In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

correspondence, and, after meeting her in her youth, Shaw kept Molly Tompkins at bay. As Shaw had written in the preface to his correspondence with Ellen Terry, one of the few published in his own lifetime, "Only on paper has mankind ever yet achieved glory, beauty, truth, knowledge, virtue and abiding love." Stanley Weintraub Penn State University 5. NAVIGATING JOSEPH CONRAD Adam Gillon. Joseph Conrad. Boston: Twayne, 1982. $11.95 In keeping with the guidelines of the Twayne Series, this volume surveys all of Conrad's works, basically in chronological order, and "is intended for the general public," as Professor Gillon comments in the Preface, "rather than for the specialist who has no trouble navigating the high seas of critical literature." Within this framework, Gillon has addressed particular tasks which he goes on to describe: "I have emphasized some of these themes, e.g., betrayal and fidelity, crime and punishment, existential choice, isolation, human solidarity, and the destructive dream. My assessment of Conrad's achievement as a novelist is related, whenever possible, to his cosmopolitanism, his Polish heritage, and his affinities with English, Polish, Russian, French, and German writers." Moreover, Gillon has "stressed the psychological and intellectual dilemmas of the Conradlan protagonist, while also delving into the technical aspects of Conrad's art, suggesting, among other things, its painterly qualities." This "appraisal," Gillon hopes, will demonstrate Conrad's "contemporaneity and the reasons he is considered to be a great novelist." Joseph Conrad moves in all these directions, but it falls decidedly short of its author's intentions. As the Preface implies, Gillon's approach is largely thematic and ethical, with an existential slant. Most of the study explores Conrad's human situations and brings forward certain morals: for example, isolation is corrosive, betrayal merits punishment, dreaming destroys the dreamer and the dreamer's community. Praiseworthy as it is to familiarize general readers with Conrad's main themes, Gillon often does so by reducing Conrad's multifaceted outlook to one-dimensional components, each presented as an absolute in its turn. As a result, readers are too bombarded with contradictory fragments to develop a coherent appreciation of Conrad's paradoxical ideas or of his characters' dilemmas. Analyses of the complicated works are the most disjointed—the richer the novel's themes, the more piecemeal the discussion—but how indirectly this study confronts Conrad's complexities is evident as early as the second chapter, where the first two novels are examined. There we find this succession of statements. "Conrad viewed the native society and nature as two destructive powers that undermined white man's integrity and sapped his vitality" (p. 19). Two pages later, "In both novels the jungle provides the dark, sinister setting, and the two protagonists are destroyed by their passions." And three pages later, the jungle "stands for the savage in man, for his utter isolation and his moral collapse." How does the jungle function in these works, and is the evil inside or outside of the characters? Even when such mysteries are solved, as this one eventually is, readers who have drawn several disparate conclusions may not recognize the "real" interpretation when it comes. 209 Gillon seems sensitive to Conrad's possible meanings, but his fragmented presentation of them obscures or ignores the way these meanings qualify each other. Illuminating Conrad's accomplishments by exploring his intellectual and artistic milieu seems a desirable sideline for a survey, and no one could expect a full-scale handling of the subject in a TEAS book. But Gillon discusses few writers in Conrad's ken, contrary to promises in the Preface, and gives almost no hint of the artistic, scientific, philosophical, and psychological upheavals taking place during the novelist's lifetime. Conrad's early reading of Shakespeare and the Polish Romantics perhaps justifies Gillon's claim that these writers "were to form the most pervasive of literary influences" (p. 31). A native of Poland, Gillon provides indispensible information about how Conrad's Polish background shaped his works. In addition to Polish Romantic poetry, Gillon discusses other Polish genres —the tale or "yarn," for instance—that may have influenced Conrad's art. Parallels beween Shakespeare and Conrad, however, are included largely for their...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 209-211
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.