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Good enough for British - Joseph Conrad? Poland-born novelist.


Polonius3 1,000 | 12,446
10 May 2015 #1
Among the comments in a GW piece about the 120th anniversary of Joseph Conrad's first book was an interesting comment attributed to Conrad. Some Poles resented the fact that the Polish-born novelist did not write in Polish and regarded him as unpatriotic. When a fellow-Pole Wincenty Lutosławski visited him in England and tried to convince him to enrich the literature of his native land, Conrad explained: "I value too much our beautiful Polish literature to introduce into it my worthless twaddle. But for Englishmen my capacities are just sufficient: they enable me to earn my living".
Roger5 1 | 1,458
10 May 2015 #2
Good enough for this limey. Conrad/Korzeniowski was a master of English, and we are fortunate to have his novels in the English canon. I'm not sure I accept the sincerity of his view that his writing was "worthless twaddle". He knew he was a great writer.
OP Polonius3 1,000 | 12,446
10 May 2015 #3
Do you realise he was a master of English to some extent because of the epoch in which he was writing. By later-20th-century standards. when literary criticism had come to the fore, he would have been accused of peppering his prose with numerous polonisms which simpy weren't recognised as such back then. One that comes to mind was when he described someone as being "in the force of age" (w sile wieku).

One of my profs knew his sister and said Conrad always spoke with a thick Slavic accent. That did not detract from his prose style, however.

I wonder whether one of his novels has since been censored by the free-speech-suppressing PC dictatorship into "N-word of the Narcissus"?
jon357 67 | 16,836
10 May 2015 #4
He was actually very progressive and innovative for his day - Nostromo, with its non-linear structure is perhaps the best example of this.
Des Essientes 7 | 1,291
10 May 2015 #5
I wonder whether one of his novels has since been censored by the free-speech-suppressing PC dictatorship into "N-word of the Narcissus"?

Conrad's British publisher tried to convince him not to give the novella that title, but he refused to change it. However, in the United States, his publisher refused to use that title, and thus the novella was initially published under a completely different one. Although this was long before the term "politically correct" even existed.

Conrad meant no offense by using the "N-word" in the title. One of Conrad's dear friends from his sailing days was a black man, who continued to visit Conrad and his family after Joseph had become a professional writer, and that is how they referred to him. Conrad seems to have been unaware of the infamy of the word in the United States.
OP Polonius3 1,000 | 12,446
11 May 2015 #6
I was being facetious when I quipped "N-word of the Narciussus", but we live in times when even the greatest absurdity becomes reality. I found this on Amazon:

"WordBridge Publishing has performed a public service in putting Joseph Conrad's neglected classic into a form accessible to modern readers. This new version addresses the reason for its neglect: the profusion of the so-called n-word throughout its pages. Hence, the introduction of "n-word" throughout the text, to remove this offence to modern sensibilities."

Instead of modern sensibilities they should have wrriten: the sensibilites of those cowed and brain-washed by PC censorship.
rozumiemnic 8 | 3,839
11 May 2015 #7
yes I have noticed some little oddities in Conrad that show he was not a native speaker.
I suppose his comments just illustrate that English is a flexible, accommodating language and should not be taken as insults.
in the Nigger of the Narcissus, are they really putting 'N- word' throughout?
What about Huckelberry Finn? Will all references to the big nigger Jim also have to be redacted?
jon357 67 | 16,836
11 May 2015 #8
As people used to say, behind every great man there's a great woman - in Conrad's case there's a serious hypothesis that his wife, who was English, not only very heavily proofread and edited but some scholars say they can detect her hand in the text.

She was a published writer herself (a recipe book) and a remarkable person who stuck by him through thick and thin (they had years of poverty after his sailing and before his writing became popular). A long-suffering partner too, given some of his ways.

Conrad deserves to be more fashionable. The racism allegations about Heart of Darkness are pure nonsense - people who misread the book and assume the opinions of a character are the personal opinions of the author. Same as Kipling.
rozumiemnic 8 | 3,839
11 May 2015 #9
oh there are quite a few literary 'names' like that - eg Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy which explains why some of his poetry is so dire, while some is good. Who wrote what, only they knew.

oh and 'Dick Francis' is also two people, Richard and Frances.
jon357 67 | 16,836
11 May 2015 #10
Yes - it's surprisingly common. The Dick Francis stuff (he actually existed - he had been a famous jockey) was suspected but came out after he died and it turned out that the books were at least as much his wife' says his. People suspect that Dan Brown is the same and that Mrs Brown had a lot to do with the Da Vinci Code etc.

In Conrad's case, he certainly wrote most of it, however his wife seems to have rewritten quite a bit while proofing them and contributed to the plot lines.
Roger5 1 | 1,458
11 May 2015 #11
Mrs Brown had a lot to do with the Da Vinci Code etc.

I'm not surprised she keeps quiet about that. Dreadful rubbish.
jon357 67 | 16,836
11 May 2015 #12
Quite. They say the sequel took so long because she was busy spending the money and he couldn't do it on his own. Jessie Conrad certainly grew to like the highlife - a working-class teenage girl marrying an older sophisticated foreigner who eventually became rich. As I understand, the sons spent the lot.

Conrad himself was once described as an outsider in all five countries he spent time in, including Poland. In many ways true.
R.U.R.
22 May 2015 #13
rozumiemnic : yes I have noticed some little oddities in Conrad that show he was not a native speaker.

JON135 : In Conrad's case there's a serious hypothesis that his wife, who was English, not only very heavily proofread and edited but some scholars say they can detect her hand in the text.

These little oddities only show that Conrad's wife was preoccupied with some other business
Lyzko 29 | 7,258
24 May 2015 #14
While his written English might well have been indistinguishable from a native Brit, his spoken English was said to have retained a decidedly thick Polish accent:-)

LOL
RUR
25 May 2015 #15
mrbauld.com/conradinf.htm

Conrad's influence was particularly powerful on such writers as Eliot, O'Neill, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Faulkner, Graham Greene,
London (London's Love of Life ) еtс.
Baskett also examined specific influences of Conrad in various London novels and stories.
jon357 67 | 16,836
25 May 2015 #16
Not sure how that's relevant, R.u.r.; the various influences that one writer receives from another are well enough discussed and nothing new - in Conrad's case both the influences he has on others (I'm glad you mentioned TSE) and the influences on him from others. One worthwhile project (can't be far away since it's so simple) is to run his oevre through textual analysis software to identify which passages are in his wife's voice.
R.U.R.
25 May 2015 #17
I think it's relevant, I mean his influences, in my opinion Conrad is good for British (and for non-British too). Just to remind you the title : Good enough for British - Joseph Conrad?

Software simply facilitates and and speeds up some types of work done by humans, software containes human concepts (often erroneous), human errors, coding errors etc, so do not perceive it as something absolutely reliable, as absolute perfection
jon357 67 | 16,836
25 May 2015 #18
It works well for textual analysis and Conrad's works are worthy of this. The only issue is the cost.
R.U.R.
25 May 2015 #19
It works well for textual analysis

There are big problems even in math analysis, it contains some doubtful concepts, paradoxes etc. Math analysis is considered to be exact science, not textual analysis. Unfortunately, the cost is not the only issue
jon357 67 | 16,836
25 May 2015 #20
Textual analysts disagree. Good that you feel Conrad is worthy of analysis. Those writers who influenced his style are well enough known, however his own texts are of a quality to look at - particularly to identify the role of his wife.
Lyzko 29 | 7,258
25 May 2015 #21
Reading "Lord Jim" and "Heart of Darkness" in highschool, never once did I even suspect that his first or only language was anything other than English!!!
R.U.R.
26 May 2015 #22
Textual analysts disagree.

It does not matter if they agree or dont, the same goes for you and your ridiculous opinion here. Science and scientific community as a whole do not regard this field of knowledge as an exact science, doesn't matter whether you like it or not, whether you represent the society of textual analysts

here or do not.

Good that you feel Conrad is worthy of analysis.

You have some problems, to put it mildly, and I have basis for my suspicion, that's what I feel.....

particularly to identify the role of his wife.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Conrad

In her diary, Morrell wrote:

"[His wife Jessie] seemed a nice and good-looking fat creature, an excellent cook, as Henry James [had] said, and was indeed a good and reposeful mattress for this hypersensitive, nerve-wracked man, who did not ask from his wife high intelligence,"

Conrad in the nineteenth century :

"Jessie was an unsophisticated, working-class girl, sixteen years younger than Conrad. To his friends, she was an inexplicable choice of wife, and the subject of some rather disparaging and unkind remarks"

Do you understand what the words "working-class girl", "unkind remarks", "not ask from his wife high intelligence," "unsophisticated"

mean ? Or probably a computer with a team of textual analysts and related software is needed as well as a great woman behind you
to understand the meaning of these words?
jon357 67 | 16,836
3 Dec 2017 #23
Morrell

Compared to Lady Ottoline Morrell, almost everyone was unsophisticated and of modest intellect. Mrs Conrad was evidently of such modest intellect that she could only write and publish one book herself...

Anyway, it's Joseph Conrad's 160th birthday today - a fine author!


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