in "Lord Jim," too. Women and non-Europeans are portrayed mostly passive or pitiful and, as sordid as Jim's tale is, I'm not sure that the project of empire as a whole is really ever put up for debate. Still, it'd be difficult to argue that "Lord Jim" isn't a prose masterpiece and a good -- perhaps even great -- novel. It is recommended to patient readers in search of a book that is both challening and curiously engrossing.

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