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YMMV / Joseph Conrad

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  • Creator's Pet: Nostromo is one of the only characters Conrad admitted to liking, and he wanted to write another novel about his world, but felt it was too perfect to repeat.
  • Fair for Its Day:
    • Conrad's portrayal of women has struck some as being somewhat sexist, at least in the narrative descriptions. His books do have complex women (Gabrielle, Lena, Winnie Verloc and Emily Gould) who certainly don't behave in the conventional modes of Victorian fiction however.
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    • The few non-European characters in his books are described in a strange way needless to say. Wang the Chinaman in Victory who is actually quite non-stereotypical as the Only Sane Man, but a modern audience would have to work through a lot of racist descriptions to grasp that.
    • Chinua Achebe criticized Conrad for portraying Africa as The Theme Park Version and reducing colonialism to how the White Man's Burden ruins colonizers and makes them degrading when they leave the "shores of civilization". However, Heart of Darkness was one of the few works criticizing colonialism in the age of Rudyard Kipling.note 
    Edward Said: If it is true that Conrad would have us see...imperialism — as doomed by impossible ambition, it is also true that Conrad writes as a man in whom a Western view of the non-Western world is so deeply ingrained that it blinds him to other histories, other cultures, other aspirations. All Conrad can see is a world dominated by the West, and — of equal importance — a world in which every opposition to the West only confirms its wicked power...Conrad was both an anti-imperialist and an imperialist — progressive when it came to rendering the self-confirming, self-deluding corruption of the West’s colonial drive; reactionary in his inability to imagine that [the natives] could ever have had a meaningful existence of its own, which the imperialists had violently disturbed. But lest we think patronizingly of Conrad as merely the creature of his own time, we had better note that we today appear to show no particular advance on his views. Conrad was able at least to discern the evil and utter madness of imperialism, something many of our writers and certainly our government is still unable to perceive. Conrad had the wherewithal to recognize that no imperial scheme—including “philanthropic” ones such as “making the world safe for democracy”—ever succeeds.
  • Tough Act to Follow: Conrad regarded Nostromo as this. He wanted to write a sequel set in Costaguana but felt that the novel was so singular and unique that there was no point repeating it.

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