Tales of Unrest

Tales of Unrest

JOSEPH CONRAD (1857-1924) was one of the most remarkable figures in English literature.

Born in Poland, and originally named Josef Teodor Konrad Walecz Korzeniowski, he went to sea at the age of seventeen and eventually joined the crew of an English vessel, becoming a British citizen in the process.

He retired from the sea in 1894 and took up the pen, writing all his works in English, a language he had only learned as an adult.

In his prefactory note to this volume, Conrad wrote, "Of the five stories in this volume, 'The Lagoon,' the last in order, is the earliest in date.

It is the first short story I ever wrote and marks, in a manner of speaking, the end of my first phase, the Malayan phase with its special subject and its verbal suggestions.

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This collection of short works represent some of Conrads earlier work. A reader will find many of Conrads most frequently explored themes: isolation, distinctions between East and West, between colonial and native, a discernment and critique of civilization. "Karain: A Memory" similar in tone to Lord Jim, this also highlights the duality of Conrads views on racism. Yet at the same time, if looked at from a slightly different angle The Return embodies and fairly represents his body of work in that he examines as with a sharp instrument the subtle and fragile superficiality of what we call civilization.

Karain: a memory - 4 (Malaya) The Idiots - 4.5 (Rural France) An Outpost of Progress - 5 (Congo) The Return - 4.5 (London) The Lagoon - 3 (Malaya) Of these, An Outpost of Progress stands out, and can be read as a sort of precursor to Heart of Darkness. The general collapse toward some sort of hysteria / insanity remains a common theme in all the stories. There is a moment of dumb dismay, and the wanderings must begin again; the painful explaining away of facts, the feverish raking up of illusions, the cultivation of a fresh crop of lies in the sweat of one's brow, to sustain life, to make it supportable, to make it fair, so as to hand intact to another generation of blind wanderers the charming legend of a heartless country, of a promised land, all flowers and blessings .

The other three settings draw on Conrad's experiences in the East and the Congo. The other two set in the East illustrate the mystery and respect that the values of unknown cultures should elicit from us, the foreigner and alien.

The book opens and ends with two fairly similar stories, and I will begin with those. Superficially the story outline could easily have been that of another work negatively portraying non-European peoples, like so many of Conrads. The story ends on a strange note of bathos when the European gun-traders, whom Karain has befriended, find a way to exorcise his fears by giving him a cheap coin with Queen Victorias head on it, and persuading him that this is a talisman that will protect him. The story therefore ends with the men showing their solidarity and support for their Malayan friend and helping to return his peace of mind. However, he cannot prevent her from dying, and the story ends with him planning to return and fight the rulers men, presumably a futile gesture. In The Idiots, Conrad unusually opts for a European setting. Conrad uses the story to make a point about the notion of god, and there are a few allusions to imply that the existence of children such as this serves to disprove the idea of a benevolent god, e.g. They were an offence to the sunshine, a reproach to empty heaven At one point, the revolutionary father reluctantly agrees to go to church and seek help from a priest, but this proves to be as futile as any other attempt. By contrast, Conrad thought An Outpost of Progress was one of his best works. Also there are fewer surprises in An Outpost of Progress since Kayerts and Carlier are already weak men, whereas Kurtz was a strong man of good principles. In the event, she returns home instead of leaving with that man, but Alvin is devastated by the shock of discovering his wife was capable of doing this, and all his moral and social certainties begin to disintegrate. The story ends with him leaving her instead, and we are told that he never returns. Perhaps the most interesting element of the story is that in some ways it shares the same theme as An Outpost of Progress, unlikely as that sounds. In the earlier story, Conrad puts the blame firmly on a European civilised society that has protected weak and useless men like Kayerts and Carlier for too long. Conrads stories are notable for setting up problems, and seeing how the characters come out of them. Often however, it ends in failure for all concerned, as in An Outpost of Progress, The Idiots, The Return, and Conrads first two novels. Kayerts and Carlier are doomed because they are lazy and lack the fibre to work hard. In Heart of Darkness and The Nigger of the Narcissus, relentless hard work helps to keep people from cracking up.

TALES OF UNREST is his second published book; a collection of five stories. In the last three or four years of his sailing life he wrote stories in his third language, English (which he didn't start learning until he was twenty) and then, under the encouragement of the novelist John Galsworthy, who'd met him as a passenger on a ship Conrad commanded, began submitting them to literary reviews. He retired from the sea, physical ailments dogging him and literary artistry calling him, and inside of a decade became one of the unquestioned masters of the English novel. He wrote HEART OF DARKNESS, LORD JIM and THE SECRET AGENT all before the first decade of the 20th century had ended. One story in it, though, was one the magazines wouldn't publish, "The Return." We associate Joseph Conrad with the sea or the workings of sinister political movements, but "The Return" is the story of a couple whose marriage is falling apart. There is a respect for women in Conrad's work. In this book, Conrad broaches the subject of rape within marriage. Joseph Conrad's writings are still relevant.

Though the settings vary from story to story (the Congo, upper-class London, rural France and two in Malaysia), in each tale the writer explores how men commit immoral acts, justify their actions and then are haunted by their crimes for the rest of their lives. He tells the story of a white man who came to his country and steals the heart of his best friends sister, the most beautiful girl in the village, and then takes her away. The two friends search for many years for the red-headed man and the sister, an obscure Odyssey of revenge (43), but along the way, Karain falls in love with visions he has of the sister. After the old man dies, the ghost of his friend begins to haunt him again, and he has come to the English ship in search of a talisman that might ward of the spirit. Conrad seems to have hated the story himself, calling it a left-handed production (11) in the Authors Note, and then stops himself, writing, I dont want to talk disrespectfully of any pages of mine (11). In his Authors Note, Conrad says that The Lagoon was the first short story he ever wrote, which would make almost any writer envious. The story concerns a man named Arsat who lives in a lagoon in Malaysia with his wife, who is now sick and near death. When his white friend visits him on a trip upriver, the man tells the story of how he and his wife came to live in the lagoon.

The one story set in an English home, "The Return," is a masterpiece of agonizing introspection by a man who seems to have no real capacity for the act .

Joseph Conrad (born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski ) was a Polish-born English novelist who today is most famous for Heart of Darkness, his fictionalized account of Colonial Africa. This was useful when, because a need to come to terms with his experience, lead him to write Heart of Darkness, in 1899, which was followed by other fictionalized explorations of his life.

  • Short Stories

  • Rating: 3.78
  • Pages: 204
  • Publish Date: August 8th 2000
  • Isbn10: 0543899667
  • Isbn13: 9780543899668