Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Title: The Shadow Line: A confession
Author: Joseph Conrad
Number of pages: 160
Started: 14 June 2009
Finished: 16 June 2009
Only the young have such moments. I don't mean the very young. No. The very young have, properly speaking, no moments. It is the privilege of early youth to live in advance of its days in all the beautiful continuity of hope which knows no pauses and no introspection.
One closes behind one the little gate of mere boyishness-and enters an enchanted garden. Its very shades glow with promise. Every turn of the path has its seduction. And it isn't because it is an undiscovered country. One knows well enough that all mankind had streamed that way. It is the charm of universal experience from which one expects an uncommon or personal sensation-a bit of one's own.
The whole book is available for free download here.
A young and inexperienced sea captain finds that his first command leaves him with a ship stranded in tropical seas and a crew smitten with fever. As he wrestles with his conscience and with the increasing sense of isolation that he experiences, the captain crosses the “shadow-line” between youth and adulthood. In many ways an autobiographical narrative, Conrad's novella was written at the start of the Great War when his son Borys was at the Western Front, and can be seen as an attempt to open humanity’s eyes to the qualities needed to face evil and destruction.
What I thought:
I am just not a fan of Joseph Conrad. I found this book very tedious and it was a real slog to get through it. I thought his sentence structure and general writing style was a bit obscure and it meant the book didn’t flow very well. The majority of the book is actually a massive introduction and notes explaining some of the text, so it was only about 100 pages long, but it felt like it was much longer.
I have previously read “Heart of Darkness” and didn’t like that either, so perhaps Mr Conrad is just not for me. This probably shows I have no discernment at all, but I shall just have to live with that.