“tales of ships and storms … and the Congo.”
May 7, 2015 4:15 PM   Subscribe

"We know that Conrad was an admirer of Stevenson’s work, and in fact that he thought more highly of Stevenson’s South Seas nonfiction writings than of his novels, at least according to Colvin, who knew both men. To my knowledge, however, no one has connected the next set of dots, not just from Stevenson’s writing to Conrad’s, but from Stevenson’s Samoan persona to Kurtz. Why not consider whether Stevenson’s grandiose island life influenced Conrad’s masterpiece?" Where Did Kurtz Come From? [single page], Matthew Pearl for Slate. Related: Conrad’s 'Heart of Darkness' gets operatic treatment (SF Examiner) | reviews (with stage photos).
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (7 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I gotta say, given the OP's handle, this strikes me as a bit of a Pepsi Blue situation...
posted by Samizdata at 4:41 PM on May 7, 2015 [5 favorites]

I am just starting my Joseph Conrad readings, with The Secret Agent. Reading the intro, the writer of the intro gave away the entire plot. So just so you know, don't read the intros. I went looking for My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, not in this town. Is Heart of Darkness a better start than The Secret Ageent? Dances with Cannibals is on the list too.
posted by Oyéah at 5:04 PM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

I visited Stevenson's house in Apia (Vailima) about a year ago. They did a pretty good job of the restoration, aided by the fact that the original structure was constructed from California redwood, which apparently holds up rather well in the tropical climate.

In light of what the Samoans think about Stevenson (they call him 'Tusitala', which means 'storyteller') it's odd to think of him as a model for Kurtz, or whatever 'Samoan persona' is supposed to mean. He was, and is, held in very high regard by Samoans, who consider him one of their own. He maintained his own European-ness without trying to make the Samoans who worked for him to be European as well: making them wear Western clothes, making them give up kava, etc. When Stevenson died, according to his wishes he was buried on top of a mountain on his property. A line of chiefs and other locals lined the path, handing the coffin all the way up to the top. They called it the 'Trail of Loving Hearts'.
posted by orrnyereg at 6:36 PM on May 7, 2015 [4 favorites]

I thought Leon Rom was the leading contender.
posted by destro at 8:52 PM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Reading the intro, the writer of the intro gave away the entire plot. So just so you know, don't read the intros.

This happened to me the first time I read The Great Gatsby and I'm still not over it.

I really liked The Secret Agent, it almost felt like a Graham Greene novel where you can see the trainwreck coming from a mile away, but are too hooked on the pathos to care. Heart of Darkness is great too, though. You know what, just read them all.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 1:48 AM on May 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

This link I'm giving, if your not familiar with it, is not intended to be buzz kill or "yes, but" contrariness. I absolutely love Conrad, to call him a premier stylist is damning with lavish praise as far as I'm concerned, reading him is like listening to music. So that is where I am coming from. This link is Chinua Achebe's criticism of Heart of Darkness and Conrad.
posted by Pembquist at 10:56 AM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

very interesting. Also worth reading Stevenson's wikipedia page. i had no idea he achieved so much, so young, so ill (and incredibly supportive parents). He really did dare to be different, it usually takes a big ego to do that it seems
posted by maiamaia at 8:34 AM on May 9, 2015

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