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169 ONE MAN'S CONRAD By Edmund A. Bojarski (University of Maryland) For almost three-quarters of a century the work of Joseph Conrad has been shrouded by a certain mystique which has baffled the novelist's English and American critics— a mystique which has formed a kind of interpretive wall beyond which those working in Conrad's adopted third language could not seem to penetrate. Recognizing this ethos barrier as early as February 1914, Conrad told his countrymen in his first Polish press interview, "The English cri tics...speaking of my work, always add that there is in me something incomprehensible, unfathomable, impalpable. Only you can grasp this impalpability, comprehend this incomprehensibility. This is Polishness—Polishness which I brought to my work through Mickiewicz and Slowacki...." Conrad, by the very force of his personality and his work, is one of those writers who seem to usurp the role of the critic in the posing of vital questions. One step into the depths of his art and we find ourselves in a world of problems fundamental first of all to literature as such, but no less so to the cultural life of his native land, its ties to both East and West, and finally to questions of the rights and responsibilities of the individual in the light of national identity. By the very nature of the thing, only a compatriot of Joseph Conrad can effectively fill the interpretive lacunae which, due to circumstances beyond their control such as the unavailability of certain materials and the lack of intimate familiarity with the sweeping historical background which was to shape the British novelist-to-be, had to be left by English and American scholars. It takes a Pole—a Pole throughly steeped in the language and culture of the homeland of Jozef Teodor Konrad Nalecz-Korzeniowski—to understand and help us to understand the deeper reaches of the English novels of Joseph Conrad. This Polish critic must also be completely at home in the language and literature of France and Russia as well as that of Conrad's adopted land. Just such a Pole is Zdzislaw Najder, the author of NAD CONRADEM (ON CONRAD, Panstwowy lnstytut Wydawniczy (State Publishing Institute), Warsaw, 1965, 234 pp., 15 zlotys), a collection of eleven of his own essays on the British novelist published in various Warsaw literary journals over the last fifteen years. Najder is a thirty-six year old Warsaw free lance critic who holds the B.Litt, from Oxford and the M.PhM. from the University of Warsaw. He has just finished a one semester stint as visiting lecturer at Columbia and Yale and is on his way to Berkeley for the coming academic year. His specialty is the philosophy of esthetics, with his internationally known work on Conrad falling into the category so often labeled labor of love, but for which he is well paid since nothing in Poland, not even excluding scholarship, is published without royalty. This collection is Najder's second book-length effort on Conrad, the first being a very useful contribution to Conradiana entitled CONRAD'S POLISH BACKGROUND: LETTERS TO AND FROM POLISH FRIENDS published by the Oxford University Press in 1964. In his introduction the author points out that the essays in this collection "were not written with the ambition of a systematic grasp of Conrad's entire work. On the contrary, [the] aim was to demonstrate the variety of the possible points of view concerning that work." It may, without serious fear of contradiction, be said that this aim has been successfully realized. This volume contains the results of a decade and a half of study and offers the reader an opportunity to view the work of Joseph Conrad from a variety of angles. 170 The first and title essay in this collection, "Nad Conradem" ("On Conrad," TYGODNIK PCWSZECHNY (UNIVERSAL WEEKLY), Mo. 19, 1952), the most synthesizing in its aim, is a composite effort partially based on the original title essay plus another earlier work, "Conrad" (TWORCZOSC (CREATIVITY), No. 10, 1955). In this piece Najder concentrates on Conrad himself as he offers answers to a number of fundamental questions pertaining to the sources of Conrad's literary...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 169-171
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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