Joseph Conrad as a Novelist

JOSEPH CONRAD (1857 - 1924)

Conrad's main pre-occupation remained with moral ordeal (severe test). He shows this moral ordeal in his treatment of characters. Conrad deals with style rather than the types, the style denoting the individual's behaviour in the face of moral ordeal.
Conrad was strongly was strongly in favour of the method of first person narration. In 'Lord Jim’ Conrad narrates the story the whole thing up to chapter three, and after that it is Marlow, who takes charge. Conrad felt that his fiction would gain realistic effect by the presence of the characters, which could show the effect of the ordeal on him, either by being himself, the person going under the ordeal or by his role as a close observer.
Women play a relatively smaller role in his novels. They are dominated by the role of man only. Next to Hardy, Conrad is the most pessimistic novelist in the English language but he doesn't undermine normal human aspirations and inspirations for living. He offers no recipe for the redemption of society. On the other hand, he strengthens our faith in the final and stern reality of human being as pre-eminently, as moral beings.
Conrad wrote the novel of adventure and he combined with it the objective spirit of French Naturalism. The movement and method of his psychology, the attention he pays to the various points of view which cross and re-cross one another around each being, owes something to famous novelist like Henry James.
Conrad is one of the makers of modern fiction. He was the only foreigner writing novels of genius in English, wrote with the vision of a poet. Recognition came to him rather late, research about his established position in the world.
Conrad makes all his books autobiographical in one respect, that is, he takes material from his own life and uses his experiences at the sea and on the sea-ports as integral part of his books.
Conrad's major concern is with 'evil'. In this respect he is very similar to Graham Greene and Golding. He deals with the working of evil in human mind and shows its consequences for the persons concerned and others. He tries to trace evil in natural surroundings.
There is a clear indication of skeptic feeling in his works, the feeling a product of his experience. He felt insecurity in life, was quite uncertain about his position as an artist and a sailor. This feeling reflects clearly from his writings.
He does not follow the traditional plot in narration. His method is impressionistic, tells the story “you are the narrator” who gives his impressions and describes his relations with his protagonist. Quite often broken narrative is employed. Sequential order and chronological order is not followed by him.
Keynote of his works is romantic realism. He was a great romantic and a great realistic, narrates tales of adventure and his settings are quite accurate.
(Note: Information compiled from various sources.)

'What if...' - poem

What if I can’t cry
when heart is heavy,
I still can wipe a tear
with my laughing eyes.

What if I can’t fly
even if heart wishes to,
I still can soar high
with daring dreams.

What if words fail me
when it is most important,
I still can surely make
my silence expressive.

What if I can’t have
what I wish to,
I still can achieve
what I aspire to.
© Amritbir Kaur

Historical Background of Indian Writing in English

When under the foreign rule, every aspect of life in India was influenced by the British dominion – be it political, economic, social or cultural. Inspite of all other things the introduction of English language has been t he most enduring influences. The issue of language arose because of necessity of communication between the natives of Europe and the Indian inhabitants.
The mastery of the colonizer’s language by the Indians was one important consequence of the change taking place in India due to colonialism. By the 1820s they began to adopt English as their medium of expression. Another important consequence has been the influence of English language in bringing about a transformation in Indian English literature. Among the early influences had been the introduction of the medium of prose, a medium somewhat unknown to them. In the coming years there ensued a battle over the preference of language.
The first Indian novel showed up in 1864. It was Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyaya’s ‘Rajmohan’s Wife’, which was serialized in ‘The Indian Field’.
Mulk Raj Anand wrote ‘Untouchable’ in 1935 after having been influenced by Gandhi’s description of his encounter with a sweeper boy in ‘Young India’.
Ever since those times before independence, there has been no looking back till the time of R.P. Jhabwala’s ‘Heat and Dust’ winning Booker Prize in 1975 and Arundhati Roy’s success with the Booker Prize winning ‘God of Small Things’ (1990).

The Real Life

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Life need not be taken too seriously in the sense that we should enjoy the moments of joy, happiness, as and when they knock our door. We should not wait for some really big things to happen. Death is a reality and life is not because it is not static, it is always in a state of flux. We can lend a touch of reality to our lives by making all those small joys of life a cause of celebration of life itself. There is no treasure greater than this. Remember the first cloth draped around a new born does not have a pocket, neither does the funeral shroud possess one. "Life is but an empty dream..." as Shakespeare has said. Alexander the Great at the time of his death wanted to show to the world that he was going empty-handed.

'Detachment' - a poem

picture source:

The tree standing tall

near the river bed,

but never ever got a drop

the yellow never turned red.

The wait was eternal

longer than life itself;

there came thousand springs

but soul couldn’t reveal the self.

The leaves were buried

the twigs swept away:

grayed leaves dying underneath

and the river slid silently away.

© Amritbir Kaur

Saki's 'Dusk'

British author H.H. (Hector Hugh) Munro, known as "Saki," taken by E.O. Hoppe

Going through the story ‘Dusk’ by Saki again after so many years was a treat indeed. I could simply marvel at the writer’s casual and interesting narrative style. It was engrossing reading. The plot of the story is a simple and woven around, we can say, a humorous incident. The title ‘Dusk’ tells a tale of its own, the writer too analyzes the concept in the beginning of the story. The first thing is that it is dusk time when the incident takes place. Secondly, the main character of the story Norman Gortsby felt that the time ‘harmonized with its present mood’. He associated dusk time with the defeat.
Saki describes the scene in the following words, “There was a wide emptiness over road and sidewalk, and yet there were many unconsidered figures moving silently through the half-light or dotted unobtrusively on bench and chair, scarcely to be distinguished from the shadowed gloom in which they sat.”
Saki associates dusk time with defeat and sadness, may be because it is the fag end of the day. At this hour even the mighty Sun has been defeated by the descending darkness. There is a saying, “Hope is a good breakfast but a bad supper.” This might be precisely why Saki writes:
“Men and women who had fought and lost, who hid their fallen fortunes and dead hopes as far as possible from the scrutiny of the curious, came forth in this hour of gloaming when their shabby clothes and bowed shoulders and unhappy eyes might pass unnoticed, or at any rate, unrecognized.”

Coming back to the story, it is a small incident but an engrossing one. The surprise ending takes the cake.
Read the complete text here: Dusk
Saki was the pen name of the British author, Hector Hugh Munro (December 18, 1870 – November 13, 1916). He was one of the many British authors to have perished during World War I. He was a brilliant satirist known particularly for his wit. His other memorable stories that I can recall is ‘The Open Window’. I have cherished both these stories ever since I read them as part of the school syllabus. They are one of the literary jewels that are treasured forever, no matter how many years go by. Their charm is not at all diminished by the veil of the host of new upcoming literature.

God's help

“A man was walking on a shaking bridge. He prayed for help. He saw God on the other side of the bridge and asked God to come near, but He didn’t come. Man got angry. With great difficulty, he crossed over to the other side of the bridge. On reaching there he saw God holding the broken bridge. Trust in Lord! His ways are amazing…” (Anonymous)

Sometimes we feel that God is not by our side in the times of deep crisis in life when we need him the most. But actually God is paving the way for us to sail safely through the storm due to which the boat of our life sways menacingly. It is faith that keeps us going. Finally when the weather is sunny again, we find it hard to believe that we passed through those times. It is this unbelievable sailing through that is made possible because of God’s interventions.
So be brave and keep going. And as they say, “Have faith in God but do lock your car!”