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Rediscovering Conrad

When I was young, being a Literature student implied being surrounded by all kinds of classics. Most of the time I enjoyed the reading, I got carried away by love stories, tragic events, fantastic adventures, unforgettable lines. Sometimes I couldn’t wait to get over my tests and exams, to abandon celebrated novelists in favour of contemporary, emergent authors.

Nevertheless, I never had the courage to get rid of my old, used, torn, paper books. They were part of my history and became part of the furniture, in every apartment I lived in. Now they guard my sleep, assist my work, filling a huge bookcase behind my bed, overlooking my desk.

Sometimes, while I am dusting, I run across one of them, I pick it up’ browse it, look at my notes and recall my sleepless nights, my anxious waits out of the exam room, my youth.Occasionally I read them again, with a different attitude, new expectations. It happened last week with Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad, one author I found particularly difficult during my university years.

As I went through the first pages I couldn’t believe what this little tiny volume could contain: appealing descriptions, lively memories and mostly, a masterful writing.

In Marlow’s memories the river, nature, Africa, darkness itself are characters on their own, alive. Here’s a sample of Conrad’s talent, describing a rising full moon:

” The moon had spread over everything a thin layer of silver-over the rank grass, over the mud, upon the wall of matted vegetation standing higher than the wall of a temple, over the great river I could see through a sombre gap glittering, glittering as it flowed broadly by without a murmur(…) I wondered whether the stillness of the face of the immensity looking at us two were meant as an appeal or as a menace. What were we who had strayed in here? Could we handle that dumb thing, or would it handle us? I felt how big, how confoundedly big, was the thing that couldn’t talk, and perhaps was deaf as well.”

Every book has its season, we need to be patient and wait for the right one.

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