The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe 9781474241083, 9781474241113, 9781474241106

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The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe
 9781474241083, 9781474241113, 9781474241106

Table of contents :
Halftitle page
Series page
Title page
Copyright page
The introduction of Conrad onto the Polish literary scene (1896–1918)
Conrad in the interwar period (1918–1939)
1939–1945: Conrad – a moral compass
1945–55: The lean years of Conrad’s readership in Poland
1955–1970s: The return of Conrad
1980s–2021: The presence of Conrad’s works in elitist circles
Comparison of translations
Foreign culture
Stylistic elements
Characters’ idiolect
‘Africa’ as camouflage for colonialism
‘Sybir’ as an alternative empire
‘Africa’ as the modern Heart of Darkness
‘Sybir’ as the post-postmodern Heart of Darkness
Language under threat of extinction
Language as a means of subversion
Degeneration as eternal truth
Revolutions as eternal truth?
The new wave of adventure novels
Le roman d’aventures
Troubling narratives, troubled heroes
The reception of Heart of Darkness in the 1930s
Conrad in translation
Conrad as a cultural object
Early years: Conrad and anarchism
1957–73: The adoption of West-German translations
Joachim Krehayn, Aufbau-Verlag and other publishers
1974–89: Günter Walch and new translations
1974–90: Conrad’s adolescent readership
Never published in the GDR
The Italian translations of Conrad
Conrad in translation
Newspaper articles and magazine criticism
Academic writing
Literary impact
Conrad comes to Catalonia, in Spanish
Africa and the Catalan gaze
Capital Conrad/Conrad capital in Catalan
Conrad rewritten, rehistoricized and retranslated
First vignette: Joan Estelrich, editor
Second vignette: Josep Pla, writer and critic
Third vignette: Juan Benet, a writer in the shadows
Conrad returns . . . on stage
Conrad translated
Some notes on the subject of theatrical translation
Conrad on stage
The jungle, Kurtz and Marlow
Joseph Conrad in Slovenia before the Second World War
After the Second World War
Conrad’s translations into the other languages of former Yugoslavia
After the disintegration
Conrad in the Academy
Ukrainian footsteps
Korenizatsia: the political, social and cultural context of the first translations
Three major interpretative paradigms
A foundational reading: the psychological perspective
An intermediate reading: the psycho-sociological perspective
The rise of a counter-discourse, the final shift to a sociological perspective and further decline

Citation preview



The Reception of British and Irish Authors in Europe Series Editor: Elinor Shaffer Institute of Modern Languages Research, School of Advanced Study, University of London Published Volumes VOLUME I: THE RECEPTION OF VIRGINIA WOOLF IN EUROPE Edited by Mary Ann Caws and Nicola Luckhurst VOLUME II: THE RECEPTION OF LAURENCE STERNE IN EUROPE Edited by Peter de Voogd and John Neubauer VOLUME III: THE RECEPTION OF JAMES JOYCE IN EUROPE Edited by Geert Lernout and Wim Van Mierlo VOLUME IV: THE RECEPTION OF WALTER PATER IN EUROPE Edited by Stephen Bann VOLUME V: THE RECEPTION OF OSSIAN IN EUROPE Edited by Howard Gaskill VOLUME VI: THE RECEPTION OF BYRON IN EUROPE Edited by Richard Cardwell VOLUME VII: THE RECEPTION OF H. G. WELLS IN EUROPE Edited by Patrick Parrinder and John Partington VOLUME VIII: THE RECEPTION OF JONATHAN SWIFT IN EUROPE Edited by Hermann Real VOLUME IX: THE RECEPTION OF DAVID HUME IN EUROPE Edited by Peter Jones VOLUME X: THE RECEPTION OF W. B. YEATS IN EUROPE Edited by Klaus Peter Jochum VOLUME XI: THE RECEPTION OF HENRY JAMES IN EUROPE Edited by Annick Duperray VOLUME XII: THE RECEPTION OF D. H. LAWRENCE IN EUROPE Edited by Dieter Mehl and Christa Jansohn VOLUME XIII: THE RECEPTION OF SIR WALTER SCOTT IN EUROPE Edited by Murray Pittock VOLUME XIV: THE RECEPTION OF JANE AUSTEN IN EUROPE Edited by A. A. Mandal and Brian Southam





THE RECEPTION OF BRITISH AND IRISH AUTHORS IN EUROPE Series Editor: Elinor Shaffer Institute of Modern Languages Research, School of Advanced Study, University of London


Edited by Robert Hampson and Véronique Pauly


BLOOMSBURY ACADEMIC Bloomsbury Publishing Plc 50 Bedford Square, London, WC1B 3DP, UK 1385 Broadway, New York, NY 10018, USA 29 Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin 2, Ireland BLOOMSBURY, BLOOMSBURY ACADEMIC and the Diana logo are trademarks of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc First published in Great Britain 2022 Copyright © Robert Hampson, Véronique Pauly and contributors, 2022 The editors and contributors have asserted their right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as Authors of this work. For legal purposes the Acknowledgements on pp. xiii–xiv constitute an extension of this copyright page. Cover image: Joseph Conrad © Granger Historical Picture Archive/ Alamy Stock Photo All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc does not have any control over, or responsibility for, any third-party websites referred to or in this book. All internet addresses given in this book were correct at the time of going to press. The author and publisher regret any inconvenience caused if addresses have changed or sites have ceased to exist, but can accept no responsibility for any such changes. A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress. ISBN: HB: ePDF: eBook:

978-1-4742-4108-3 978-1-4742-4110-6 978-1-4742-4109-0

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Series Editor’s Preface Elinor Shaffer Acknowledgements List of Contributors Abbreviations Timeline of the European Reception of Joseph Conrad

ix xiii xv xxii xxiv

Introduction: Joseph Conrad’s Life and Afterlife in Mainland Europe Robert Hampson Part 1 1


The Reception of Conrad in Poland (1896–2021)

The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Poland (1896‒2021) Agnieszka Adamowicz-Pośpiech



The Polish Translation and Reception of Lord Jim Ewa Kujawska-Lis



Polonizing Siberia’s Heart of Darkness: Conrad Written Back in Jacek Dukaj’s Ice Daniel Schümann


Part 2 4 5 6

The Reception of Conrad in France, Germany and Italy

Conrad’s Early Reception in the Context of the French Roman D’Aventures Mark Fitzpatrick


The French Reception of Joseph Conrad from the 1930s to the Present Day Véronique Pauly


Publishing under Pressure: Conrad’s Reception in Germany 1900–1945 – and After Anthony Fothergill


The German Democratic Republic: Conrad’s Reception under Socialist Eyes Frank Förster



Conrad Translations in Austria and Switzerland Frank Förster



The Italian Translations of Conrad



Mario Curreli

10 ‘The Battle for Conrad’ Inside and Outside Italian Academia in the Years 1924‒1960 Richard Ambrosini


11 Conrad’s Critical Reception in Italy 1924‒2021


Fausto Ciompi



Part 3 Conrad’s Reception in Spain and Latin America 12 The Reception of Conrad in Spain

Daniel Zurbano García


13 From Unrest to Anthropology: (Amost) a Century of Conrad in Catalonia Jacqueline Hurtley


14 The Spanish and Catalan Reception of Conrad’s Poetics: A History in Three Vignettes Marta Puxan-Oliva


15 The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Latin America


16 An Interview with Mario Vargas Llosa 17 Borges and Conrad

María Jesús Lorenzo-Modia

María Jesús Lorenzo-Modia

Evelyn Fishburn

247 253

Part 4 Conrad’s Reception in other European Countries 18 Conrad’s Artistic Returns: A Bulgarian Staging of Heart of Darkness Margreta Grigorova and Petya Tsoneva Ivanova


19 Within the Tides: The Czech Reception of Joseph Conrad

Zdenĕk Beran


20 Joseph Conrad’s Translations and Reception in Denmark Ebbe Klitgård


21 Conrad in Greece: Translation, Performance, Politics


22 The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Hungary 23 Conrad’s Reception in Ireland

Nic Panagopoulos

Balázs Csizmadia

Richard Niland

309 323

24 The ‘Bard of Particular Elements’: Conrad’s Reception in Russia Ludmilla Voitkovska


25 A Familial Soul in Slovenia and Former Yugoslavia


Majda Šavle

26 The Swedish Uses of Conrad Claes Lindskog


27 Conrad in the Academy: Recent Swedish Academic Scholarship Johan Warodell


28 One of Us: Conrad’s Reception in Ukraine


Ludmilla Voitkovska

29 The Early Ukrainian Critical Reception of Joseph Conrad Bibliography Index


Dmytro Kozak

399 407 505


The reception of British authors in Britain has in good part been studied; indeed, it forms our literary history. By contrast the reception of British authors in Europe has not been examined in any systematic, long-term or large-scale way. With our volume on Jonathan Swift (2005) we altered our Series title to ‘The Reception of British and Irish Authors in Europe’, as a reminder that many writers previously travelling under the British flag may now be considered or claimed as belonging to the Republic of Ireland (1948), or Eire. This opens further questions, however. How ‘British’ are the writers we prize who write in English from these shores? How British is Walter Scott, who drew European tourists in their thousands to explore Scotland? How British is Robert Burns, whose poetry of the people, in their language, was so prized by Eastern European countries seeking recognition of their own separate idioms? How British is Yeats, who lived abroad and died and was buried in France (though later dug up and reburied in Ireland)? How British is Joyce, who lived long years in Italy, Switzerland and Paris, and wrote in a language he invented? For that matter, how British was Henry James, who was born in the United States, grandson of an Irish emigrant, but chose to live in Europe, in particular in England, becoming a British subject formally only in 1915, the year before his death, in order to show his community (by then lifelong) with a country at war. Yet his subject was always ‘international’, if finally beyond matters of nationality and origin, and concerned with the exploration of consciousness. With Joseph Conrad (born Korzeniowski) (1857‒1924), who became a British subject in 1886 and took up residence on the east coast of England with his English wife, Jessie, with whom he had two sons, we come to an English writer of equal stature who across Europe is not seen as English, as this book shows. He was indeed not a native speaker of English, born in 1857 in a Poland under Russian domination, but belonging to an upper class that spoke French as its common language. His parents, exiled to north-west Russia for their underground political activities against the Russian state, found a brief respite in the milder conditions of northern Ukraine before the early death of his mother. His father died shortly afterwards. when Joseph was twelve. But in that brief time, he came to know that his father also read English, that he wrote reviews and made translations of both French and English plays for the stage, and that he admired Dickens and Shakespeare. Conrad’s autobiography, A Personal Record, while ranging over the French and English works he read in Polish translation as a small boy, pinpoints the moment when the boy climbed into his father’s chair in front of the desk where he wrote: What emboldened me to climb into his chair I am sure I don’t know, but a couple of hours afterwards he discovered me kneeling in it with my elbows on the table and my head held in both hands over the MS. of loose pages. I was greatly confused, expecting to get into trouble. He stood in the doorway looking at me with some surprise, but the only thing he said after a moment of silence was: ‘Read the page aloud.’ ix

Series Editor’s Preface

Luckily the page lying before me was not overblotted with erasures and corrections, and my father’s handwriting was otherwise extremely legible. When I got to the end he nodded and I flew out-of-doors thinking myself lucky to have escaped reproof for that piece of impulsive audacity. I have tried to discover since the reason of this mildness, and I imagine that all unknown to myself I had earned, in my father’s mind, the right to some latitude in my relations with his writing-table. A Personal Record, pp. 71–2 There is much more about the small boy’s sharing with his father his English and French translations, but this is the moment that captures the father’s recognition of his young son’s gift and the boy’s right to sit in his chair, at his desk, taking a kind of ownership of his English MS. Conrad concludes, ‘I reflect proudly that I must have read that page of Two Gentlemen of Verona tolerably well at the age of eight.’ Some years later, in his mid-teens, after his father’s death, Joseph went to Marseilles for a year, and then joined the French marines, and after another year, in order to evade the claims on him made by the Russian masters that he serve in their forces, which prevented the French from recruiting him, joined the English Navy. He is equally good at showing the moment when he became English, as he boarded an English ship, and the moment when he met Almayer, who would give his name to Conrad’s first novel: Almayer’s Folly. While many readers may associate Conrad with sea stories, his friendships with writers after he became a British subject reveal the time of his early writings as shared with contemporaries like Kipling and Ford Madox Ford, that is, not the English authors of his father’s day, not Shakespeare and Dickens, but those concerned with current British and world movements – with imperial adventures and colonial administration, and with characters like the English silver mine owners in Venezuela who lie behind Nostromo, or the Belgian adventurer in the Congo, ‘Mistah Kurtz’, who is the central figure of what has become one of Conrad’s bestknown stories: Heart of Darkness. It is these contemporaries who are his companions at sea, in the ports, travelling on the rivers inland as explorers, adventurers and traders, and, at home in England, as company directors, ambitious publishers and writers. He is more aware than they of such figures as the refugees and political exiles who appear inThe Secret Agent. Joseph Conrad becomes a leading writer of a late Victorian imperial world. It is the aim of this Series to initiate and forward the study of the reception of British and Irish authors in continental Europe, or, as we would now say, the rest of Europe as a whole, rather than as isolated national histories with a narrow national perspective. The example of Conrad shows us that this study leads us well beyond Europe, though in a period of European exploration, trade and expansion, if not hegemony. Conrad himself, from a land-bound country, exploring a wider world, is an embodiment of the new era and its capacity to draw in and absorb unfamiliar forces, acquisitions and insights. . This throws light back on the whole Series. By ‘authors’ we intend writers in any field whose works have been recognized as making a contribution to the intellectual and cultural history of our societies. Thus the Series goes beyond literary figures, such as Laurence Sterne, Virginia Woolf and James Joyce, to philosophers such as Francis Bacon and David Hume, historians and political figures such as Edmund Burke, and scientists such as Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton whose works have had a broad impact on thinking in every field. In some cases individual works of the same author have dealt with different subjects, each with virtually its own reception history; so Burke’s Reflections on the x

Series Editor’s Preface

French Revolution (1790) was instantaneously translated, and moulded thinking on the power struggles in the Europe of his own day; his youthful A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757) exerted a powerful influence on aesthetic thought and the practice of writing and remains a seminal work for certain genres of fiction and of art. Similarly, each of Laurence Sterne’s two major works of fiction, Tristram Shandy and A Sentimental Journey, has its own history of reception, giving rise to a whole line of literary movements, innovative progeny and concomitant critical theory in most European countries. Henry James’s body of critical writing, especially his Prefaces to the novels, has a powerful impact on the theory of fiction, often quite distinct from that of his novels and stories. Conrad contributes to an opening of familiar genres and geographies to the influences of the winds of the wide world and the incommensurable sea. The research project examines the ways in which selected authors have been translated, published, distributed, read, reviewed and discussed on the continent of Europe. In doing so, it throws light not only on specific strands of intellectual and cultural history but also on the processes involved in the dissemination of ideas and texts. The project brings to bear the theoretical and critical approaches that have characterized the growing fields of readerresponse theory and reception studies in the last quarter of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century. These critical approaches have illuminated the horizons of the reading public or community of which the reader is a part. The project also takes cognizance of the studies of the material history of the book that have begun to explore the production, publication and distribution of manuscripts and books. Increasingly, other media too have begun to play a role in these processes, and to the history of book illustration must be added lantern slides (as in popular versions of both Scott’s and Dickens’s works), cinema (whose early impact forms an important part of our H. G. Wells volume) and more recently television (as recounted in the Jane Austen volume). Byron’s writings, like Ossian’s and Scott’s, have almost as extensive a history in images and in sound as in prose and poetry. Performance history requires strenuous tracing, beyond the texts, whether for works written for the stage or for adaptation. Henry James, who developed the art, and the critical theory, of written fiction to its highest pitch, has paradoxically been conveyed to his own as well as to a wider audience through other media, in theatre adaptations, especially subtly in opera, as well as in film and TV versions. Here perhaps his own frustrated ambitions to be a successful dramatist are demonstrated at last to have been justified. Conrad has found his medium in cinema, as befits his adventurous and geographically far-flung voyages in world waters. The study of material history forms a curious annex, that is, of the objects that form durable traces of the vogue for a particular author, which may be parts of himself (as with the macabre story told in our Shelley volume of the wish to possess the poet’s heart), or items of his wardrobe (as with Byron’s shirtsleeves, or his ‘Albanian dress’), or souvenir objects associated with the writer’s characters (Uncle Toby’s pipe), or the more elaborate memorial gardens and graveyards such as linked Rousseau and Sterne in France. The moving of Yeats’s grave in Roquebrune to his birthplace in Ireland is an aspect of such history. James’s double grave, in Boston and in Poets’ Corner, emblematizes his internationalism. The battles over ownership of Conrad in Polish and English departments of universities in Poland are another form of multiple manifestation. One might also suggest that his multilingual facility suggests a capacity for assuming different guises or adopting different attitudes or positions that still needs the attention of comparatists.


Series Editor’s Preface

The Series as published first by Athlone, then by Continuum International Books and now by Bloomsbury is open-ended and multi-volumed, each volume based on a particular author. The authors may be regarded according to their discipline, or looked at across disciplines within their period. Thus the reception of the philosophers Bacon and Hume may be compared; or Hume may be considered as belonging to an eighteenth-century group that includes writers like Swift and Sterne, historians and political figures such as Gibbon and Burke. As the volumes accumulate they enrich each other and our awareness of the full context in which an individual author is received. The Swift volume shows that in many places Swift and Sterne were received at the same time, viewed sometimes as a pair of witty ironists and sometimes as opposites representing traditional satire on the one hand (Swift) and modern sentimentalism on the other (Sterne), and equally or diversely valued as a result. The Romantic poets were carried forward into mid-century nationalist movements and late nineteenth-century symbolist movements; Yeats often appeared to be their coevals. The fin-de-siècle aspects of Pater, Woolf and Joyce are interwoven in a wider European experience. In the twentieth century, Sterne was paired with Joyce as subversive of the novel form; and Joyce and Woolf became modernists. Henry James bestrode both worlds, of realist nineteenth-century fiction and of a fin-de-siècle modernism that seized upon the modes of internalizing narrative structures. Conrad’s absorption of imperial explorations and world conquests into unpredictable individual survivals became ever more precarious – and precious. These outsiders invented new modes of survival. For survival, much had to be sacrificed, and sacrifice made to look like gain. Division of each volume by country or by linguistic region is dictated by the historical development of Europe; each volume necessarily adopts a different selection of countries and regions, depending on period and on the specific reception of each author. Countries or regions are treated substantially, in several chapters, or sections where this is warranted. In the case of Conrad, areas of Eastern Europe as they were in his parents’ and his own time come into play more fully than in most other volumes, and the will to ‘own’ or ‘disown’ him plays a role in his reception. In some cases, there is a rich reception in an unusual place; for example, for Conrad in South America, the scene of his novel Nostromo; but also because major writers across South America have been influenced by him, as our volume shows. We are delighted to have the special account of Conrad’s presence in South American writing organized by our longstanding colleague and contributor, Maria Jesús Lorenzo-Modia, head of the English Department in the University of Corunna, Spain. If there are those who question Conrad’s English credentials, or a battle between those who would own him or assign him a homeland, there is a place reserved for Joseph Conrad in world literature. Prof. Elinor Shaffer, FBA Director, Research Project: The Reception of British and Irish Authors in Europe



The research project on The Reception of British and Irish Authors in Europe is happy to acknowledge the generous support of the British Academy when the reception project was initiated with a colloquium in 1998; the Leverhulme Trust; the Arts and Humanities Research Board; the Modern Humanities Research Association and other funding bodies. We are also greatly indebted to the School of Advanced Study, University of London, where the research project has been based; to the Institute of English Studies, to the Institute of Germanic Studies and the Institute of Romance Studies (merged first as the Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies, and from August 2013 renamed the Institute of Modern Languages Research), and to the Institute of Historical Studies, where much of the work of the reception project has been carried out. The Joseph Conrad Colloquium of editors and contributors in preparation of the present volume was held at the Institute of Modern Languages Research in the School of Advanced Studies, University of London, in November 2015. We are grateful to Professor Catherine Davies, the Director of the Institute of Modern Languages Research, for hosting the colloquium. A second colloquium was held at the University of London Institute in Paris in June 2016. We are grateful to Anna Louise Milne and the Institute for hosting the colloquium and to the Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines for supporting the event. A number of chapters began their lives at these colloquia. The subject of the Italian reception of Joseph Conrad was long promoted by the late Mario Curreli, whose authoritative study, Le traduzioni di Conrad in Italia, was published in 2009. Transnational research into the European reception of Conrad was promoted by the late Zdzisław Najder at a conference in Gdansk in 1996, at which both Mario Curreli and Anthony Fothergill presented papers. Wiesław Krajka has also encouraged this work on the European reception of Conrad through publications in his monograph series with volumes such as Conrad in Scandinavia (1995), Conrad in France (2006) and Conrad in Italy (2015), while Frank Förster has for many years pursued research into Conrad’s reception in Germany. We are grateful to Professor Fausto Ciompi for facilitating the translation of an extract from Curreli’s landmark work and giving us permission to publish it. We are grateful to Professor Krajka and the monograph series, Conrad: Eastern and Western Perspectives, for permission to use the essay by Richard Ambrosini, which originally appeared in the volume Conrad in Italy (Marie-Curie-Skłodowska University Press, 2015), edited by Mario Curreli. We are grateful to Professor Jolanta Dudek for permission to use ‘Conrad’s Artistic Returns: Perspectives on a Bulgarian debut in Staging Heart of Darkness’, a version of which has also appeared in The Yearbook of Conrad Studies, volume 14 (2019), published under the auspices of the Jagellonian University, Cracow (



Work on the final stages of the project has been hindered by Covid-19 and the resulting limited access to libraries. In this context, we would like to thank Agnieszka AdamowiczPośpiech, Laurence Davies and Ewa Kujawski-Lis for their readiness to provide additional information; to Frank Förster and Anthony Fothergill for bibliographic assistance; and to Amy Evans-Bauer for technical support.



Agnieszka Adamowicz-Pośpiech is Associate Professor of English Literature and Translation Studies, University of Silesia, Poland, and Vice President of The Joseph Conrad Society, Poland. She has published several books on Conrad (the most recent is Travels with Conrad, 2016) and on translation (Retranslations, 2013) and a number of articles on G. B. Shaw, T. S. Eliot, J. Conrad, W. Golding, H. Pinter and J. Verma. Her research focuses on Translation Studies, British modernism, and visual/cultural studies. Richard Ambrosini is Professor of English Literature at  Roma Tre University. He is the President of the Italian Association of Conrad Studies. His books include  Conrad’s Fiction as Critical Discourse  (Cambridge University Press, 1991, 2008),  Introduzione a Conrad  (Laterza, 1991), R. L. Stevenson: la poetica del romanzo (Bulzoni, 2001) and Le storie di Conrad. Biografia intellettuale di un romanziere (Carocci, 2019). Ambrosini co-edited with Richard Dury Robert Louis Stevenson, Writer of  Boundaries  (University of Wisconsin Press, 2006) and European Stevenson (Cambridge Scholars, 2009). He has translated, among other novels, Conrad’s  An Outcast of the Islands (1994),  The Secret Agent  (1996) and Chance (2013) and Stevenson’s Treasure Island (1996) and The Beach of Falesá (2011).  Zdenĕk Beran is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Anglophone Literatures and Cultures at Charles University, Prague. His research interests focus mainly on later Victorian literature and contemporary English fiction; he has published academic articles on Walter Pater, Lewis Carroll, Charles Dickens, Ian McEwan and others, and co-edited a book on the fin-de-siècle fantastic. At present, Beran is preparing a monograph mapping the English aesthetic movement. He has contributed to the Reception of British and Irish Writers in Europe series with chapters on Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens and George Eliot. Among his translations into the Czech language are the works of Kurt Vonnegut, H. G. Wells, M. R. James and F. S. Fitzgerald. Fausto Ciompi is Associate Professor of English Literature in the Department of Philology, Literature and Linguistics at the University of Pisa. He has written extensively on Conrad, modernism, contemporary poetry and postcolonial literature. Ciompi co-edits the journals Synergies (formerly Anglistica Pisana) and Soglie. Rivista Quadrimestrale di Poesia e Critica Letteraria. He collaborated with Mario Curreli on the activities of Pisa University’s Conrad Study Centre of which he is the current curator. Among his Conrad publications is the book Conrad: nichilismo e alterità (ETS, 2012). Mario Curreli (1943–2015) taught English Literature at the Universities of Florence and, then, for over thirty years, Pisa, where he also chaired the Joseph Conrad Centre and organized two international Conrad conferences: the Ugo Mursia Memorial lectures I and II, in 1983 and 2004. He edited many Conrad novels, including his collected works, which appeared in the prestigious series Classici Bompiani: Opere. Romanzi e racconti (2001, 2002). Curreli’s Invito alla lettura di Conrad (Mursia, 1984) has long been a favourite textbook in universities, and his


List of Contributors

Le traduzioni di Conrad in Italia (ETS, 2009) represents the most exhaustive and painstakingly researched study on the Italian translations of Conrad so far available. Balázs Csizmadia is an independent scholar who received his PhD from Royal Holloway, University of London, for a thesis on narrative and identity in Joseph Conrad’s Marlow fictions. A member of the Joseph Conrad Society (UK), he has taught university courses in Hungary, published journal articles and given conference papers on Conrad and twentieth-century English literature. Evelyn Fishburn is Honorary Professor of Spanish American Studies at University College London and Professor Emeritus of London Metropolitan University. She has worked extensively on Borges: as well as numerous articles and editing Borges and Europe Revisited (London, 1998) and A Borges Dictionary (in collaboration with Psiche Hughes, London, 1990, and online, an updated version). She is the author of  Hidden Pleasures in Borges’s Fiction  (2015).  Other publications include The Portrayal of Immigration in Nineteenth Century Argentine Literature (1845–1902) (1981), Short Fiction by Spanish American Women (1998), and, as co-editor with E. L. Ortiz, Science and the Creative Imagination in Latin America (1998). Mark Fitzpatrick studied English and French Literature, and Film and Creative Writing, at University College Cork and the University of California Berkeley, and received his Master’s and PhD from Université de Paris III – Sorbonne Nouvelle. He has lived in France for the last twenty years and is an independent scholar and literature teacher. Fitzpatrick is currently working on a monograph on Adventure Fiction and two novels. He is engaged on a research project on Myth, Magic, Fantasy and Faery in the Insular Imaginary, and another on the Pleasures of Popular Fiction Genres. Frank Förster is Scientific Librarian at the Federal Institute of Geosciences and Natural Resources, Hanover, Germany. He has published articles on Conrad, library and information science, and research data management. Förster is the author of Die literarische Rezeption Joseph Conrads im deutschsprachige Raum (2nd edn, 2007), which examines the publication of Conrad’s works in German speaking countries. Anthony Fothergill has taught English at Exeter University (UK) since 1974 and is an Honorary Research Fellow there. He has also taught at Heidelberg University (Germany) and Kenyon College (USA). He is the author of two books on Conrad – Heart of Darkness (Open University Press, 1989) and Secret Sharers: Joseph Conrad’s Cultural Reception in Germany (Peter Lang, 2006) – and edited Tales of Unrest (Everyman/Dent, 2000). Fothergill has also written many articles on Conrad, Virginia Woolf, Brecht, Joyce, Kafka, Mmodernism and critical theory, and has translated from German The Foreign Policy of the Third Reich as well as works by Mozart and Brecht. Margreta Grigorova teaches Slavic literatures at the Department of Slavic Studies of St Cyril and St Methodius University of Veliko Turnovo, Bulgaria. Her latest academic work is concerned with the manifestations of heresy in twentieth-century Polish literature. She is also engaged in research on the Bulgarian reception of Polish literature, the interaction of art and literature, and current trends of migration and nomadism in the works of Joseph Conrad, Gustaw Herling-Grudziński, Ryszard Kapuściński, Kazimierz Nowak and Olga Tokarczuk. Grigorova’s most significant published monographs are Horizonti i patishta na polskata identichnost xvi

List of Contributors

(Horizons and Trails in Polish Identity, 2002); Literaturni posveshteniya. Ritualni zoni na slovoto w polskata literatura (Literary Initiations. Ritual Zones of the Word in Polish Literature, 2003); Jozeph Conrad Kozhenyowski. Tvorecat kato moreplavatel (Joseph Conrad: The Creator as SeaFarer, 2011); and Ochite na slovoto. Polonistichni studii (Eyes of the Word. Studies in Polish Literature and Culture, 2015). She is a member of the Polish Society for Conrad Studies (Jagiellonian University) and the International Society for Polish Studies Abroad. Grigorova is the Bulgarian translator of Marek Bieńczyk’s Książka twarzy (Face Book) and, in collaboration with Mira Kostova, Czeslaw Milosz’s Rodzinna Europa (Native Realm). Her other translations include poems by Wisława Szymborska, Roman Honet, Zbigniew Herbert and Jerzy Liebert, short stories by Gustaw Herling-Grudziński and selected literary criticism. She has been distinguished with the following awards: ‘Zasłużony dla Kultury Polskiej’ (The Decoration of Honour Meritorious for Polish Culture) (2014), the Polonicum award from the University of Warsaw (2018) and ‘Złoty krzyż zasługi’ (The Golden Cross of Merit) (2019). Robert Hampson was formerly Professor of Modern Literature in the Department of English at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is currently Professor Emeritus at Royal Holloway and Research Fellow at the Institute for English Studies, University of London. Hampson is the author of three critical monographs on Conrad: Joseph Conrad: Betrayal and Identity (St Martin’s Press, 1992), Cross-Cultural Encounters in Conrad’s Malay Fiction (Palgrave, 2000) and Conrad’s Secrets (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). He has also recently published a critical biography, Joseph Conrad (Reaktion Books, 2020). Hampson co-edited (with Andrew Gibson), Conrad and Theory (Rodopi, 1998) and (with Katherine Isobel Baxter) Conrad and Language (Edinburgh University Press, 2016). He has also edited Lord Jim (Penguin, 1986) (with Cedric Watts); Victory (Penguin, 1989); Heart of Darkness (Penguin, 1995); Nostromo (Wordsworth, 2001); The Nature of a Crime (ReScript, 2012) and The Lingard Trilogy (Wordsworth, 2016) (with Andrew Purssell). He is on the editorial board of the Cambridge Edition of Joseph Conrad, Conradiana and The Conradian. Hampson is currently the Chair of the Joseph Conrad Society (UK). Jacqueline Hurtley is Professor Emerita at the Universitat de Barcelona. Much of her research has been of a comparative nature. Her study in Catalan Josep Janés: El combat per la cultura (1986) grew out of her PhD thesis as did her monograph José Janés, editor de literatura inglesa (1992), published in Spanish, which was awarded the Enrique García y Díez Research Prize by the Spanish Association for Anglo-American Studies (AEDEAN). More recently, her biography of the Dublin-born, first Professor of Spanish at Trinity College Dublin and founder of the British Council institute in Spain in 1940, Walter Starkie, 1894–1976: An Odyssey (2013), won the 2014 ESSE Book Award in Cultural Studies. Together with Pere Gifra-Adroher, Hurtley edited Hannah Lynch and Spain. Collected Journalism of an Irish New Woman, 1892–1903 (2018). Hurtley’s work on the censorship of literature in English under the Franco regime appeared in F. Billiani (ed.), Modes of Censorship: National Contexts and Diverse Media (2007), P. Fjågesund (ed.) Hamsun Abroad (2009) and in F. Larraz, J. Mengual and M. Sopena (eds), Pliegos alzados. La historia de la edición, a debate (2020). Her contribution to The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe is the sixth she has published in the series devoted to the Reception of British and Irish Authors in Europe. Earlier chapters appeared in the Woolf, Pater, Lawrence, Yeats and Eliot volumes (the latter produced together with Marta Ortega-Sáez). xvii

List of Contributors

Petya Tsoneva Ivanova is Associate Professor/Reader in the Department of English and American Studies of St Cyril and St Methodius University of Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria. Her research interests are in the field of postcolonial studies, English and French literature and literary responses to migration and the borderline experience. Her publications include ‘ “The Ground beneath Our Feet”: Reworking the Myth of Flying in Salman Rushdie’s Fiction’, in Peregrinations of the Text: Reading, Translation, Rewriting (2013); ‘Waterways and Air Lanes: Spaces of Transition in Joseph Conrad, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Salman Rushdie’, in the Yearbook of Conrad Studies (2015); and Negotiating Borderlines in Four Contemporary Migrant Writers from the Middle East (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2018). Ebbe Klitgård is an Associate Professor in British Studies at Roskilde University, Denmark. He has published widely in the field of Chaucer and the Late Middle Ages, including a monograph, Chaucer’s Narrative Voice in the Knight’s Tale (Museum Tusculanum Press, 1995), and his habilitation Chaucer in Denmark: A Study of the Translation and Reception History 1782–2012 (University of Southern Denmark Press, 2013). With Gerd Bayer he co-edited Narrative Developments from Chaucer to Defoe (Routledge, 2011). Klitgård’s publications also include articles in translation studies and modern British fiction. He contributed to The Reception of George Eliot in Europe, edited by Elinor Shaffer and Catherine Brown (Bloomsbury Academic, 2016). His most recent publications include ‘Illustrating Chaucer in Denmark 1943–58: Artistry and visual interpretation’, published in 2018 by Literature Compass. Dmytro Kozak was Managing Editor of Tempora Publishing House, Kyiv, from 2016 to 2019, where he had responsibility for the project ‘The Complete Works of Joseph Conrad in Ukrainian translation’. He is currently a freelance copy-editor and editor of translations. His recent publications also include social journalism on labour conditions and contributions to the Liquid Labour project of the journal Political Critique looking at deregulation, precaritization and digital media. Ewa Kujawska-Lis is Professor in the Institute of Literary Studies at the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn, Poland. She specializes in Victorian and post-Victorian fiction. Her current interest in theoretical and empirical research on translation focuses on literary translation, specifically on early translations of works by Dickens and Conrad and their contemporary retranslations and refractions. Kujawski-Lis has written articles for The Dickensian, Dickens Quarterly, The Conradian and Conradiana on the Polish translations and reception of these two authors as well as various aspects of their works. Her Marlow pod polską banderą. Tetralogia Josepha Conrada w przekładach z lat 1904–2004 (Marlow under the Polish Flag. Joseph Conrad’s Tetralogy in Polish Translations from 1904 to 2004) (2011) is a comprehensive analysis of Polish translations featuring Conrad’s narrator, Marlow. She is also interested in Conrad’s multilingualism, its linguistic effects and thematic representations in his fiction. Claes E. Lindskog received his PhD from Lund University for a thesis about Conrad’s epistemological aesthetics. He has since taught at a number of universities in southern Sweden and researches questions of spatiality and power in Conrad, Henry James, Charlotte Brontë and Elizabeth Bishop. Mario Vargas Llosa is a novelist, essayist, journalist and former politician. He was born in Peru and rose to international fame in the 1960s with his novels La cuidad y los peros (The City


List of Contributors

and the Dogs; published as The Time of the Hero), La casa verde (The Green House) and Conversación en la cathedral (Conversation in the Cathedral). Later novels included La guerra del fin del mundo (The War of the End of the World) in 1981, Lituma en los Andes (Death in the Andes) in 1993 and La fiesta del chivo (The Feast of the Goat) in 2000. Llosa was President of PEN International (1976–9) and ran for the Peruvian presidency in 1990. He has lived mainly in Madrid since the 1990s. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2010. María Jesús Lorenzo-Modia is Professor of English Literature and Dean of the Philology Faculty at the University of Corunna (Spain). Her main scholarly interests are modern and contemporary literature and culture, women writers, translation, and cultural relationships between Spain and the Anglo-Saxon world. She is currently researching women and animals in Irish literature. Lorenzo-Modia’s publications include Mid Eighteenth-Century Female Literary Careers in The Monthly Review and The Critical Review, with Mónica Amenedo Costa (ArCibel, 2018); journal articles in Multicultural Shakespeares (2017), Coolabah (2017), ES Review (2017), Oceánide (2020) and Estudios Irlandeses (2020); book chapters in The Reception of George Eliot in Europe (Bloomsbury, 2016), The Invention of Female Biography (Routledge, 2018), Femmes auteurs du dix-huitième siècle (Honoré Champion, 2018) and The Ethics and Aesthetics of Ecocaring, with Margarita Estévez-Sáa (Routledge, 2019); and an edition of the first Spanish version of George Eliot’s The Spanish Gypsy: A Poem (University of Valladolid, 2020) with María Donapetry. Richard Niland has published on Joseph Conrad and a range of other nineteenth- and twentieth-century writers. The author of Conrad and History (Cambridge University Press, 2010) and editor of the Norton Critical Edition of The Secret Agent (2016), he teaches at Imperial College and the City Literary Institute in London. Nic Panagopoulos is Assistant Professor of English Literature and Culture at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece. He is the author of The Fiction of Joseph Conrad: The Influence of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche (1998) and Heart of Darkness and The Birth of Tragedy: A Comparative Study (2007). Panagopoulos is also co-editor, with Maria Schoina, of The Place of Lord Byron in World History: Studies in His Life, Writings, and Influence (2013). Besides his work on Joseph Conrad, he has published on a wide range of canonical writers, such as Shakespeare, Swift, Byron, Dickens, Huxley, Orwell and Beckett. Véronique Pauly is senior lecturer at the University of Versailles-St-Quentin-en-Yvelines/ University of Paris-Saclay, a former Director of the Institut d’études culturelles et internationelles and researcher at the Centre d’Histoire Culturelle des Sociétés Contemporaines. She is President of the French Conradian Society and has published on Joseph Conrad and contemporary British writers. Pauly’s publications include an edition of Nostromo (Penguin, 2007) and essays in L’Epoque Conradienne and Revue des Lettres Modernes. Marta Puxan-Oliva is a Senior Ramón y Cajal Researcher at the Universitat de les Illes Balears. Her PhD dissertation on Joseph Conrad and William Faulkner studied the uses of narrative reliability and racial ideologies. Some of this research was developed for her book  Narrative Reliability, Racial Conflicts and Ideology in the Modern Novel  (Routledge, 2019). Puxan-Oliva has been awarded prestigious fellowships, including a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship (Harvard, 2012–15; Universitat de Barcelona, 2015–16), and has been a visiting


List of Contributors

scholar at NYU, Princeton University, Harvard University and the University of Chicago. She has published articles in journals such as Amerikastudien,  The Journal of Narrative Theory,  English Studies,  L’Epoque Conradienne, the Journal of World Literature, the Journal of Global History  and  Studies in the Novel. Puxan-Oliva is currently working on literary representations of crime in oceans and is a member of the research group Literatura contemporània: estudis teòrics i comparatius – LiCETC at the Universitat de les Illes Balears and the group Global Literary Studies Research Lab – GlobaLS at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. Majda Šavle retired as Assistant Professor of English for Health Sciences at the University of Primorska, Slovenia, in 2019. She has published several articles on Joseph Conrad, English language teaching methodology and cross-cultural communication. Šavle is currently writing a book on her ancestors’ hometown. Daniel Schümann is senior lecturer at the University of Cologne, Germany. He earned a PhD in Russian Studies at the University of Bamberg in 2005, as well as a post-doctoral lecturing qualification in Polish and Slavonic Studies at the University of Cologne in 2018. He has taught Polish, Russian and Comparative Literature at various German universities. Schümann’s publications include Kampf ums Da(bei)sein: Darwin-Diskurse und die polnische Literatur bis 1900 (Struggle for or against participation: Darwinist discourse and its reflection in Polish literature until 1900) (Böhlau, 2015) and Oblomov-Fiktionen: Zur produktiven Rezeption von I. A. Gončarovs Roman Oblomov in deutschsprachigen Raum (Oblomov in fiction: creative responses to I. A. Goncharov’s novel Oblomov in German-speaking countries) (Ergon, 2005). Other research interests incorporate the representation of the auditory in fiction (with a focus on Dostoevsky), the cultural history of Poles in Siberia, and generally the osmosis of literary and cultural phenomena along Europe’s East–West/West–East axis. Elinor Shaffer is a Fellow of the British Academy, (Hon.) Professor, University College, London and Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Modern Languages Research, School of Advanced Study, University of London. She is the Director of Research and Series Editor of The Reception of British and Irish Authors in Europe, for which she co-edited The Reception of S. T. Coleridge in Europe (2009), The Literary and Cultural Reception of Charles Darwin in Europe (3 vols, 2014), The Reception of George Eliot in Europe (2016) and The Reception of Samuel Butler in Europe (2021). She is also the author of ‘Kubla Khan’ and the Fall of Jerusalem: The Mythological School in Biblical Criticism and Secular Literature (1980). Shaffer was a founder-member of the British Comparative Literature Association and Founding Editor of the Yearbook of the British Comparative Literature Association (Cambridge University Press, 1979–2004). Ludmilla Voitkovska is Professor of English at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada. She has previously taught at the University of Odessa and the University of Chernivtsi (Ukraine). She has written extensively on Conrad, including on reception and translation. Voitkova’s most recent publications include ‘On Conrad’s Birthplace’ (The Conradian), ‘Stereotypes of Russia in Under Western Eyes’ (L’Epoque Conradienne), and ‘Recent Russian Translations of The Secret Agent and Under Western Eyes’, in Katherine Isobel Baxter and Robert Hampson (eds), Conrad and Language (University of Edinburgh Press, 2016). She has recently completed Living in Translation: Exile as a Continuum in Conrad’s Fiction (to be published by Routledge in 2022).


List of Contributors

Johan Warodell was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Institute of English Studies, University of London, and is currently a Research Associate at the University of Sussex. His articles on Joseph Conrad have appeared in The Cambridge Quarterly, Conradiana, The Conradian, English and Notes & Queries, and have won prizes from both the British and American Joseph Conrad Societies. Warodell translated Olof Lagercrantz’s monograph on Conrad and has also published on Woolf, Nabokov and Melville. His first monograph, Conrad’s Decentered Fiction, is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press. Daniel Zurbano García is a secondary school teacher in Huelva (Spain) and an independent researcher. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on Joseph Conrad in the Department of Philology and Translation at Pablo de Olavide University in Seville (2015). He has translated Heart of Darkness into Spanish and has also published on James Joyce.




Almayer’s Folly


The Arrow of Gold


A Personal Record




The Congo Diary


Conrad’s Prefaces


‘Heart of Darkness’ (from the volume, Youth, Heart of Darkness, and The End of the Tether)


The Inheritors


Last Essays


Lord Jim


The Mirror of the Sea




The Nature of a Crime


Notes on Life & Letters


The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’


An Outcast of the Islands


The Rescue




The Rover




The Secret Agent


The Shadow-Line


A Set of Six


The Secret Sharer


Tales of Hearsay


’Twixt Land and Sea


The Sisters


‘The End of the Tether’ (from the volume Youth, Heart of Darkness, and The End of the Tether)


Tales of Unrest




‘Typhoon’ (from the volume Typhoon; and Other Stories)


Under Western Eyes


Within the Tides


Youth, Heart of Darkness and The End of the Tether

Additional abbreviations: CL1–CL9

The Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983–2007)



For each language, first published translations of individual works have been listed and a small number of additional translations. We have also added singular events in Conrad’s life, the publication dates of a small number of significant critical works, and historical and political information relevant to the reception of Conrad in Europe. This timeline is indebted to Owen Knowles, A Conrad Chronology (Macmillan, 1989), for details of Conrad’s life and to the individual chapter bibliographies. Year 1857



Other 3 December: Józef Teodor Konrad Nałecz Korzeniowski is born in Berdichiv, Ukraine, only child of Apollo and Ewa Korzeniowski.

1858 1859

Korzeniowski family move to Żytomierz in Ukraine.

1860 1861

Korzeniowski family move to Warsaw, where Apollo Korzeniowski commits himself to clandestine political activity. He is arrested on 20 October and imprisoned in the Warsaw Citadel.


9 May: Apollo and Ewa Korzeniowski are sentenced to exile and escorted to Vologda, north-east of Moscow.


Timeline 1863

January: Korzeniowskis are allowed to move south to Chernikhiv, near Kyiv. Polish Uprising begins.

1864 1865

18 April: Death of Ewa Korzeniowska.

1866 1867 1868

The seriously ill Apollo Korzeniowski settles with his son in Lwów in Austrian Poland.


Apollo Korzeniowski and his son move to Cracow. 23 May Apollo dies.

1870 1871 1872 1873 1874

13 October: Conrad leaves Cracow for Marseilles. 15 December: Conrad begins his sea-life as a passenger in the Mont Blanc bound for Martinique.


25 June: He repeats the voyage in the Mont Blanc, but this time as an apprentice.

1876 1877


Timeline 1878

March: Treaty of San Stefano establishes autonomous Bulgarian principality. 24 April: Conrad sails as an apprentice in the Mavis, bound for the Sea of Azov, and begins his career in the British merchant marine. 10 June: JC first sets foot on English soil at Lowestoft.

1879 1880 1881 1882 1883 1884 1885 1886

18 August: Conrad becomes a naturalized British subject. 10 November: He passes his master’s examination and becomes a British master mariner.

1887 1888

19 January: Conrad receives his only permanent command as captain of the Otago.


March: Conrad resigns his command and returns to London. In the autumn he begins work on his first novel, Almayer’s Folly.


Timeline 1890

February: On a visit to Brussels, he forms a bond with his cousin’s widow, the novelist Marguerite Poradowska. April: Through Poradowska’s support, he is given command of a Congo steamer, the Florida.


January: Conrad returns to Europe, severely ill after his Congo experiences. In November, he joins the Torrens as first officer.

1892 1893 1894

January: When Conrad signs off the Adowa, after a month of idleness in Rouen, his professional life as a sailor ends. 15 February: Greenwich Observatory bombing. April: Conrad completes the first draft of Almayer’s Folly.


Almayer’s Folly published.


Netherlands: AF serialized in Amsterdam daily newspaper, Het Nieuws van den Dag.

March: Marries Jessie George; An Outcast of the Islands is published.


Denmark: Abridged version of ‘An Outpost of Progress’ (in English). Poland: OI serialized in the Tygodnik Romansów i Powiesći.

November: The Nigger of the ‘Narcisus’ published in book form.


Russia: ‘Karain’, ‘The Idiots’, ‘The Lagoon’. Sweden: ‘An Outpost of Progress’ in Stockholms Dagblad.

April: Publication of Tales of Unrest.


Timeline 1899

Finland: ‘An Outpost of Progress’ (in Swedish) serialized in Aftonposten. Germany: ‘Karain’.

France: Henry-D. Davray’s review of The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’, published in Mercure de France in July. Poland: Wincenty Lutosławski publishes article, ‘The Emigration of Talent’ in the St Petersburg-based journal Kraj, using JC as his example. Eliza Orzeszkowa responds in an article in a subsequent issue attacking JC for his ‘desertion’ of Poland.


February–April: ‘The Heart of Darkness’ serialized in Blackwood’s Magazine.

October: Lord Jim published in book form.


Russia: ‘Youth’.


Poland: SA. Russia: ‘An Outpost of Progress’.

Finland: Yrjö Hirn published September: Typhoon first issued in book the first essay on Conrad form by Putnam’s (Lord Jim) in Swedish. (New York). November: Youth and Other Stories published.


France: Marguerite Poradowska’s translation of ‘An Outpost of Progress’ . Sweden: TU, JC’s first book translation.

France: Kazimierz Waliszewski’s article on Conrad published in La Revue



Denmark: TU. Poland: LJ.

Slovenia: Franc Štingl’s article on Conrad published in Dom in svet.

April: Typhoon and Other Stories published in UK and USA. November: Secession of Panama from Colombia and signing of US– Panama Treaty.

Poland: publication of Kazimierz Waliszewski’s article ‘A Polish Writer in English Literature’ in Kraj to introduce JC to Polish readers.

February: RussoJapanese War begins; Conrad dramatizes his short story ‘Tomorrow’ as a one-act play, One Day More. October: Nostromo published.

Timeline 1905


January: Start of First Russian Revolution. June: One Day More receives three performances at the Royalty Theatre. October: The Mirror of the Sea published.

France: Publication of Henry-D. Davray’s translation of ‘Karain’ in Mercure de France.


September: The Secret Agent published.


Germany: Ty. Russia: SA. Sweden: AF.

August: A Set of Six published.


France: NN serialized in Le Correspondant. Sweden: OI.


France: NN. Sweden: SA.


France: ‘Typhoon’ and SA in journals. Italy: Carlo Placci, ‘Joseph Conrad’ in Il Marzocco.


Czechoslovakia: ‘The Lagoon’; ‘An Outpost of Progress’; ‘The Idiots’. France: SA. Germany: ‘The Brute’; NN; SoS. Russia: UWE.


Germany: UWE. Russia: ‘Il Conde’. Spain: ‘The Inn of the Two Witches’.

France: Joseph de Smet’s article on JC’s art in Mercure de France. Russia: Article on ‘Conrad and Russia’ in Russkoe Bogatstvo (Russian Wealth).

July: Visit from André Gide and Valery Larbaud. October: Under Western Eyes published. January: A Personal Record published. October: ‘Twixt Land and Sea published.


Timeline 1914

Poland: ‘Amy Foster’. Russia: ‘Freya’. Sweden: TLS.

France: Valéry Larbaud’s review of Chance in La Nouvelle Revue Française (NRF, 1 March).


January: Chance published, Conrad’s first commercially successful novel. 28 June: Archduke Franz Ferdinand is assassinated in Sarajevo. 25 July: Conrad and his family leave for planned six-week summer visit to Poland. 28 July: Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia, and Germany declares war on Russia. March: Victory published.


Denmark: AF; LJ. Sweden: V.

Sweden: Sigurd Frosterus’s essay on NN in Nya Argus.

November: Conrad joins a Q ship for a ten-day antisubmarine mission in the North Sea.


Czechoslovakia: ‘The Lagoon’; ‘An Outpost of Progress’; ‘Karain’. Denmark: NN; SA. Russia: ‘The Informer’.

Poland: JC interview with Marian Dąbrowski, ‘Rozmowa z J. Conradem’, published in Tygodnik Illustrowany.

March: After the ‘February Revolution’ in Russia, the Tsar abdicates; The Shadow-Line is published. July: JC is praised in Spanish journal, España.


Denmark: Ty; UWE. France: André Gide’s translation of ‘Typhoon’; SA. Sweden: Ty.


October: Dissolution of the Dual Kingdom of Austria-Hungary; birth of Czechoslovalkia and Yugoslav state. November: Poland regains its independence, Second Polish Republic.

Timeline 1919

Czechoslovakia: AF; TT; UWE. Denmark: ‘Freya’; OI; TLS. France: AF, first volume of planned Oeuvres complètes de Joseph Conrad. Sweden: C; AG.

March: First Italy: Eugenio Giovannetti, ‘Letterature Stranieri – Joseph performance of the stage adaptation of Conrad’ in Il Tempo. Victory at the Globe Theatre, London. April: The Arrow of Gold published. June: Treaty of Versailles (Treaty of Peace between the Allied and Associated Powers and Germany). September: Creation of First Austrian Republic.


Czechoslovakia: TT. Denmark: V. France: UWE. Poland: Conrad gives Aniela Zagórska Polish translation rights. Sweden: AG.

April: Polish-Soviet War begins. June: The Rescue published. September: In collaboration with his agent, J. B. Pinker, Conrad completes a film-scenario based on his short story ‘Gaspar Ruiz’. December: Conrad drafts a two-act stage adaptation of his short story ‘Because of the Dollars’.


Czechoslovakia: TLS. Denmark: ‘Youth’; HoD; Res; TT. France: WT.

February: Notes on Life & Letters published. December: Anglo-Irish Treaty establishes Irish Free State.


Timeline 1922

Denmark: SL. France: LJ.


France: Ty, V. Poland: AF; NN. Russia: ‘Because of the Dollars’; ‘The Inn of the Two Witches’; ‘The Partner’; ‘Laughing Anne’; ‘The Planter of Malata’; AF. (Former) Yugoslavia: Extract from N (in Serbian).


June: Irish Civil War begins. October: After the Blackshirts’ ‘March on Rome’, Victor Emmanuel III appoints Mussolini Prime Minister. November: Ten performances of Conrad’s stage adaptation of The Secret Agent at the Ambassadors Theatre, London. December: Soviet Union formed. Italy: Emilio Cecchi publishes feature article on JC in La Tribuna. Poland: M. Dąbrowska, ‘J. Conrad’ in Warsaw journal Bluszcz. Russia: I. D. Aksenov, ‘Dzhozef Konrad’, in Moscow journal Pechat’ i Revoliutsiia. Sweden: Joseph Conrad: An Appreciation by the Swedish critic Ernst Paulus Bendz.

September: Military coup d’etat establishes dictatorship in Spain. December: The Rover published.

Timeline August: Conrad dies at his home in Kent.


Denmark: Rov. France: HoD; APR; LJ. Italy: AF; HoD. Poland: SoS; TLS. Russia: ‘A Smile of Fortune’; Ty. Spain: ‘The Lagoon’ (Catalan); ‘An Outpost of Progress’. Sweden: Rov. (Former) Yugoslavia: Rov (in Serbo-Croatian).

Bulgaria: Morski Sgovor (Marine Conversation) includes articles on JC and writing inspired by his work. Denmark: JC obituary. France: NRF publishes ‘Hommage à Joseph Conrad’. Ireland: Pádraic Ó Conaire, essay on JC and language. Italy: Henry Furst, ‘L’arte di Joseph Conrad’ and ‘Il poeta navigatore –Joseph Conrad’ in newspaper L’Idea Nazionale; Lorenzo Gigli, ‘Joseph Conrad’ in Genoa journal Le Opere ei Giorni; Emilio Cecchi essay in Il Convegno. Slovenia: Two articles on JC ‘s death published in Slovenec and Slovenski narod. Spain: obituaries for JC in La Esfera and El Siglo Futuro, article in Revista de Occidente. Ukraine: JC’s death reported in Proletarskaia Pravda (Proletarian Truth) and Dilo (Affair).


Denmark: AG. Hungary: AF; AG. Poland: Rov; SL; TU; Ty, UWE. Russia: ‘Amy Foster’; ‘The Black Mate’; ‘Falk’; ‘Karain’; ‘The Idiots’; ‘The Lagoon’; ‘The Return’; ‘The Tale’; ‘Tomorrow’; ‘Typhoon’; C; NN; OI; Res; SA; SL; SS; UWE; V. Spain: AF; UWE (as start of Complete Works project).

September: Suspense Ireland: Liam O’Flaherty, published. Joseph Conrad: An Appreciation. Poland: Stephan Zeromski, ‘Joseph Conrad – rodak’ (JC – Fellow countryman), Naokolo Swiata. Spain: Launch of first Spanish collected edition; Joan Estelrich publishes part of first substantial Spanish critical study of JC. Ukraine: First article on Conrad published (on ‘An Outpost of Progress’). Conrad’s death reported in Proletarskaia Pravda (Proletarian Truth).

(Former) Yugoslavia: AF (in Serbo-Croatian).


Timeline 1926

Denmark: SoS; WT. France: LJ; N; Rom. Germany: C; SA; SL; Y; the start of the first complete edition of Conrad’s works in translation. Hungary: SL. Italy: Ty. Russia: ‘The Brute’; HoD; LJ; Rom; TT; Y. Spain: ‘The Brute’; N. Ukraine: TU (‘Outpost’, ‘Lagoon’, ‘Tomorrow’).

Germany: Thomas Mann gives radio broadcast on JC’s work. Hungary: First notices of Conrad’s work in Budapesti Szemle and Napkelet (the latter relating to the recent translation of The ShadowLine). Russia: Hostile article on ‘The Duel’ in Oktyabr (October).

Bulgaria: ABV newspaper carries report of JC’s death. Czechoslovakia: Comparative article on HoD Slovenia: ‘The Lagoon’. Spain: ‘Gaspar and Czech novel. Ruiz’; LJ.


Denmark: SS. Germany: SA; LJ; N; NN; SS; Ty; V. Hungary: NN. Italy: LJ. Poland: V.


Bulgaria: AG; ‘Typhoon’. Czechoslovakia: SoS (except ‘The Duel’). France: Rov; ‘Gaspar Ruiz’. Germany: APR. Hungary: OI. Italy: N; NN; Rom; SA; TT; Ty; UWE. Poland: AF, first volume of 28-volume Collected Works; N; TH; Ty; WT. Russia: N. Slovenia: APR (extract). Spain: ‘Typhoon’ (Catalan); SoS; TU. Ukraine: TT.

Ukraine: Essays by Olha Nemerovska (on JC and the adventure novel) and by Hryhorii Maifet (‘The Critic of Civilisation’).


Bulgaria: ‘Youth’. Czechoslovakia: V. Denmark: MoS. France: AG. Hungary: ‘Youth’; ‘The End of the Tether’; ‘Amy Foster’; ‘Tomorrow’. Poland: Res; TLS. Spain: AF (in Catalan); Ty. Ukraine: AF, Res. (Former) Yugoslavia: Ty; ‘Amy Foster’; ‘Karain’; ‘Il Conde’; ‘Youth’; ‘Because of the Dollars’; ‘The Lagoon’ in Serbo-Croatian.

Germany: Ernst Freissler’s essay ‘Joseph Conrad und Deutschland’, Neue Rundschau 40, no. 1; Maryla Mazurkiewicz Reifenberg reviews ‘Freya’ in Frankfurter Zeitung.


Czechoslovakia: LJ; SA. France: SL; TLS. Germany: Rov. Poland: SL; Y. Spain: Ty (Catalan); V. Ukraine: Ty.

Ireland: Liam O’Flaherty monograph, JC: An Appreciation.


Denmark: C. France: TT. Germany: Res. Slovenia: SL; Ty. Spain: HoD; OI; SL; WT; Y.

Spain: Joan Estelrich monograph on JC.

Spain: Second Spanish Republic proclaimed.


Czechoslovakia: C; Rov. France: TU. Germany: AG. Poland: ‘Falk’; ‘Amy Foster’; ‘Tomorrow’. Spain: NN; Res; TT.

Poland: Jan Dürr discusses OI in literary monthly Ruch Literacki. Spain: Ramon Esquerra’s article, ‘Conrad and the Cinema’ (Catalan).

July: Nazi Party win election in Germany.


Timeline January: Adolf Hilter becomes German Chancellor.


Bulgaria: MoS (‘Tremolino’ episode). Czechoslovakia: LJ; Rom. France: C. Ireland: NN. Poland: Publication of Aniela Zagórska’s translation of LJ. Slovenia: Ty.


Czechoslovakia: AG. Germany: OI. Poland: First translation APR; UWE.


Czechoslovakia: N. France: N. Germany: AF. Ireland: ‘Typhoon’; ‘Amy Foster’. Poland: MoS. Slovenia: LJ; ‘Youth’; ‘Gaspar Ruiz’. Spain: AG; SA.

Bulgaria: Petar Dinekov publishes translation of Tadeusz Boy Zeleński’s article on Conrad. Hungary: Conrad included in Mihály Babits ‘s Az európai irodalom története (A History of European Literature).


Czechoslovakia: N; Res. France: Res. Germany: S. Ireland: AF. Poland: OI. Slovenia: Extract from ‘Amy Foster’. Spain: ‘An Outpost of Progress’ (Catalan); TU (Catalan).

Czechoslovakia: First critical essay by a Czech scholar – Timotheus Vodička, ‘Dílo Josepha Conrada’ (The works of Joseph Conrad). Poland: Józef Ujejski publishes influential monograph, O Konradzie Korzeniowskim.

July: Start of Spanish Civil War. August: Greek dictatorship established.


Bulgaria: ‘The Sinking of the Tremolino’; ‘The Lagoon’; ‘Freya’. Czechoslovakia: Res. France: OI. Germany: WT. Slovenia: LJ. Sweden: NN.

Germany: First academic monograph, Hermann Stresau, JC: The Tragic Writer of the West.

December: New Constitution establishes Republic of Ireland.


Bulgaria: ‘Karain’. Czechoslovakia: UWE, last JC novel published before occupation by Nazi Germany. France: NN. Germany: TH. Poland: NN; (SoS). Slovenia (USA ): Šmalc’s translation of ‘The Lagoon’ published in the American Family Almanac.


Bulgaria: ‘The Return’; NN. Germany: MoS. Poland: TT; TU.

Bulgaria: Dinekov publishes review of NN.

March: Slovak state declares independence from Czechoslovakia. Germany invades Czech Lands and Czechoslovakia ceases to exist. September: Nazi and Soviet invasions of Poland. Under the Molotov– Ribbentrop Pact, Poland is divided into two zones. xxxv

Timeline 1940

May: France invaded by Nazi Germany; subsequently divided into three zones: German-occupied, Italian-occupied and Vichy France. Hungary: Antal Szerb writes May: German briefly on JC in his history of invasion and occupation of Greece. world literature. June: German invasion of Russia.



Sweden: SS.


Spain: Rov.

Slovenia (USA): Louis Beniger ‘s article ‘Birthdays of the Great Men’ introduces Conrad to young Slovenian readers in the USA. Spain: Josep Pla’s article on JC in Destino.


Hungary: ‘The Brute’. Spain: ‘Freya’.

Bulgaria: Narod (newspaper) June: Provisional commemorates the twentieth Government of the French Republic anniversary of JC’s death. established. September: Bulgaria invaded by USSR; abolition of Bulgarian monarchy.


Sweden: LJ.


February: Yalta Conference to determine postwar organization of Europe; Soviet hegemony over Poland established. April: Liberation Day: Italy liberated from Fascism; Second Austrian Republic created. June: Division of Germany into four zones.

Timeline France: MoS. Poland: SS.


Czechoslovakia: Y. Russia: ‘The Duel’. Russia: Ivan Kashkin’s essay on JC marks turning-point. Spain: OI. Switzerland: Y, HoD, ‘Freya’.


Bulgaria: Y. Hungary: ‘The Partner’. Poland: AG. Spain: Ty. Switzerland: Ty. (Former) Yugoslavia: Y (in Serbo-Croatian).

F. R. Leavis, The Great Tradition.

February: Communist coup in Czechoslovakia.


Hungary: LJ. Italy: Launch of Bompiani Collected Edition. Sweden: HoD; Rom; SL. Switzerland: AF.

Italy: Italo Calvino begins his ‘battle for Conrad’ with two articles, ‘Joseph Conrad scrittore poeta e uomo di mare’ and ‘L’Opera di Conrad’, in l’Unita.

Poland: Conrad’s works banned by the Communist régime (ban continues until 1955). April: Republic of Ireland declared. May: French, US and UK sectors of Germany are merged to form Federal Republic of Germany. August: Hungarian People’s Republic declared. October: Soviet zone of Germany becomes German Democratic Republic.


Sweden: OI.


Greece: ‘Falk’; ‘Typhoon’. Switzerland: ‘Gaspar Ruiz’. (Former) Yugoslavia: LJ and Y (in Serbo-Croatian).


Switzerland: SL. (Former) Yugoslavia: Ty and HoD (in Serbo-Croatian).

Italy: Cesare Pavese article on JC. Poland: Jan Kott attacks JC in his article ‘Secular despondency: Conrad and Malraux’. Dąbrowska defends JC in her response, ‘Conrad’s notion of fidelity’.

Bulgaria becomes one-party people’s republic. June: Italy votes to become a republic.


Arnold Kettle, An Introduction to the English Novel. July: Polish People’s Republic proclaimed.


Timeline 1953

March: Death of Stalin ushers in period of liberalization in Soviet bloc.


Denmark: Y.


Poland: C. Sweden: LJ. Switzerland: SA; Y.


Denmark: HoD. Poland: AF, OI, LJ.


Czechoslovakia: ‘Gaspar Ruiz’; SL. Denmark: SS. East Germany: publication of N marks beginning of uncompleted collected edition. (Former) Yugoslavia: NN and HoD (in Serbo-Croatian).

Russia: Y. Kagarlitski’s positive essay for JC’s centenary.


Czechoslovakia: N. Slovenia: N (in Slovenian). Russia: MoS.

(Former) Yugoslavia: Ivo Vidan’s article ‘Joseph Conrad in Yugoslavia’ published in Polish journal Kwartalnik Neofilologiczny.


Poland: In. Russia: two-volume edition of JC’s Collected Works.

Czechoslovakia: Zdenĕk Vančura’s article on NN. France: Raymond Las Vergnas, JC: romancier de l’exil.


Czechoslovakia: HoD. Hungary: NN; Y; HoD. Poland: Rom; S. Sweden: N. Ukraine: ‘Freya’. (Former) Yugoslavia: ‘Freya’; HoD; SS and TT (in Serbo-Croatian).


East Germany: Horst Bien’s critical essay on JC’s fiction as unsuitable for publication.

May: Warsaw Pact between the Soviet Union and seven ‘Eastern bloc’ socialist republics. February: 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union: Khrushchev denounces Stalin’s crimes and initiates ‘thaw’ in Cold War. October: Hungarian Uprising; political ‘thaw’ in Poland. October: Conrad Conference organized by the Polish Academy of Sciences to celebrate JC’s centenary,

Timeline Hungary: Pál Vámosi article on JC and imperialism; Agnes Heller essay on JC in Nagyvilág.


Germany: Peter Suhrkamp (Fischer Verlag) decides to undertake a whole new translation of Conrad’s complete works. Greece: HoD; UWE. Italy: C. (Former) Yugoslavia: N (in Croatian).


(Former) Yugoslavia: OI first translated into Serbo-Croatian.


Czechoslovakia: LJ. Germany: TU. (Former) Yugoslavia: SL (SerboCroatian); Y; Ty (in Macedonian).


(Former) Yugoslavia: The Rescue first Hungary: Georg Lukács translated into Serbo-Croatian. discusses JC in his study of Solzhenitsyn.


Bulgaria: Paulina Pirinska publishes substantial, in-depth study of JC.


Bulgaria: Ty; SS; ‘Falk’. Denmark: N. Slovenia: NN. Sweden: MoS and APR.

Spain: beginning of academic criticism of JC.


Hungary: ‘The Partner’; SS. Italy: launch of Mursia Collected Edition. Poland: Si.

Bulgaria: Grigor Pavlov publishes critical essay on N. Denmark: Henrik Strandgaard publishes substantial critical introduction to JC.


Bulgaria: LJ. Hungary: ‘Typhoon’.


Hungary: HoD.


Hungary: V.


Bulgaria: HoD; N; Y; SL.

April: Coup d’etat establishes Regime of Colonels in Greece.

January: Prague Spring (attempt at reform suppressed in August).

Hungary: Miklós Vajda includes chapter on JC in his history of twentieth-century English literature. Russia: Dmitri Urnov publishes first and only Russian monograph on JC.

1972 1973

Hungary: N.

Founding of Joseph Conrad Society (UK).


Timeline 1974

Switzerland: LJ.


Greece: LJ (graphic novel).


Spain: Y. (Former) Yugoslavia: LJ (in Macedonian).


Italy: ‘The Duel’. Russia: Si. Switzerland: HoD. (Former) Yugoslavia: MoS; APR (SerboCroatian).


Greece: NN. Hungary: ‘Il Conde’, OI, ‘Falk’. (Former) Yugoslavia: SA (Serbo-Croatian).


Spain: LJ (Catalan). Sweden: UWE. Ukraine: ‘The Black Mate’; ‘The Lagoon’; ‘Youth’; MoS; TT (in Russian).


Czechoslovakia: First translation of HoD. (Former) Yugoslavia: V; UWE (Serbo-Croatian).


Bulgaria: SL. Spain: MoS; NLL.


Hungary: UWE. Spain: Ty.



East Germany: JC’s work is out of copyright: this initiates GDR translation project. Hungary: Aladár Sarbu’s Joseph Conrad világa (Joseph Conrad’s World), the first book-length study of JC in Hungarian.

July: Restoration of democracy in Greece (Third Hellenic Republic),

November: Death of General Franco.

Apocalypse Now by Francis Ford Coppola.

Spain: Review of reissue of NN marks JC’s first appearance in journals since the 1920s; first doctoral thesis on JC. December: Declaration of martial law in Poland. Sweden: Gunnar Fredriksson, France: Launch of In JC’s Home Waters. Pléiade edition of Conrad’s works; founding of Société Conradienne Française. Italy: Alberto Moravia introduction to LJ. Slovenia: Mirko Jurak includes criticism of JC in his collection of essays, From Shakespeare to our Contemporaries.

Timeline 1984

Greece: AF. Slovenia: HoD. Spain: TH; UWE.


Bulgaria: AF; SL; TT. Spain: HoD (Catalan); LJ; Rov. Ukraine: LJ.


Hungary: SA. Slovenia: V. Spain: HoD; TU. Switzerland: V.


Bulgaria: JC’s Collected Writings in Five Volumes.


Sweden: Olof Lagercrantz, Voyage with ‘HoD’.

Ukraine: The People’s Joseph Conrad Museum in Terekhove founded.

Denmark: Peter Madsen essay on HoD.


Spain: HoD (Catalan); N (Catalan). Denmark: Frantz Leander Slovenia: SA. Switzerland: ‘The Duel’. Hansen essay on HoD.

June: First elections in Poland since 1928 result in Solidarność landslide and end to Communist rule. November: Bulgaria transitions to parliamentary democracy; Velvet Revolution ends one-party-rule in Czechoslovakia.


Greece: HoD. Spain: APR.

Free elections in Hungary. October: Reunification of Germany.


Spain: Y (Catalan).

Poland: First ‘In Conrad’s Footsteps’ conference held. Slovenia: Independence. Ukraine: Independence.


(Former) Yugoslavia: Ty (in Serbian); Sweden: Sven Lindqvist, Exterminate All the Brutes. a new translation of LJ into Macedonian (by Zorica Teofilova).


January: Czechoslovakia splits into two sovereign states: Czech Republic and Slovakia.


Timeline 1994

Greece: ‘Freya’. Hungary: APR. Slovenia: UWE. Spain: C; SA (Catalan). Switzerland: NN.

Poland: Conrad Study Greece: Review of Conrad’s life and work, entitled ‘Joseph Centre established in Conrad (1857–1924): A Great Gdansk. Novelist of the Sea’, by Theofilos Kallitsas, appears in the prestigious literary journal Nea Estia.


Poland: Second Conrad Study Centre established in Lublin.


Italy: SS. Spain: In. Switzerland: ‘Freya’.


Slovenia: Y; SL. Spain: Rom; SL (Catalan).

1998 1999

Spain: Y. (Former) Yugoslavia: ‘The Duel’; SL (in Serbian).


Spain: Res.


Poland: Third translation of LJ (Michał Kłobukowski). (Former) Yugoslavia: HoD (in Croatian).

Poland: Third Conrad Study Centre opened at Opole.


Austria: ‘Amy Foster’ and other stories. Spain: HoD (Catalan); CD; N.

Hungary: Stage adaptation of V. Spain: Barcelona exhibition (in Catalan) to celebrate centenary of first publication of HoD in book form.


Poland: Fourth translation of LJ (Michał Filipczuk). (Former) Yugoslavia: V (in Serbian).


Slovenia: HoD. Spain: TLS.


Hungary: ‘The Idiots’, ‘The Warrior’s Soul’. Spain: AG; SS. (Former) Yugoslavia: HoD; Ty (in Macedonian).


Denmark: CD. (Former) Yugoslavia: Denmark: Bert Blom’s ‘Freya’; NN; UWE (in Serbian). Diaries and letters from the heart of darkness. Hungary: First PhD on JC.


Ukraine: Orange Revolution. Slovenia: Mirko Jurak essay on N and UWE.

Poland: Yearbook of Conrad Studies established. Poland: Joseph Conrad Research Centre opens in Cracow.

Timeline Bulgaria: Beginning of serious research into JC. Greece: Theodoros Grigoriadis posts an article celebrating ‘150 years since the birth of Joseph Conrad’.

Bulgaria: Joins the EU; celebrates JC’s 150th anniversary through exhibition in Sofia and other events. Greece: Stage adaptation of ‘The Return,’ subtitled ‘A Lack of Communication’, performed at the prestigious Karolos Koun Art Theatre in Athens; runs until 2014. Ukraine: Conference to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Conrad’s birth.


Hungary: ‘The Lagoon’. (Former) Yugoslavia: SS (in Croatian).


Hungary: C. Spain: S; WT.


Spain: NC. Sweden: Rov.


Czechoslovakia: SA. Hungary: SoS. (Former) Yugoslavia: SA (in Serbian); SL (in Croatian).


Czechoslovakia: UWE. Hungary: ‘The Black Mate’ (2 translations). (Former) Yugoslavia: ‘Amy Foster’; APR (in Serbian); UWE (in Croatian).

Czechoslovakia: Stage adaptation of HoD. Sweden: Bengt Ohlsson dramatizes SA for radio.


Russia: SA; UWE. (Former) Yugoslavia: Third translation of HoD and Ty into Macedonian (by Zoran Ančevski).

Sweden: Stage adaptation of HoD.

Sweden: Radio dramatization of HoD. Ukraine: The International Museum of Joseph Conrad Korzeniowski opens at Berdichiv.

Denmark: Frits Andersen, The Dark Continent: Images of Africa in European Narratives of the Congo.


Timeline 2013

Greece: Anna Mangina, essay Hungary: ‘The Tale’ (fragment). on race and representation in (Former) Yugoslavia: New translation of LJ into Macedonian (by HoD. Zorica Teofilova).

Greece: Public discussion of HoD in the context of the 28 October Annual Celebrations, marking Greek resistance against the Axis Powers during the Second World War.


Spain: WT. (Former) Yugoslavia: AF (in Croatian); V (in Serbian).

Greece: Adaptation of ‘The Return’; adaptation of ‘Youth’ read at the 57th Annual Cultural Festival, ‘Filippon’, Kavala, in memory of the Asia Minor Catastrophe of 1922.


Hungary: In. Ukraine: HoD. Spain: TT (Catalan).

Greece: Stage adaptation of SL. Sweden: Two Czechoslovakia: Petr Poslední’s collection of essays, stage-adaptations of HoD. Jiný Conrad (Another Conrad).



Spain: APR (Catalan). Ukraine: AF.

Bulgaria: Special issue of Literature Gazette for ‘Year of Joseph Conrad’; stage adaptation of HoD. Ireland: City of Galway Exhibition, ‘Joseph Conrad: Inspirations’. Poland: ‘Year of Joseph Conrad’ announced by Polish government.


Ukraine: SA, B88 ‘Amy Foster’; ‘Falk’; ‘Tomorrow’. (Former) Yugoslavia: First translation of C into Macedonian (by Margarita Nenovska).

Bulgaria: Special JC issue of Sofia State University journal Literature. Poland: ‘The Darkness’, stage adaptation of HoD.


Ukraine: NN; OI; SA; SL; TU; Ty; UWE.



Conrad is, in many ways, an exceptional case among British and Irish writers. There is, first of all, his own transnational and multilingual background. Born in 1857 near Berdichiv in Ukraine to Polish patriot parents at a time when Poland did not exist, but had been partitioned between Austria, Prussia and Russia, he was formally a Russian subject until his British naturalization in 1886. After the arrest of his parents for their political activities, he spent his early years, from 1862 to 1869, in penal settlements in Vologda in north-west Russia and Chernikhiv in north-east Ukraine, where his mother died in 1865. In the autumn of 1867, because of his father’s failing health, father and son were allowed to move to Lwów; in 1869, they moved to Cracow. His schooling took place in Lwów and Cracow, both under Austrian rule, and an attempt was made to get Austrian citizenship for him. In 1874 he moved on his own to Marseilles, which became his base for the next four years and saw the start of his career in the French merchant navy with three voyages to the West Indies. He first arrived in England in 1878 as an apprentice in the Mavis and subsequently began to learn English as an ordinary seaman on a collier plying between Lowestoft and Newcastle. Even after he had settled in England, he continued to be very mobile.1 Although his best-known fictions take place in Malaysia, Africa, South America and Russia, his writing life involved periods spent in France, Belgium, Switzerland and Italy. Conrad was a veritable citoyen du monde. Indeed, according to Nic Panagopoulos, Conrad had seen and written about more cities than any other British writer (Panagopoulos 2021). Although the first published translation of Conrad’s work was the serialization of Almayer’s Folly (Almayers Luchtkasteel [Almayer’s Castle in the Air]) in the Amsterdam daily newspaper Het Nieuws van den Dag, during May–July 1896, the story of Conrad’s mainland European reception in the present volume begins in Poland.2 His second novel, An Outcast of the Islands, appeared in a Polish translation in 1897, just one year after its publication in England, serialized in the Warsaw weekly Tugodnik Romansów i Powieści. However, as Agnieszka AdamowiczPośpiech shows, this early translation did not make Conrad’s name in Poland. Instead, Conrad first became widely known in Poland through an 1899 controversy about talented Poles leaving the partitioned country, sparked off by an inaccurate article in the journal Kraj (Homeland) by Wincenty Lutosławski. As Adamowicz-Pośpiech shows, the reception of Conrad’s works (and


For a fuller account, see Hampson 2020. See Steltenpool (n.d.). Steltenpool suggests that a story set in a Dutch colony suited the newspaper’s commitment to reporting the latest news from the Dutch East Indies, but Conrad’s particular approach to the Dutch colony would not have sat comfortably with the newspaper’s patriotic agenda. A Dutch translation of Almayer’s Folly (in book form) was not published in the Netherlands until 1947: Almayer’s dwaasheid (Almayer’s folly), trans. M. E. Bunge, Amsterdam: C. Hafkamp.



The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

his life) in Poland since then has always been shaped by historical and political conditions in Poland. In her chapter she traces the various phases of that reception and its entanglement with Polish cultural and ideological wars. These phases correspond to the period up to the end of the First World War; the interwar years of the Second Polish Republic; the Second World War; the period of Soviet hegemony created by the 1945 Yalta Conference; the more liberal period after 1956; and the post-communist period introduced by the success of Solidarność (Solidarity) in the 1980s. As in a number of other European reception histories, Conrad’s works were particularly widely read and influential during the Second World War. Lord Jim was the second work by Conrad to be published in Poland. The translation of Lord Jim (by E. Wesławska) was published in 1904, just four years after its publication in England. As Adamowicz-Pośpiech notes, Conrad’s early reception in Poland revolved around three key issues relating to his life which had particular relevance to Poles: his decision to leave Poland, his decision to write in a foreign language, and his attempts to return to Poland. These concerns played into the Polish reception of Lord Jim, where Jim’s jump from the Patna was read through the lens of Conrad’s own drama of leaving his mother country. Towards the end of the 1930s, with the spread of fascism across Europe, Conrad was rediscovered in Poland and, indeed, reached what can now be seen as the peak of his popularity there. Lord Jim again became a key text, but it was now read as a moral guide promoting an heroic ethic. In her chapter on the Polish translations of Lord Jim, Ewa Kujawska-Lis notes that it achieved a cult status as a source of moral inspiration for members of the underground resistance movements against both Nazi and later Soviet totalitarian rule. The novel’s focus on faithfulness and betrayal provoked an engagement with fundamental ethical issues. In her chapter, Kujawska-Lis offers a detailed examination of the four successive translations of Lord Jim that appeared between 1904 and 2003. As Adamowicz-Pośpiech notes, there were two opposed strands of Polish criticism – one focused on Conrad’s links with Polish Romanticism, the other oriented towards the latest developments in European literature – and Conrad’s work could be situated in relation to each. Kujawska-Lis shows how Lord Jim relates to this second tendency as an innovative engagement with the form of the novel drawing on a wider European culture. She provides a detailed account of the decisions made by the different translators, and how these translation decisions are inflected by the socio-economic and cultural contexts in which they appear and, in turn, reshape Conrad for their different readerships. Conrad’s Polish reception is, however, not just a matter of translations, reviews and critical essays. His work has been adapted for film numerous times since the brief public run of Niebezpieczny raj (Victory) in 1930, which was shown in Polish cinemas for only eight days. This film history, which begins in the 1960s after the relaxation of censorship in 1956, has taken the form of a succession of film adaptations for television, beginning with Jutro (Tomorrow), based on a translation by the great Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert, and Placówka postępu (An Outpost of Progress) in 1961. Subsequent television adaptations included: Korsarz (The Rover) and Ukryty sojusznik (The Secret Sharer) in 1967, Freja z Siedmiu Wysp (Freya of the Seven Isles), Falk and Murzyn z załogi ‘Narcyza’ (The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’) in 1968, Jutro (Tomorrow) again in 1969; Smuga cienia (The Shadow-Line) in 1970; Lord Jim (1972); Jutro (Tomorrow), Tajny agent (The Secret Agent) and Jej powrót (The Return) in 1974; Jutro (Tomorrow) once again in 1975; Amy Foster and two more versions of Smuga cienia (The Shadow-Line) in 1976; 2


Spiskowcy (Under Western Eyes) in 1983; and I, Axel Heyst (Victory) in 1990.3 The majority of these adaptations promote Conrad as a writer of the sea. There have also been a number of Polish stage adaptations of Conrad’s works (beginning with a performance of ‘Tomorrow’ at Sopot in 1945 and including a one-man performance of Heart of Darkness in the hold of a cargo ship in Gdansk harbour at a 1994 Conrad conference), as well as the insertion of a full performance of Conrad’s own dramatization of ‘Tomorrow’ into Ingmar Villqist’s play Conrad, about Conrad’s stay in Zakopane in 1914, which imagines Conrad in dialogue with Józef Piłsudski, the leader of the Polish Socialist Party, who played a prominent role later in the Second Polish Republic. The play had a performative reading at the ‘Conrad and the Contemporary Conference’ in Warsaw in 2017 before going on to its premiere at the Teatr Ślaski in Katowice (3 December 2017). ‘Tomorrow’, the story of a father waiting for the return of his son (and then not recognizing him when he does return), which is largely ignored in the Anglo-American critical tradition, has repeatedly reappeared in Polish film adaptations and clearly strikes a chord. The theme of a parent waiting for a child to return home (and, particularly, waiting for a son to return from war) has a powerful resonance in Polish history. The performance of ‘Tomorrow’ in Sopot in 1945 had a particular significance: it coincided with Poland’s regaining of access to the sea after the Polish–Soviet advance into Pomerania in March 1945 and the accompanying celebration of a number of ‘Weddings to the Sea’ along the Baltic coast from Dziwnow to Gdynia. The celebration of Conrad as a Polish writer of the sea served to affirm the Polish link with the sea, which was lost with the 1795 Partition of Poland. It is no coincidence that so many of the Polish film adaptations relate to Conrad’s sea narratives and that the only statue of Conrad in Poland is the Joseph Conrad Monument erected in the major seaport of Gdynia in 1976.4 Conrad’s life and work have also had an impact on Polish writers. Leszek Prorok’s 1982 novel Smuga blasku (The Radiant Line) deals with Conrad’s time in Mauritius;  Wacław Biliński’s 1983 novel Sprawa w Marylii (The Marseilles Affair) focuses on Conrad’s residence in Marseilles; Andrzej Braun’s 2003 short story ‘Morze Północne’ (The North Sea) revolves around Conrad’s wartime experiences on a Q-boat; Eustachy Rylski’s 2005 novel  Warunek (Condition)  was inspired by ‘The Duel’; and Jakub Małecki’s 2018 novel  Dżozef  (Joseph) was inspired by Heart of Darkness.5 As this suggests, Conrad’s life has been as important as his writing in his Polish reception. It is also noticeable that these works date from the early Solidarność period of the 1980s and the period after Poland joined the European Union in 2004. Conradology, a celebration of the work of Joseph Conrad published as part of the Polish government’s ‘Year of Joseph Conrad’ in 2017, invited responses to Conrad’s work from a range of Polish authors (Harrison and Raczyńska 2017). It included ‘Conrad Street’, a futuristic story by the science-fiction novelist Wojciech Orlinski, which revisited Heart of Darkness; Jan Krasnowolski’s reminiscences about his grandfather, ‘Guided by Conrad’; and Jacek Dukaj’s substantial essay ‘Live Me’. ‘Guided by Conrad’ begins with thoughts about Krasnowolski’s


I am indebted to the filmography included in Moore (1997) for this list. See also the essay in that volume on Andrzej Wajda’s Smuga cienia (1976) (Micka 1997). There have been so many Polish, French, Italian, German, Swedish and Spanish film adaptations that they would require a separate study. 4 I am grateful to Ewa Kujawska-Lis for information in this paragraph. 5 I am indebted to Agnieszka Adamowicz-Pośpiech for this information.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

grandfather during the war and proceeds to Conrad’s influence on ‘a whole generation of Polish writers’, the ‘Generation of Columbuses’ that included Roman Bratny, Zbigniew Herbert, Stanisław Lem and many who died during the Second World War, for whom Conrad (and Lord Jim, in particular) provided ‘a moral compass’ (153). To conclude the volume, Dukaj meditates on Heart of Darkness and Conrad’s Preface to The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’ to produce a theory of fiction as ‘experiential transference’ (170). In his chapter in the present volume, Daniel Schümann reads Dukaj’s 2007 novel Lód (Ice) through its intertextual dialogue with Heart of Darkness. This counterfactual science-fiction novel, which begins in a Warsaw under Russian imperial occupation and involves a journey to the ‘heart of darkness’ in an alternative counterfactual Siberia, makes artistic play with cultural hegemonies through its use of an untranslatable interlanguage drawing on Polish, Russian, German and other languages. From a very early age, French language, literature and culture played an important part in Conrad’s life. Like other members of his class, Conrad had French as his second language. He began learning French at the age of six and, as we have seen, moved to Marseilles at the age of sixteen, where he began his career as a sailor in the French merchant navy. When he was trying to find a publisher for his first novel, he had suggested to his cousin’s widow, Marguerite Poradowska, who was well established in France as a fiction writer, that she might translate Almayer’s Folly into French for publication in the Revue des Deux Mondes and that it might appear ‘not as a translation but as a collaboration’ (CL 1, 165). Although this did not happen, the first French translation of Conrad’s work to be published was Poradowska’s translation of ‘An Outpost of Progress’, which appeared in the Parisian journal Les Nouvelles Illustrées in January 1903. Subsequently, various reviews and translations of his work cemented Conrad’s relations with French literary circles during his lifetime. This began with Henry-Durand Davray’s review of The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’ in the Mercure de France in July 1899 and the publication of his translation of ‘Karain’ in the Mercure de France in 1906. Mercure de France editions subsequently published Robert d’Humières’s translation of The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’ (1910); ‘Typhoon’, translated by Joseph de Smet appeared in Le Progrès in 1911; and Davray’s translation of The Secret Agent came out with the new Paris publishing house Gaston Gallimard in 1912. Davray was not only the translator of ‘Karain’ and The Secret Agent; he also worked to encourage Franco-British literary relations and was important as an early promoter of Conrad’s work in France. In 1914, Valery Larbaud’s review of Chance was published in La Nouvelle Revue Française, and Conrad was then taken up by the group around that paper, with André Gide initiating and initially overseeing the project to translate Conrad’s works into French in what was intended to be an Oeuvres complètes. Between 1919 and 1938, starting with La folieAlmayer (1919), translated by G. G. Seligmann-Lui, and concluding with Le nègre du ‘Narcissus’, translated by Robert d’Humières, Gallimard published ten volumes by Conrad. This translation project had a significance beyond France. As Mario Curreli has pointed out, these French translations were ‘instrumental in establishing Conrad’s fame in non-English-speaking countries’, as French translations crossed the borders into Italy and Spain, for example; accordingly, it is probably fair to say that, in the widest sense, ‘Conrad’s international reputation began in France rather than Poland’ (Curreli 2009a, 100). Within France, despite these links with Symbolist and modernist magazines, Conrad was initially promoted as a writer of adventure novels. In his chapter in the present volume, Mark Fitzpatrick discusses Conrad’s early critical reception in France and the early French translations. He shows how the early reception of Conrad’s fiction in France was conditioned 4


by the crisis of the novel in France at the turn of the century. After the pseudo-scientific researches of the naturaliste novel and the roman psychologique, the French novel had reached an impasse. The adventure novel, reappropriated by intellectuals, was regarded as the way forward, and Conrad’s fiction could be seen to fit this programme. Conrad’s combination of exotic settings, narrative drive and moral and psychological complexity (together with his concern for the art of the novel) made him attractive to French critics. As Fitzpatrick shows, where Ford Madox Ford could present Conrad (along with Henry James and Stephen Crane) as bringing ‘some conception that novel writing was an art’ into English fiction from French literature, Davray and André Gide linked Conrad with Kipling and Wells as providing something missing from the French novel – namely, adventure (Ford 1983, 135). In her chapter, Véronique Pauly traces Conrad’s reception in France from the 1930s to the present day. She situates Davray’s promotion of Conrad as ‘one of us’ within the continuing contemporary debate between nationalists and cosmopolitans in which translators were inescapably implicated. Conrad’s work has also contributed to political debates about France’s colonial legacies. The translation of Heart of Darkness by André Ruyters, which was published in 1924, played a part by inspiring a number of works in the early 1930s including André Malraux’s La Voix Royale (The Royal Way), published in 1930, set in Indo-China, and LouisFerdinand Céline’s Voyage au bout de la Nuit (Journey to The End of the Night), published in 1932, with its picture of the corruption of colonial life in Africa. In addition, following the example of Gide’s travelogues, Conrad’s novella provided a reference point for other travel writers, including Michel Leiris’s L’Afrique fantôme (Phantom Africa) in 1934. French academic interest in Conrad began in 1959 with the publication of Raymond Las Vergnas’s Joseph Conrad, romancier de l’exil (Joseph Conrad, novelist of exile) and, by 1982, had led to the founding of the Société Conradienne Française with its journal, L’Époque Conradienne. Josianne Paccaud-Huguet’s Conrad in France tracks this critical history by offering a representative sample of ‘Conrad’s reception among several generations of readers and critics’ (Paccaud-Huguet 2005, 1). While L’Époque Conradienne has participated fully in the international critical debate about Conrad’s works, publishing French critics alongside work by the major international Conrad scholars, since the 1980s Claude Maisonnat and Paccaud-Huguet have also created a very distinctive French school of Lacanian Conrad criticism. The publication of the first volume of the Pléiade edition of the complete works of Conrad in 1982 established Conrad as a canonical author in world literature for French critics and academics, while later translations and paperback editions made his work accessible to a wider readership. As in Poland, Conrad’s work has been adapted, in recent years, for the stage and in the form of graphic novels – in both cases with a focus on Africa. It has also been adapted in two remarkable films: the claustrophobic domestic drama of ‘The Return’ was transported to turn-of-the-century Paris for Patrice Chéreau’s Gabrielle (2005), while Chantel Akerman created her own free adaptation of Almayer’s Folly (2012). During Conrad’s lifetime, translations of his work had appeared in Poland and France, but also in Sweden, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia and Yugoslavia. In 1903, Tales of Unrest was translated into Swedish, the first language in which a book translation appeared. This followed the first essay on Conrad in Swedish, which had been published the previous year.6 Over the next few years, there were Swedish translations of


For a representative selection of Scandinavian criticism of Conrad, see Lothe (1995).


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Almayer’s Folly (1908), An Outcast of the Islands (1909), The Secret Agent (1910), ’Twixt Land and Sea (1914), Victory (1916), Typhoon (1918), Chance and The Arrow of Gold (both 1919). This is an impressive number of translations – with the translations of Victory and The Arrow of Gold appearing shortly after publication in England. Denmark was also quick off the mark with translations of Tales of Unrest (1904), Almayer’s Folly (1916), Lord Jim (1916), The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’ (1917), The Secret Agent (1917), Typhoon (1918), Under Western Eyes (1918), ’Twixt Land and Sea (1919), An Outcast of the Islands (1919), Victory (1920), ‘Youth’ and ‘Heart of Darkness’ (1921), The Rescue (1921), The Shadow-Line (1922) and The Rover (1924). In the decade after his death, interest in Conrad slumped in Britain but began to emerge elsewhere. In Germany, the first complete edition of Conrad’s works in translation began publication in 1926 and was completed in 1939. Five more translated volumes appeared in Denmark between 1925 and 1931, bringing the total to nineteen volumes in all. In the former Yugoslavia, there were translations into Serbo-Croat of The Rover (1924), Almayer’s Folly (1925) and two volumes of short stories (‘Typhoon’, ‘Amy Foster’, ‘Karain’, ‘Il Conde’, ‘Youth’, ‘Because of the Dollars’ and ‘The Lagoon’, 1929), and translations into Slovenian of ‘The Lagoon’ (1927), The Shadow-Line (1931), Typhoon (1931), ‘Youth’ and ‘Gaspar Ruiz’ (both 1935). In Poland, Aniela Zagórska, the wife of Conrad’s second cousin and a close friend of Conrad’s, translated a number of his works during this period, including Victory (1927), The Rescue (1929), Youth (1930) and Lord Jim (1933). In Germany, Italy and Spain, the reception of Conrad’s work is complicated by the rise of fascism. In Germany, critical interest in Conrad began during his lifetime, as Anthony Fothergill has shown (Fothergill 2006). Before the First World War, a few of Conrad’s short stories appeared in translation in periodicals (the first, ‘Karain’, in 1900), and the volume Im Taifun (In the typhoon), published by Engelhorn Verlag in 1908, brought together ‘Typhoon’ and ‘Amy Foster’. The Munich firm of Albert Langen showed a serious commitment to Conrad’s work with the publication of Das Beest. Novellen (‘The Brute’ and other stories) and Der Nigger vom ‘Narzissus’, both in 1912; Mit den Augen des Westens (Under Western Eyes) in 1913; and Das Duell (‘The Duel’, ‘Gaspar Ruiz’ and ‘Il Conde’) in 1913. However, as Fothergill suggests, any plans for further Conrad publications were disrupted by the First World War (Fothergill 2006, 19). From the late 1920s, with the translations published by Fischer Verlag, a Conrad cult developed within German liberal culture. Conrad’s novels were widely read in Weimar Germany, and, although they were ‘virtually banned under the Nazis’, they ‘continued to be read, reviewed and disseminated’ (Fothergill 2006, 13). However, as Fothergill shows in his chapter in the current volume, by the time the complete edition was published in 1939, Fischer Verlag had partially moved from Berlin into exile to escape Nazi persecution. First going to Austria, then to Holland, Fischer Verlag finally moved to Sweden, to return to Germany only in 1947. Since 1933, the firm had had to operate within the context of Nazi book-banning, bookburning and the ‘Aryanization’ of Jewish-owned firms. As Fothergill demonstrates, Conrad’s works not only evaded Nazi control but also provided ‘a kind of clandestine camouflaged resistance to the authoritarian fascist mentality’. Thomas Mann’s promotion of Conrad, in particular, played an important part in this process, making Conrad an influential figure through the war years and into postwar Germany. In these ‘black years’, Conrad’s life, his work and his multilingualism represented an affirmative internationalism and a cosmopolitan challenge to narrow nationalisms. From Fothergill’s account, Conrad emerges as a non-aligned figure, who provided an example of border-crossing and ‘camouflaged resistance’. 6


In the 1950s, Conrad’s influence in Germany continued through a newly-translated, complete edition of his works (started in the 1950s and published through to the 1980s). However, a new factor emerges in the German reception of Conrad after the Second World War. In June 1945, Germany had been divided into four occupied zones under American, British, French and Russian control. In 1949, the three western zones became the Federal Republic of Germany, and the Russian zone became the German Democratic Republic. In his chapter for this volume, Frank Förster tracks the reception of Conrad in the GDR through three phases between 1945 and the unification of Germany in 1990: the period up to the early 1960s, which was marked by a total rejection of Conrad’s work because of its alleged anarchistic contents; the period up to the mid-1970s, when Conrad was rediscovered as a result of academic research in the Soviet Union and through Arnold Kettle’s Marxist approach; and a final phase, from the 1970s onwards, which saw the development of an independent branch of research in the GDR with a literary, political, philosophical and ideological approach based on MarxistLeninist philosophy. As a footnote to this chapters, Förster also provides a brief account of the more limited history of German-language translations of Conrad in Austria and Switzerland. In Italy, as Mario Curelli’s essay shows, Conrad’s work was not widely known during his lifetime and was, initially, largely confined to a small Anglo-Florentine circle. The first published translation, Lorenzo Gigli’s La casa sul fiume grande (The house on the big river), was serialized in a Turin weekly paper, L’Illustrazione del Popolo, from 6 July to 21 December 1924. This serialized translation of Almayer’s Folly was followed by other publications in magazines and papers: ‘Youth’ (‘Gioventù’) in August 1924; an abridged version of Suspense (Attesa) in 1925–6; ‘The End of the Tether’ (‘Fino all’estremo’) in 1928; and ‘The Inn of the Two Witches’ (‘La locanda delle streghe’, The inn of the witches) in 1930. The first translation to appear in book form was Cuore di tenebra (Heart of Darkness) in December 1924.7 Over the next two decades over fifty different translations of Conrad’s works were published in Italy. The publisher Sonzogno, for example, brought out eight volumes in their popular Romantica Mondiale series. Most intriguingly, a new publishing house, Edizioni Alpes, set up in the late 1920s by Mussolini’s younger brother, Arnaldo, planned to publish Conrad’s selected works in translation. Before Arnaldo’s early death brought the project to a close, eight titles were published: Nostromo, ‘Domani’ (Tomorrow), ‘Amy Foster’, ‘Falk’, Romanzo (Romance) and L’agente segreto (The Secret Agent) in 1928; ‘Gaspar Ruiz’ in 1929; and ‘La Fine’ (‘The End of the Tether’), Vittoria (Victory) and Racconti inquieti (Tales of Unrest) in 1930. Where the serialized texts presented Conrad as a writer of ‘exotic adventures’, publicity for this collected edition presented Conrad in terms of his ‘cult of duty’. As Curreli observes, many of the Sonzogno editions were poor translations by badly-paid translators and were often based on the French translations rather than the original English texts. In addition, whole pages were omitted, additions were made to the texts, and chapters were rearranged (Curreli 2015, 15). The Marxist photographer who appears at the end of Nostromo was censored, and the word comrade (compagno) was either avoided or translated with the fascist term camerata (Curreli 2015, 15). These translations were marketed to present Conrad as an adventure-story writer or a writer of boy’s books and, as a result, while they kept Conrad’s works in print, there was little critical interest in Conrad between the world wars.


This was published by Bottega di Poesia in Milan. I am indebted to Curelli 2015 for this detail and other information in this paragraph.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Conrad’s reception in Italy changed after 1945. This was marked by the first complete Italian edition, twenty-four volumes published between 1949 and 1966 by Valentino Bompiani under the general editorship of Piero Bigongiari. More important still, however, was the Mursia collected edition, published between 1967 and 1982. Where Bigongiari reused old pre-war translations or poorly-chosen new translators, Mursia used a carefully-supervised group of professional translators, and the prefaces were written by leading critics such as Franco Marenco and Giuseppe Sertoli. In their different ways, these editions shaped the two phases of Conrad’s Italian reception and led to the more recent promotion of a modern European Conrad. Richard Ambrosini’s account of the battle for Conrad, inside and outside the academy, tracks Conrad’s critical reception through dictatorship, civil war and liberation. As Ambrosini notes, Italy is exceptional in having produced two complete collected editions of Conrad’s works, but, as he and Fausto Ciompi demonstrate, Italy also has an exceptionally rich tradition of Conrad criticism. Ambrosini addresses how Conrad’s reception in Italy was initially framed in terms of an intellectual elite (rather than a university readership). He usefully reminds us that if Conrad’s works largely avoided fascist censorship, it was because Italian culture at the start of the century had not shown much interest in English literature. It was only when Mussolini came to power in 1922 that more attention was paid to English, and the first beneficiary of this was a young scholar, Mario Praz, whose later appointment to a chair in English in 1934 marked the official birth of English studies in Italy. His attention was drawn to Conrad by a working-class autodidact, Emilio Cecchi, a journalist who was to become one of the foremost Italian men of letters. Cecchi’s 1924 essay on Conrad’s work was not only the beginning of Conrad’s critical reception in Italy – it was also extremely influential, being regularly reprinted. It placed Conrad as an artist at the heart of a European culture that transcended national boundaries. As was the case elsewhere in the story of Conrad’s reception, the promotion of English and American literature by Praz and Cecchi during the 1920s and 1930s as autonomous and transcending national boundaries came up against a regime determined to impose a nationalistically defined culture. In the postwar period a younger generation of left-wing Italian intellectuals also attached importance to Conrad and his works. Ambrosini notes how, after the liberation of Turin, two young communists, associated with the left-wing publisher Giulio Einaudi, began the ‘battle’ for Conrad: the novelist Cesare Pavese and the journalist Italo Calvino, who had completed a thesis on Conrad’s works. Bompiani’s new collected edition laid the ground for this battle: to present a Conrad who would interest the readers of l’Unità by finding an active ethics in Conrad’s artistic practices. For these readers, Conrad’s novels were presented as a form of action informed by a moral vision useful for those who wished to change the world. Where Ambrosini focuses on three figures – Cecchi, Praz and Calvino – Ciompi’s chapter presents an exhaustive overview of the critical reception of Conrad’s works up to the present day. He begins with Cecchi’s influential 1924 article and its division of Conrad’s career into three periods – a first phase, culminating in Lord Jim, which combines exotic scenery with moral investigation; a second phase, culminating in Under Western Eyes, which undertakes psychological exploration in contemporary urban settings; and a final historical phase. He then outlines the different phases of Conrad’s twentieth-century critical reception: the framing of Conrad’s works in terms of existentialism or an idealistic humanism in the 1940s and 1950s with Lord Jim and Victory as the dominant texts, followed by the explosion, in the 1960s and 8


1970s, of a range of new textual approaches, including Marxist historicism, psychoanalysis, feminist criticism, Bakhtinian dialogism and post-colonialism. Since then, Conrad the humanist, Conrad the political analyst, Conrad the apocalyptic nihilist have become Conrad the postmodernist, Conrad the transnational writer, Conrad the metafictional destroyer of fictional conventions and Conrad the revaluer of all values. As this suggests, and as Ciompi states at the outset, the vibrant field of Italian Conrad criticism has maintained a productive dialogue with international (or Anglo-American) developments in Conrad criticism. Since the 1980s, this critical field has widened even further to include the neglected parts of Conrad’s literary output and engagement with adaptations of his work in other media. In addition, while Victory has always been regarded as Conrad’s masterpiece, since the 1970s ‘Heart of Darkness’ has become the focus of much Italian criticism, and Ciompi outlines the four major approaches Italian criticism has taken to this text. Ciompi divides the postwar critical reception of Conrad into two periods which, following Curreli, he aligns with the years during which the Bompiani edition was appearing (ending in 1966) and the new era marked by the launch of the Mursia edition in 1967. As his chapter shows, the Italian reception of Conrad since 1945 has been marked by the critical interventions of a number of distinguished novelists (Tomasi di Lampedusa, Cesare Pavese, Italo Calvino, Alberto Moravia), but also by numerous first-rate critics. One of the most important figures, in Ciompi’s account, is Mario Curreli – not only for his work with the Mursia edition, but also as a critic and editor. For example, in a series of articles published between 1978 and 1980, Curreli reoriented the approach to Nostromo; in 1985 he stimulated interest in ‘Falk’; in 1995 he edited an important special Conrad issue of the magazine Merope; and in 2015 he edited Conrad in Italy, which offered a guide to Conrad’s reception in Italy and provided translations of influential Italian articles (made available for the first time in English). He has also produced the authoritative study of translations of Conrad’s works into Italian (Curreli 2009b). In Spain, Conrad’s reception begins with translations into Spanish of certain works published by the Catalonian house Montaner y Simón between 1925 and 1935 as part of a projected Collected Works. This began with Almayer’s Folly in 1925, included Nostromo in 1926 and Lord Jim in 1927, and ended with The Secret Agent in 1935. Although the project was not completed, these translations were the basis of Conrad’s popularity in Spain over the next decades – and are still being reissued today. As Daniel Zurbano García observes in his chapter, the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 and the establishment of Franco’s regime ‘changed the cultural landscape completely’. There was a hiatus in the promotion of Conrad’s work through translation until the 1970s, when new translations began to appear again. Since then, ‘Heart of Darkness’, Lord Jim and The Secret Agent, in particular, have been repeatedly translated and have gone through numerous editions. As Zurbano García shows, Conrad’s popularity in Spain was also evidenced by the many positive reviews his work received in the 1920s. However, here too there was a hiatus, and reviews of his work began to appear again only in the 1980s. In the 1960s, coinciding with the cultural opening in the later phase of Franco’s regime, the first academic work on Conrad appears, but it is only in the 1980s that the serious academic study of Conrad’s work really begins. In 1931, the Second Spanish Republic created ‘autonomous regions’ as administrative divisions. As a result, Catalonia successfully restored its ancient institutions of government; the Basque Country and Galicia sought autonomy in 1936, but the process was disrupted by the outbreak of the Civil War. The Constitution of 1978, in response to demands from Catalonia, 9

The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

the Basque Country and Galicia, recognized the ‘nationalities and regions of Spain’. In her chapter, Jacqueline Hurtley addresses the history of Conrad’s receptions in one of these ‘nationalities’, Catalonia. She notes how Conrad’s ‘debut in Barcelona in Spanish’ was enabled ‘thanks to a publishing venture founded and developed by Catalans’, and that Conrad’s fiction was first published in Catalan the previous year: in 1924, following Conrad’s death, a translation of ‘The Lagoon’ in Catalan was published along with a note on the author. Conrad was further promoted during 1925 by a prominent lecture and three articles; his first novel, Almayer’s Folly was published in Catalan in 1929. As Hurtley shows, the Catalan readership for Conrad had been given a taste for the exotic through other work in the journal in which ‘The Lagoon’ was published, and the early critical writing had set Conrad up in terms of adventure, action and exploration. In addition, as she demonstrates, the translator of ‘The Lagoon’ adjusted the translation to make the work fit better with conventional Catholic morality and to present a more positive picture of ‘the white man’. Although the translation of Almayer’s Folly was followed by ‘Typhoon’ in 1930, and Conrad was further promoted by Ramon Esquerra i Clivillés, in a couple of essays in 1932 and through a translation of ‘An Outpost of Progress’ (1936), Conrad did not become a popular writer. The Civil War brought an end to this first phase of translations of Conrad’s works into Catalan, since General Franco’s regime imposed Castilian Spanish as the official language. Translations of Conrad into Catalan would reappear once again only after the death of the dictator in 1975. The establishment of the Spanish Constitution of 1978, and the process of bringing back the Catalan language, was followed by a resurgence in Catalan translations of Conrad’s writings, with new translations of Lord Jim, ‘Heart of Darkness’, Nostromo and other works. In her chapter, Marta Puxan-Oliva revisions the Spanish and Catalan reception of Conrad through three vignettes corresponding to three historical moments and involving three different, culturally significant figures: Conrad’s early editor, Joan Estelrich; a Catalan writer and critic from the 1940s, Josep Pla; and a Spanish writer who flourished in the 1970s and 1980s, Juan Benet. In the first phase, the project to publish a complete works of Conrad in Spanish translation coincided with a period in which Spain sought to renew itself through engagement with a wider European modernity and created its own indigenous avant-garde. In the second phase, Puxan-Oliva focuses on the publication in 1943 of a Spanish translation of The Rover and Pla’s critical engagement with Conrad as a writer of the sea. In the third phase, after the end of the dictatorship, the number of translations of Conrad’s works increased substantially, coinciding with a publishing boom and with cultural regeneration. Here PuxanOliva explores Benet’s focus on the enigmatic and mysterious in relation to the sea. In each phase, Puxan-Oliva explores the attraction of Conrad’s work for individual Catalan and Spanish intellectuals, the dialogue this prompted, and their role as cultural mediators. She also shows how, in each phase, Conrad’s works provided a way of reflecting on a changing Europe. As both Hurtley and Puxan-Oliva observe, the contract that was drawn up between Conrad’s executors and representatives of Montaner y Simón secured the rights to publish Conrad’s complete works in Spanish translation for both Spain and Latin America. In addition, as Puxan-Oliva notes, one of Conrad’s Catalan publishers, Antoni López-Llausàs, was later exiled to Argentina, where he founded the prestigious publishing house Sudamericana. The cultural links between Spain and Hispanophone South America provided a conduit for Conrad’s impact on South American literature and culture. As Evelyn Fishburn shows, incontrovertible evidence of this impact is provided by two works by the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges: 10


the 1943 poem ‘Manuscript Found in a Book of Joseph Conrad’ and the 1970 short story ‘Guayaquil’. The latter begins with an allusion to the geography of Costaguana, the fictional country of Nostromo (‘Now I shall never see the peaks of Higuerota mirrored in the waters of the Golfo Placido’) and a direct reference to what the narrator calls that country’s ‘most famous historiographer, Capt. Jozef Korzeniowski’ (Borges 1999, 390). Daphna Erdinast-Vulcan has similarly traced the metafictional mixture of history and fiction in Borges’s story and in the more recent explicit South American response to Conrad, The Secret History of Costaguana, by the Colombian novelist Juan Gabriel Vásquez (Erdinast Vulcan 2019). In her chapter in the present volume, María Jesús Lorenzo-Modia mentions the rewritings of Conrad’s work by Borges; the publication of translations of most of Conrad’s works in Buenos Aires by the publisher Emecé from 1946 under guidance from Borges; and Borges’s role as a key figure in the reception of Conrad in South America. As she observes, the texts published by Emecé for the Latin American market were the Spanish translations originally made for Montaner i Simón. Lorenzo-Modia’s essay serves as the introduction to the interview with Mario Vargas Llosa which follows. Accordingly, her interest in the transnational flow of books and ideas focuses on Vargas Llosa’s reading of Conrad and responses to him. Vargas Llosa himself, who was born in Peru, but has lived mainly in Madrid since the 1990s, exemplifies this transnational cultural exchange. In the interview, he discusses his debts to Conrad, Conrad’s response to the inhuman exploitation of the people of the Congo and his depiction of the historical violence of Latin America in Nostromo. In Bulgaria, much work has been done on the reception of Conrad by Professors Asparuh Asparuhov, Margreta Grigorova and Petya Tsoneva Ivanova. As Asparuhov and Grigorova remind us, Bulgaria came into Conrad’s consciousness at the time of the First Balkan War, when Conrad feared that the Bulgarian army might take the Ottoman capital and wrote an open letter to the editor of The Times (‘The Future of Constantinople’), published on 7 November 1912, proposing that Constantinople be granted the status of an independent citystate (Asparuhov and Grigorova 2013, 47). In May 1878, about two months after the signing of the Treaty of San Stefano, which set up an autonomous Bulgarian principality, Conrad had been obliged to stop off in Constantinople because of his status as a Russian subject, while the Mavis continued on into the Sea of Azov. When the Mavis returned, he rejoined the ship and made his first voyage to England. In their pioneering essay on Conrad’s Bulgarian reception (Asparuhov and Grigorova 2013), Asparuhov and Grigorova traced the Bulgarian reception of Conrad from the four brief articles on his work that appeared in the Bulgarian press between 1926 and 1930 (including the newspaper notice of his death published in 1927) up to the present day. They noted the period of growing interest in Conrad’s work in the 1920s and 1930s; a period of neglect during the 1940s and 1950s due to Conrad’s anti-Russian attitudes; and a resurgence of interest during the 1960s and 1970s, which resulted in a five-volume edition of his works (1985–6). They detail the first published translation – Rusi Rusev’s translation of ‘Typhoon’ in 1928 – and the publication of The Arrow of Gold later that same year; the serialization of ‘Youth’ and ‘The Sinking of the Tremolino’ in the magazine Morski Sgovor (Marine Conversation) in 1929 and 1933; ‘The Lagoon’ and ‘Freya of the Seven Isles’ in 1937; ‘Karain’ in 1938; and The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’ and ‘The Return’ in 1939. As the titles suggest, the focus (as often elsewhere) was on Conrad as a writer of the sea, and, as Grigorova and Tsoneva Ivanova observe in their chapter in the present volume, Conrad’s reception was ‘intricately linked with the development of 11

The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Bulgarian maritime literature, which is itself conditioned by the shifting political and economic role of the sea’. Subsequently, when Bulgaria came into the Soviet sphere of influence after the Second World War, Conrad was regarded as ‘a spokesman for the individualist modernist intelligentsia’ (Asparuhov and Grigorova 2013, 51). As a result, apart from a notice of the twentieth anniversary of his death in 1944 and a translation of ‘Youth’ in 1948, there was silence for the next twenty years. Renewed interest in Conrad began in the 1960s, following the ‘thaw’ initiated by Khrushchev in the Soviet Union, with translations of ‘Typhoon’, ‘The Secret Sharer’ and ‘Falk’ (1966); Lord Jim (1968); Nostromo, ‘Youth’, The Shadow-Line and ‘Heart of Darkness’ (1971); and another translation of The Shadow Line, ‘Freya of the Seven Isles’ and four short stories in 1981. The five-volume edition of Conrad’s works, published in 1985–6, included a number of these old translations as well as new translations (Almayer’s Folly, An Outpost of Progress, ‘The Lagoon’ and ‘The End of the Tether’, as well as an excerpt from The Mirror of the Sea). However, as Asparuhov and Grigorova note, this still left a number of significant works – including Chance, The Secret Agent, Under Western Eyes and Victory – without Bulgarian translations to the present day (Asparuhov and Grigorova 2013, 53). Asparuhov and Grigorova also trace the critical reception of Conrad from the pioneering articles of Petar Dinekov in 1934 and 1939 up to the present. Dinekov had been a student in Warsaw (1934–5) and Cracow (1935), and he brought back with him to Bulgaria the renewed interest in Conrad in Poland. His first article was a translation of Tadeusz Boy-Zelinski’s article, ‘Conrad’s Soul’ (‘Dusza Conrada’), while in his second article, a review of Rusey’s translation of The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’, he drew on the work of his Warsaw teacher, Józef Ujejski (Asparuhov and Grigorova 2013, 54, 56). While discussing Conrad as a writer of the sea, Dinekov also addressed the recurrent question ‘To whose literature does Conrad belong?’, which was hotly discussed in Poland at the time (and later). In their contribution to the present volume, Grigorova and Tsoneva Ivanova focus on Valeriya Valcheva’s theatrical adaptation of ‘Heart of Darkness’ as part of the 2017 ‘Year of Joseph Conrad’ promoted worldwide by Poland to celebrate the 160th anniversary of Conrad’s birth. The chapter again shows Conrad’s part in a transnational cultural dialogue, while, at the same time, displaying ‘Conrad’s recurrent relocation in modern and contemporary Bulgarian art’. As they show, this recent ‘return’ of ‘Heart of Darkness’ is also ‘further situated within the context of the critical research into Conrad’s Bulgarian reception’, with which their research group has been involved. This research project has itself been developed in transnational dialogue and collaboration with Polish researchers. The reception of Conrad in Czechoslovakia began during his lifetime with the publication of two volumes of three short stories derived from Tales of Unrest: the first, in 1912, consisted of ‘The Lagoon’, ‘An Outpost of Progress’ and ‘The Idiots’; the second, in 1917, by a different translator, substituted ‘Karain’ for ‘The Idiots’. This was followed by Almayer’s Folly (1919), Under Western Eyes (1919), ‘The End of the Tether’ (1920) and stories from ’Twixt Land and Sea (1921) and from A Set of Six (1921). As Zdeněk Beran observes in his chapter in this volume, the history of Conrad’s reception in Czechoslovakia is one of repeated recontextualizations. Thus, Conrad’s first appearance was from a publisher who published authors approved by the critics of the magazine Moderní revue, writers who were in some way or other connected with Romanticism, aestheticism and decadence, while his second collection of short stories was explicitly linked to Kipling and Jack London and the world of adventure. (This presumably 12


explains the replacement of ‘The Idiots’ by ‘Karain’ in the second selection.) This raised the question whether Conrad was to be regarded as an artist or a storyteller, and, as Beran shows, the early translations inclined to the latter view. The turning point in Conrad’s Czech reception began with the publication of a translation of Victory in 1929. Most of his work was translated during the 1930s, and a Collected Edition was started – to be halted by the Nazi occupation of the Czech Lands in 1939. By 1934, Conrad had been accepted as a classic writer on a par with Thomas Mann, Dostoevsky and Maxim Gorky. Melantrich, who published many of these translations and started the Collected Edition, also produced a magazine, Listy pro umění a kritiku, which published the first critical essay on Conrad (on Lord Jim and The Rescue) in 1936. However, as in Bulgaria, there was then a twenty-year gap before Conrad’s work was taken up again – the period covered by the Nazi occupation, the Communist coup in 1948, through to the year of the 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party in 1956. Subsequently, between 1957 and 1984, no fewer than fifteen titles were published and, during these years, the academic reception of Conrad began to emerge. As Beran points out, Conrad’s apparent acceptance as one of the greatest modern writers in this period was accompanied by two publishing trends that worked to reduce his stature – ‘first to an author of juvenile fiction and second to a writer of exotic stories’. In addition, during the Communist period, as Beran shows, Conrad was a difficult author for critics to deal with. In the decade after the formation of the Czech Republic in 1993, Conrad fell into decline again with almost no new translations, and it is only since 2009 that there has been a recovery with the publication of new translations of his ‘anarchist’ novels, The Secret Agent and Under Western Eyes, and some of his non-fiction. This has been accompanied by a renewed critical engagement on the part of academics, producing various contextualizations for Conrad’s works in relation to anthropology, Czech poetry, American literature and Polish literature. As with the contemporary Bulgarian academic reception of Conrad, there are strong Czech links to the burgeoning field of Polish academic criticism. Ebbe Klitgård begins his chapter on the Danish reception of Conrad by noting how Conrad’s reception in Denmark was connected with his reception in the two other Scandinavian countries, Norway and Sweden. In the case of Norway, almost all the early translations were published for both the Danish and the Norwegian market. In Sweden’s case, the Danish translations of two critical works – Olof Lagercrantz’s Färd med Mörkrets hjärta (Voyage with Heart of Darkness) from 1987, and Sven Lindqvist’s Utrota varenda jävel (Exterminate all the brutes) from 1992 – have been very influential on later Danish criticism. Conrad’s works appeared in Denmark as early as 1897 in the form of an abridged version of ‘An Outpost of Progress’ for an elite audience. A full translation of Tales of Unrest appeared twice in Conrad’s lifetime (in 1904 and 1920), and Almayer’s Folly and Lord Jim appeared in 1916. These were followed by translations of eighteen more Conrad texts before 1931, designed officially for both the Danish and Norwegian market. The critical reception of Conrad in Denmark began with the 1924 obituary and an article of the following year, which both focused on ‘Typhoon’ and Lord Jim. This article, as was often the case elsewhere, compared Conrad to Kipling and Stevenson. However, there were no more new translations until the 1950s, and nothing substantial was written on Conrad either. The context for this lack of translations was the adoption of English as a second language and the increasing tendency to read English literature in the original language. There were some translations of Conrad’s sea-narratives in anthologies during the 1950s, and also two new translations of ‘Heart of Darkness’. In the 1960s there was 13

The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

the first translation of Nostromo and new translations of Lord Jim and ‘Typhoon’, although the latter was aimed at a younger audience. In the 1960s, Conrad also began to feature in university curricula and became the subject of increasing numbers of masters’ theses. With three more translations of ‘Heart of Darkness’ (1986, 1995, 1997) and the popularity of Apocalpyse Now, that novella became the most widely read and discussed of Conrad’s works. However, there have been no new Conrad translations since then – probably because Conrad is increasingly read and studied in English – but there have been two major studies (2006, 2010), written in Danish, which sought to provide an historical context for ‘Heart of Darkness’, and Conrad remains a familiar point of cultural reference. In Greece, by contrast. as Nic Panagopoulos shows, Conrad is a fairly recent arrival and relatively unknown. The first translations (’Typhoon’ and ‘Falk’) appeared as late as 1951. However, since 1978, new translations of Conrad’s works have appeared at the rate of one per year. Panagopoulos’s chapter focuses particularly on the Greek sensitivity to Conrad’s anticolonial message and the recent interest in Conrad’s work in performance. As in other countries, Apocalypse Now gave a fillip to interest in Conrad – with ‘Heart of Darkness’ as the main beneficiary. There have been some striking and imaginative stage adaptations, as in Bulgaria and Poland, and Panagopoulos also draws attention to other forms of reception through transmediation via illustrations and graphic novels, as well as through electronic media and blogs. He addresses the accompanying issues around translation and misrepresentation, and he also observes how Conrad has been appropriated for the Greek struggle for independence and resistance to oppression. While he is not widely read in Greece, Conrad has gained increasing prestige as a transnational writer, whose work has relevance to recent and contemporary Greek history. In Hungary, too, Conrad’s work is not widely known. Balàzs Csizmadia outlines the history of Conrad’s reception from the first translations in 1925 (Almayer’s Folly and The Arrow of Gold). These were the start of a projected complete edition, but only one more volume appeared. Other translations followed from other publishers, but after this burst of posthumous interest, there were no more translations between 1929 and 1945. As in other countries, reviewers tended to relate Conrad to Kipling and Jack London, and, as Csizmadia suggests, Conrad struggled to escape from being seen as a writer of adventure stories. Three critics, writing towards the end of this period, saw Conrad as a great stylist and as one of the truly great modern writers, comparable with Dostoevsky. However, during the postwar Communist regime, in Hungary as elsewhere in Eastern Europe, Conrad’s work was largely forgotten, presumably because of his anti-Russian outlook, the presence of ‘anarchist’ characters in The Secret Agent and Under Western Eyes, and his failure to represent the revolutionary role of the working class. As Csizmadia shows, an increased openness to Western culture in Hungary during the early 1960s led to the translation of a number of key canonical Conradian texts, the publication of a number of critical articles on Conrad’s works, and some engagement with Anglo-American scholarship and criticism. In the 1970s, along with more translations, there was also an increase in scholarly attention to Conrad’s works and the publication of the only book-length study of Conrad in Hungarian. The 1990s saw the beginning of another period of enhanced critical attention to Conrad (with particular interest in Conradian narrative). However, as Csizmadia insists, Hungarian interest in Conrad remains slight – perhaps because of poor-quality translations, perhaps because he has still not escaped from the category of juvenile literature. 14


The Irish Free State was created in 1922. As Richard Niland reminds us in his chapter in this volume, the political background of Irish nationalist activities in late nineteenth-century Britain were part of the background for The Secret Agent, and the London-based Irish critic Robert Lynd played an important part in Conrad’s British reception and had an impact on Conrad’s writing. However, the focus of Niland’s chapter is the neglected topic of the Irish reception of Conrad’s work both during his lifetime and after his death. He notes how, in the post-independence period, the novelists Liam O’Flaherty and Seán O’Faoláin anticipated Achebe in their initial attraction by and then resistance to Conrad’s writing, and how Flann O’Brien’s comic reshaping of Conrad is also part of independent Ireland’s finding its identity. As part of the same process, translations of Conrad were used during the 1930s to promote the spread of the Irish language. As the accounts of Conrad’s reception in Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and Hungary might suggest, Conrad has had a difficult time in Russia. Surprisingly, he is mentioned in the Russian press as early as 1896, and several translations of his works were published in Czarist Russia between 1898 and 1914. After the Revolution, Maxim Gorky was promoting Conrad and managed to publish Almayer’s Folly in 1923. As Ludmilla Voitkovska notes, Conrad’s work was held in high regard by Russian writers, but his official recognition and his acceptance by the Russian reading public has always been more precarious. Conrad’s known attitude towards Russia, Russia’s attitude towards Poland, and Conrad’s unsettling situation as a Pole living in England all played their part in this reception history. In addition, as in a number of other countries, he was seen as a writer of sea stories and exotic tales; he was accordingly presented as a children’s writer only for children to find the work less interesting and adventurous than Stevenson’s. As Voitkovska observes, the history of canon formation in Soviet Russia (as in East Germany) was a history of state censorship. She accordingly divides her account of Conrad’s reception into five periods: the New Economic Policy (1921–8), the Stalin years (1928–53), the Khrushchev period (‘the thaw’), perestroika and the twenty-first century. During the Stalinist period, for example, when censorship became stricter, Conrad was presented as a decadent writer devoid of redeeming social value. However, although his political novels were banned, his sea stories continued to be published. During ‘the thaw’, numerous works by Conrad were published. Nevertheless, despite a highly literate public with an appetite for foreign books in translation, Conrad’s works did not find a readership (unlike Joyce and Lawrence); he did not find his way onto university curricula; and there is, to this day, minimal critical literature on him. Slovenia became an independent state in 1991. Majda Šavle’s chapter on Conrad in Slovenia begins with his early reception in Slovenian: a review of Youth in 1902, a translation of ‘The Lagoon’ and a short article on Conrad in 1927, a translation of an extract from A Personal Record in 1928 and ‘The Shadow-Line’ in 1928. As Šavle notes, the reception of Conrad in Slovenia was shaped by Slovenian attitudes towards translation, which shifted from an isolationist rejection of translation at the start of the twentieth century to the growing prestige of works in translation. In the period between the world wars, publishers made available a small number of Conrad’s short stories and novellas; after the Second World War, most of Conrad’s canonical texts were published in Slovenian. Šavle contextualizes this account of Conrad’s Slovenian reception by addressing his reception in the former Yugoslavia with its three official languages: beginning with an extract from Nostromo in Serbian in 1923 and a translation of The Rover into Croatian (1924–5), she traces this reception through to the 15

The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

numerous translations and reprints from the 1960s to the 1980s. Before the Second World War, Conrad was not well known in Yugoslavia, and Šavle rightly credits the distinguished Croatian literary critic Ivo Vidan (1927–2003) with bringing Conrad to a wider audience in the postwar period. After each of the constituent states gained independence, there have been numerous translations of Conrad’s works in Slovenian, Croatian, Serbian and Macedonian, but attention has come to focus largely on Heart of Darkness. In Sweden, as in Germany and the former Yugoslavia, the story of Conrad’s reception involves shifting European borders and the shifting relations between linguistic communities and national identities. As Claes Lindskog notes, the Finnish ruling class was largely Swedish-speaking at the turn of the century, and the 1898 Swedish translation of ‘An Outpost of Progress’ was also published in Helsinki. Conrad was then taken up in Helsinki by a group of young intellectuals, many of whom were connected with the university. Since the academic engagement with Conrad in Sweden is largely part of the international discussion of his work, Lindskog focuses on Conrad’s position in Swedish public consciousness as revealed in newspapers and essays for the general public. He shows how the early reviews used Conrad (who was assumed to be English and a disciple of Kipling) to legitimize colonialism; then, in the 1920s, his reputation suffered a decline, and he was viewed as a writer in the adventure tradition; after the Second World War there was renewed interest in Conrad. During the period of decolonization, this interest focused, in particular, on ‘Heart of Darkness’: Conrad was now seen as a critic of colonialism, and he became the catalyst for the introduction of post-colonial theory into Swedish universities. In a footnote to Lindskog’s chapter, Johan Warodell looks at five academic papers written in Swedish, showing how they draw on international Anglophone Conrad criticism while remaining on the margins of that discourse. Instead, they engage each other as part of an independent discussion of Conrad’s works or draw on comparisons between Conrad and Swedish novelists in what might be seen as a provincialism, but might also open new fields for research. It is appropriate that this Introduction should end, as it began, with Ukraine. As Ludmilla Voitkovska states at the start of her chapter, for Ukrainian readers Conrad has always been a compatriot, and the cultural and linguistic closeness of Poles and Ukrainians has always been a significant factor in his Ukrainian reception. The other factor is Ukrainian history: like other countries already mentioned, Ukraine gained its independence in 1991; before that, Conrad’s reception was shaped by Soviet policies. As Dmytro Kozak argues in his chapter, there are two important moments in Conrad’s Ukrainian reception: the first in the 1920s, the second after 1991. Between 1923 and 1932, the Soviet policy of Ukrainization encouraged the publication of Ukrainian translations. After the obituaries for Conrad in 1924, a collection of his short stories (‘The Lagoon’, ‘An Outpost of Progress’ and ‘Tomorrow’) was brought out in 1926. The accompanying foreword provided the thematic frame for subsequent critical responses and the translations that appeared over the next few years: Conrad was seen as an anti-colonial fiction writer and a writer of the sea. During the Stalinist period, Conrad’s fiction was mainly available in Russian translations as part of the Soviet Russification policy. A few new translations in Ukrainian appeared after the ‘thaw’ initiated by Nikita Khrushchev in the mid-1950s, beginning with a Selected Works in 1959. However, before Ukrainian independence, very little in the way of critical work on Conrad was published. In his chapter for the present volume, Kozak outlines the successive stages of that early critical reception of Conrad’s works. In 1987, just prior to independence, permission was granted by the Soviet authorities for the establishment of a Conrad Museum in Terekhove (near the birthplace). After 1991 there was 16


an expansion in Conrad studies, Conrad translations and Conrad’s public recognition in Ukraine. As Voitkovska notes, 2007 was marked by celebrations of the 150th anniversary of Conrad’s birth and the establishment of an annual Joseph Conrad-Korzeniowski Literary Prize; in 2008, a second Conrad museum, the International Museum of Joseph Conrad Korzeniowski, was opened in Berdichiv; and, in 2018, in response to the ‘Year of Joseph Conrad’, Tempora brought out a four-volume collected edition under the general editorship of Dmytro Kozak, that was intended to provide an authoritative basis for the future study of Conrad in Ukraine. As Voitkovska observes, this increased attention to Conrad is not just a matter of widening readers’ horizons; his work is also recruited to help Ukrainians embrace the multiculturalism of their new republic and to promote the development of a mature civic society. Since the first translations and reviews of his work in mainland Europe, Conrad has been interpreted in numerous ways: as a romantic writer of exotic tales and adventure novels in the Robert Louis Stevenson mould; as a colonialist disciple of Kipling and as an exemplary anticolonialist; as a writer of the sea and as a subtle psychologist; as a writer for boys and as a great literary artist, a modernist master, a figure in world literature of the stature of Dostoevsky or Thomas Mann. His reception has fluctuated in response to changing political circumstances, but he has regularly been seen, in the course of the twentieth century, as a bearer of cultural values in different circumstances of oppression.






CHAPTER 1 THE RECEPTION OF JOSEPH CONRAD IN POLAND 18962021 Agnieszka Adamowicz-Pośpiech

Without doubt, Joseph Conrad’s writings have influenced and modified Polish culture. However, the reception of Conrad’s works (and his life) has itself been influenced by cultural conditions in Poland – both historical and political. Hence several phases of his reception can be identified which differ as far as the approach to and interpretation of Conrad’s oeuvre and biography are concerned. These phases correspond to the periods 1896–1921, 1918–39, 1939–45, 1945–56, 1956 to the 1970s, and the 1980s to 2021. The story of Conrad’s presence in Polish culture is of a writer little known at the very beginning, but then widely read and deeply influential (not only on literature but on the nation’s morale) during the Second World War. He then becomes a writer enmeshed in ideological wars in post-Yaltan Poland, and, finally, he has been accepted as a master, but is now more revered than read. To discuss the introduction, translations and interpretations of Conrad’s works in relation to Polish culture, I will employ the methodology of descriptive translation studies as developed by André Lefevere (1945–96). Lefevere argues that anthologization, editing and translation are all forms of rewriting literature and that rewriters (critics, editors, translators) manipulate the originals to make them fit in with the dominant ideological and/or poetological currents of their time (Lefevere 1992, 8). He persuasively shows that the acceptance or rejection, canonization or non-canonization of a given (translated) literary work depends on such factors as power, ideology, institution and manipulation (2).1 These factors, as we shall see in the next sections, played a crucial role in shaping Conrad’s reception in Poland.

The introduction of Conrad onto the Polish literary scene (1896–1918) The first known reference to Conrad in Poland2 can be found surprisingly early on – at the end of 1896 when several critics mentioned a Pole writing in English.3 One of them related some 1

For an in-depth discussion of this methodology and its application to the translations of Conrad, see AdamowiczPośpiech 2018a. 2 These early reports warrant a few introductory comments. Poland ceased to exist on the European geo-political map because of the partitions (in 1772, 1793 and 1795) by Russia, Prussia and Austria; hence, de facto, Conrad’s work was introduced first to the Russian and then, later, to the Austrian parts of Poland. At the time of Conrad’s first translation, because Poland as an independent country did not exist, Polish literature had become a means of upholding the national spirit. Generally, at that time, there were two tendencies in Polish literature: either it referred to and drew on romantic patterns established by the great Polish Romantic poets, Adam Mickiewicz (1798–1855) and Juliusz Słowacki (1809–49), or it attempted to correspond to the latest movements in European literature and culture. Conrad’s work situated itself perfectly in relation to both tendencies: with Lord Jim he could be counted among the vanguard of the modernist movement, while with Prince Roman and A Personal Record he inscribed himself into the Polish romantic patterns (see Zabierowski 1971). 3 ‘Z daleka i z bliska’ (Polak autorem angielskim)’ (From Far and Near (A Pole as an English Author)), Kraj (Homeland) (St Peterburg) 41 (1896) and Przegląd Literacki (Cracow) 11 (1896).


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

spurious information about Conrad’s biography: ‘he contracted fever during one of his voyages [. . .]. Then to regain his health he abandoned the merchant marine. During the riots in Transvaal he lost his capital invested there [. . .]. Now he lives near St. Malo’ and has written two books.4 Obviously almost all these ‘facts’ were incorrect – although Conrad was seriously ill after his time in the Congo, and he did lose his inheritance through an investment in a South African mining company, and he had published two books. In January 1897 the very first translation of Conrad’s work was published, when his second novel, An Outcast of the Islands, was serialized in Warsaw’s Tygodnik Romansów i Powieści (Weekly of Romances and Novels).5 This first Conrad translation – by Maria Gąsiorowska (c.1850–1929) – was produced so quickly (only ten months after the novel’s publication in England) that scholars hypothesized that Conrad might have sent the manuscript himself to his Polish friends to be translated (Dürr 1932, 237). The translation appeared in ten consecutive issues of Tygodnik and was heavily abridged (Piechota 2005, 91). The translation lacked some elements of ‘local colour’ and was supplemented with ‘explanatory insertions’; it avoided nautical expressions as well as ‘phrases possibly offensive to women’; and it also contained a number of misprints (Piechota 2005, 93–5). Generally, it was an inaccurate translation but, on the other hand, bearing in mind the time and the cultural context in which it was produced, it was a pioneering attempt ‘to translate Conrad’s exotic world into Polish in a manner that not only introduced the writer to a Polish readership but also paved the way for further and better translations’ (Piechota 2005, 95). Yet it was not through this first translation that Conrad made a name for himself in Poland but rather by a notorious public debate (during 1899) in which he served as an exemplum. A Polish philosopher and an international authority on Plato, Wincenty Lutosławski (1863– 1954), who visited Conrad in the summer of 1897, wrote an article entitled ‘Emigracja zdolności’ (The Emigration of Talent) in which he advocated the emigration of gifted young people to develop their ‘outstanding abilities’ abroad. He argued that they ‘should follow Konrad Korzeniowski’s example and master the English language [. . .] and write for their living in English instead of Polish’ (Lutosławski in Najder 1983, 179).6 Lutosławski claimed that such emigration would prove beneficial to Poland, but his argument was misunderstood and instigated a storm of protests in the Polish press. The article was printed along with a vehement retort by one of the best journalists of the day, Tadeusz Żuk Skarszewski (1858–1933), who argued that he ‘preferred a public-school teacher in a provincial Polish township to a great man living abroad’ (Gillon 1966, 34). But the worst had yet to come. The most severe counter-attack was launched by a prominent novelist and Polish patriot, Eliza Orzeszkowa (1841–1910), who criticized Lutosławski and indignantly burst out against Conrad: Speaking of books, I must say that this gentleman, who writes popular and very lucrative novels in English, has almost caused me a nervous breakdown. My gorge rises when I


‘Z daleka i z bliska’, 41 (1896). My translation. The Polish reception of Conrad’s works and his biography was expertly analyzed by Stefan Zabierowski (Zabierowski 1971, 1974, 1979, 1988, 1992, 2014). While I am drawing substantially on these publications in this chapter, I have analyzed the primary sources independently and provided later and additional material. 6 The article contained grossly misleading information about Conrad’s literary career in Britain. (On Lutosławski’s four different accounts of this visit, see Illg 1982.) 5


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Poland (1896–2021)

read about him. [. . .] Creative talent forms the very crown of the tree, the pinnacle of the tower, the life-blood of the nation. And to take away that flower, to remove that pinnacle, to drain away that life-blood from the nation in order to pass it on to the Anglo-Saxons (who anyway lie on a bed of roses) just because they pay better . . . It is even hard to think about it without shame. Orzeszkowa in Najder 1983, 188 Orzeszkowa, who had sacrificed her life and considerable literary talents to the service of independent Poland, was particularly sensitive to literature’s status as the voice of a nation which was deprived of its geo-political existence, a voice which functioned ‘as a substitute for and the embodiment of the most precious Polish values’ (Illg 1982, 5). It is certain that she would not have denounced Conrad for abandoning his country, had she known the facts as they were.7 This controversial debate had a double-edged effect: on the one hand, it was harmful to Conrad’s good name; on the other, it attracted the attention of potential Polish readers to an author who wrote in English. From a longer perspective, it was the first instance of Conrad being enmeshed in a Polish ideological debate. It is also worth observing that what was discussed in the press was Conrad’s life not his works. He served as an exemplum in a long-standing debate about whether talented people (artists, writers, scientists) should stay in the partitioned country and risk wasting their talent or should emigrate and make the most of it abroad. According to Lefevere, this type of reception (ideological debate) can be viewed as a case of repression: ‘[Critics, reviewers] will occasionally repress certain works of literature that are all too blatantly opposed to the dominant concept of what literature should be – its poetics – and of what society should be – ideology’ (Lefevere 1992, 14). In the case of Conrad, it was unacceptable for noted Polish writers and journalists at that time to emigrate and write in a foreign language; hence, for extraneous ideological reasons, Conrad’s choice of life was condemned. The next translations carried out in Poland were those of Lord Jim (1904) by Emilia Węsławska (1863–1921), The Secret Agent (1908) by Maria Gąsiorowska and Under Western Eyes (1917) by Halina Pajzderska (1862–1927). Of these three, by far the best reviews were received by the translation of Lord Jim. Maria Komornicka (1874–1949), a literary critic and poet, enthusiastically reviewed the novel, calling it ‘a delight’, ‘a book of unusual content and artistry’ (Komornicka in Najder 1983, 192). She praised the narrative method and, recognizing its modernist features, called Conrad: a strategist of impressions, a conscious manipulator of words, a Machiavelli constantly considerate of [the readers’] point of view [. . .]; he is the artful and refined Amphitron of an intellectual feast who enjoys an apparent, but scrupulously composed, disorder, a


First and foremost, Conrad’s initial decision to write in English was not motivated by financial considerations; secondly, at the time of this debate, he was struggling against poverty. Conrad must have read these articles (Najder 1983, xix) or heard about the debate since, in 1914 during his visit to Poland, when his cousin Aniela Zagórska recommended that he should read some novels by Orzeszkowa, he retorted, ‘Don’t you dare! [. . .] I don’t want anything of hers [. . .], you don’t know what a letter she once wrote to me’ (Zagórska in Najder 1983, 214).


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

magician able to dazzle the spectator by speedy revolutions of one and the same constantly changing mass of phenomena, a master of the pointed phrase’. Komornicka in Najder 1983: 193 At this stage of his reception, Conrad was first and foremost perceived as a distinguished master of the art of words, a writer who could portray the infinite element of the sea, ‘who knew how to create atmosphere superbly, and who made use of symbols in an extremely subtle manner’ (Zabierowski 1974, 198). The second area of interest was his biography. This interest was strengthened and pushed to the fore in the next phase of reception (1918–39) after his interview by Marian Dąbrowski. As a result of this wider knowledge of his life, critics started to interpret his works through his personal experience. The first to do this was Wiktor Gomulicki (1851–1919) in his review of Lord Jim, who suggested that Conrad’s own drama of abandoning his mother country and entering the service of foreign literature could be detected in this novel: I was on the point of closing Conrad’s book, saying to myself quite dispiritedly: ‘No, this writer did not break away from Poland – he was never part of her.’ But suddenly some voice inside me seemed to call out: “And perhaps all this is just symbolic?” That ship doomed to sink . . . and particularly that basically noble-minded young man . . . that szlachcic who had found prosperity, love and trust in a foreign land and yet looked for ultimate relief in voluntary death. Is it possible that the hidden meaning of it all is only such as it appears to English readers?’ Gomulicki in Najder 1983, 196 Conrad visited Poland towards the end of this first phase of his reception. He arrived in Cracow on 28 July 1914, the day the First World War broke out (Zabierowski 1984, 2012; AdamowiczPośpiech 2015). He spent several nights at the Grand Hotel in Sławkowska Street; he visited (with his son) the Wawel Royal Castle, Rakowice Cemetery (where his father is buried) and the Jagiellonian Library (Najder 2007, 461; Krajka and Sokołowska 1993). After general mobilization was officially declared, he moved with his family to Zakopane where he stayed in Aniela Zagórska’s small private hotel,‘Konstantynówka’. Here he met various Polish writers, intellectuals and artists. He left Poland, with considerable difficulty, in October (Najder 2007, 467). During this visit to Poland, Conrad gave an interview to a Polish journalist Marian Dąbrowski (1882–1925) (‘Rozmowa z J. Conradem’, An Interview with J. Conrad, 1917). In this interview, Conrad emphasized the Polishness of his writings and revealed his emotional attachment to the great works of the Polish Romantic poets (Dąbrowski in Najder 1983, 197). This confession affected his reception and interpretation in Poland for the next two decades. In Polish Romanticism the personal life of the artist was viewed as an integral part of the critical evaluation of his output. Because Conrad was initially considered a Polish novelist with a Polish Romantic provenance, his biography and works were discussed jointly by such luminaries of Polish literary criticism as Józef Ujejski (1883–1937), Wacław Borowy (1890– 1950), Julian Krzyżanowski (1892–1972) and Juliusz Kleiner (1886–1957). In addition, some of the leading Polish novelists – Stefan Żeromski (1864–1925), Maria Dąbrowska (1889–1965) and Jan Parandowski (1895–1978) – discussed Conrad’s work in relation to his life (Gillon 24

The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Poland (1896–2021)

1976, 207). They concentrated on certain turning points in Conrad’s biography: his decision to leave Poland, his decision to write in a foreign language and his attempts to return to Poland.

Conrad in the interwar period (1918–1939) A new chapter in Conrad’s reception opened when Poland regained independence in 1918 after 123 years of partition. The interest in Conrad, at this point, was twofold: firstly, there were critics who wanted to shed light on those established turning-points in Conrad’s biography (his decision to leave Poland, his writing in a foreign language and his attempts to return to Poland); secondly, there were some Polish critics who wanted to trace Conrad’s affinities with Polish literature (Gillon 1974; Gillon 1976, 207). The first group pondered over Conrad’s biography and adopted two divergent approaches. One faction defended Conrad and enumerated the reasons why he was motivated to leave his home country. For example, Karol W. Zawodziński (1880–1949) claimed that Conrad’s departure from Poland was proof of his ‘excessive’ patriotism (Zawodziński 1927). Rafał Marceli Blüth (1891–1939) took a different line: that Conrad’s emigration was an act of psychic ‘self-defence’ (Blüth 1936), ‘a conscious break with the whole gnawing heritage of his father, with the world of national struggles and tragedies’ (Gillon 1974, 10), but, strangely enough, it was Polish society itself which bore the responsibility for his abandoning of Cracow (Blüth 1928, 1936).8 The other faction denounced him for being ‘a traitor and charged him with desertion’.9 Gillon argues that Conrad ‘knew the stigma with which he had been branded by his contemporaries for having expatriated himself ’ (Gillon 1966, 37). Zawodziński was the first to introduce the argument that the cause of Conrad’s leaving Poland was his love for his homeland. According to this argument, Poland’s bondage was too great an offence for Conrad to bear. A great number of other critics concerned themselves with the questions of why Conrad had left his country and why he did not return to it (Miller 1924; Witr 1924; Kołaczkowski 1927). Zabierowski suggests that such charges of desertion were understandable in a country which had just regained independence after so many years of bondage (Zabierowski 1974, 200). However, there was yet another group of critics and writers who undertook, albeit timidly, another interpretative route that focused on Conrad’s links with Polish literature. Some of these sought to place him in relation to contemporary Polish literature. An important figure here was Stefan Żeromski. Żeromski was a leading promoter of Conrad’s works and he shaped the interpretative paths for the interwar period: his emphases were biographical and maritime. When Poland gained access to the sea in 1918, Żeromski determined that sea literature was badly needed: he thought that Poland should have its own sea literature and that Polish writers could follow in Conrad’s footsteps since his works were the paragon of that type of fiction (Żeromski 1923; Zabierowski 1974, 209). Żeromski declared, ‘The naval academy in Tczew has been opened and the Polish navy is slowly developing. [. . .] Polish trainee mariners, naval officers

8 The atmosphere in Cracow at that time was marked by the ideological conflict between the followers of the rebel tradition embraced by Conrad’s family and the historical propaganda of the Stańczyk school which heavily criticized the 1863 January Uprising. For an in-depth contextual and historical discussion of this conflict see Bross 1996. See also Krajka 2004. 9 Allegedly, Stefan Żeromski called Conrad ‘that traitor’ in a private conversation with the eminent Polish poet Jan Lechoń (1899–1956) (qtd in A. Gillon 1966, 37).


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

on ships and all the youth need sea literature. Which is the best? There it is: the writings of Joseph Conrad’ (Żeromski 1923, xxii). Żeromski’s emphasis on the maritime features of Conrad’s writings meant that the initial popular impact of Conrad’s work was as a Polish Jack London. To use Lefevere’s term,10 Stefan Żeromski was an effective patron of Conrad’s writings in the interwar period. He supervised the translations of Conrad’s works (selecting the works to be translated and the translators); he wrote the forewords to these editions; and he propounded the ‘right’ interpretations of Conrad’s fiction in articles and essays in literary journals. His role in popularizing Conrad cannot be overestimated since he enjoyed an elevated status in Polish society at that time and his opinions were highly regarded by his countrymen. Another faction of this second group of critics attended to different aspects of Conrad’s fiction, and they gained prominence with time. These placed him within the context of Polish Romantic literature and the wider context of world literature. As noted above, Maria Dąbrowska was among the first to signal Conrad’s links with Polish Romantic literature: ‘[his] works show a kinship with Polish literature which derives from the fact of his belonging to the same nation and from a hereditary absorption of its attributes. This spiritual kinship exists particularly in relation to the literature of the great Polish Romantics’ (Dąbrowska 1925 in Zabierowski 1974, 202). She was followed by such critics as Konrad Górski (1895–1990), Witold Chwalewik (1900–85), Stefan Kołaczkowski (1887–1940) and Józef Ujejski, who devoted ever more space in their articles and scholarly monographs to the ‘exploration of links and parallels between Conrad’s writings and the work of the great Romantics’ (Zabierowski 1974, 202). Another interpretative route explored also by Dąbrowska and further developed by Stefan Kołaczkowski, Stefan Napierski (1899–1940) and Rafał M. Blüth was attentive to the moral and philosophical content of Conrad’s works. It was only with the work of this group that Conrad ‘gained recognition as a moralist of uncommon calibre’ in the eyes of Polish critics (Zabierowski 1974, 203). They traced in his works ideas parallel to those which permeated the writings of Henri Bergson (1859–1941), Edward Abramowski (1868–1918) and Stanisław Brzozowski (1878– 1911) (Chwalewik 1927 qtd in Zabierowski 1974, 203). They appreciated in Conrad’s fiction ‘heroism (especially the heroism of work), voluntarism, irrationalism, intuitionism, and a sense of the mystery of human existence’ (Zabierowski 1974, 203). This interwar period is also marked by serious and coordinated translation projects including two editions of selected/collected works supervised by Żeromski. In 1922, the renowned publishing house Ignis started publishing an edition of Conrad’s Selected Works (Pisma wybrane). The volumes were translated by a group of eminent Polish writers and poets (mainly representatives of the Young Poland movement)11 such as Jan Lemański (1866–1933), Wilam Horzyca (1889–1959) and Leon Piwiński (1889–1942). The number of copies issued was large for the time, reaching as many as 5,000 to 7,000 copies. The more interesting volumes were frequently reprinted (Zabierowski 1974, 201). The first volume, Almayer’s Folly (Fantazja Almayera – literally, Almayer’s Phantasy) was skilfully translated by Conrad’s cousin Aniela


Patronage means ‘something like the powers (persons, institutions) that can further or hinder the reading, writing, and rewriting of literature’ (Lefevere 1992, 15). 11 Young Poland – a modernist movement in Polish visual arts, literature and music. It flourished during the years 1890–1918. Generally, it was a rejection of the positivism which had dominated since the suppression of the 1863 Uprising. Young Poland advocated European trends of decadence, neo-romanticism, symbolism, impressionism and art nouveau.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Poland (1896–2021)

Zagórska (1881–1943). It had an enthusiastic preface by Stefan Żeromski which ardently advocated the need to translate Conrad into Polish and ‘bring his spirit’ into Polish literature at this time of ‘the regaining of the independence of our country’ (Żeromski 1923, xxxiii). However, this edition was never completed. Only four of the projected eighteen volumes appeared. Subsequently, Żeromski arranged for a complete edition of Conrad’s writings – Pisma zbiorowe (Collected Works) – to be published by the distinguished publishing house Dom Książki Polskiej (Polish Book House). This edition was initiated in 1928 and completed in 1939. Once again a group of well-known writers and translators (Stanisław Wyrzykowski, 1869–1949; Jerzy Bohdan Rychliński, 1892–1974; and Jadwiga Sienkiewiczówna, 1883–1943) were engaged in the translations, but precedence must be given to Aniela Zagórska, who translated more than eight volumes in the planned twenty-four-volume edition of Conrad’s works.12 All of the translators adopted the style of Young Poland: a high literary style with neologisms and abstract nouns (Najder 1975; Kujawska-Lis 2011; Adamowicz-Pośpiech 2013a). After 1932 there was a change in Conrad’s overall reception – in the 1930s, he was regarded as rather anachronistic: ‘He was charged with decadence, with smacking too much of the Young Poland style, with being a mere “visionary” ’ (Gillon 1974, 18). To give one example, Ludwik Fryde wrote, ‘Let’s take a close look at Conrad’s vision of the world. First of all we are struck by illogicality, senselessness [. . .] Conrad’s visions are usually fleeting moments, snapshots’ (Fryde qtd in Gillon 1974, 18; emphasis in the original). In the same period Conrad was also once again attacked in the Polish press on ideological grounds. This time, some Polish periodicals reprinted Upton Sinclair’s derogatory interpretation of Conrad as a writer who had sold out to capitalist interests, notably to shipping companies. Both the leftist journals (e.g., Sygnały (Signals), 1936) and the extreme rightist ones (e.g., Merkuriusz Polski Ordynaryjny (Polish Common Messenger), 1933) translated the chapter ‘Stealthy Nemesis’ from Sinclair’s Mammonart that denounced Conrad and used it to discredit Conrad’s writings in Poland. An anonymous journalist, responding to Sinclair’s attack, concluded, ‘Analyzing his short stories and novels in the light of economics, we find the stealthy Nemesis revealed as organized greed exploiting unorganized ignorance’ (qtd in Zabierowski 1974, 206). One of Conrad’s major antagonists in this period was the notable Polish writer Witold Gombrowicz (1904–69), who rightly sensed the decline of interest in Conrad’s fiction in the 1930s. He argued that Conrad ‘is not much liked in Poland’, which he explained with the observation that ‘our English compatriot is one of the most alien authors translated into our language’ (Gombrowicz 1935 in Najder 1983, 274). Gombrowicz perceived Conrad as a conceited man unable to express his thoughts in a simple, unstilted manner. Commenting on The Mirror of the Sea, Gombrowicz wrote: Conrad transmutes everything into greatness, grandiloquence, cosmos. [. . .] Is there anything more personal, human and petty than reminiscence? [. . .] In the Mirror of the Sea we expect to hear a more homely and warmer tune but no. The statue of a man upon the statue of the world speaks about himself in the same language he uses when speaking about his heroes [. . .]. Gombrowicz 1935 in Najder 1983, 275


This edition, also unfinished, included all the novels except Chance, The Arrow of Gold, Suspense and The Sisters.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Gombrowicz continues that ‘Conrad does not speak about himself not because he does not want to, but because he cannot’. The memoir, according to Gombrowicz, ‘radiates not freedom but [. . .] a tragically enslaved spirit unable to shake off the fetters of its own style [. . .] a style which allows only a fraction of truth. [. . .] These gorgeously rich pages breathe poverty’ (Gombrowicz in Najder 1983, 276). Conrad’s writings no longer fitted in with Polish literature in the 1930s: at the one extreme, this moved towards reportage and a ‘literature of fact’ and, at the other, it promoted the fusion of realistic and fantastic elements (Zabierowski 1974, 205).13 Gombrowicz pointedly gave voice to this incompatibility. Towards the end of the 1930s an important study was published by Józef Ujejski – O Konradzie Korzeniowskim (On Konrad Korzeniowski) (1936) – which proved extremely influential over the next decade. In this monumentalizing book, Ujejski discussed Conrad’s biography and works within broad cultural and historical perspectives – for example, ‘Conrad and Poland’, ‘Conrad and the world’, ‘Conrad and art’. Ujejski presented him as no less than another Romantic poetprophet (wieszcz). However, there was also a group of critics who opposed the attempt to knit Conrad into this Romantic and symbolic Polish cultural texture. Konstanty Troczyński (1906– 42), Ludwik Fryde (1912–42) and Bolesław Miciński (1911–43) emphasized, instead, the ethical aspect of his works. Troczyński claimed that,‘It is almost obvious that the deciding factor shaping the structure of the plot in Conrad’s novels is the sphere of ethics. In Conrad the stress falls on the issue of retaining the possibility of the ethics of honour in the face of reality and fate, which gives birth to pathos and heroic patriotism’ (Troczyński 1933). Still one more turn in Conrad’s reception can be observed towards the end of the 1930s when the spectre of fascism started to haunt Europe. Conrad was now rediscovered not just as an ethical writer but as a moral guide proclaiming an heroic ethic and emphasizing the dignity of the individual. Supporters of various outlooks feared the menace of Nazi imperialism with its ubiquitous contempt for human life. They joined together to defend humanism and culture, and ‘in Conrad’s works they found a motivation for their resistance to both moral and cultural Fascist nihilism’ (Zabierowski 1974, 206). This approach to Conrad flourished during the years of the German occupation of Poland (1939–45).

1939–1945: Conrad – a moral compass A novel phase of Conrad’s reception began after the outbreak of the Second World War, when he became one of the most popular authors of the day. During Hitler’s occupation of Poland, Conrad’s works were widely read, although they were banned by the Nazis. They appealed to Poles because their daily existence was often as dramatic and fraught with moral choices as that of Conrad’s heroes. In Gillon’s view, ‘men and women had to make their either-or kind of decision, and even when decisions were made in terms of a profound moral conviction, they caused the conditions of isolation and the feelings of guilt’ (Gillon 1976, 214). The morality that Conrad was perceived to promote (of self-reliance, dignity and integrity under pressure) was very attractive to the educated young generation born after 1918 (the so-called


The Polish term for this movement was ‘Kreacionizm’. The leading Polish exponent was Bruno Schultz; in world literature, the term would include the work of Franz Kafka.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Poland (1896–2021)

‘Class of 1920’). His fiction appeared to them as more than literature: it was read with the special kind of reverence, reserved for books ‘revealing the true nature of surrounding reality’ (Gillon 1976, 214). In those war-torn years the interpretative emphasis fell on the concept of honour, fidelity to a lost cause, righteousness, loyalty and perseverance. It should come as no surprise, then, that Conrad became the ethical mentor of the Home Army soldiers. ‘For us,’ wrote Jan Józef Szczepański (1919–2003), ‘Conrad was more topical than ever before. His books became a collection of practical recipes for men fighting lonely battles in the dark’ (Szczepański in Najder 1983, 279). Another member of the Home Army, Maria Młynarska (Tarnawska), confessed that at the moment of doubt and fear when she wanted to leave her post during a battle, she recalled Jim: ‘When it seemed that I can’t any longer fight my own fear, Jim suddenly, stood at my side and simply asked if I’d be able to endure what would inevitably be my fate after my escape. And he reminded me of his own predicament and the price he had to pay for a momentary lapse’ (Młynarska 1957, 263). Czesław Miłosz, summarizing the reception of Conrad in Poland, concluded that ‘[n]ever, though, did his popularity reach such a peak as during the Second World War’ (Miłosz 1960 in Carabine 1992, 101). Indeed, several decades later, the lost generation of Polish youth who sacrificed their lives in the tragic Warsaw Uprising (1944) was referred to as ‘Conrad’s children’ (Davies 2003, 525). A distinctive aspect of the Polish reception which should be highlighted here is that not all Conrad’s works were equally important for Poles; on the contrary, only Lord Jim became a key text for Polish culture, history and readers. Lefevere has pointed to ‘a selection process’ which operates within the oeuvre of a particular author (Lefevere 1992, 20). Because of the specific historical context (German occupation and Nazi terror), Polish intellectuals found moral guidance and solace in this novel. One of the participants of the Warsaw Uprising, the writer Leszek Prorok (1919–84), pondered on the courage of the young people and their willingness to sacrifice their lives at that time: ‘One can put forward a hypothesis – and find considerable evidence to prove it – that [. . .] the majority of Polish resistance generation was shaped by Conrad with his ideal of fidelity to one’s word, even in a no-win situation, with his ideal of honour, his sense of duty and of the absolute power of moral constraints imposed by man on himself ” (Prorok 1987, 8).

1945–55: The lean years of Conrad’s readership in Poland It was the very nature of Conrad’s perceived ethical views that triggered yet another ideological attack on him in the period after the war had ended. Once again it was not a literary controversy but first and foremost a socio-political debate. Since Conrad was an unquestionable moral authority for the underground resistance during the war, it was no accident that the postwar Communist regime viciously attacked him (and through him the legacy of a generation which had praised his ideals). The mouthpiece of the communists was Jan Kott (1914–2001),14 a


It should be noted that Jan Kott was a representative of ‘degenerated Marxism, deeply rooted in the Stalinist ideology and totalitarian government. As one of the founders and collaborators of Kuźnica, he rendered a meritorious service to the system imposed on Poland by the Soviet Union after WWII’ (Szczerbakiewicz 2004, 127).


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Marxist critic who made a personal attack on Conrad. In his essay ‘O laickim tragizmie. Conrad and Malraux’ (Secular despondency: Conrad and Malraux), Kott labelled Conrad ‘the last moralist of the middle class’ (Kott 1946 in Szczerbakiewicz 2004, 122). In Kott’s view, Conrad’s conception of human solidarity and the individual’s fight for dignity against the spiritual condition of the epoch counted against him at the very outset (Szczerbakiewicz 2004, 109). The gravest charge he brought against Conrad was his interpretation of Conrad’s notion of fidelity: ‘Conradian fidelity to oneself in a concrete social reality means [. . .] obedience to the laws one outwardly despises; it is abandoning the right to rebel. Conradian fidelity to oneself is the fidelity of a slave’ (Kott 1946, 156 in Szczerbakiewicz 2004, 112). He concluded that Conrad’s concept of fidelity is nothing more than the delusion of a ship’s captain, which cannot be a code of conduct for a free man: ‘It is blind obedience to the great shipowners of this world that is even more dangerous to society than the self-importance and affection for solitude of Conrad’s protagonists’ (Kott 1946, 156 in Szczerbakiewicz 2004, 112). Kott’s essay generated a great deal of spirited and unfavourable responses both in Poland and abroad (M. Dąbrowska 1946; A. Gołubiew 1945; H. Malewska 1945; G. Herling-Grudziński 1947).15 Those who replied to Kott’s essay were well aware that, by attacking Conrad, the Marxist critic indirectly attacked the soldiers of the Home Army who rejected the new Communist government. Thus, Kott’s adversaries had to reckon with the consequence of an open defence of Conrad (which meant the defence of the Home Army or even the resistance as a whole). That is why their responses were euphemistic and allegorical (Szczerbakiewicz 2004, 114). The major defence was written by an ideological inheritor of Conrad, the wellknown writer Maria Dąbrowska (1889–1965), whose status in Polish culture and society enabled her to expose Kott’s communistic propaganda. Szczerbakiewicz argues that Dąbrowska’s statement was perceived as ‘a manifestation of the views held by that part of Polish society that had not given up the claim to independence’ (114). In her response, ‘Conradowskie pojęcie wierności’ (Conrad’s notion of fidelity), Dąbrowska begins with an explicit acknowledgement of the implications of the argument: As Kott takes to task Conrad’s ‘fidelity’ and in doing so takes to task the heroic ‘fidelity’ of the Polish Resistance, which fought the Germans for five and a half years, I shall take the liberty of giving a few words of explanation in its defence. The soldiers of the Home Army and all those Poles who, with unparalleled courage, risked their lives and were killed, [. . .] were not fools who showed blind obedience to orders of one sort or another. Those many thousands of soldiers and civilians fought for a Poland that would be really free and really democratic. Dąbrowska 1946 in Szczebakiewicz 2004, 116 Dąbrowska rejected the idea that Conrad’s heroes were self-obsessed or the servants of foreigners, averring instead that they were inspired by universal values. Dąbrowska maintained that ‘fidelity to oneself ’ is a ‘morality with no sanction or obligation’, the natural, centuries-old instinct of every decent man (Dąbrowska 1946 in Szczerbakiewicz 2004, 115). In opposition to Kott’s views, she argued that Conrad’s protagonists are people who think independently, and if,


On the debate, see Adamowicz-Pośpiech 2007b.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Poland (1896–2021)

in critical moments, they remain faithful to their work or the ship, it is not for the shipowners but out of a sense of solidarity with the crew and the passengers (Szczerbakiewicz 2004, 115). In conclusion, Dąbrowska made it clear that her comments had a direct relevance for contemporary times: Today’s world has seen all the bounds of human decency breached and the authority of all beliefs, doctrines and dogmas broken. It stands, in fact, before the test of the Conradian ethos. We are not in a position yet to say whether it will pass the test. But we can say with absolute certainty that things will be better if the world does not dismiss Conrad’s approach completely. Dąbrowska 1946 in Davies 2003, 526 Unsurprisingly, then, during the hardening of state-communist policies in the years 1950–5, Conrad’s works were ‘almost completely forced out of Polish publishing houses’ (Chomiuk 2004, 135). The planned edition of Conrad’s collected works by a private publishing house, Poziom, ended in 1948 with the publication of Aniela Zagórska’s wartime translation of The Arrow of Gold.16 After that, not much of his writings was published or reprinted, except for a collection of short stories including ‘An Outpost of Progress’, ‘Heart of Darkness’ and ‘The Partner’, a selection apparently chosen to show Conrad as an enemy of colonialism, capitalism and Western imperialism (Krajka 1993, 46; Skolik 2012, 64).

1955–1970s: The return of Conrad The slow rehabilitation of Conrad’s writings came with the so-called ‘Polish October’ (the political ‘thaw’) in 1956 when his books were no longer suppressed (Najder 1957, 261) and some of his works were republished: Almayer’s Folly, An Outcast of the Islands and Lord Jim (1956). Jerzy Andrzejewski, the renowned Polish novelist, wrote an afterword to Lord Jim in which he pointed to the relevance of the book to the Polish socio-political context when man’s conscience was put to the test (Najder 1957, 261). Hence, this novel, once again, became a key text for Polish intellectuals (Zabierowski 1998). Conrad was ‘defrosted’ noted Miłosz, and ‘Polish publishers began preparing new editions of his works’ (Miłosz 1960 in Carabine 1992, 101). For instance, the state-run Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy (National Publishing Institute) started to publish a series of Conrad’s selected works in 1956. The celebration of the centenary of Conrad’s birth in Warsaw, as well as the fiftieth anniversary of his death, triggered a great deal of critical writing about Conrad. These anniversaries also prompted international commemorative conferences organized by the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw in 1957 and again in 1972. The renaissance of Conrad studies in Poland caused a huge increase in the number of publications: new source materials were provided by Zdzisław Najder (1956), Róża Jabłkowska (1961) and Barbara Kocówna


Cf. J. Conrad, Złota strzała (The Arrow of Gold), trans. A. Zagórska and J. Korniłowiczowa, Cracow: Instytut Wydawniczy ‘Poziom’, 1948. Reprints of Lord Jim and The Mirror of the Sea came out in 1949, and that marked the end of this edition.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

(1967), and new voices came to the fore. Captain Józef Miłobędzki (1968, 1969) analyzed Conrad’s maritime career and his use of nautical language from a professional point of view; Andrzej Braun investigated Conrad’s Malayan background in a richly illustrated fictional travelogue (Braun 1970, 1972); Stefan Zabierowski analyzed the Polish reception of Conrad’s works (1971); and Michał Komar provided competing interpretations of several of Conrad’s works (1978). A twenty-seven-volume edition of Conrad’s collected works (then the most extensive one in the world) came out in the period 1972–4 edited by Zdzisław Najder, with formerly censored passages published in a separate volume in 1975 in London (Skolik 2012, 65). In that same year, 1975, a Polish Conrad Club was established in the National Maritime Museum in Gdansk, which issued several numbers of Informacje Polskiego Klubu Conradowskiego (Information of the Polish Conradian Club).

1980s–2021: The presence of Conrad’s works in elitist circles The Stalinist ban of the 1950s was echoed in the early 1980s, after the declaration of martial law in Poland in 1981 (Krajka 1993, 46). Once again Conrad’s works were rarely reprinted, but they continued to be read in elitist circles. The activity of Polish Conrad scholars and translators was boosted by the end of Communist rule in 1989. A new generation of young scholars began to study Conrad in a new spirit: the writer’s attitude to Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy and Turgenev was discussed by Majewska (2010, 2013, 2018), Sokołowska (2011) and Pudełko (2004, 2010, 2012); and new interpretations of his works were proposed by Modrzewski (1994), Branny (1997), Skwara (1999), Pacukiewicz (2009), Skolik (2009) Samsel (2015) and Adamowicz-Pośpiech (2007a, 2016). The new scholars brought a number of different methodological approaches to Conrad research. These included approaches based on biography, the history of ideas, comparative literature, cultural science, the theory of literary genres, the theory of translation, the theory of literary reception, intertextual relations and post-colonial theory. A landmark was the publication of several documentary handbooks, including Polska bibliografia Conradowska (Polish Conradian bibliography) by Wanda Perczak in 1993 and a collection of Polish letters, documents and reminiscences entitled Polskie zaplecze Conrada (Conrad’s Polish Background: Family documents, letters, memories) edited by Zdzisław Najder and Joanna Skolik in 2006. In addition to these new scholars, several well-known Conradians continued their research (Krajka 1995; Najder 2007; Zabierowski 2008; Dudek 2014). Yet another significant aspect of Conrad’s reception in this period was a boom in new translations after 1989. Some of his works were retranslated two or three times in a very short span of time (e.g., Lord Jim, Tajfun, Smuga cienia). The absolute record breaker is Heart of Darkness, which was translated seven times (Adamowicz-Pośpiech 2018a). As a result of this rapid growth in retranslations, scholars began the comparative study of Conrad translations as an important aspect of Conrad scholarship (Kujawska-Lis 2011, 2013; Adamowicz-Pośpiech 2012, 2013a, 2013b, 2013c, 2015, 2018a, 2018b). After gaining freedom from the Communist regime in 1989, Polish Conradology opened up to the West, and regular international conferences were organized in which academics from all over the world could participate. The longest-running series of conferences (‘In Conrad’s Polish Footprints’) has been organized by Wiesław Krajka at M. Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin. These conferences began in 1991 (with a peripatetic conference that took place in 32

The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Poland (1896–2021)

Baranów-Sandomierski, Zakopane and Lublin). They have been held every five years since then, and more than 300 academics have attended. Twice (in 1991 and 2016) these conferences were followed by study tours to Ukraine (taking in Lviv/Lvov, Berdychiv/Berdychev, Zhytomyr and Terechova) so that foreign scholars could literally follow in Conrad’s footsteps. Other conferences were hosted by the Polish Joseph Conrad Society – whose president until recently was Zdzisław Najder. To date this organization has organized five international conferences. Another aspect of the writer’s presence in contemporary Poland are Conrad Study Centres. The first was established in Gdansk in 1975 as the Polish Conrad Club (Polski Klub Conradowski). Its active members included Andrzej Braun, Andrzej Zgorzelski, Stefan Zabierowski and Stanisław Modrzewski.17 The second was established in Lublin in 1995. Its director, Wiesław Krajka, and his associates (Katarzyna Sokołowska, Monika Majewska and Wojciech Kozak) conduct research on various aspects of Joseph Conrad’s life and works and related themes, including Conrad’s Polish and East-Central European contexts. Their major achievement is the publication of twenty-nine volumes of the series Conrad: Eastern and Western Perspectives, distributed internationally by Columbia University Press, New York. The third centre was created in Opole by Zdzisław Najder in 2001 and run by its chief custodian, Marek Piechota. The Joseph Conrad Study Centre in Opole (as a part of the English Philology Department, Opole University) dealt with Joseph Conrad’s life and works. It focused on historical research into Conrad’s family, into the role and tradition of the Bobrowski and Korzeniowski families and into Conrad’s family relations with the Ukraine18 as well as Conrad’s reception in Poland and Ukraine. It was closed in 2004 and reopened in Cracow in 2006 as the Joseph Conrad Research Centre. Under the supervision of the President of the Polish Joseph Conrad Society, Jolanta Dudek, and its director, Andrzej Juszczyk, the Centre gathers books, microfilms and photographs.19 Its major accomplishment is the publication of the Yearbook of Conrad Studies, which was first issued in 2005 (there are thirteen volumes to date). One can observe a curious paradox in present-day Poland. All of Conrad’s works – including his political writings – are now easily accessible. Many scholarly articles and books – often of a high standard – are being written about his life and work. And yet among common readers at large, interest in him is relatively low. It is now predominantly professionals who are interested in Conrad. How are we to explain this phenomenon? There are several reasons for this lack of interest in Conrad among ordinary readers. Zdzisław Najder suggests that Conrad’s lack of popularity in Poland (as compared with the situation in France or Japan) is to be explained by the continued existence of a particular stereotype in his Polish reception.20 In Poland, Conrad has been and still is perceived as a great moralist. The major interpretative approach to Conrad is through ideas of honour, loyalty and fidelity to a lost cause, and his writings have been read through the prism of public service. The long-standing crisis in the ethos of public service militates against Conrad’s popular reception. Another reason is that Conrad’s works are difficult, as are his ideals of honour, service and duty.

17 This organization brought together two generations of scholars. The older generation included Braun (a member of PEN), A. Zgorzelski and S. Zabierowski, and had Braun as President; the second generation included Modrzewski. The Club was renamed the Polish Joseph Conrad Society in 1995 and had Z. Najder as President. 18 19 20


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Yet another intriguing aspect of Conrad’s contemporary cultural reception is the tendency which I have dubbed ‘Conrad as a brand’ (Adamowicz-Pośpiech and Sańpruch 2018b). By this I mean the usage of Conrad’s surname for events that have nothing in common with his writings, do not analyze them or even refer to them. The Joseph Conrad Festival in Cracow, for example, which is a festival of contemporary literature, uses Conrad’s name and its cultural capital to make itself known and recognizable abroad. The organizers openly admit that today ‘Conrad is a universal symbol of international literary communication’.21 They recognized the potential of Conrad’s name – as an internationally recognizable sign – and decided to use it as a catchy label. This is exactly the process that operates in creating a brand. Another example is the usage of Conrad’s name in newspaper headlines to describe people and events not connected with Conrad. Thus, an article on the career of the Polish actress Helena Modrzejewska was entitled ‘As Famous as Conrad’ (Sławna jak Conrad). The last facet of Conrad’s contemporary reception that has to be noted is Conrad’s influence on Polish contemporary literature. Conrad’s works are revisited in many different ways in contemporary Polish literature. For instance, the 2005 novel by Eustachy Rylski, Warunek (The Condition), reworks the short story ‘The Duel’; Jakub Małecki’s 2011 science-fiction novel Dżosef (a phonetic spelling of Joseph) uses fragments of Heart of Darkness; while Jacek Dukaj rewrote Heart of Darkness twice – first as if it happened after a Second World War that was won by the Germans (Serce mroku 1998), and secondly as if Marlow were telling the story in the twenty-first century (Serce ciemności 2017) (Adamowicz-Pośpiech 2021). In 2017 Conrad was once again in the limelight in Poland when that year was declared the ‘Year of Joseph Conrad’ by the Polish parliament to commemorate the 160th anniversary of the birth of the writer. The Ministry of Culture and National Heritage together with the Book Institute offered a number of grants for various institutions ‘to promote Conrad’s work’, but also, significantly, ‘a no less important element will be to provide information on his ties to Poland, which are not widely known’.22 A great number of exhibitions, plays, festivals, films, conferences and seminars were financed by the ministry. Those events drew the common readers’ attention to the old master. Hopefully, they will remain interested in his writings in the years to come.





Lord Jim, ever since its first publication, has remained an important text in Polish culture. Termed ‘a milestone of Polish consciousness’ (Zabierowski 1998, 20), this novel has influenced Poles and their conduct. Singularly, out of all of Conrad’s works, it is Lord Jim that provokes the most heated discussions on issues that are most important to Polish culture. Initially, in the Polish modernist period (Young Poland, 1890–1918), the novel provided a pretext for discussing a writer’s freedom and obligations with regards to the nation. Then, in the interwar period, Lord Jim initiated debates on both psychological and ethical motivations behind human behaviour. As Agnieszka Adamowicz-Pośpiech has noted in the previous chapter, during the Second World War the novel achieved a cult status. It was a source of moral inspiration for members of the underground resistance movement against Nazi and Soviet totalitarian rule. These young people often identified themselves with Conradian characters, Lord Jim in particular, especially during the Warsaw Uprising in 1944, and this novel provided a sought-after code of conduct for the Polish Home Army. It was also an important text for Polish exiles who perceived Jim as an archetypal figure representing their own fate. During the Stalinist period, Lord Jim inspired criticism directed at intellectuals who supported totalitarian rule. It generated analyses of fundamental ethical issues and the problems of human existence; hence it was appreciated as a classic literary masterpiece and selected as a compulsory text to be read at schools (cf. Zabierowski 2000, 212). The twentieth-century history of Poland, with its various upheavals, provided a rich context to read and reread Lord Jim. The popularity of this particular novel, evident in more than thirty editions now available, stems partly from traces of the Polish Romantic era and the symbolic tradition familiar to Polish readers, especially with respect to the construction of Jim whose resemblance to Polish romantic heroes has been noted (Zabierowski 2008, 133). As regards the ethical dimension of Lord Jim, the notions of faithfulness and betrayal have long been present in Polish literature, being particularly topical during various periods of Polish history. The idea and national significance of honour is another virtue deeply rooted in Polish history and consciousness. Yet Lord Jim inspires Polish readers not only because of these Polish traces, but also because Conrad was seen to have elevated national elements to a universal level and demonstrated their significance in a completely different reality and cultural background (Zabierowski 2008, 134). Contrary to what might be expected given its significance in Poland and the status of Joseph Conrad as an acknowledged Polish-born author, Lord Jim has not produced an extensive translation series: there are only four target texts and one corrected version of an already existing translation. Obviously, the idea of an extensive series is relative. Yet, because most of Conrad’s works were translated only twice into Polish, the number of versions of Lord Jim is sufficient to demonstrate the development of the series. Their distribution illustrates both the diachronic aspects and the different strategies adopted by translators who published their 35

The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

works within a relatively short period of time. The first translation, by Emilia Węsławska, appeared in 1904, the second one, by Aniela Zagórska, in 1933 (subsequently corrected by Zdzisław Najder in 1972); then in 2001 Michał Kłobukowski presented his version, to be followed by one created by Michał Filipczuk in 2003. The first translator of Lord Jim, Emilia Węsławska née Saryusz-Bielska (1863–1921), was a social activist, but she also wrote stories for children and theatrical reviews. She earned some fame as a translator of English and French literature. In 1904, she published her version of Anatole France’s Histoire Comique (1903). Before Lord Jim, she also translated popular but now less known American and English writers, for example, Hall Caine, whom Conrad and Ford satirized in The Inheritors. Her versions appeared almost immediately after the publication of the originals, so she must have had easy access to them and worked rather rapidly. It is difficult to determine what attracted her to Conrad and specifically to Lord Jim. Perhaps she was inspired by the article ‘A Polish Writer in English Literature’ written by Kazimierz Waliszewski and published in Life and Art, the literary supplement to the St. Petersburg-based journal Kraj, in 1904. Printed in four instalments (16, 23 and 30 January and 13 February), the essay contained an account of Conrad’s life and analyses of nine books (Almayer’s Folly, An Outcast of the Islands, Tales of Unrest, The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’, Youth and Other Stories, Lord Jim, Typhoon and Other Stories, The Inheritors and Romance). Waliszewski, a Polish historian living in Paris, intended to introduce Conrad to Polish readers, and he had asked the writer for biographical data and copies of his books in 1903. In response, Conrad had agreed to overcome his ‘slight repugnance where publicity is involved’ (CL3, 69–70). He arranged for his publishers to supply copies of his books, and he provided brief accounts of the genesis of Almayer’s Folly (CL3, 82) and the background to Romance (CL3, 75–6), and then a detailed account of his life and publications (CL3, 88–90) as well as copies of reviews and a photograph. Following two months of correspondence, Waliszewski produced the first major commentary on Conrad’s oeuvre. The weekly Kraj where it appeared was an influential periodical (with a circulation of 6,500) for Poles living under Russian rule in partitioned Poland. With its conservative social and political profile, it shaped the policy of ‘conciliation’ with the Tsarist occupiers, but it also paid special attention to cultural matters. Many prominent writers from all three partitions cooperated with it. Apart from promoting Polish writers, Kraj also presented foreign literature (both Western and Slavic), offered literary analyses and published texts devoted to the theory and history of literature as well as translations. This weekly addressed an audience interested in current affairs and cultural trends. Thus, Waliszewski’s essay promoted Conrad’s work among lovers of literature and the literati. Węsławska must have read it because in her Preface to Lord Jim she basically rewrote Waliszewski’s interpretations and assessments. Perhaps her decision to translate Lord Jim was governed by the conviction that the hero significantly reflected typically Polish features. In this she again followed Waliszewski, who asserted that Conrad’s works revealed a Polish rather than an English mode of thinking (Waliszewski 1904, 7: 5). In her Preface, Węsławska posed the question, ‘Would a native Englishman have created a type like Jim, suffused with romanticism and sentimentalism?’, which she then answered: ‘One needs to have the Slavic blood of a dreamer to do that’ (Węsławska 1904, 6).1 However, since


All translation from Polish sources are mine, unless stated otherwise.


The Polish Translation and Reception of Lord Jim

there are no biographical sources for Węsławska that would confirm these suppositions, one can only hypothesize about the translator’s motivations. Węsławska’s 1904 Lord Jim was for some time believed to have been the first translation of Conrad’s works into his mother tongue. The 1897 version of An Outcast of the Islands (Wygnaniec) by Maria Gąsiorowska was overlooked by critics. Wiadomości Literackie, a Warsaw-based weekly that played a leading role in promoting Conrad in Poland, and which released a commemorative issue just three weeks after his death, did not review Gąsiorowska’s translation. In 1927, Piotr Grzegorczyk claimed that Polish readers became more widely familiar with Conrad as late as 1904 thanks to Waliszewski’s article (Grzegorczyk 1927, 138), as if no earlier translation had existed. Indeed, no significant review of Wygnaniec appeared until 1932, when Jan Dürr discussed it in the literary monthly Ruch Literacki in an issue devoted to Conrad. Though normally the journal published only rather short bibliographic and informative texts concerning literature, literary studies and criticism, it also occasionally produced issues entirely dedicated to particular writers, for example, Jan Kochanowski, Stanisław Wyspiański and Johann Wolfgang Goethe. One of these special editions discussed Conrad, in particular his relationship to his homeland and the Polish traces in his fiction. It contained a detailed bibliography of publications on Conrad and Polish translations, and contributions from significant literary critics. Witold Chwalewik presented Conrad’s friendship with the Kliszczewski family and recalled the writer’s statement that he would have lost his public had he written in Polish, but stressed that he never renounced his Polish roots (Chwalewik 1932, 225–9). Rafał Blüth discussed the evolution of Byronic heroism in Conrad’s works from heroism through demonism to titanism, illustrating his thesis with Almayer’s tragic dream of return, the impossibility of Jim’s returning and his demonic death, Heyst’s defiant loneliness, Lingard’s involvement in alien affairs, and Peyrol’s return home and death as a form of atonement, all these linked with Polish Romanticism (Blüth 1932, 236). Julian Krzyżanowski focused on Conrad’s political essays ‘Autocracy and War’, ‘The Crime of Partition’ and ‘A Note on the Polish Problem’ as Conrad’s response to the Polish cause. Jan Dürr tackled Conrad’s wish to be recognized in his homeland. In this context, he recalled the existence of the first Polish translation, attempted to discover whose decision it was to translate An Outcast and argued for Conrad’s conscious decision to have Lord Jim translated as his second work that would appear in Poland, rather than his first novel, Almayer’s Folly. He claimed that both An Outcast of the Islands and Lord Jim were partly autobiographical, Jim being a psychologically developed version of Willems, and that both novels served the writer as vehicles to overcome a psychological trauma related to the accusations of betrayal (Dürr 1932, 241). These arguments are problematic because these accusations appeared two years after the publication of the Polish version of An Outcast, and it is still unclear whether Conrad asked anyone to have Lord Jim translated. It is difficult to state convincingly why this first Polish translation remained unnoticed. Perhaps one of the reasons was its serial publication in the Warsaw-based weekly Tygodnik Romansów i Powieści. Since Poland was still partitioned, its circulation was limited. Nevertheless, the journal played an important role in the cultural life of the time, featuring cultural and literary-related information, critical analyses, biographies, domestic and international news as well as original works by Polish literati (e.g. Eliza Orzeszkowa, Józef Ignacy Kraszewski, Adolf Dygasiński and Henryk Sienkiewicz) and translations of foreign writers (e.g. Ivan Turgenev, Charles Dickens, Ouida, William Shakespeare, Victor Hugo, Guy de 37

The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Maupassant, Rudyard Kipling, H. G. Wells, Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, as well as works by many French authors). Thus, the publication of Conrad’s work in this particular weekly should be viewed as a sign of perceived literary distinction. Nevertheless, no advertising accompanied it, no information was provided about the author and, as a result, this 1897 translation had minimal impact on the shaping of the image of Conrad’s fiction for Polish readers. Although the first two articles on Conrad in the Polish press appeared in 1896, his name became recognizable only in 1899 when Wincenty Lutosławski published his article ‘Emigracja zdolności’ (The Emigration of Talent) in the already noted St Petersburg-based Kraj. Lutosławski employed Conrad as the sole example to support his claim that those who emigrated from partitioned Poland to earn their living or to take opportunities unavailable to them in their homeland had every right to do so. He argued that the accusations of national disloyalty or desertion levelled at outstandingly gifted people were ungrounded and unfair. He made his point by referring to Conrad’s émigré background and the publication of his work in Britain: ‘Recently a position of distinction in English literature was gained by a compatriot of ours, Mr. Konrad Korzeniowski, known under the pen-name of Joseph Conrad.’ From this he argued that ‘those who remain at home out of duty and have to write for their living must lower the level of their work and instead of cultivating their talents allow them to wither away’; these authors ‘should follow Konrad Korzeniowski’s example and master the English language, which is universally understood, and write for their living in English instead of Polish’ (Lutosławski 1899, 3; translation after Najder 2007, 293). This article, distorting Conrad’s biographical details and his reasons for leaving Poland, initiated a discussion primarily concerning emigration but also attacking Conrad for betraying his homeland, with Eliza Orzeszkowa being the most radical in her assessment. As a moral authority in her time, firmly believing in patriotic obligations, she stressed that participation in the life of one’s homeland is one’s absolute duty, irrespective of the circumstances. Referring to Conrad, she wrote: Speaking of books I must say that this gentleman who writes popular and very lucrative novels in English has almost caused me a nervous breakdown. My gorge rises when I read about him. Why? . . . creative talent forms the very head of the tree, the pinnacle of the tower, the life-blood of the nation. And to take away that flower, to remove that pinnacle, to drain away that life-blood from the nation in order to pass it on the AngloSaxons who anyway lie on a bed of roses just because they pay better! It is even hard to think about it without shame! Orzeszkowa 1899, 9; translation after Najder 2007, 294 Despite various misunderstandings and falsehoods relating to Conrad in both articles, from this time onwards his name was on the lips of Polish intellectuals. However, Conrad’s works also generated the interest of the intellectual elite involved in the Young Poland cultural movement for other reasons. His writings could be related to two cultural movements that coexisted at that time. One involved the subordination of art to the ideological tasks associated with the life of a nation that had been deprived of its independence (neoromanticism); the other, rather than focusing on ideological content, looked to European culture for the inspiration to introduce new trends (cf. Zabierowski 2015, 172). As regards the first, Conrad’s political essays were seen as useful vehicles for infusing his works with political issues. The second approach was associated with seeing Conrad as a reformer of the novel, with 38

The Polish Translation and Reception of Lord Jim

Lord Jim being an example of innovative writing, though his writing technique was initially grossly misunderstood. This misconception may have originated in Waliszewski’s assessment of ‘Typhoon’, but it was generalized to refer to other works as well. Apart from remarking on the lack of chronology, he criticized the changeable pace of narration: ‘Conrad almost never directly pursues his aim [. . .]. A fear of tiring or confusing the reader is completely alien to him. [. . .] despite the fast pace which sometimes characterizes his writing, the writer stops in one place and considers one thought or situation from various angles to let us know various points of view from which it may be presented’ (Waliszewski 1904, 7: 5). The same argument was put forward by Węsławska in her Preface to Lord Jim – as we have seen, the first translation that garnered critical attention. Its best-known early review was written by Maria Komornicka (Włast), a poet, writer, translator and critic. In her insightful scrutiny, published in the elite Chimera magazine, Komornicka marvelled at Conrad’s artistry, emphasizing that he was ‘a conscious manipulator of words’,‘a strategist of impressions’. It is difficult to conclude whether she refers to the linguistic stratum when she states that he ‘pursues truth in the refractions of light and shade’ (Włast 1905, 333; translation after Carroll-Najder 1983, 192) or whether her remarks are of a more general nature. The translatorial provenance of the reviewed novel is not marked and the translator’s name is not mentioned, while the evaluative statements efface the fact that the reader is dealing with a version of the novel filtered intellectually (via an interpretation) and linguistically through the translator. Komornicka, however, understood Conrad’s writing technique much better than Waliszewski and Węsławska. Instead of criticizing Lord Jim for its lack of chronology, she stressed that Conrad’s fiction is highly intellectual, that its apparent disorder is scrupulously composed and requires from the reader constant involvement and that the writer is ‘a Machiavelli constantly considerate of our point of view, our degree of concentration’ (Włast 1904, 333–4; translation after Carroll-Najder 1983, 193), thus pointing to the active role of the reader in decoding the meaning of the novel and implying a distinct modernistic turn. Another significant review of the novel appeared in 1905. Wiktor Gomulicki, a writer and poet, proposed a symbolic reading of Lord Jim. In his article, aptly entitled ‘A Pole or an Englishman’, Gomulicki hinted only vaguely at the links between Lord Jim, partitioned Poland and Conrad’s situation. He did not decode specific symbolic meanings, leaving the issue open, but suggesting certain interpretative possibilities: I had just closed Conrad’s book with a feeling of total despondency and was saying to myself: ‘No! This writer did not break away from Poland – he never belonged to it in the first place . . .’, when suddenly something inside me shouted: ‘Perhaps it’s all just a symbol?’ That doomed ship . . . those passengers who succumb to sleep after the nervous exhaustion of religious ecstasy . . . those selfish people whose craving for life tells them to flee the ship whose care they have been entrusted with . . . and above all that basically noble young man who is thrown together with despicable characters and who for the rest of his life has his heart eaten out by the Promethean vulture of his pangs of conscience . . . that ‘nobleman’ who finds prosperity, love and trust in a foreign land, but who seeks ultimate relief in voluntary death – at bottom, is all this merely what the English reader thinks it is? Gomulicki 1905, 1; translation after Zabierowski 2015, 174 This symbolic reading of Lord Jim as an authorial confession of guilt in relation to his homeland would later be developed and combined with other interpretations by such critics as Wilem 39

The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Horzyca, Stefan Żeromski, Maria Dąbrowska, Rafał Blüth and Józef Ujejski, who suggested that this particular novel was partly the writer’s reaction to the voiced accusations of his national desertion (cf. Najder 2007, 295). A more straightforwardly ethical reading was put forward by the philosopher Stanisław Brzozowski, who deliberated on the meaning of Lord Jim in his Memoirs, published in 1912: ‘What kills him is his loss of self-respect – his loss of personal dignity. From that moment onwards, the immense material world which surrounds him and in which he plays his part is as good as gone’ (cf. Zabierowski 2015, 173). Despite these innovative critical analyses, it was only much later that the quality of this translation was objectively assessed. In 1955 Jan Parandowski, an influential writer, essayist and translator, stated dramatically, ‘This masterpiece of subtle and deep psychological analysis, woven into the background of nature coexisting most tenderly with man, was denuded of all its charms and mangled with barbaric freedom’ (Parandowski 1955, 18). By ‘mangled’ he refers specifically to excessive omissions in this text. Indeed, chapter 27 disappeared, chapters 29 and 30 were shortened and combined, and chapters 37–45 abridged to form one chapter. In addition, many paragraphs, sentences and words were omitted. In Węsławska’s time, the attitude to the art of translation was relatively lax, thus deletions did not necessarily indicate incompetence on the part of the translator. Until the translations produced by Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński in the 1920s, who established the practice of producing a complete transcript of the original content (cf. Hertz 1955, 219), it was common practice to abridge the original. In the case of Lord Jim the loss was considerable. The abridgments to the final sections simplify Jim’s psychological make-up, the justification for his ultimate decision, and his relationship with Jewel, thus depriving those early readers of the most subtle aspects of the novel. It is difficult to see any pattern to (or rationale for) these omissions. The book was not published serially, which often forced translators to shorten the text to fit the instalment format, as was the case with the translation of An Outcast of the Islands. Fairly easy sentences were deleted; hence the abridgements were not caused by an inability to comprehend the text. Since most of the omissions appear in the final sections, perhaps Węsławska did not understand their significance for the interpretation of Jim and believed they were too tedious. Maybe she was guided by Waliszewski’s opinion (which she repeated in her Preface) that ‘In some works the author overestimated the interest that the exotic life, with adventures, intrigues and quarrels of Malay and Arab characters may arouse in readers’ (Węsławska 1904, 5) and decided to relieve Polish readers of that aspect of Lord Jim. Her treatment of the original, however, completely contradicts her claim that she ‘tried to create the closest translation, retaining all features of the style, so as to introduce Conrad to Polish readers as he is, because although he writes in a foreign language, he reveals too many twitches of the soul familiar to us to treat him as a foreigner’ (Węsławska 1904, 6). The second translation was accomplished by Conrad’s cousin, Aniela Zagórska (1881–1943), who is considered the outstanding Polish translator of his works. Not only did she translate more Conradian works than anyone else, but for years her versions were the point of reference for other translators, critics and researchers.2 Unlike other translators of Lord Jim, Zagórska


Aniela Zagórska translated the following works: Almayer’s Folly (1923), ‘Freya of the Seven Islands’ (1924), Victory (1927), The Rescue (1928), ‘Amy Foster’ (1929), ‘Youth’ (1930), ‘Heart of Darkness’ (1930), ‘Falk’ (1932), ‘To-morrow’ (1932), Lord Jim (1933), A Personal Record: Some Reminiscences (1934), The Mirror of the Sea (1934), An Outcast of the Islands (1936), Tales of Unrest: ‘Karain: A Memory’, ‘An Outpost of Progress’, ‘The Lagoon’ (1939), ‘The End of Tether’ (1939), The Secret Agent (1939), and The Arrow of Gold, with Jadwiga Korniłowiczowa (1948).


The Polish Translation and Reception of Lord Jim

never translated any other writer. She was intimately familiar with Conrad’s oeuvre, but her versions are relatively uniform linguistically, as if his language did not develop throughout his career. Her translations observed the standard established by Boy-Żeleński and, additionally, she set her own – she attempted to recreate the original poetics, though not always successfully. If previous translations created mostly by Polish literati had been excessively poetic, bordering on romanticizing the language, and followed the literary conventions of the Young Poland movement, her versions portrayed Conrad at times as an almost austere writer. She was recognized as the most accomplished female translator of her time, and was presented, in 1929, with the first ever award for translations of foreign literature by the Polish PEN Club. As Adamowicz-Pośpiech suggests, Zagórska’s Lord Jim appeared in an utterly different cultural and political context to that in which Węsławska’s was published. Poland had already regained independence, and the postwar years were a ripe period for the development of Polish culture and literature. In 1920 the Polish Writer’s Union was established and in 1924 the Polish section of the PEN Club which represented Polish literature worldwide, but also promoted translations of foreign literature into Polish. Conrad became an important link between Polish and European literature, and his fiction was popularized through translations that were published serially in magazines. In 1922 the Ignis publishing house began to issue his Selected Works. Ignis printed mainly historical books, fiction (mostly for children and adolescents) and poetry, especially by a group of experimental poets called Skamander. In 1924 it targeted mass audiences by providing popular literary works at very low prices. Conrad, however, was not part of this project of inexpensive books for a wide readership. The Selected Works were provided with a foreword by Stefan Żeromski, a most eminent prose writer and an advocate of Conrad’s fiction. Interestingly, this edition did not include Lord Jim, perhaps due to the poor quality of the existing translation. In 1924, Żeromski, who would later appeal for more translations and editions of Conrad’s works, wrote that Lord Jim was ‘the most beautiful and the most peculiar . . . an immense work!’ (Żeromski 1924, 33: 1). Thus, it is very unlikely that he would not have wanted to include it in this edition. Interest in Conrad heightened after his death in 1924 when commemorative articles written by the representatives of various political and aesthetic factions appeared in a special issue of the weekly Wiadomości Literackie. The 1930s witnessed a fundamental change in the reception of Conrad, with a new generation brought up on his writing emerging on the literary scene. The older writers who had read Conrad and greatly appreciated his fiction, though they did not necessarily follow it in their own creative endeavours, included Maria Dąbrowska, Maria Kuncewiczowa, Stefan Żeromski and Teodor Parnicki. In the 1920s his works were popularized as texts read in school, and the younger generation that became familiar with Conrad in their youth was represented by Jerzy Andrzejewski, Leszek Prorok, Andrzej Braun and Jan Józef Szczepański, all of them being greatly moved by what they saw as the universal ethical issues in his fiction (cf. Zabierowski 1986, 42–6). Conrad was a guide in this difficult transitional period marked by a turmoil of pessimism and fatalism. At the time of this crisis of civilization, he was not only perceived as a great artist but also as a moral anchor and beacon – the architect of a moral ethos. In 1928 the Dom Książki Polskiej publishing house commenced an edition of Conrad’s Collected Works, and Zagórska’s translation of Lord Jim was part of that project. However, the books were relatively expensive and this constituted an economic barrier to their availability during the interwar crisis. This situation did not improve, even though the prices of particular books were lowered (cf. Zabierowski 1979, 14). 41

The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Before her translation of Lord Jim, Zagórska had produced nine other translations and was highly esteemed as a sympathetic translator of her cousin’s works. The reception of her version of Lord Jim followed in that line of praise. The difference between her translation and the one produced by Węsławska may be summarized by Antoni Gołubiew’s recollection: ‘I remember how, a long time ago, when reading Lord Jim for the first time I could not get through this masterpiece: and then a sudden revelation, when I received its new edition translated by Aniela Zagórska’ (Gołubiew 1971, 50). When her version appeared, reviewers rarely focused on the quality of translation, once more blurring the genetic difference between the original and its new linguistic version. Even if the name of the translator was mentioned, little space was devoted to the target text, and the language of translation was treated as that of Conrad. This is seen in the first review of Zagórska’s Lord Jim: ‘rendered by a great translator Aniela Zagórska thanks to whom Polish readers get complete insight both into the world of thought and the writing skill of an eminent artist of the word – Conrad Korzeniowski’ (anon. 1933, 8). The role of the critic of translations then was significantly different from the modern understanding. Frequently translations were not compared with the originals and judgements were based on entirely subjective impressions. Translators were often given the benefit of a trust bestowed only because of their position in the literary world, while it was tacitly assumed that the role of a good translation was to be transparent. In other words, the translator was supposed to follow the idiomatic, syntactic and grammatical conventions of the target language, and the target text was to be read fluently as if it was not really a translation. Most of the reviews of Zagórska’s translations were written along such lines: she was praised for creating the impression that Polish readers communed with the original author. Very infrequently were problems mentioned (such as the lack of colloquial expressions, artificial dialogue, unprofessional nautical vocabulary), but in such cases the translator was immediately justified and excused. One of the most thorough reviews of Zagórska’s Lord Jim, reflecting a more critical attitude, was written by Witold Chwalewik. He compared her version to the previous one and stressed that Polish readers effectively received a completely new work, though bearing the same title. He also juxtaposed the two translations with the English original and enumerated various ways in which Zagórska remained closer to the original than Węsławska, especially in the combination of suggestiveness and abstraction typical of Conrad (Chwalewik 1934, 139). He also analyzed Zagórska’s mistakes stemming from misunderstandings of the original and pointed to some stylistic problems. For instance, ‘a course of light holiday literature’ does not refer to ‘the end of a holiday’ as Zagórska would have it, while ‘Przesmyk Onedegree’ (One degree Isthmus) is not an isthmus, since the Patna does not go through any, but ‘the way through the first degree (of geographical latitude)’ (Chwalewik 1934, 140–1). But he immediately added that ‘we would give the reader an utterly false image of Ms Zagórska’s translation if we overstressed the significance of these imperfections. Her translation is a result of rarely seen diligence and competence’ (Chwalewik 1934, 141). The reviews of Zagórska’s work (not only of Lord Jim, but of all her translations) created and cultivated an image of the sympathetic translator, whose achievements could not be surpassed. This had the effect of preventing the appearance of new versions for years to come. Zagórska’s 1933 version of Lord Jim was thus the one that served Polish critics as the basis of their interpretations of this novel for a long time. In the 1930s they focused on the universal ethical issues wrestled with in the novel and on values such as honour, loyalty, faithfulness, a sense of duty, guilt and atonement. Considering the question of how to preserve values in the


The Polish Translation and Reception of Lord Jim

contemporary turmoil created by determinism and ethical relativism, Ludwik Fryde claimed that the answer was provided by Conrad. In Lord Jim, he argued, the author takes issue with both psychological relativism and determinism: ‘Overcoming psychological causality for the sake of ethical expediency has for us, for our transitional epoch, an educational meaning, a liberating meaning’ (Fryde 1935, 587). The interpretation of Lord Jim in ethical terms was embraced and developed by critics in the interwar period (Manfred Kridl, Konrad Górski and Maria Dąbrowska) and also by a host of those active later (Zdzisław Najder, Barbara Kocówna and Przemysław Mroczkowski). During the Second World War, Zagórska’s translation accompanied young people active in the resistance movement, with Jim influencing their behaviour. Jan Józef Szczepański observed: I knew a young lad whose death was the direct result of his having read Lord Jim (or rather the first volume of Lord Jim). The motif of that bulkhead which was about to give way [. . .] became a veritable obsession with him. [. . .] He would repeat Jim’s famous sentence – ‘It is all in being ready.’ – as if it were a magic spell or a lesson that had to be learnt by heart. And it was that very fear of his own moment of weakness that led this acquaintance of mine to commit an act of totally needless daring which cost him his life. Szczepański 1957, 49; translation after Zabierowski 2015, 179 This act of courage and the awareness of the consequence of cowardice were not the only evidence of Conrad’s influence. A similar episode was recalled by Maria Młynarska, a participant in the Warsaw Uprising, who, during an air raid, was about to escape from a hospital in which she worked: [. . .] just at that moment Jim came. When it seemed I just wasn’t capable of coming to grips with my own fear any more, Jim suddenly stood at my side and simply asked if I’d be able to endure what would inevitably be my fate after running away. He reminded me of his own misery and the price he paid for a momentary lapse. Młynarska 1957, 263; translation after Zabierowski 2015, 179 In dramatic and critical situations Conrad’s novel provided models to follow since it depicted with psychological precision the tragedy of indecision (and cowardice). After the war, in the new political context that followed, Conrad was attacked by the intellectuals associated with the new regime as a moralist of the anti-communist opposition and the middle class. The chief representative of this group was Jan Kott, who in his 1945 essay ‘On the Lay Tragedy’ undermined Conrad’s ethos, though without negating his artistic achievements. Kott criticized the accepted reading of Conrad’s philosophy as based on being faithful to oneself: [It] is in reality, the concrete social reality, obedience to the laws of a world which one inwardly despises; it is a rejection of one’s right to rebel. Conradian fidelity to oneself is the fidelity of the slaves, for a slave is he who obeys the lord whom he despises, and cares only about his inner rectitude. Kott 1945, 2; translation after Gillon 1976, 214–15


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Conrad was defended by Polish writers, in particular by Maria Dąbrowska, who attempted to maintain the pre-war ethical interpretation of his works. Nevertheless, the new authorities decided to ban him and in the period 1949–54 his works were, for the most part, not published (Zabierowski 2008, 128). There was no question of commissioning new translations. Before that happened, however, Zagórska’s pre-war translation of Lord Jim was reprinted in 1949 by Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, a publishing house established in 1946, one of two major institutions at that time specializing in literature. Although the presence of Conrad in Poland was diminished, his works, Lord Jim in particular, continued to be analyzed by Polish émigré writers, such as Maria Kuncewiczowa and Stanisław Vincenz, who focused on its universal ethical dimension. Lord Jim reappeared in 1956, in another reprint of Zagórska’s translation, with a Foreword written by Jerzy Andrzejewski. Comparing the ethical dilemmas of Polish intellectuals after the war to those of Hamlet and Jim, the writer took issue with the attitudes and conduct of the elite during the Stalinist period. Hamlet’s tragedy was the tragedy of the bankruptcy of a worldview, he wrote, whereas Jim’s tragedy was the tragedy of subjective guilt with respect to a worldview. In this argument, it appeared that, after the political thaw in October 1956, many Polish intellectuals who had supported the oppressive system now experienced a breakdown comparable to that of Hamlet rather than Jim (Zabierowski 2008, 130). The centennial of Conrad’s birth in 1957 also provided an opportunity to make Conrad part of the Polish literary heritage again, but in that decade a more critical attitude to the Polish translations emerged as well. Although regularly reprinted, Zagórska’s translations were not faultless. This was brought to light by Wacław Borowy in the 1950s. Though he was greatly impressed by her work, specifically in certain psychological and atmospheric excerpts, he indicated some problematical aspects of her versions: mistakes stemming from her imperfect knowledge of English; unnatural inversions; artificial dialogue and the excessively literary language of Marlow’s narratives (Borowy 1952, 20, 29). As a result, in 1972, Zdzisław Najder included a corrected version of Lord Jim in the new edition of Conrad’s Collected Works that he edited. He eliminated mistakes and the effacement of the cultural background. For instance, when Marlow speaks to the French lieutenant, the latter says,‘Brave! This is always to be seen’ which in Zagórska’s translation becomes ‘Odwaga! O to nietrudno’ (Bravery! This is not difficult), thus changing the original sense (Najder 1975, 205). Exclamations uttered by Marlow and Jim such as ‘By Jove!’, characteristic of an English gentleman, were rendered by her in a variety of culture-free ways: ‘Mój Boże’ (My God!), ‘Słowo daję’ (Upon my word), ‘zaiste’ (indeed). In all these cases Najder introduced a literal, foreign-sounding phrase ‘Na Jowisza!’ (cf. Kujawska-Lis 2011, 168–70). He emended stylistic problems, particularly concerning missing idiolectal differentiation. He reintroduced ungrammaticality into the speech of the Patna’s captain, German syntax in Stein’s speech, and French syntax in the French lieutenant’s utterances, all normalized by Zagórska. He also eliminated her tendency to use various equivalents, depending on the context, for repetitive key expressions, such as ‘under a cloud’ referring to Jim. In the Preface, this phrase is rendered as ‘tajemniczy’ (mysterious) (Zagórska ix). In chapter 36 the phrase appears twice and then is changed into ‘widzieć jak przez mgłę’ (see as if through fog) (Zagórska 2, 118) and ‘za mgłą’ (behind fog) (Zagórska 2, 122). In the last chapter, the key phrase: ‘Jim remains under a cloud’ is modified as ‘Jim pozostał mętną zagadką’ (Jim remained an obscure riddle) (Zagórska 2, 204) and ‘He passes away under a cloud’ as ‘otoczony mętną tajemnicą’ (surrounded by an obscure mystery) (Zagórska 2, 206). In the corrected version, produced by Najder, except for in 44

The Polish Translation and Reception of Lord Jim

the Preface, the phrase is consistently rendered utilizing the notion of fog. Additionally, Najder replaced words considered to be characteristic of literary style with their less formal synonyms. According to him, Conrad’s style is far less literary and abstract than in Zagórska’s translation and she elevated his language to a high spiritual level, especially in dialogues (Najder 1975, 206). Hence, many of his changes involved providing more colloquial versions, domesticating the text linguistically. Najder was convinced that translations should read fluently and naturally, and that in Conrad’s case this meant a return to the country and culture from which the writer had emerged (Najder 1975, 197). In his view, English for Conrad remained a foreign language that required much effort and his writing was occasionally marked with traces of Polish. Additionally, his works are suffused with Polish cultural and literary notions. Thus Polish translations function like a reintroduction of Conrad to his native cultural and linguistic background (Najder 1975, 197). With respect to this linguistic layering, translation entails the loss of a certain ‘strangeness’ in Conrad’s language, a specific exoticism resulting from interferences in his English from both French and Polish. Although Conrad was a great stylist, English readers can perceive a tinge of strangeness in his writing, for instance in the placement of adverbs and adjectives. Critics, depending on their nationality, tend to attribute Conrad’s syntax (with a rather free sentence structure and the accumulation of adjectives in postposition) to either Polish or French influences. Najder argues that the rhythm of Conrad’s prose is reminiscent of Polish Romantic literature (Najder 1972, 15). Some American critics, like Albert Guerard, ascribe it to French: ‘The Gallic locutions, the Flaubertian turns of phrase, possibly the French post-positioning of adjectives, are matters of acquired style’ (in Lucas 2000, 11). Similarly, Yves Hervouet comments on the position of adjectives, attributing them to the French influence – for instance, in Lord Jim, in the phrases ‘in a voice harsh and dead’ and ‘in a voice harsh and lugubrious’ (Hervouet 1990, 71). In both these cases, however, the post-position of adjectives is perfectly correct syntactically and stylistically in Polish, where the adjective can be placed either before or after the noun to which it refers. Thus, when translating Conrad’s writing into his mother tongue, the sense of ‘oddity’ disappears since what was unusual or innovative (certain syntactic forms, for instance, or Polish proverbs and sayings translated into English by the writer) is correct and familiar for Polish readers. In addition, however, regardless of the quality of the original version by Zagórska (and the assistance of Najder’s corrections), after so many years this translation simply grew old, as the language became obsolete, and Lord Jim required a new translation. The twenty-first-century translations appeared in a new socio-cultural and economic context. For a start, the new millennium welcomed the revival of literary masterpieces. To some extent, the translation series developed for purely economic reasons, as two publishing houses, Znak and Zielona Sowa, commissioned new versions of Lord Jim for their collections of world literature masterpieces. The former released Michał Kłobukowski’s version in 2001. This had an obvious polemical relation to Zagórska’s, which, by now, had been in circulation for decades. He specifically disliked her elimination of dialectal differentiation and aimed at reconstructing the original linguistic polyphony, while modernizing the language for contemporary readers. Kłobukowski (born 1951) represents the new wave of modern translators, conscious of what they do and why they do it. An extremely prolific translator, he has translated more than sixty books for adults, children and adolescents. He was praised for his inventiveness and creativity, especially in recreating the stylistically complex works of 45

The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Vladimir Nabokov and J. M. Coetzee. He was frequently awarded prizes – for example, in 1991, by the Association of Polish Translators and Interpreters for his version of Roald Dahl’s The BFG and Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove. His Lord Jim was awarded a prize by the prestigious monthly Literatura na Świecie in 2002, and, in 2013, Kłobukowski received the Medal for Merit to Culture – Gloria Artis. His version of Lord Jim was considered ‘a brave attempt to acquaint contemporary Polish readers with this famous novel’ (Zabierowski 2000, 212), leading to a reevaluation of Zagórska’s achievements. Kłobukowski’s Lord Jim was favourably received by critics, who compared it with earlier translations. This version was created at a time when Poland had regained its sovereignty after years of being dependent on the former USSR, and at a time when Poland had undergone economic transformation. While Lord Jim had now become compulsory reading in secondary schools, the new translation had to refresh the language in order to make Conrad, his ideals and ethics understandable and appealing to a new generation of readers. One of the ideals that finds a response in this new generation of readers is the notion of honour, stemming from the Polish szlachta ethos. The revival of chivalric traditions and patriotic attitudes evident in Poland recently, focused on the preservation of the national identity within the globalized world (with the motto ‘God, Honour and Fatherland’ traceable to the nineteenth-century revolutionists, ever present nowadays, and unfortunately tending towards extreme nationalism), provided fertile ground for a renewed interest in Lord Jim, but also, potentially, for misinterpretations. In a world governed by utilitarianism and pragmatism, in which people seek values that provide a deeper meaning for human life, dignity in work (and its significance), human solidarity and honour attract readers who either affirm such values or search for them (Zabierowski 2008, 136–7). Enlivening the language was one of the major achievements noticed by critics, who stressed that Kłobukowski’s version, written in modern Polish, contains ideas present in the consciousness of Polish contemporary readers. One of the changes introduced was the conversion of the English measurement system (with feet and miles) into the metric system (metres, kilometres), more easily comprehensible to Polish readers. Another was the rejection of the very old-fashioned exclamation ‘By Jove’, alien to Poles when translated literally. Kłobukowski decided to introduce various contextual equivalents when it is uttered by Marlow, and consistently used ‘O rany’ (Oh my) in the case of Jim. This not only removed the awkward phrase, but also stressed Jim’s youth as compared to Marlow. Nevertheless, these two solutions may be assessed both negatively and positively, as is the case with several other innovations in this translation. On the one hand, they make the text more comprehensible and closer to the reality and language of contemporary Polish readers; on the other, they efface the Englishness of the original and the affinity between Marlow and Jim in the case of the exclamation which is employed only by these two characters. In addition, Zabierowski has argued that Kłobukowski’s selection of contemporary words, synonyms of those used by Zagórska, reflects Conrad’s thought better in modern Polish (Zabierowski 2000, 213). Kłobukowski’s language is generally simpler and more concise. Consequently, this new translation was praised for being less poetical than Zagórska’s text, while not eliminating the poetic quality when necessary. It was criticized for the omission of the Preface (Zabierowski 2000, 212–14; Masłoń 2001, A10), while the decision to change Jewel (translated literally by Zagórska and regarded as pretentious by some critics) into Gamma was assessed both negatively (Zabierowski 2000, 214) and positively (Masłoń 2001, A10). More thorough reviews were written by Agnieszka Adamowicz-Pośpiech, who emphasized both the benefits and the 46

The Polish Translation and Reception of Lord Jim

shortcomings of this version. The former include a style that is close to the original one with word order reflecting spoken rather than written language, the elimination of archaic words and grammatical forms, the introduction of colloquial expressions and contemporary idioms, idiolectal stylization and the correction of nautical vocabulary and other mistakes found in Zagórska’s version. The less successful aspects encompass an inconsistent use of units of measurement, too extreme linguistic modernization at times, the unnecessary clarifications of geographical names and a lack of footnotes explaining German, French and Latin words (Adamowicz-Pośpiech 2001, 14; 2002, 60–6). Some strong arguments against this translation were raised by Anna Tatarkiewicz, who criticized a linguistic modernization that bordered on slang-like expressions and the loss of the subtle irony typical of Conrad (Tatarkiewicz 2001, 18). Notwithstanding some critical voices, Kłobukowski’s translation was well received primarily because of the way it endowed the novel with the character of a yarn. The translator reproduces the rhythms of spoken language, and the individual character of each person is evident in his speech. This recreation of the orality of the yarn through a variety of solutions, but primarily due to the naturalness of selected collocations and the introduction of colloquial expressions, was particularly emphasized in the reviews written by Adamowicz-Pośpiech (Adamowicz-Pośpiech 2001, 21; 2002, 62). Despite the acclaim with which this modern version of Lord Jim was received, it was immediately followed by another version produced by Michał Filipczuk (born in 1975). In comparison to Kłobukowski, Filipczuk is a much less accomplished translator. He has, in the past, mostly dealt with popular and scientific works. He has retranslated Conrad’s Typhoon, but the quality of his work there leaves much to be desired in terms of the interpretation of the original. He does not differentiate between various terms referring to wind used in the original (wind, storm, hurricane and the eponymous typhoon) and overuses the Polish equivalent of typhoon, whereas in the original Conrad uses it frugally to generate suspense when the ship finally finds itself fighting with it (Adamowicz-Pośpiech 2009, 129). He also ignores stylistic elements typical of Conrad. For example, he does not notice irony in the manner in which the repeated phrase ‘bad weather’ is used, and he provides a variety of synonyms for it, thus not only losing its intratextual quality but also its ironic tinge, especially when he translates it as ‘calamity’ or ‘storm’. Filipczuk overlooks the intertextual reference to the Book of Job when the ship is getting ready for the typhoon (‘as of girding the loins’) and translates it by a common expression ‘szykując się do boju’ (getting ready for the fight), thus making it impossible for Polish readers to notice the biblical reference and its semantic significance (AdamowiczPośpiech 2009, 139). The foreshadowing of the Nan-Shan being finally spared (as was the case with Job) is thus irretrievably lost. Filipczuk also eradicates the idiolectal difference between substandard sailors’ jargon and Standard English, creating a linguistically uniform target text. These examples indicate that Filipczuk frequently focuses on the naturalness of the target language, consequently missing the very carefully constructed network of signification of the original. His retranslation of Lord Jim seems to have been primarily dictated by market demand, rather than a desire to uncover some new aspects of the novel, ignored or misrepresented previously. It follows Zagórska’s version as corrected by Najder rather closely, polishing it slightly, but not changing it radically. He does not introduce such novel solutions as those created by Kłobukowski: modern colloquial language, the changing of proper names and the conversion of English measuring units. There were not many reviews of this translation. It seems to have been overlooked by critics, though Polish Conradians did notice it. This version 47

The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

was praised by Najder, who claimed that Filipczuk ‘uncovered the entire philosophical wealth of the novel’ (Marzec 2009). However, it is difficult to assess what Najder meant by this, as no further explication is provided. In relation to passages that discuss philosophical issues such as Stein’s monologues, this translation does not differ radically from Zagórska’s corrected version. It does, however, introduce some changes. When Stein paraphrases Hamlet, with his exclamation ‘How to be! Ach! How to be’ (LJ, 213), and then repeats the verb in his next sentence, ‘We want in so many different ways to be’, Filipczuk changes the latter into ‘We want to live in these different ways’ (Filipczuk 150). This obviously makes it easier to comprehend Stein’s philosophy, but compromises on the purposeful repetition. Generally, in Stein’s utterances, Filipczuk retreats from the original metaphoricity which linked specific notions (like ‘remedy’ and ‘cure’ in ‘There is only one remedy! One thing alone can us from being ourselves cure!’), thus creating a version which is easier to follow. But it is debatable whether this is an asset, because it seems that Filipczuk sometimes distorts the meaning rather than uncovering its intricacies: the back translation of Stein’s sentence as interpreted by Filipczuk would read: ‘There is only one way! Only one thing can us, us ourselves, cure.’ The notion of ‘curing us from being ourselves’ is lost. Najder’s positive opinion may have been influenced by the relative similarity of Filipczuk’s version to the one that he himself had worked on, with some passages further corrected and changed.

Comparison of translations Created in different times, targeted at different readerships, with different aims in mind and encompassing a varying knowledge of the author and his literary techniques, the translations of Lord Jim differ considerably in many aspects: in their treatment of culture-related items, stylistic elements, dialectal variation, the modernization of the language and the visibility of the translator, to suggest only the most evident ones.3 The opening of the novel, ‘He was an inch, perhaps two, under six feet’ (LJ, 3), sheds some light on the translators’ approaches to addressing a few of these issues. An English culture-related element (a unit of measurement) is introduced symbolically, becoming a powerful hint for the interpretation of the novel; the sentence has a specific (almost iambic) rhythm and a fair level of ambiguity, representing one of Conrad’s narrative strategies. The novel opens with a visual impression. Literally, the sentence refers to an unspecified male’s height; the metaphorical level is more significant. Once the reader decodes that he refers to Jim, the symbolic level emerges: Jim is always lacking something (time, courage), not much, just that little bit represented by an inch. Węsławska paraphrases and generalizes the opening: ‘Potężnie zbudowany, bardzo wysoki’ (Powerfully built, very tall) (Węsławska, 7), thus eliminating unfamiliar culture-bound items and the symbolic dimension. This implies that she was largely ignorant of the specificity of Conrad’s style and its nuances. Zagórska’s version is the most literal and analogous with the original: ‘Brakował mu cal – może dwa – do sześciu stóp wzrostu’ ((He) lacked an inch – perhaps two – to six feet in height) (Zagórska, 1). It reconstructs the original rhythm, symbolism, expressiveness and culture, though the lack of declination of 3 The entire translation series of Lord Jim has provoked in-depth scholarly analyses, including the scrutiny of all the translations of the Marlovian narratives. These provide the basis for the further comments here (cf. Kujawska-Lis 2011).


The Polish Translation and Reception of Lord Jim

the noun translating ‘inch’ makes it ungrammatical. Kłobukowski, by domesticating the text culturally, deprives it of important senses: ‘Niewiele niższy niż metr osiemdziesiąt’ ((He) was a little shorter than one metre eighty) (Kłobukowski, 7). The translation loses the hesitation of the original (through the omission of perhaps), which implies from the start that nothing in the story is certain, while providing an indication of how little (represented by inch) Jim always lacked. In this case, catering for modern readers by producing a version that is immediately understandable (culturally and linguistically) affects the original poetics, reducing the opening to its literal dimension. Filipczuk follows Zagórska’s version, yet by introducing the grammatically correct declination of the equivalent of inch, he compromises on the rhythm: ‘Brakowało mu cala, może dwóch, do sześciu stóp wzrostu’ (Filipczuk, 7). He also provides an explanatory footnote concerning English units of measurement, which not only reduces the powerfulness of the first impression through forcing the reader to refer to the metatext, but also reveals his own presence rather than that of an implied narrator. These are general strategies adopted by the translators of Lord Jim, except for Kłobukowski who later on is more conscious of (and more careful in recreating) Conrad’s poetics.

Foreign culture The first translation of Lord Jim almost completely erases the local colour created by vernacular expressions. Readers know that the action is set in the Far East since the location is introduced by toponyms and the Malay word Tuan. Yet, the exoticism of the setting is not emphasized otherwise. Węsławska either omits local words or substitutes for them culturally neutral ones, affecting the readers’ perceptions of the Far East. The fully-fledged cultural atmosphere of the original is built up in the second translation. Zagórska consistently creates a fictional reality where the vocabulary complements the cultural background. Although she does not manage to reproduce every foreign element (prau is normalized, along with tiffin), her translation is permeated with culture-specific words. In the version edited by Najder, almost all such words are reproduced either by borrowings (punkah, prao) or adapted borrowings (radża for rajah). The cultural distance between the fictional reality and the extratextual reality of the target readers is given priority here. Polish readers are confronted with the Other (other culture, other customs, other set of beliefs) in the same way that the main character is. The contrast between European culture and the culture of the Far East is maintained in as many ways as possible (toponyms, anthroponyms, vernacular expressions, forms of address). One might expect that in the modern versions the recreation of the foreign would continue, given a stronger tendency towards foreignization in translation at the present time. Yet, that is not the case. In Kłobukowski’s translation, exoticism is initially attenuated as he avoids vernacular expressions, choosing culturally neutral equivalents instead. Alien elements appear towards the end of the novel; they are either exotic but well known (radża) or genuinely foreign (pangeran) but understandable in context. This demonstrates the translator’s attempt to create a fluent text – one that does not disturb readers. He selects the most versatile solutions to deal with culture: neutralizations (paraphrase or conversion) and direct borrowing when the context is sufficient to understand the designate. However, the more Kłobukowski avoids unknown vocabulary, the more he effaces the cultural significance of the setting. Conrad, in a masterly fashion, from the opening pages makes his readers sense the foreign aspects of his 49

The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

narrative through the sound and look of unknown words. In Kłobukowski’s version, Marlow only gradually employs local words, most of which appear when he reports Stein’s life in the Malay Archipelago, and then Jim’s life in Patusan. In this translation, beginning with chapter 20 (the first meeting with Stein), Marlow consciously creates geographical and historical spaces by imitating the extratextual one through exotic words. This, however, significantly changes the manner in which the cultural background is created in the original, where the exotic atmosphere can be perceived from the beginning of the novel. The most recent translation apparently reintroduces exoticism, but all foreign words are glossed in the footnotes. This does not allow readers to genuinely sense the Other. Metatextual explanations rationalize the experience of the foreign. The combination of the borrowing and the overt gloss mediates the semantic load of foreign expressions (readers understand their meanings by referring to the gloss) and transfers the image of the word. In this translation, almost every potentially difficult element (including nautical terms, German and French expressions, biblical allusions, intertextual references, geographic locations) is explained, including those that are self-explanatory. But there are also elements that are replaced or remain unexplained. So the general strategy of glossing is employed inconsistently. Furthermore, many explications are unnecessary and contradict Conrad’s idea of making the story enigmatic and universal (cf. Kujawska-Lis 2011; 2015).

Stylistic elements Translations carried out at the beginning of the twentieth century have by now become linguistically outdated. The two new translations aim to modernize the language, but the solutions are dissimilar. Filipczuk emphasizes the diachronic distance and occasionally inserts obsolete words into modern Polish to create the impression that the fictional reality is not contemporary. In particular, he selects old-fashioned verbs to differentiate registers: elevated and literary in narrative parts and more colloquial in dialogue. This strategy often misses the point because the poetic quality of Conrad’s language is not based on such a simplistic differentiation. The diachronic distance is also preserved by a variety of old-fashioned grammatical forms no longer used in everyday Polish, but evocative of nineteenth-century literature. Kłobukowski’s approach is more radical as he avoids explicit archaization. He modifies the grammatical and lexical levels of the text. In particular, the Polish pluperfect forms are eliminated and contemporary words appear. Kłobukowski’s modern language verges sometimes on being slangish, not fitting the original ambience. Also, his modernization is not homogenous: contemporary colloquial words intermingle occasionally with obsolete and literary ones, leading to a sense of linguistic incongruity. Although this translation reads the most fluently of all four, those intermittent outdated forms spoil the global effect. The yellow dog episode can be analyzed to exemplify how the translators have dealt with a typically Conradian narrative technique. In this example, Conrad clearly exploits the possibilities offered by English to create equivocal scenes open to many interpretations. Symbolic scenes, especially those based on double meanings of key words, obviously pose a great challenge for translators due to different linguistic practices. Because its delayed and symbolic decoding rests on two meanings of the noun ‘cur’ in the statement ‘Look at that wretched cur’ (LJ, 70), it is difficult to recreate this effect in a language in which such polysemy 50

The Polish Translation and Reception of Lord Jim

does not exist. Węsławska simplifies the meaning so that it immediately refers to Jim: ‘Spojrzyj pan na tego nieszczęśnika, łajdaka! tchórza!’ (Look at this miserable man, scoundrel! coward!) (Węsławska, 70). This solution ruins the subtle game with the reader (and between Marlow and Jim), since this sentence cannot refer to the dog. The value of the episode, which lies in the gradual decoding of meanings and the mutual interests of the protagonists, is diminished in this version. Zagórska selects the word ‘dog’: ‘Niech pan spojrzy na tego nędznego psa’ (Look at that wretched dog) (Zagórska, 77), which can be used colloquially as an insult, but this solution seems over-literal and lacks the overtone of cowardice. Najder (when correcting her version) and both the modern translators prefer the dictionary equivalent kundel (Najder, 79; Kłobukowski, 61; Filipczuk, 52), which can also be seen as an insult. Although this solution is closer to the original, it still does not solve the problem of a partial loss of meaning. When Jim asks Marlow, ‘Do you know what you would have done? Do you? And you don’t think yourself [. . .] you don’t think yourself a – a cur?’ (LJ, 81), he refers to cowardice rather than villainy. In Polish, the impression is that of (self-)contempt. In this and similar cases, the loss of meaning and the compromise of narrative techniques result from systemic differences between languages, rather than any lack of translatorial skills (with the possible exception of Węsławska’s version, as she seems not to have understood Conrad’s writing). The translation series demonstrates certain tendencies in the treatment of Conrad’s linguistic and narrative solutions. The first translator did not understand the innovatory nature of Conrad’s techniques. Węsławska had no access to critical analyses that would allow her to investigate comprehensively the linguistic and narrative aspects of Lord Jim. Hence her solutions often normalize and trivialize the original. She eliminates many elements signifying the orality of Lord Jim, for instance phatic expressions, such as ‘you know’, repetitions and onomatopoeic words. Single omissions do not significantly mask these yarn features, but, as they accumulate, they minimize the text’s status as an oral tale. When eliminating repetitions, Węsławska also omits those indicating Jim’s stammering and indecision. Her text exhibits the largest degree of stylistic disjunction with the original and significantly changes the image of the protagonist. Occasionally, she translates literally original idioms, such as ‘as old as the hills’, which is counterproductive. Conrad often defamiliarizes specific words that are related semantically with particular episodes or characters (by activating their different meanings and forcing readers to search for various interpretations), thus superimposing additional meanings on them or creating intratextual relations. However, Węsławska’s literal translations of fixed phrases defamiliarize expressions that are meant to sound natural. Zagórska, too, could not take advantage of critical work on Conrad, yet she seems to have recognized the innovatory nature of Conrad’s fictions, though (as demonstrated by Najder) she sometimes misunderstood the purposefulness of repeated key expressions. Although she did have direct contact with the writer (both personally and through correspondence), she rarely discussed practical translatorial solutions with him. Her first translation appeared in 1923, a year before the writer’s death, so the bulk of her work was done without his support or the possibility of clarifying authorial intentions. As for specific hints, he told her how the title of ‘Heart of Darkness’ should be rendered (Zagórska 1928/1996, 315), a suggestion she followed. In their correspondence Conrad sporadically suggested other possibilities, like the title Almayer’s Daughter most likely for Almayer’s Folly (letter of 21 August 1921, CL7, 331), which she ignored. No proof is presently available for Conrad’s direct influence on Zagórska’s translations, apart from these infrequent hints in surviving letters. In fact, he praised her 51

The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

versions before he saw them, trusting her linguistic sensitivity entirely, without checking the quality of her translations. In the context of her work on Almayer’s Folly, he only advised her in advance that his English was not literary and that he wrote idiomatically. He further added, ‘Je vous connais. J’ai foi en vous. Et vraiment Conrad vu à travers Angèle, ça ne sera pas déjà si mauvais. Inspirez-vous bien de cette idée qui pourra peut-être alléger un peu la tâche ingrate que vous pensez entreprendre’ (CL7, 75).4 Later, in 1921, he wrote to her: ‘I’m sure your translation is excellent. J’ai beaucoup de confiance dans votre tempérament et le tour particulier de votre esprit m’est infiniment sympathique’ (CL7, 393–4),5 and added that he had always felt that she understood him well. This manifests a profound bond between the writer and his cousin, but does not indicate specific cooperation in terms of the writer and translator. Hence, it may be assumed that many of the solutions adopted by Zagórska resulted from her intuitive reading of Conrad. Despite her predilection for literary language, she generally does not significantly change the imagery but rather reproduces it closely, if possible. Occasionally, she misses the original semantic interconnections and cannot deal with the naturalness of dialogue. Zagórska differentiates language analogically to the original: she introduces untypical linguistic forms when untypical phrases appear in the original, while she prefers paraphrases or functional equivalents for conventional original phrases. This often allows her to preserve the dialectic between the unfamiliar and naturalness of language at the stylistic level. Both modern translators had access to critical metatexts, stressing the orality of the yarn, and both reject the poetic quality of the text for the sake of colloquialism. However, when language is used creatively in the original (for sound impressions or the activation of both literal and metaphorical meanings), such an approach is misguided. This is most evident in Filipczuk’s version because he often ignores the original semantic organization of the text and conventionalizes the language with substitutions that are designed to create a fluent text. Kłobukowski, with some exceptions, is more aware of linguistic creativity in Lord Jim and offers his own innovative elements. His translation recreates the style of an orally presented tale that frequently characterizes Marlow’s narrative. His Marlow is most credible as a yarn teller. However, the original Marlow is a narrator who employs different registers and creatively transforms his linguistic resources. Excessive use of everyday or even slangish language vulgarizes both Marlow as a narrator and also other characters that he presents, and additionally diminishes the rich linguistic and semantic texture of the original. For instance, Jim speaks to Marlow freely, but keeps his distance because of their chance acquaintance, their age difference and their relative social positions. His language is informal, but not trivially colloquial. In Kłobukowski’s translation, Jim is most natural, but the image of him created through his language use is also most radically affected as his speech seems too colloquial. A certain disjunction appears as regards the social aspects of language, while the use of domestic idioms and expressions masks the cultural background of the characters.


‘I know you. I have confidence in you. And indeed Conrad seen through Aniela’s eyes will by no means be bad. Take heart from this idea that may perhaps lighten a bit the thankless task you are considering taking up.’ 5 ‘I have a good deal of confidence in your temperament and the individual cast of your mind is wholly sympathetic to me’ (CL7, 394).


The Polish Translation and Reception of Lord Jim

Characters’ idiolect In Lord Jim, Conrad endows characters with their specific idiolects, creating the novel’s distinctive linguistic polyphony. This is particularly evident in the case of characters of foreign origin. The most interesting solutions concern the German characters, because they differ ethically and morally, and each of them speaks a different variety of English with German interferences. The solutions adopted by the translators can be exemplified by their handling of the Patna’s captain and Stein. The treatment of the first words spoken by the Captain – ‘Look at dese cattle’ (LJ, 15) – is symptomatic of the translators’ strategies. All the translations are equivalent semantically, but not expressively. Both Węsławska and Zagórska eliminate the skipper’s foreignness as they do not mark his phonological oddity. The former makes the skipper address Jim directly, thus imposing a professional hierarchy, with the skipper treating Jim with superiority. Zagórska selects the honorific form Mister, but eliminates the foreign accent. Najder in his correction marks the skipper’s words with an incorrect grammatical form. Filipczuk ignores the linguistic idiosyncrasy. The only translator who re-expresses the marked element with an analogous effect (phonological distortion) is Kłobukowski: ‘Pacz pan na to bidlo!’ (Kłobukowski, 17). His version is the most radical, as two words are stylized (written as if inappropriately pronounced). In longer chunks of the skipper’s speech it becomes evident that both female translators largely or completely ignore these markers of foreignness, whereas Najder and Kłobukowski consistently stylize the speech even when it is correct in the original, thus amplifying the effect. In such longer utterances, Węsławska introduces unnecessary inversions which make the skipper’s language bombastic rather than vulgar. Zagórska’s version is more naturally colloquial, yet without phonetic interference. Najder selects grammatical stylization (inappropriate declination and elliptical structures without the verb), but these elements are not systematic and do not appear in every utterance. Kłobukowski consistently introduces phonetic markers (inappropriate pronunciation signalled by what appear as transcribed words), attempting to achieve a homogenous effect. His skipper’s speech reflects the manner in which Germans would pronounce Polish words, making the character quite credible. Yet, he introduces more markers of foreignness than the original text, occasionally exaggerating the effect. In Filipczuk’s translation, no consistent technique can be noticed. Phonetically the utterances are correct and he mostly copies Najder’s solutions, but occasionally he corrects the deliberate errors. The Polish translations also offer different images of Stein. Węsławska eliminates markers of Stein’s linguistic and cultural background (German words and unusual syntax), thus erasing significant clues to features of his philosophy and ambivalence. In her version, Stein is illogical rather than ambiguous, as he mixes registers (colloquial with elevated formal language). Zagórska does not expose the changed word order in specific sentences; consequently they do not stand out from the co-text. She retains German intrusions, but these are but one element of Stein’s idiolect. It is primarily the inverted syntax that highlights the most important sentences in terms of their philosophical content, and this feature is lost. Najder’s corrections to Zagórska’s translation bring it closest to the original out of all the Polish versions of Lord Jim. The syntax is changed in exactly the same sentences as in the original, and all specific idiolectal elements are reflected. Even quite unnatural anaphors reproduce the somewhat artificial quality of Stein’s oratorical skills. Kłobukowski stylizes Stein’s utterances both grammatically and lexically (with incorrect forms of nouns and verbs), thus distorting the image of the philosophical 53

The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

German. His solutions stress linguistic foreignness, but not specific sentences of philosophical meaning. As a result, Stein is endowed with more evident verbal humour, which is not Conrad’s aim per se. Filipczuk focuses on the metatext in which explanations are provided rather than on the quality of translation. In many of his earlier utterances, Stein’s syntax is correct; then surprisingly unnatural word order appears in the first sentence of a longer monologue, only to be quickly abandoned. Consequently, only one sentence becomes defamiliarized, and it is inconsistent with the language of this character globally. In the original, Stein’s language harmonizes with the cultural background, which is important for the interpretation of his words as expressing his philosophical convictions. An analogous effect is achieved only in Zagórska’s version as corrected by Najder. Other solutions are at the two extremes: utter erasure of his idiolect (Węsławska) and excessive stylization creating a more comical version (Kłobukowski). Despite the various techniques adopted, the Polish versions do not create the analogous effect of a moral and ethical hierarchy of German characters reflected through their language and the significance of highlighting only specific sentences through stylization.

Conclusion Polish readers have at their disposal five versions of Lord Jim, and in some respects the differences existing between them are quite extreme. Except for the first, the translations do not significantly distort the ideological and semantic levels of the original, but they treat the textual level dissimilarly. This greatly affects Marlow as a credible narrator. In Węsławska’s Lord Jim, Marlow is a bland narrator who neutralizes his story linguistically and culturally. When recounting information collected from others, he does not reflect the manner in which such stories were originally told. Thus, his tale is rendered monotonous to his intradiegetic addressees, hence losing some salient features of the yarn. By ignoring idiolects, Węsławska does not recreate their functions, thus losing their aesthetic and ideological values. By abridging the original, especially as regards the events described in Marlow’s letter, she prevents readers from comprehending Jim’s internal struggle prior to his ultimate decision, thus demolishing the psychological level of the text. Additionally, Marlow in her interpretation patronizes Jim, and his speech is excessively bookish. The first translation thus distorted the original and provided Polish readers with a very different text to that created by Conrad. New light was shed on Lord Jim by Zagórska. She largely reconstructs the English and Malay cultural background and the psychological justification for Jim’s decision, if only by providing a complete transcript of the original. Her Marlow is close to the original in terms of a conscious use of language (metaphors, onomatopoeia, phatic expressions), yet he drifts away from his original counterpart in occasionally employing unprofessional jargon (through her mistakes with sailing vocabulary), in using literary language instead of colloquial varieties and from the absence of linguistic polyphony in his storytelling. These problematic areas were amended by Najder, who allowed Polish readers access to a novel much closer to the original than they had had for three decades. A radically new version was presented by Kłobukowski. His Marlow combines colloquial language with consciously shaped literary effects. He effortlessly scatters metaphors, symbolic meanings and alliterations and is an experienced storyteller. However, sometimes symbolic 54

The Polish Translation and Reception of Lord Jim

aspects of the original are lost in his narration, and the language is occasionally excessively colloquial. In this translation, characters are given their own voice through their idiolects, yet it is linguistic humour that is most evident in their stylizations, which does not always reflect the original functions of Conrad’s linguistic polyphony. In terms of culture, Marlow in this version stresses the cultural otherness of Patusan. Patusan appears to be completely cut off from other Malay locations in its culture, which does not really do justice to the original. In the latest available version by Filipczuk, Marlow is a narrator with unstable features. He exoticizes geographical space by vernacular words, but then finds it difficult to describe foreign locations. His language is exceptionally heterogeneous: he uses colloquial, bookish and archaic expressions, as if he desired to be a storyteller conscious of narrating a literary text written in the nineteenth century. Filipczuk provides a large number of footnotes, which does not affect Marlow’s narration as such, but impacts on the reader’s reception of the text because such explanations are often excessive and sometimes contradictory to the main text. Unfortunately, this last translation also contains many mistakes, which is surprising given the corrective function of a diachronic series. Thus, out of the five versions, only two – Zagórska’s corrected by Najder and Kłobukowski’s – can be considered as reproducing the original, each via different means. The former can be viewed as a rather close rendering, linguistically rooted in the early twentieth century, the latter as a radically changed modern version. As well as the different contexts of reception, what was received in the 1890s, in 1904, in the 1930s was very different from the texts currently being received.




Introduction In Polish, whoever wants to talk about the vast expanses of Russia east of the Urals has a choice between two names: Sybir and Syberia. The coexistence of two Polish synonyms for Siberia seems to be an interesting case of semantic disambiguation according to the emotional charge carried by a toponym (see Kijak 2010, 49; Żbikowski 1996, 13). Using the word Syberia in Polish, one can talk about the Russian East in a neutral way, emphasizing that it is a certain geographical space. In contrast, when one uses the word Sybir, which the Polish language directly borrowed from Russian, one is talking about Siberia as ‘the largest prison on earth’, a ‘prison without bars’ (to use a standard Polish stereotype).1 When using the word Sybir, one is alluding to what is called the ‘martyrology of Siberia’ in Polish culture – the numerous eyewitness accounts and fantastical tales, the historical narratives and the fictionalized travelogues that exist about real and imagined journeys to Siberia. For more than two centuries, Siberia has functioned as a prime memorial site, a locus memoriae, a focal point for Polish identity, especially at a time when there was no Polish state and when exile to Siberia was a common prospect in many Polish families. It was not until fairly recently that the Polish perspective was beginning to be augmented by also highlighting the more positive effects of Polish migration to Siberia: the emergence of a culturally active Polish diaspora there (see Kuczyński 2007, 8–11). Whoever wants to talk, in English, about the world’s fourth largest continent has a choice between one neutral geographical name, Africa, and an emotionally charged circumlocution, ‘The Dark Continent’, which is just as inappropriate for referring to the complexion of its inhabitants as it is semantically biased when used in present-day political discourse.2 What seems to be, at first glance, a similar case of using a name originating from the language of power to convey a subjective attitude towards a geographical space3 differs from the Polish usage of the Russianism Sybir when put under closer scrutiny: by saying ‘Sybir’ instead of ‘Siberia’, the voice of the oppressed is raised behind the facade of a mock mimicry of the language of power. In contrast, Joseph Conrad’s use of ‘Heart of Darkness’ for ‘Africa’ can be


The fall of communism in Eastern Europe paved the way for a new historiography of humiliation, as can be seen in a spate of publications on the history of Poles in Siberia, such as Kaczyńska 1991. 2 See, for instance, Mazower 1999. 3 According to Christopher L. Miller, Africa is, first and foremost, a projection of the European mind: ‘Europe conceives of Africa as the direct, immanent, unself-conscious annulment of its (Europe’s) own binary modes of thought’ (Miller 1985, 64). It may be added that even the official name of the continent, Africa, was originally coined by the conquering Romans (see Room 2008, 17).


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

called an innovative figure of speech, in spite of the criticism the author incurred in subsequent decades. Combining the periphrastic darkness with another emotionally charged expression, heart, Conrad ran a high risk of being accused of stirring up ‘cheap’ emotions that were to be difficult to control, even if he carefully diluted narrative responsibility for coining the noun phrase chosen as the title of what is arguably his most famous piece of fiction. The innovative character of the phrase derives not from the exotic timbre of the words used, but from the ambiguity and, indeed, the multiple semantics that result from the combination of the two nouns. It is hoped that a comparative reading of Heart of Darkness and Ice will expose some of the semantic potential resulting from the combination of the two nouns in Conrad’s title. In his novel Ice, Jacek Dukaj, a contemporary Polish fiction writer born in 1974, is rewriting the Polish tradition of exiles’ diaries, giving it a more promising outcome, and he can also be seen as rewriting the mythopoetic assumptions about Russia that shaped Conrad’s rather negative image of the country he was born into.4 Dukaj presents the reader with an innovative, multifaceted, alternative image of Russia’s icy east, as opposed to the ‘martyrology’ of the Polish historiography of Siberia. As can be seen from the book’s cover, as well as from the rather peculiar mixture of maps, cave drawings and photographs on the novel’s endpaper, in Ice Dukaj blends recorded history and geography with a counterfactual storyline that is largely fictitious. In doing so, he draws upon a multitude of literary and cultural genres, most of all adventure fiction, Cold War spy fiction, science fiction, narratives about the American Wild West and cinematic epics such as Star Trek, Star Wars and other examples of outer space fiction.5 Leaving aside issues of genre definition and literary influences in the classical sense of this term, the exploratory mode of Dukaj’s text constitutes a clear link relating Ice to the fiction of Joseph Conrad’s Marlow trilogy (Simmons 2006, 77–114), especially to Heart of Darkness: in both instances, philosophically-minded protagonists unbound by marital constraints or long-term relationships embark upon narrative excursions into the Unknown, lured from home by the prospect of pecuniary and intellectual profit. Moreover, both Conrad’s Marlow and Dukaj’s Gierosławski are cultural outsiders in the imperialist enterprises described in the texts: Marlow, the British captain, accepts a command at the hands of murky colonial authorities endorsed by whoever rules the ‘sepulchral city’.6 In contrast, Gierosławski, the eternal Polish student, allows himself to be recruited by the Russian authorities to eliminate a problem that exists deep inside the merely half-Russianized expanses of the Tsarist Empire. Both of the protagonists encounter the moral corruption of the empires of which they are part. Conrad’s birthplace, Berdychiv (Бердичів), is a typical example of a topographical palimpsest at the intersection between various cultures. Called Berdichev (Бердичев) by the Russians, Bardichev (‫ )באַרדיטשעװ‬by some Jews and Berdyczów by the Poles, the town is now part of the Ukraine, but it belonged to the Russian Empire for much of Conrad’s lifetime. Monika Majewska has outlined Conrad’s complicated relationship with Russia (in Schenkel and Trepte 2010, 89–109). 5 It appears that the discussion of genre issues with respect to Dukaj’s Ice is still at an early stage. Critics typically assume that Dukaj is a science fiction writer, but are rather vague about other genres that might have been inscribed into his novel. Magdalena Mrowiec and Natalia Lemann linked the plot of Ice with Telemachus’s search for his father Odysseus in Homer’s Odyssey (see Mrowiec 2009, 126; Lemann 2012, 185). Without using the term, Magdalena Mrowiec also detects traces of the Bildungsroman genre in Ice, as she states that the novel’s central protagonist is finally able to discover himself: ‘cała syberyjska podróż staje się dla niego drogą indywiduacji, procesem uświadamiania sobie rozmaitych potężnych determinant, kierujących ludzkim losem’ (the whole Siberian journey becomes an avenue to individuation for him, a process of realizing the various powerful factors determining and governing human fate; Mrowiec 2009, 139). 6 All textual references to Heart of Darkness in this chapter are to the Cambridge edition (here Conrad 2010, 67). 4


Polonizing Siberia’s Heart of Darkness

There are, however, some striking dissimilarities as well, the most obvious one being the more positive outlook that pervades the end of Dukaj’s novel thanks to the wholesale disintegration of the empire. Also, it should be noted that Dukaj is much less explicit in linking Ice with Heart of Darkness than he is in the case of another famous text in the Marlow cycle, Lord Jim.7 However, the common frame of reference between Conrad and Dukaj in terms of geography, culture and psyche is most visibly expressed in Heart of Darkness, so that a comparison between the two texts can yield some new insights into the character of both narratives.8 Consequently, the following remarks will be based on a parallel reading of Heart of Darkness and Ice. Rather than asking, ‘Whose idea was it to speak of a Heart of Darkness?’ the guiding questions for this chapter will be ‘How is this idea inscribed into the various layers of the two texts?’ and ‘How can each of the two texts be read as a commentary on the other?’ While Conrad’s most famous tale seems to have been translated into virtually all of the world’s major languages, Dukaj’s award-winning novel apparently has not been translated into English yet, at least not in its entirety. There are, however, both an English and a Belorussian translation of excerpts available at the Cracow-based publisher’s website,9 with the English translation by Stanley Bill totaling less than 5 per cent of the entire novel. It appears that the complete English translation intended by Wydawnictwo Literackie publishers has not yet come to fruition. The complete novel is available online in a Russian translation by V. B. Marchenko (see Dukaj 2011).

‘Africa’ as camouflage for colonialism In Heart of Darkness, Conrad never mentions the name Africa in his description of the destination of Marlow’s journey. Only when Marlow is telling his listeners about his youthful fascination with maps does the name of this continent come up. Why then, the reader might ask, is Conrad spending so much creative energy on obscuring the geographical location of the harrowing colonial experience Marlow wishes to narrate to his listeners? The obvious answer to this question is: in order to open up additional layers of symbolic and parabolic readings of the story.10 The colour symbolism emanating from the map at the Company’s headquarters can be seen as a good example of the narrative techniques employed by Conrad: at first sight an image of diversity, vitality, progress (‘some real work is done in there’, i.e., the British dominions)

7 See the direct reference to Lord Jim in Ice (166). The consonance with Heart of Darkness is decidedly less explicit: apart from the dichotomy of light and darkness at the forefront of the novel, expressions such as ‘serce Zimy’ (the heart of Winter, see 582, 602) suggest a rather opaque intertextual connection between Conrad and Dukaj. Also, one could argue a case for Dukaj’s indebtedness to Conrad’s excursions into spy fiction in The Secret Agent (1907) and Under Western Eyes (1911). 8 Without turning this into a point of principle, this chapter is aiming more at tracing what Dionýz Ďurišin has called ‘literary-typological relationships’ (see Ďurišin 1984, 203–7) rather than claiming that Heart of Darkness was the central point of reference for Dukaj when he was writing Ice. Because of constraints of space, all other intertextual affinities to Ice, such as Fyodor Dostoevsky Zapiski iz mertvogo doma (House of the Dead), Juliusz Słowacki’s Anhelli (see Mrowiec 2009) and Jules Verne’s Michel Strogoff, will be omitted here. 9 See Roughly one-third of the first chapter of Ice is also available in pdf format in the online archives of the European Union Prize for Literature, which Dukaj won for his novel in 2009. See www. 10 For another answer, see the chapter on ‘Trade Secrets’ in Hampson 2012, 52–72.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

(50), the rainbow of national colours representing the European ‘scramble for Africa’, instead of realizing the biblical promise of making a truce between Man and God, ultimately turns into an emblem of darkness. Conrad, the impressionist, might have been aware that all colours mixed together produce black. The same can be said about Kurtz. The Company’s most efficient agent, allegedly an ‘emissary of light’, is found out by Marlow to be the exact opposite: a sick ‘Prince of Darkness’, a hollow hybrid assisted by a harlequin – maybe because too many colours ‘contributed to the making of Kurtz’ (95). In the tale’s logic, dancing to every tune – that is, being endowed by too many gifts and genetic dispositions – inevitably leads to the dance of death.11 Marlow, the only one aboard the Nellie ‘who still “followed the sea” ’ (45), seems to be subconsciously aware of the fact that he, too, is running the risk of being contaminated by Kurtz’s ‘horror’, of all the colours of the world finally merging into lethal blackness. Hence the long spells of silence that puncture Marlow’s account. And perhaps also the controversial defence strategy that Conrad seems to adopt in Heart of Darkness by camouflaging his authorial position behind a double-framed narrative structure: an anonymous narrator picks up Marlow’s story from ‘shipboard talk’, presumably to preserve it later in script.12 There clearly is a huge distance between the centres of the European empires and their colonial peripheries, not just with respect to geography but also in terms of culture. This means that any news filtering through from the colonialists’ activities at the site of their self-proclaimed mission civilisatrice cannot but fall short of the true picture. As becomes apparent when Marlow lies to the ‘Intended’ about Kurtz’s last words (see 125), self-imposed censorship adds to the atmosphere of camouflage and concealment that pervades the text. Therefore, there seems to be some justification for reading Heart of Darkness, as Mark Wollaeger did, as testimonial ‘to Conrad’s ambivalent engagement with the eroding distinction between information and propaganda that characterizes the early twentieth century’ (in Kaplan et al. 2005, 76). Since all decisive positions are occupied by Europeans, the Europeans also control the flow of information from the colonies to the imperial capitals. There is an apparent technology gap between the locals and the colonials in favour of the latter, but at the same time the colonials’ dependence upon technology is portrayed as potentially destabilizing, as becomes clear in connection with Marlow’s detection of traces of sabotage at the Company’s stations (65).13 Even if the locals are portrayed as submissive rather than openly rebellious, it is obvious that in this remote country the effects of so-called


A reference to this leitmotif of medieval and early modern painting occurs long before Marlow arrives at Kurtz’s station in connection with the description of the French steamer’s journey along the continental coastline: ‘We called at some more places with farcical names where the merry dance of death and trade goes on in a still and earthly atmosphere as of overheated catacombs’ (55). 12 Chinua Achebe bases his criticism partly on the ambiguous narrative stance adopted in Heart of Darkness (see Achebe in Roberts 1998, 115–16). However, even Achebe notes that the intricate narrative framework does not allow the reader to put an equation mark between the positions of Marlow and Conrad. If anything, it is the anonymous narrator, not Marlow, who can be read as Conrad’s alter ego, contrary to what most critics have claimed (see, for instance, Jericho 1984, 28). Even then, however, there remains a tangible degree of narrative uncertainty, since, as GoGwilt has convincingly shown, Marlow undermines the frame narrator’s eulogy on the River Thames (see Peters 2010, 154). 13 Conrad’s text is not explicit about this, but the railway carriage found by Marlow at the downriver station with one wheel off (56), the burning shed of trading goods at the central station (65) and the deplorable state of the river steamboat to be commanded by Marlow (70–3) convey this impression.


Polonizing Siberia’s Heart of Darkness

‘civilization’ are little more than a thin veneer that will soon give way to the overwhelming power of nature and local customs. Consequently, Marlow’s narrative claims that not only are the European masters constantly afraid of insurgency on the part of the locals, but they are also permanently at risk of reverting into tribalism themselves, epitomized by the fence poles topped by human skulls around Kurtz’s compound (see 98, 103).

‘Sybir’ as an alternative empire In the novel Ice, Russian history, and indeed world history in general, has taken an entirely different turn following the so-called Tunguska Event, a mysterious explosion above the Siberian Tundra near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in 1908. While a host of other authors tried to solve the riddle of what may have caused this event in novels and screenplays, Dukaj focuses on its imaginary outcome. The most important result is that in 1924, when the action of the novel starts, the Russian Empire has not yet ceased to exist. Not only have there not been the two revolutions of 1917, but the First World War has not taken place either.14 The Tsar is still in power, the Bolsheviks have been limited to a marginal role in history and much of Siberia is covered by a thick layer of biologically active Ice. This apparently intelligent Ice originates from the site of the Tunguska Event and is steadily spreading westward in the form of Ice Angels (Lute), which Stanley Bill translated as frostens (see Dukaj, Ice: 9–15, passim). The climate change has given rise to a new economy, the production of frost-resistant metals. This technology has helped Russia win a second Russo-Japanese war and its production has turned the area north of Lake Baikal into a capitalist El Dorado where reckless entrepreneurs, Russian bureaucrats, international spies, dubious technocrats and Polish rebels compete for power. Corruption, foreign interventions, ideological and religious strife are mushrooming in and around the city of Irkutsk, also known as the ‘City of Ice’ (Miasto Lodu) (see Dukaj 2007, 417–27).15 The beginning of Ice, however, is set in Russian-occupied Warsaw. Its central protagonist is a young man named Benedykt Gierosławski, a student of mathematics at the Russian Imperial University of Warsaw and an inveterate gambler chronically short of cash. Orphaned by the death of his mother, he has also long lost contact with his father, who was exiled to Siberia years ago and who has since disappeared without trace in the Siberian Tundra. In an attempt to pay for his gambling debts, Benedykt accepts an assignment offered to him by the Tsarist authorities: he is to travel to icy Siberia, the empire’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ (Króleswo Ciemności; literally, Kingdom of Darkness) (see 734–61), to search for his unaccounted-for father, allegedly the only human being who is able to communicate with the Ice. This is supposed to stop its further westward expansion. So, with a ticket funded by the so-called Ministry of Winter, Benedykt boards a train on the Trans-Siberian Railway bound for Irkutsk in search of his father. In the luxurious carriages of the Trans-Siberian Railway, Benedykt meets a motley crowd of spies, agents, travellers, religious fanatics and profiteers trying to cut each other’s throats more

14 Some historians, notably Richard Ned Lebow, have discussed the idea that the First World War was by no means the necessary outcome of the European power struggles that were building up in the second decade of the twentieth century. See Lebow 2010, 69–102. 15 References to the Polish original of Dukaj’s Ice will henceforth be given in parentheses.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

than once. Among the travellers is the Serbian Croat, or Croatian Serb, Nikola Tesla, who is in the company of a young French-speaking lady.16 It turns out that Tesla has invented a technology that can help defrost the Ice, but a group of sectarian fanatics called the Brotherhood of Marcyn (marcynowcy), as well as an alliance of speculators and entrepreneurs, is trying to prevent this from happening at all costs. It also becomes clear that Tesla has become severely addicted to his own invention, which helps those who use it to think three-dimensionally when, under the conditions of permanent frost, human logic is frozen to a two-dimensional way of thinking.17 On the train, Benedykt also meets a young lady of Polish origin, Jelena Muklanowiczówna, who later becomes his fiancée. After a long string of adventures, Benedykt finally finds his father. Because of his long sojourn in the zone of permanent frost, though, his father has lost all communicative faculties, so Benedykt connects him to Tesla’s machine, allowing him to depart this life with dignity. Tesla’s technology gradually brings about the end of the Ice Age that had kept most of Russia in its grip for so long. The result is a civil war between the advocates of Ice and the adherents of Thaw (termed ledniaki and ottiepielniki in the Polonized Russian of the novel).18 The outcome of this armed conflict remains open at the end of the novel. However, the title of the last chapter, ‘O nas’ (About Us) (see 1036–45), contains a glimmer of hope: Benedykt Gierosławski and Jelena Muklanowiczówna might be about to join a campaign to reshape Siberia under Polish rule, but presumably history will have other options in store for them as well.19 The image of the Russian Empire conveyed in Ice differs from Conrad’s generalized, carefully camouflaged representation of European colonialism in Africa. Dukaj focuses on intercultural tensions between the Europeans, who come from various ethnic backgrounds, rather than on the locals, whose presence in Dukaj’s alternative Siberia never seems to pose a serious threat to the cultural identity of the Europeans migrating eastward. In Africa, the demographic battle behind the scenes between the prodigiously fertile local populations and the shrinking communities of the European colonizers never seems to be far off. Conrad’s exceedingly noisy


As in the case of other historical personae, Dukaj seems to support his general pattern of counterfactualism by creating a triangular love story around the friendship between the real Nikola Tesla and the New York writer Robert Underwood Johnson (1853–1937) and his wife Katherine, with whom a correspondence of some 3,000 letters has survived. See Krause 2010, 176–80. 17 This idea was inspired by a scholarly dispute waged within the Lwów–Warsaw school of philosophy in the early 1910s. In Ice, priority is given to the views of Tadeusz Kotarbiński (1886–1981), one of the exponents of this debate. He adhered to the concept of ‘many-valued logic’ in an attempt to overcome strict determinism, focusing on the principle of the ‘excluded middle’, i.e., those statements that are neither true nor false. See Woleński 1990, 190–204. In the logic of Ice, the world outside the Tunguska impact zone is characterized by a three-dimensional logic of ‘true’–‘false’–‘in between’, whereas the ‘Kingdom of Darkness’ is based on a simplified ‘true’–‘false’ dichotomy. A sentence illustrating the validity of a three-dimensional logic is uttered by Gierosławski’s fellow-student Alfred Tajtelbaum in still not icebound Warsaw: ‘Car Mikołaj Drugi nie dożył swoich sześćdziesiątych urodzin’ (Tsar Nicholas II did not live to see his sixtieth birthday; 25), which is true both in the alternative world of Ice – the conversation is set in 1924 – and in recorded history, as Nicholas II (born 1868) was executed by the Bolsheviks in 1918. 18 The novel’s Russian translator states that Dukaj’s Russian is not always authentic. See V. B. Marchenko in Dukaj 2011, 127. 19 The defiant motto of the novel (‘My nie marzniemy’ – We will not freeze), which seems to have been almost hidden on the reverse of the title page – where in Polish books printed in the Russian partition would have been found the censor’s permission (Дозволено цензурою; passed by the censor) – introduces the personal pronoun my (we). The obvious patriotic reading would be ‘We will not allow the Russians to freeze us’, but one might conceive of an alternative reading of the motto including every reader who is willing to read a book like Dukaj’s from beginning to end: ‘Whoever reads thick books will never live to find his mind frozen.’


Polonizing Siberia’s Heart of Darkness

and apparently densely populated jungles are in contrast to the vast expanses of Siberia virtually devoid of human, as well as animal, inhabitants that characterize much of the setting of Dukaj’s novel. So Benedykt Gierosławski and Jelena Muklanowiczówna are given the chance to act the almost biblical role of a Polish first couple in a Siberia ravaged by revolt.

‘Africa’ as the modern Heart of Darkness It may appear that, in Heart of Darkness, Africa is the one continent onto which all negative clichés about alleged barbarity and lack of human civilization can be projected. This view, however, misses the point that Europe itself is at the very heart of Conrad’s criticism, as can be seen in the narrative framework of the tale. If some phrases occur that seem to praise the beneficial role of European civilization, as in Marlow’s reference to ‘some real work’ going on in Britain’s overseas possessions, any interpretation based on a close reading must take into account the narrative instability of the setting: Marlow’s story is told on unsteady ground, on board a vulnerable nutshell of a boat in the estuary of a tidal river, by a narrator who repeatedly falls silent. The tale is then apparently retold through the filter of another, anonymous narrator about whom the reader learns very little20 and whose memory may not serve him all that well after all. If one is willing to take the category of the author, Conrad, into consideration as well, another safety mechanism woven into the text becomes evident, for, in Edward Said’s words, Conrad is ‘a self-conscious foreigner writing of obscure experiences in an alien language, and he was only too aware of this’ (Said 1966, 4). Heart of Darkness calls into question the conventional wisdoms established by the philosophical schools of utilitarianism, evolutionism and positivism that dominated the decades before the tale was published. For example, the text gradually departs from all the ontological securities of positivism: mapping, measuring, collecting and classifying. As has already been shown, the map of Marlow’s romanticized childhood turns from white spaces to one solid patch of black, and the Company’s farcical doctor who examines Marlow at headquarters undercuts his own beliefs in phrenology by implicitly admitting the inadequacy of his theories when it comes to coping with change: I always ask leave, in the interests of science, to measure the crania of those going out there,’ he said. “And when they come back too?’ I asked. ‘Oh I never see them,’ he remarked, ‘and, moreover the changes take place inside – you know.’ 52 What is more, the positivist penchant for collection and classification is perverted in the Company officials’ taste for hanging their walls with items of weaponry, apparently taken from the locals as trophies, and above all in Kurtz’s leading position in the Company, which is based on the fact ‘that he had collected, bartered, swindled or stolen more ivory than all the other agents together’ (92). As the story unfolds, Marlow’s words make it increasingly clear for the

20 Except for a cryptic reference to Conrad’s short story ‘Youth’, contained in the sentence ‘Between us there was as I have already said somewhere, the bond of the sea’ (43).


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

reader that utilitarianism, evolutionism and positivism are just as hollow at the core as Kurtz is himself. Instead of holding the promise of future progress and development, Marlow’s narration focuses on the occurrences of fractures, fissures and holes, like the hole in the bucket of one of the firefighters when part of the Company’s stocks goes up in flames (65). Already the title Heart of Darkness hints at the fact that Conrad’s tale is deliberately playing with the stereotyped imagery of Enlightenment. The traditional dogma that knowledge, and hence civilization, is good, whereas the lack thereof is bad is undermined in many subtle ways. Perhaps the most obvious is in the perverted allegory of Enlightenment as it was depicted by Kurtz in an oil sketch hung up in the dwelling of the young agent at the central station: a draped woman carrying a torch that, first of all, lights up her own face, which is blindfolded (67). In the light of what is yet to come, Kurtz’s dabbling with painting can be read as a prophetic declaration of bankruptcy with regard to the philanthropic ideals with which he had originally embarked on his mission. The ambivalent stance on the tenets of the Enlightenment taken in Heart of Darkness is also reflected in the references to past periods of history at the beginning of Marlow’s narrative. Marlow displays a rare gift for oration here as he draws a parallel between the darkness reigning around the Londinium of Roman times (46–7) and the anonymous colony visited by him, which challenges the widespread identification of light with good, and darkness with evil. In addition, the emphasis on historical parallels can be read as an implicit rejection of the standard assumption of both Enlightenment and classical evolutionism that history is progressing in linear fashion towards ever more perfect states of existence. If ‘hearts of darkness’ are a universal constant, and if they are believed to reappear in certain places under certain political and economic conditions, then history is assumed to be progressing in circles, not in straight lines. Another clear departure from the philosophical traditions that dominated both the age of the Enlightenment and the decades shaped by positivism and evolutionism can be seen in the constant challenge that Conrad’s tale poses to the concept of truth. If Marlow’s comment upon his aunt’s romanticized notions about the colonial project (‘It’s queer how out of touch with truth women are’; 40) suggests that Marlow believes himself to be in the possession of a clear understanding of what truth is, this belief is gradually eroded as his story progresses. Marlow initially seems to subscribe to the traditional equation of truth and light, to the dominance of vision, but this creed gradually gives way to a different perception of reality no longer primarily based on what can be detected by the eye, but rather on what has to be sensed rather than sighted, heard rather than seen. ‘I know that the sunlight can be made to lie too’ (120), Marlow states. In Heart of Darkness, truth is nothing that exists a priori, but something that has to be actively construed through communication and social bonding. Accordingly, John Krapp is right in speaking of Conrad’s dialogic concept of truth (Krapp 2002, 103). As Marlow contemplates his utter loneliness among the other passengers and crew of the French steamer that takes him to his colonial destination, his hold on truth disintegrates: The idleness of a passenger, my isolation amongst all these men with whom I had no point of contact, the oily and languid sea, the uniform sombreness of the coast, seemed to keep me away from the truth of things within the toils of a mournful and senseless delusion. 54


Polonizing Siberia’s Heart of Darkness

Every now and then, however, lucid moments seem to occur in this world of misperceptions and self-deceptions. Marlow suggests that Kurtz’s famous cry ‘The horror! The horror!’ (117) may have been prompted by ‘a glimpsed truth’ (118). Perhaps in order to salvage his own concept of truth, Marlow decides to relate his story to others in the form of a dialogue that is essentially a monologue over much of the tale. The delayed response to this seems to be the printed book as the frame narrator’s attempt to create at least ‘hard’ typographic facts.

‘Sybir’ as the post-postmodern Heart of Darkness In Ice, Dukaj presents a post-postmodern alternative21 to the fictitious world created by Joseph Conrad, an alternative that has been propelled into the age of technology, albeit a technology that looks decidedly dated to our modern eyes: Benedykt Gierosławski, the main protagonist, travels on board a luxurious train pulled by a Black Sable steam engine (280), unlike Marlow, who is travelling with more primitive technology along the natural waterways. The list of obvious contrasts between the two texts can be continued: Marlow, and in fact many of Conrad’s other protagonists, gives the impression of belatedness – a hero hopelessly out of touch, living in a time when bravery and chivalry are no longer wanted. Gierosławski learns quickly to use the benefits of modern technology, such as a powerful firearm called a Grossmeĭster (88–9),22 to aid his cause. Kurtz’s primitive hut in the jungle is the final destination of Marlow’s journey. Gierosławski’s journey ends in the economic boomtown of Irkutsk, which is the home of a large cosmopolitan population that includes a sizable Polish diaspora. While Conrad’s narrative point of view moves from the metropolitan centre of a dark empire to the margins and back to the centre, in Ice, there is a shift of the point of reference from the old metropolises of Europe, Warsaw, Petersburg and Moscow to a new imperial centre shrouded in wintry darkness, Irkutsk. The relationship between the two texts seems to be mostly ironic, but upon closer examination a certain philosophical depth can be detected under the comic surface. The ironic attitude of Dukaj’s narrator with regard to Conrad’s fictions and figures is also borne out by the aforementioned explicit reference to Conrad’s Lord Jim, whose hero is ironically referred to as ‘Lord Jim or some other precious human metal from the pages of Conrad, which never rots, never, until it bursts – with a big bang and an echo stretching out to bystanders’.23

21 In view of Dukaj’s protestation, as expressed in an interview with Jakub Winiarski (cited in Lemann 2012, 177), that he disapproves of postmodernism and because of the rather idiosyncratic concept of truth expounded in Ice, I am inclined to revise my original view that the novel can be read as ‘a postmodern play with literature and science’ (Schümann 2013, 339) by adding another prefix post- to highlight the critical distance towards the postmodernist mode of writing. 22 The Russian term, given in Cyrillic script, means ‘grand master’ and can be used both in relation to chess and with regard to the hierarchy of the historical Teutonic Order. Apparently to avoid the latter connotation (in Polish, Wielki Mistrz), the supergun’s name is usually rendered in Polish in the novel as Arcymistrz (unrivalled master). Nikola Tesla later claims that the grossmeĭster gun captured by Gierosławski in a foiled assassination attempt on Tesla is one of only eight hand-produced specimens of its type (115). The gun is made of frost-resistant steel (zimnazo) and fires bullets made of pure Tungetyte, a precious metal mined in Siberia after the Tunguska Event. Whatever comes near the point of impact of these bullets, even Ice Angels, is instantly frozen to the spot. 23 ‘Lord Jim czy inny szlachetny metal ludzki z kart Conrada, co nie gnie się, nie gnie, aż pęka – z wielkim hukiem i echem idącem po bliźnich’ (166).


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Most of the other references to Joseph Conrad contained in Ice, including the recurring circumlocution ‘Heart of Winter’ (serce Zimy) (582, 602) for the industrial town Zimny Nikołajewsk (Cold Nikolaevsk) near Irkutsk, the fictitious centre of Russia’s arms industries, are less explicit. First of all, there is the atmospheric fact that the region of fictitious Siberia engulfed by permanent Winter also lies in permanent darkness – at least until the Thaw sets in at the end of the novel. The whole capitalist empire of the Siberian ‘Winter’ industries – that is, the mining of Tungetyte and the production of frost-resistant metals – is called the ‘Kingdom of Darkness’ (Królestwo Ciemności) (734–61) – perhaps an allusion to the title of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, which is called Jądro Ciemności in Polish. Then there are the multifarious plots and intrigues initiated by various pressure groups to prevent either Gierosławski from finding his father or Tesla from proliferating his technology. All of this resembles the acts of sabotage intended to stop Marlow. In addition, the search for truth figures prominently in both Heart of Darkness and Ice. Moreover, there even seems to be a modernized version of Kurtz in Dukaj’s novel: the managing director of the biggest Siberian company, Sibirchozhet, a man bearing the significant name of Pobiedonoscew (the bearer of victory). Like Kurtz, he is mostly present in the form of legends and rumours. He, too, is little more than a voice: Pobiedonoscew’s presumed voice comes from creaky loudspeakers and telephone receivers connected to lines that seem to end nowhere (1015–21). In the end, Gierosławski feels that his suspicion has come true that Pobiedonoscew never existed at all and that he was only a sham. However, the world described in Dukaj’s Ice also differs markedly from Conrad’s bleak vision of colonialism in Heart of Darkness, not least because of its central protagonist’s independence from all political and economic pressure that others try to bring to bear upon him. One may even go so far as to claim that Dukaj presents the reader with a tale about what initially looks like the ‘heart of darkness’ but which finally turns out to be a space in which all former polarities have been reversed. Images of disintegration may abound in both texts, but in Ice, a major empire is shown to disintegrate as a result of humanity, because of the fact that love, hatred, power struggles, diseases and also faith have proved ineradicable, in spite of all attempts to deep-freeze the historical process along the lines of two-dimensional logic. In Heart of Darkness, in contrast, it is humanity that is shown to disintegrate under the influence of empires, and there are strong textual indications suggesting that this will always be the case. In Dukaj’s novel Ice, the existence of all empires seems to be subverted by presenting a historically distorted mirror image of modern capitalism projected into the counterfactual fiction of an alternative Russian Empire. This empire is finally about to be dismantled by people who, like Gierosławski, come from the margins of the imperial space.

Language under threat of extinction Heart of Darkness is a tale about the instability of cultural hegemonies. This is also reflected in a linguistic power struggle going on under the surface of the tale, which is not only a struggle between various European languages of power for a dominant position, but also a struggle for the preservation of language as a means of human communication in general. In the colonial space where the ominous Company is active, French and English can be seen as competing for superiority. Closer textual scrutiny reveals yet more representatives of multinational Europe taking part in the colonial enterprise, but they are faced with the necessity for assimilation to 66

Polonizing Siberia’s Heart of Darkness

either French or English culture.24 (British is a term that does not occur in Heart of Darkness and neither does Belgian.) The young Swedish captain who takes Marlow to the first station speaks English ‘with great precision and considerable bitterness’ (56) – bitterness possibly because certain of his experiences were not fit to be recounted in French in this colony. English, the language of the most serious colonial rival, apparently has a wide currency in this colony: when Marlow gives his gang of local carriers a dressing-down in English supported by gestures, he does not encounter any serious problems in making his message understood (62). When Marlow finally reaches the inner station, the Russian admirer of Kurtz immediately approaches the captain in elliptic English (‘You English?’) (98), suggesting that it is in this idiom that he will henceforth converse with him. Even if the text is not explicit about the language in which the Russian harlequin negotiates with the Dutch trader Van Shuyten, the spelling of the latter’s name suggests assimilation towards English culture. At any rate, it is highly unlikely that their common language could have been either Russian or Dutch. Marlow, the inveterate sailor in Heart of Darkness, seems to have a cosmopolitan identity, even if England is the country where his friends are based, the four other ex-sailors who have opted for a more sedentary life. Marlow assures the French-speaking doctor in the ‘sepulchral city’ that he is not a typical representative of his country. The examination for the post reveals that Marlow is sufficiently fluent in French. In the colony, most conversations would have been conducted in that language, even if they are rendered by Conrad in English.25 Marlow seems to be able to master all linguistic challenges connected with his colonial mission. However, back at home his communicative skills leave much to be desired: as he narrates his story into the darkness that is gradually descending upon ‘the biggest, and the greatest, town on earth’ (43), Marlow can increasingly be seen to be at a loss for the right words. The narrative frame may present the tale in the guise of romantic dialogic storytelling but in actual fact no dialogue takes place among the five friends. Only once comes an exhortation to Marlow from one of his listeners to be ‘civil’ (77). This is language running the risk of losing its communicative function, of being pushed onto the brink of extinction. In the story proper, too, there are numerous instances where human communication breaks down. The Company’s officials appear to be unwilling to speak openly to Marlow, the uninvited emissary apparently sent over from the head office, about certain secrets of their trading activities. Marlow’s polyglot faculties bestowed upon him by European civilization, as well as his historical horizon presumably acquired in the course of a classical grammar-school or public-school education, do not seem to have much value in the colonial world, where life is dominated by the precarious equilibrium between the various forces of nature. Significantly, much of the novel’s narrative space is taken up by the rendering of noises. Conrad’s fictitious jungle seems to be full of noises – of roaring rapids, buzzing flies, sounds suggesting the presence of indigenous inhabitants. For Marlow’s over-civilized ears, human voices are not always clearly distinguishable from the noises of nature, as when he describes how Kurtz is

24 Christopher GoGwilt states that ‘the francophone scene of the Belgian Congo means that Kurtz’s report and much, if not all, of the dialogue would presumably be in French’ (in Peters 2010, 151). In some cases there are strong indications, though, that a dialogue takes place in English. See also Hampson 1990. 25 The presence of what critics and commentators have referred to as Gallicisms in the text of Heart of Darkness (see, for instance, Owen Knowles’s comments in Conrad 2010, 439–54) can be read as a testimony to constant linguistic border crossing in Marlow’s mind.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

being taken away from his station watched by a crowd of locals shouting ‘periodically together strings of amazing words that resembled no sounds of human language’ (114). It is in these passages where Marlow explicitly denies the human nature of the indigenous population that the accusations of racism perhaps have the largest justification.26 The figure of Kurtz highlights the novel’s focus on the disintegration of human communication. More than any other character of the tale, Kurtz embodies the linguistic battle fought over cultural hegemony: his mother is half-English, his father half-French; he received some of his education in England (95). Undoubtedly fluent in both languages, and having a German surname into the bargain, he is said to have a rare gift of oration. But when Marlow finally manages to track him down, he appears to be even more at a loss for words than Marlow is in the narrative frame. Consequently, there cannot be any real dialogue between the captain and the Company’s renegade trader either. And as far as Kurtz’s relationship with the locals is concerned, dialogue would clearly be a euphemism that acquires a decidedly macabre ring in the light of the impaled skulls surrounding his compound. The agent’s aforementioned words, which may be a sign of his awakening conscience, demonstrate once more the insufficiency of language in general as a means to render the true character of reality. As he finally falls victim to a tropical disease with which his European body is unable to cope, he takes not only his story but also his voice and his language(s) with him.

Language as a means of subversion As the Polish critic Marta Kaźmierczak and others have noted,27 Jacek Dukaj’s use of the Polish language reflects a careful attitude towards issues of style. His novel Ice makes extremely high demands of a translator, especially if the target language is to be English. Marta Kaźmierczak names three main reasons for this: his recourse to the slightly archaic Polish standard of the 1920s, the extensive use of Russian in the text and the employment of neologisms (see Kaźmierczak 2013, 131). Polish and Russian are cognate languages that allow for a relatively large degree of mutual understanding, notwithstanding the political tensions between the two countries up to the present. So Dukaj’s frequent blending of the two languages works out well in the Polish original of the novel. Due to its largely non-Slavic vocabulary and its reduced tendency to use inflectional forms, this cannot always be imitated by a translator in English.28 However, for the reader who is capable of understanding the original Polish and of comprehending the added value of Dukaj’s frequently inserted Russianisms, Ice constitutes a superb example of Polish post-colonial writing projected onto an alternative eastern counterpart to what has become known as the ‘Roaring Twenties’ in the West.

26 Chinua Achebe’s famous defamation of Conrad as ‘a thoroughgoing racist’ (in Roberts 1998, 117) demonstrates that, even in the 1970s, it was not possible for a (European) writer to touch upon African affairs and try to maintain a neutral position. Achebe’s criticism seems to miss the point that Conrad, the Pole, went through a long struggle for the mastery of the English language – his third foreign language after German and French, not counting the official Russian of his birthplace, Berdychiv – before he invented the English Captain Marlow. 27 See Kaźmierczak 2013, 129–30; see also Mrowiec 2009, 126, and Dunin-Wąsowicz 2008, n.p. (online source). 28 As is the idiosyncratic, impersonal form of third-person narration termed the ‘language of the second type’ (język drugiego rodzaju) (see 31–2) that Dukaj uses for most of his novel. See also Kaźmierczak 2013, 134–5.


Polonizing Siberia’s Heart of Darkness

Much of the subtle political irony of Ice derives from the fact that, in this novel, Russian is portrayed as the language of power, while Polish is presented as the language of culture in the broadest sense of the term. Whenever Benedykt Gierosławski comes into contact with representatives of the authorities or with those ruling the economic empire of Siberia, various Russian expressions enter his language. This becomes obvious already in the very first line of the novel, when the two petty bureaucrats from the Ministry of Winter who are blackmailing Benedykt into accepting his commission to search for his father are introduced as chinovniks (czynownicy) (7). (This is a borrowing from the Russian чиновник, a minor government official; the Polish word for a government official would be urzędnik.) However, Dukaj doesn’t just borrow a Russian word here, but also inflects it according to the Polish rules of phonology. By inserting numerous Russian expressions into his Polish text without giving translations or glosses for them, Dukaj creates what Ashcroft, Griffith and Tiffin call an ‘interlanguage’.29 In this peculiar idiom, Dukaj’s text sometimes comes close to a fusion of Russian and Polish, when there no longer seems to be a clear distinction of the borders of hegemony and subalternity. Components of this ‘interlanguage’ are not just Polish and Russian words and expressions, but also a number of other European and even non-European languages that the numerous travellers and immigrants bring to the Siberian ‘Heart of Winter’. There is no evidence, however, that they also come into contact with the several local languages spoken by the indigenous population, such as Buryat, Sasha/Yakut, Tuva or Tofa. The economic boom that this region is experiencing means that Siberia, especially the city of Irkutsk, has been turned into a real melting pot of cultures, a truly polyglossic space. In ice-bound Irkutsk, German engineers rub shoulders with British and American speculators and French-speaking travellers and bon vivants, not to mention a whole army of exiled Poles working as businesspeople, engineers, journalists, librarians and factory workers. Some of the passengers on the train apparently make it a sport to hide behind false national identities; some identities are volatile due to political factors. Siberia, according to Dukaj’s fiction, has been open to immigrants for centuries as a stronghold of religious tolerance; consequently, Jewish immigration, too, has been a major factor in the region’s economic development (see 151).30 Apart from Polish and Russian, German is another important source language for the ‘interlanguage’ created by Dukaj. The excessive borrowing from German starts as early as the first page of the novel, when the attire of one of the two government officials is described as comprising a Vatermörder (literally, a man who committed patricide), that is, the stiff kind of collar typical of the formal dress code in Germany in the nineteenth century. In addition to the specialized term Vatermörder, the German word Vater (father) itself also occurs a number of times in Dukaj’s text, but it is always blatantly misspelt as fater.31 These misspellings, as well as the constantly displayed tendency towards Polonizing the Russian and German borrowings in terms of inflectional endings as well as of syntactic roles


See Ashcroft, Griffith and Tiffin 2002, 65–7. So much so, it appears, that some sects migrating to Siberia even flaunt their alleged Jewishness as some kind of mimicry: Sergeĭ, one of the conductors responsible for first-class travellers, mentions the żydowstwujuszczie (a Polish transliteration of the Russian pejorative participle жидовствующие, ‘posing as jews’) among a long enumeration of sectarian immigrants of Siberia (see 151). 31 For the nominative case, see, for instance, 294. The genitive fatra, as well as the instrumental fatrem, display the tendency for morphological assimilation with the Polish system of fleeting vowels (see, for instance, 242, 250, 1026). 30


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

can hardly be accidental in Ice.32 They seem to be reflective of a general political and cultural attitude prevalent in the novel. In line with the Polish tradition of maintaining a relatively phonetic system of spelling, Dukaj renders borrowings from both Russian and German in a manner consistent with Polish rules of orthography, unlike terms of address and even entire phrases inserted into his text in English, French and Dutch. In these languages, the original spelling is retained and italics mark these passages clearly as non-Polish. The point of this seems to be to emphasize the Polish capacity for ‘writing back’ to the languages and cultures of the oppressors.33 (As European history bypassed the First World War, Dukaj’s alternative Poland is still a partitioned country, in which Russian and German are the two languages of power.) By appropriating both lexical material and syntactic structures from these two languages, the novel turns the tables on the official cultural hierarchies in Dukaj’s fictitious Siberia long before the actual collapse of Russian rule in Siberia, which the novel dates to 1930. The artistic play with cultural hegemonies is also reflected in the constant toying with the main protagonist’s identity. This begins with his name, which is not a name that has been shown to have any currency in Poland.34 Consequently, the reader may assume the name to be just as deliberate a creation as the many neologisms in the novel. Dukaj offers various possible interpretations of Gierosławski’s surname, depending on the linguistic frame of reference of the person using it. (1a) From a Polish perspective, Gierosławski can be paraphrased as ‘the Slavic gambler’ (cf. gier: genitive plural of gry, ‘games’). (1b) Nikola Tesla, alias Engineer Dragan, who has a Serbo-Croatian background, mispronounces Gierosławski’s name as Gieroszewski (93), that is, ‘the gambling tailor’ (szewc: tailor), which sounds very similar to Sieroszewski, a famous Polish exile in Siberia who, in real life, was an influential writer of fiction.35 (1c) One of the aristocratic train passengers introduces the name Gyero-Saski/Gierosaski, which implies a Hungarian aristocratic title with a claim to lands in Germany (Sasy in dated colloquial Polish means ‘Germans’); literally ‘Saxons’. (2) From a Russian perspective, Gero[ĭ] slav[ian]skij can be read as ‘Slavic hero’, but often the name is referred to as Jerosławski (Eroslavskij) by Russianspeaking characters, which could (a) be an attempt to reproduce the historical Polish pronunciation in words such as jeografia (modern Polish: geografia) or (b) highlight the reverse tendency of Russians to ‘write back’ at the Poles by suggesting a link to the hereditary Russian name Iaroslav. (3) If Ancient Greek is taken into consideration, geronto- (‘of old age’) may hint at Benedykt’s emancipation from his father, making Gierosławski appear like an autopoetic creation. This fits in with Gierosławski’s statement ‘Moi, je suis mon ancêntre [sic]’ (I am my own ancestor; 91). (4) There is also the truncated form (pan) Gie (Mister G), which is the Polish name of the letter G, while it also corresponds to the Anglo-Saxon tendency


In some cases, though, the orthographical and morphological inaccuracies may be unintentional, as in the following, partly incomprehensible sentence uttered by the shady and frequently incomprehensible Jules Verousse: ‘Potwór tronie die Dunkelheitmat nad nad nad maszyny’ (87) (in rectified English the translation would perhaps be, ‘The monster touches [from Russian, not Polish, tronut’ ‘to touch’, yet with Polish inflection] the dark home country more more more than the machines’). Dunkelheitmat appears to be German but is, in fact, unintelligible. Dunkelheimat (without the first ) could be a neologism reminiscent of Conrad’s tale (‘dark home land’ or ‘home in darkness’). 33 In the sense of the title of the book by Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin (2002). 34 At least not if two comprehensive registers of Polish surnames from the 1990s are an authority to go by. See Rymut 1993, 3: 342; Rymut 1999, 1: 234. There are no entries for Gierosławski, not even for a phonetically similar name. 35 Wacław Sieroszewski (1858–1945) is part of the alternative history created by Dukaj, since his fictitious œuvre includes several invented positions (see 441, 634–5, 868).


Polonizing Siberia’s Heart of Darkness

towards shortened names in familiar talk (see 581, 846). On the one hand, the polymorphism of Gierosławski’s name turns the central protagonist into something of a polyglot phantom, while, on the other hand, it also emphasizes the novel’s central philosophical idea that there are not just two types of logic, but many.

Degeneration as eternal truth Kurtz can be seen as the embodiment of degeneration under the corrupting influence of a latenineteenth-century European colonial regime. In his explanation of Kurtz’s moral downfall and his unheroic demise, Marlow puts the blame on the malicious influence of the primeval nature of the colonial space: But the wilderness had found him out early and had taken on him a terrible vengeance for the fantastic invasion. I think it had whispered to him things about himself which he did not know, things of which he had no conception till he took counsel with this great solitude – and the whisper had proved irresistibly fascinating. It echoed loudly within him because he was hollow at the core [. . .]. 104 Marlow also states that Kurtz ‘lacked restraint’ (104), implying that restraint is the essence of civilization and culture, whereas the lack thereof is that of nature. This anti-Rousseauistic stance is clearly at odds with both the romanticism of Marlow’s youth and the idealism of European advocates of colonialism such as his aunt. Traces of decay are visible all around him – in the discarded items of machinery at the first station, in the ubiquitous cases of disease among the European colonists, in the hippo meat his local crew lives on, in Kurtz’s hut and even in nature itself. One could argue that Marlow’s position is, in fact, that of a racist in this context, were it not for the cultural relativism expressed in the framework narrative. At any rate, it is a subjective perspective: from the few comments the frame narrator adds to Marlow’s account, the reader cannot conclude that Marlow’s views are objectively true. As the narrative frame clearly demonstrates, Marlow’s bleak view of modern civilization is not based on the empiricism of the positivist decades before he sets out on his mission, but on a subjective perception and reconstruction of the world. In perceiving his own situation to be in parallel to that of a commander of a Roman vessel at the time of the conquest of Britain, he can produce only images of decay in his mind – ‘death skulking in the air, in the water, in the bush’ – imagining that the Roman invaders ‘must have been dying like flies here’ (46). In this the overriding theme of darkness comes full circle again, images of decadence and decay are conceptualized as evidence for age-old degeneration, and Marlow’s assumption is that this is an eternal truth.

Revolutions as eternal truth? Dukaj’s Ice follows a different path. As the Russian Empire of the Tsar is quickly disintegrating in the final chapters of the novel, it remains unclear who will eventually step in to fill the power 71

The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

vacuum left by the collapse of the ‘Winter’ economy after the melting of the Ice. As Siberia is cut off from the rest of Russia, news filter through from Europe about a so-called ‘Armistice of Cracow’, in which the Habsburgs’ Franz Ferdinand allegedly signed an anti-revolutionary peace accord with Russia’s Nicolas II (see 1001). However, even in Dukaj’s fictitious world of alternative history, it is not clear whether this will stop the further descent of Siberia into chaos and in-fighting. As Benedykt Gierosławski and other survivors of the Siberian revolution are discussing current affairs in an Irkutsk hotel significantly named The Devil’s Hand (Czarcia Ręka), out in the streets some rebel groups proclaim the foundation of the ‘United States of Siberia’. There is little likelihood, however, that a stable confederation will emerge from the Siberian quagmire of violence and lawlessness any time soon. Just like Richard Ned Lebow with his counterfactual phantasy that Franz Ferdinand could (still?) be found alive (see Lebow 2010, 69), Dukaj suggests that the world as it is known today is by no means a necessary outcome of the historical process. As Natalia Lemann recently wrote, ‘History as such is a necessity, but only its existence is essential, not its meaning or its direction of development’ (Lemann 2012, 181). Read against the background of Heart of Darkness, the open-endedness of Ice might lead one to the conclusion that ‘History always repeats itself ’, that it consists of some kind of ‘Eternal Recurrence’, to use an expression coined by Nietzsche36 – even if Nietzsche is never mentioned in the novel. However, the ending of Dukaj’s text lacks the philosophical portentousness present in Conrad’s tale. If there is confirmation of Nietzsche’s concept in Ice, the recurrent theme in history seems to be that of revolution, not evolution, thereby opening up room for the individual to manoeuvre. Nikola Tesla’s invention, it appears, gives mankind the means to overcome the laws of evolution, to create ‘an evolution that is not a necessity – an evolution of a Fauna of Lies – Darwin betrayed by Satan’,37 so Benedykt Gierosławski muses on his way to the Siberian ‘Kingdom of Darkness’. Revolution as the guiding principle of history is also revealed in the first three words of the novel, the date when the actions starts: 14 July 1924, Bastille Day, 135 years after the start of the French Revolution. After all putative truths have disappeared, after the carefully engineered infrastructure and the political system that have kept the Ice in its place for so long have collapsed, constant revolution seems to be the only truth that is left to Dukaj’s protagonist in the end. Interestingly, though, the ending proves that, given the tendency of revolutions and revolutionaries to neutralize themselves, evolution, too, is one of the truths of a many-valued logic. Dukaj’s Benedykt Gierosławski seems to be perfectly adapted to this kind of constant instability of values. Unlike Conrad’s Marlow, he seems to have found his place in the ruins of the former empire. For him, Siberia, the ‘hell on earth’ according to Polish martyrology, becomes a promised land of opportunities. For him, the darkness has been ‘re-enchanted’, to borrow an expression from Alexander Etkind.38 So the novel Ice looks like just one more proof of the popular Polish saying ‘Polak potrafi’ (a Pole will make it).


Nietzsche’s term (in The Gay Science) is ‘die ewige Wiederkunft’ (Nietzsche, 3: 1988, 528). ‘ewolucja niekonieczna – ewolucja Fauny Kłamstwa, Darwin oszukany przez Darwina’ (343). 38 See Etkind 2011, 214–23. 37


Polonizing Siberia’s Heart of Darkness

Conclusion Ice and Heart of Darkness have been read in dialogue with each other rather than as evidence of an unequivocal genetic connection along the lines of influence, inspiration, creative response and similar concepts. Even if there may be various types of dialogue, and if not every dialogue will necessarily be based on the assumption that both interlocutors are equal, dialogues are a mode of communication that presupposes reciprocity. Speaking of a dialogue in comparative literature implies that the analyzed texts are, to a certain extent, read against the grain of historical linearity. In contrast to that reference to Lord Jim, there does not seem to be a verbatim reference to Heart of Darkness in Ice. There is a ‘heart of Winter’ where Conrad coins the phrase ‘heart of Darkness’, but there is a fashionable luxury train where Marlow seems to lead a rather less comfortable life, and there is the hint of romantic love where the misogynist Marlow believes in eternal solitude. Nevertheless, Dukaj’s familiarity with Conrad’s famous tale can be almost considered a given. It may be debatable whether the chapter ‘Królestwo Ciemności’ (Kingdom of Darkness) could have been written had there not been Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Nonetheless, the absence of a clear Christian connotation in the noun phrase serce ciemności (heart of darkness), when religious factionalism is so pivotal for the plot of Ice, makes it highly plausible that Dukaj had Conrad’s tale at the back of his mind but opted for Królestwo Ciemności because of the metaphysical subtext this allowed him to include in his novel. If the colonial journey motif alone suffices to warrant a comparative reading of Heart of Darkness and Ice, a dialogic concept of the relationship between these two texts opens up an additional potential for interpretation – especially with respect to the idea of truth, which seems to be so important for both Conrad and Dukaj. If Marlow is apparently thoroughly shaken in his former ideological foundations by the realization that he, with the hindsight of having been to the ‘Heart of Darkness’, can no longer see a clear boundary between the truth and the lie, Benedykt Gierosławski’s concept of truth is much more practical: even in the ‘Kingdom of Darkness’ he, the descendant of the zone of Summer, can see more truths than just right and wrong, true and false. Seeing the Russian Empire, whose citizen he is, on the brink of collapse is not enough to uproot his concept of truth. Just as there are different shades of grey between white and black, Ice demonstrates how there can be various tonalities of truth. Dukaj’s ‘Slavic gambler’ Gierosławski, a man of many identities, will no doubt be able adapt to whichever truth may come his way. Darkness has certainly lost its ‘horror’ for him.







The key thing to note about the French roman d’aventures at the turn of the twentieth century is that it did not exist; at least not yet. In the wake of the fall of the realist naturaliste movement, French letters were experiencing a crise du roman, a crisis of the novel, and, in seeking a way out of this impasse, various critics called for a new novel – the novel that was to come, le roman à venir, the novel of tomorrow – that was to be a novel of adventure. Thus they invoked the very temporality of adventure, the ad venire, in the novel whose imminent arrival they predicted. Their examples came from abroad, particularly from England, where they saw, in writers such as Robert Louis Stevenson, a way forward beyond the stale oppositions that had dominated literary discourse at the end of the nineteenth century: between the novel of incident and the novel of character, the roman romanesque and the roman d’analyse. This new novel would take the narrative drive of the literature of imagination, too long left in the hands of what Henri Ghéon called ‘pornographers, and churners-out of serials’1 during the long dominance of realism, and combine it with the insights of the psychological novelists, to create a new, highly literary roman d’aventures. What I hope to demonstrate is that it was this atmosphere of crisis, and these calls for a way out of the dead-ends in which the French novel found itself, a way out embodied in an artistic novel of psychological as well as physical adventure, which conditioned the early reception of Joseph Conrad in France. His novels of troubled, and troubling, adventure appeared to arrive as if in answer to these calls: his was the novel that was to come.

The new wave of adventure novels Le roman à venir The literary scene in France in the 1890s was dominated by symbolisme, writers pursuing the word, the image, and complex sets of personal metaphors in recondite, bejewelled poetry. The novel was never a symbolist form, and the novel was perceived to be moribund, the pseudoscientific researches of the naturaliste novel and the roman psychologique both exhausted. The erudite critic and writer Marcel Schwob, responding to the crise du roman in 1891, took this

1 ‘Sous prétexte de réalisme ou de pensée, la littérature d’imagination fut ces derniers temps abandonnée aux pornographes et aux entrepreneurs de feuilletons. On sait assez ce qu’ils imaginèrent. Il n’y avait point là de quoi la remettre en honneur.’ (‘Under a pretext of realism or rationality, literature of the imagination has been, this last while, abandoned to pornographers and churners-out of serials. We have a good idea what they imagined. There was nothing there which could bring honour to this literature.’) Ghéon 1900. Translations throughout, unless otherwise noted, are my own.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

idea of crisis and made it central to his prediction for the future direction of the novel. If the novel survives, he said, it would be a novel of crisis, a novel of adventure: ‘The novel will be, then, a novel of adventure in the broadest sense of the word, the novel of the crises of the interior and the exterior worlds.’2 Adventure occurred at the moment of crisis, and this crisis could be outward, and physical, or inward, and psychological or spiritual. Adventure in the broadest sense of the word was the key to the novel that was to come. Influenced by his readings of Stevenson, Schwob predicted that this novel would go beyond the dichotomy of realism and romance, and perform a synthesis.3 It was to be a novel of ‘réalisme irréel’ (unreal realism). Camille Mauclair joined him in an 1898 article entitled ‘Le Roman de demain’ (The Novel of Tomorrow), in which he argues that the adventure novel, reappropriated by intellectuals, is the way forward for fiction in France, announcing its arrival like a voice crying in the wilderness. There is only one way out for us: adventure, which gives us the world as our backdrop. Let us set up our heroes in the Fortunate Isles of fantasy. Fundamentally, what Jules Verne lacked in order to be a truly great novelist was only style and depth, the sense of a moral conclusion before the spectacles he described, and Stevenson, who was possessed of some of the superior gifts, touched true glory. Whether he be the conqueror of the Eastern world, captain, pirate, dictator of anarchy, or priest, or martyr, or chief of barbarians, or a new god, let him raise a voice more haughty than our little voices, let him speak as a master to the waiting crowd, this hero of the novel of the future!4 This description of the hero of the adventure novel of tomorrow puts us in mind of Conrad’s conquerors of the Far East, such as Lord Jim or Karain, his sea captains and pirates, but perhaps particularly of Kurtz, chief of savages and a new god, who was even then in gestation. This shows the extent to which Conrad was to both embody and subvert these ideas of heroism. Importantly, also, it shows us the three features that future critics would call for in this new novel of adventure and which Conrad was seen to succeed in capturing in his work. The novel must have spectacle; exotic settings and narrative drive; but also depth and moral implicativeness. Finally, the novel would be that of an artist, and have style, that eminently French quality that the critics found so abundantly in Conrad. Henry-Durand Davray as critic of Conrad The critic who gave the earliest and most sustained attention to Conrad’s work in its initial reception in France was Henry-Durand Davray, a literary passeur who acted as a conduit

2 ‘Alors le roman sera sans doute un roman d’aventures dans le sens le plus large du mot, le roman des crises du monde intérieur et du monde extérieur.’ Schwob 1891, 26. 3 See, for example, Stevenson’s essays on romance in Memories and Portraits (1887). 4 ‘Nous n’avons plus qu’une issue: l’aventure, qui nous donne le monde pour décor. Élevons nos héros dans les îles fortunées de la fantaisie. Au fond, il n’a manqué à Jules Verne qu’un style et de la profondeur, le sens d’une conclusion morale devant les spectacles qu’il décrivit, pour être un très grand romancier, et Stevenson, qui eut quelques-uns des dons supérieurs, a touché à la gloire. Qu’il soit conquérant du monde extrême-oriental, capitaine, pirate, dictateur d’anarchie, ou prêtre, ou martyr, ou chef des incultes, ou dieu nouveau, mais qu’il élève une voix plus hautaine que nos petites voix, qu’il sache parler en maître à la foule qui attend, le héros du roman futur!’ (Mauclair 1898, 175).


Conrad’s Early Reception in the Context of the French Roman D’Aventures

between English and French letters from the 1890s up to the 1920s, covering Conrad’s entire career. He was quick to recognize Conrad as ‘one of us’, ‘des nôtres’, in his first article on him, identifying Conrad’s ‘style’ as coming directly from the lessons of the French master, Flaubert. Conrad’s intimate knowledge of Flaubert is what gives him access to this quality, so rare in English books, and makes him an honorary Frenchman. This reminds me of a few hours spent with Mr. Conrad, by the sea; the conversation came to the subject of style, and Mr. Conrad, who is one of us, was able to express with a communicative fervour his great admiration for Flaubert and his great love of style.5 In this review of The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’, Conrad is said to employ the simplest of means to accomplish the most intense of effects, making the reader live through the ‘grand, tragic, mortal hours of the tempest’, these moments of crisis that are at the heart of the novel of adventure, in Schwob’s sense. Davray situated Conrad in a new wave of imaginative literature that was crossing the Channel from England at the beginning of the twentieth century, placing him with Kipling and Wells as embodying all that was lacking in the French novel of the time. André Gide had identified Kipling and Wells as embodying the idea of adventure, as he and his group were beginning to theorize it at this time, providing a new way of not only seeing, but living life, ‘quelque chose d’affirmatif, de forcené’, something passionate and wild (Gide 1900). And Davray, in his series of articles on Conrad, comes back again and again to this triumvirate: Kipling, Wells and Conrad. They embody the diametrically opposite pole to the dominant French novel of manners, drawing rather on the tradition of imaginative literature, of adventure. In a 1901 article, he places them in order of his preference and in order of their achieving the goals that Mauclair had set out for the adventure novel. Kipling has mastered spectacle, revealing an original imagination in his exotic Jungle Books; Wells has gone further, with his poetic vision and his philosophical depth: ‘beyond the exterior action’ he captures ‘the scope of the Idea’. But it is only Conrad who achieves all three, combining exterior action with profound ideas, but also writing with style, mastering form: Joseph Conrad, in Lord Jim, Tales of Unrest, [T]he Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’, has revealed to us, in exquisite form, an unknown world, and powerfully and profoundly dramatic existences outside our civilised and European conventions.6 Mauclair’s urgent wish for heroes of romance that bestride the ‘far eastern world’, that rise in the ‘Fortunate Isles of fantasy’, is recalled by Davray’s description of the powerful and profound drama of Conrad’s characters’ lives, in their exotic and savage settings. He goes on to characterize the Conradian adventure novel as one which revolves around conflict, that of the hero with


‘Cela me rappelle quelques heures passées avec Mr. Conrad, au bord de la mer; nous vînmes à parler du style, et Mr. Conrad, qui est des nôtres, sut dire avec une communicative ferveur toute son admiration pour Flaubert et tout son amour du style’ (Davray 1899, 265–6). 6 ‘Joseph Conrad, dans Lord Jim, Tales of Unrest, [T]he Nigger of the Narcissus, nous a, sous une forme exquise, révélé un monde inconnu et des existences puissamment et profondément dramatiques en dehors de nos conventions civilisés et européennes’ (Davray 1901, 252–3).


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

himself, with events, or with the elements, thus recalling Schwob’s crises of the interior and exterior worlds. If Davray’s project of becoming Conrad’s main agent and translator in France had been more successful, it would have more clearly placed Conrad in this wave of new, literary adventure novels, as Davray had also translated Wells and Kipling.

Le roman d’aventures Translations and reception As it was, progress was very slow, and we can see in Conrad’s correspondence with Davray a growing frustration at his seeming inability to place translations in the French literary periodicals. In the years leading up to the First World War, relatively few translations appeared: Marguerite Poradowska’s version of ‘An Outpost of Progress’, in Les Nouvelles Illustrées in 1903; Davray’s ‘Karain’ in the Mercure de France in 1906; Robert d’Humières’s translation of The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’, which was serialized in Le Correspondant in 1909 and published in book form by the Mercure de France in 1910; Joseph de Smet’s Typhon, in Progrès in 1911; and Davray’s L’Agent Secret, which was serialized in Le Temps and came out as a volume in 1912, in the Mercure de France’s ‘Collection d’auteurs étrangers’. Davray’s stewardship of Conrad’s work in France had not been a distinct success. Apart from Davray, the critics had paid little attention to Conrad, though there was one significant article on him in 1903, in La Revue, by Kazimierz Waliszewski. Waliszewski had also made the link with Kipling, but presented the author, first of all, as a ‘phenomenon’, both in his double career as a sailor and writer and in the fact of his writing in English. In this article, Conrad is specifically presented as an elite author of difficult, not to say obscure, literature, as far from the popular adventure genre as possible. Indeed, there is this interesting opposition that we can see, where Conrad is often presented to the literary elite audiences of prestigious periodicals as a difficult, somewhat confidential author, known only to the initiated, whereas in newspaper reviews, for a broader public, it is most often as a ‘conteur’, a ‘storyteller’, that he is portrayed. Both audiences are also consistently made aware of his adventurous life, which gives him unprecedented authority to speak of dangerous incident in exotic locations. So as ‘conteur’ he partakes of the tradition of narrative-driven adventure, but very often he is seen to adopt and adapt this material, transforming it through the alchemy of his art into tragedy.

Le Roman d’aventures and the NRF It was around 1910, as Conrad was slowly beginning to penetrate the French literary consciousness, that he started to be read by the group that gathered around André Gide, who had founded the Nouvelle Revue Française in 1909. This reading of Conrad went on in parallel with the development, in the pages of the Nouvelle Revue Française, of a more clearly articulated idea of the roman d’aventures as the way forward for French literature. As we have seen, the idea had been brewing since the turn of the century, and now came to the fore in the group’s newly influential review, which managed to place itself at the centre of French literary life. Once more, the critics turn to England for their examples. English authors, they say, manage to transcend the dichotomy between the novel of incident and the novel of character, admitting 80

Conrad’s Early Reception in the Context of the French Roman D’Aventures

uncertainty, the unexpected (Ghéon 1912, 126–8). They manage to combine psychological depth in character analysis with what Jacques Copeau calls ‘that simple and healthy passion, the essence of the novelistic art: the passion for telling a story’ (Copeau 1912). Copeau argues for the roman d’aventures as the very type of the novel, rather than a specific variety of it. This theorizing culminated in Jacques Rivière’s 1913 essay, Le Roman d’aventure, a lyrical rallying cry, a call to arms, to blow away the cobwebs of the previous century with, finally, a new adventure novel, the source of ‘more violent and more joyful pleasures’ (Rivière 2000, 26). The novel that he describes is one of strikingly Conradian features, even dimensions: this roman d’aventure is a long, even monstrous one, in which ‘interminable narratives interrupt the principal story, confessions, pages from diaries, doctrines professed by one of the characters’, which seems a perfect description of the interleaving narratives of Lord Jim, for example. One also thinks of the ‘monstrosity’ that Conrad himself found in Nostromo, as the story seemed to expand in all directions beneath his hands. Rivière describes a novel in which impressions are communicated directly ‘in dialogue, in meetings, in visits, in goings up and down of stairs, in incidents on footpaths, in chance encounters on street-corners’, recalling the urban adventure of Conrad’s The Secret Agent, which had just come out in French the previous year. The novel he imagines is abundant, massive, ramifying, just as Davray had noted Conrad’s novels were; it is a novel that calls into being a new reality, a novel that creates a whole world. It is to be a novel of the crises of the interior and the exterior worlds, echoing Schwob, and so admitting the possibility of a psychological novel of adventure. But also, and perhaps most significantly, it is to be a novel of formal adventure: ‘Adventure is the form of the work rather than its matter.’7 This was the truly key observation of Rivière’s call for a highly literary novel of adventure: that this novel would not only speak of adventure, but would, in its formal experiment, embody adventure. And this was the quality in Conrad that then came to the fore. While many previous critics had commented on the combination of gripping narrative with psychological depth that characterized Conrad’s work, it was Joseph de Smet, the first translator of Typhoon, who drew attention to Conrad’s formal experimentation. In fact, he comments on this as a drawback in Conrad’s work, speaking of his ‘abuse of disrupted chronological order’. Conrad’s innovative use of anachrony is linked in de Smet’s Mercure de France article in 1912 with the complexity of his embedding of narratives one within the other, which also disturbs de Smet’s sense of literary propriety: I noted in Lord Jim, an otherwise marvellous book, the curious example of this type of transposition to the fifth degree: at a certain point the author says that Captain Marlow recounts that a certain Egstrom has written to him that a ship’s captain has related to him that Jim said to him that [. . .].8


‘L’aventure, c’est la forme de l’œuvre plutôt que sa matière’ (Rivière 2000). ‘J’ai noté dans Lord Jim, ce livre du reste absolument merveilleux, l’exemple curieux d’une transposition de ce genre au cinquième degré: à un certain moment l’auteur dit que le capitaine Marlow raconte qu’un certain Egstrom lui a écrit qu’un capitaine de navire lui a relaté que Jim lui dit que [. . .].’



The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Troubling narratives, troubled heroes Conrad’s difficulty Of course, this narrative experimentation – breaking out of the traditional chronological sequence of plot with anachrony, dispensing with the omniscient authorial voice for a chain of reported narratives that distorts, amplifies and blurs the facts, thus dissociating fabula from sjuzhet – is one of the primary ways in which we may identify Conrad as one of the first modernist writers. In the Nouvelle Revue Française, Valéry Larbaud, who had first introduced Conrad to Gide, provided a much more knowing assessment of Conrad’s formal adventurousness. In a review of Chance, in 1914, Larbaud comments on Conrad’s use of ‘indirect narration’, which he is said to employ ‘always successfully’. It provides not only the necessary distance from tragic events, Larbaud says, but also responds to the need for the ‘modern novel’ to have ‘a conscience, a critical and moral faculty operating somewhere: in the novels of Conrad, this conscience is the supposed narrator’.9 Here, Larbaud shows himself to have a more modern sensibility than many of the other critics of the time. He attributes to the novel itself both the consciousness and the moral conscience that others would speak of as belonging to the author. We note the difference between Joseph de Smet’s ‘the author says that [. . .]’ and Larbaud’s much more knowing ‘supposed narrator’. But as for plot, Larbaud goes on to say, ‘what does it matter to us?’ For him, the adventure in fiction is no longer in incident, but in narrative mode. However, in England, he tells us, things are different. There, the novelist must appeal at once to both the ‘discreet elite’ and the ‘general reader’, and the condition for the existence of the novel, unlike in France, is plot. And so, Conrad, unwilling to detach himself from what Larbaud calls the ‘old rusty carcass of plot’,10 continues to write novels that are adventurous both in their incident and in the manner of their narration, adventure both outward and inward, both physical and psychological. Conrad’s troubled heroes The turning point in Conrad’s literary fortunes in France was Gide’s taking over of the translation project from Davray and Conrad’s adoption by the Nouvelle Revue Française group as the author who best embodied their theory of the roman d’aventures, with the decision to make him the first foreign author whose complete works would be published by the Éditions de la Nouvelle Revue Française. The first of these translations to appear was Gide’s own Typhon in the Revue de Paris in 1918. The portrait of the obtuse and headstrong MacWhirr, almost oblivious in the face of the destructive force of nature, was to prove highly influential on the perception of Conrad’s work in France, associated as it was with Gide’s literary eminence.

9 ‘C’est un procédé familier à Joseph Conrad: la narration indirecte. Il en usé ailleurs, toujours avec succès. D’abord cela donne un recul nécessaire à la description des événements tragiques: mais surtout cela répond à un des besoins du roman moderne, que la conscience pénètre de plus en plus. Il faut qu’un roman moderne ait une conscience, une faculté critique et morale agissante quelque part : dans les romans de Conrad, cette conscience, c’est le narrateur supposé’ (Larbaud 1998, 187). 10 ‘En Angleterre le roman est obligé de s’adresser à la fois à ce que Jules Laforgue appelle la discrète élite et au “general reader”? De là l’influence sociale de H. G. Wells. Et c’est ainsi que chez Dickens paraît, quelquefois, sous les beaux tissus brillants de la fantaisie, la vieille carcasse rouillée de l’intrigue’ (Larbaud 1998, 187).


Conrad’s Early Reception in the Context of the French Roman D’Aventures

Indeed, Emily Wittman, in an article on Conrad First, argues that it was fundamental to the appeal of Conrad in France that he evoked a nostalgia for an earlier time in which masculine heroism was possible, the time before the First World War (Wittman 2013). In fact, I would argue that together with this nostalgia, which is certainly present, there is also a deep ambivalence about the very idea of heroism, a problematization of the idea of adventure, that particularly resonated with French readers in the wake of the Great War. Juliette Droz, in an article from 1918, notes that Conrad elects, as his heroes in the foreground, figures which had previously only been known as extras, as silhouettes, and that he questions the imperialist notion of the pre-eminence of ‘the just man, the strong man, the Occidental conqueror’ lording it over the poor wretches of natives, in a way that leaves the reader troubled and disconcerted (Droz 1918). Davray picked up the same point just after Conrad’s death: ‘Conrad’s characters are not legendary heroes, nor exceptional, complex, abnormal beings. They are in no way superior in physical qualities, nor in moral virtues’.11 Edmond Jaloux, in an article published in the Nouvelle Revue Française’s ‘Hommage’ to Conrad, just after his death, returns to the same theme. His article is entitled ‘Joseph Conrad et le roman d’aventures anglais’, and, in it, he attempts to articulate what it was that made Conrad so different to previous writers of adventure. He concludes that it is in his subversion of the conventional idea of the adventure hero that Conrad is at once so different and so much more of an artist than previous purveyors of adventure. ‘The heroes of Joseph Conrad,’ he says, ‘are not made for adventures.’ They are swept into adventure ‘against their will’.12 Before now, we had looked upon the heroes of adventure novels as if they were of a different species to us. We admired them without really believing in their existence. But with Conrad, we suddenly understand that we could be swept away tomorrow by twists of fate as extraordinary as those which fill Almayer’s Folly or ‘The Shadow-Line’.13 Psychologically, Jaloux argues, Conrad’s heroes are never completely determined, they are forever ‘moving and in a state of perpetual becoming’.14 This is a psychological relativism with which he sees Conrad as prefiguring Proust. In fact, Jaloux says, linking up with Rivière’s Le Roman d’aventure, if Conrad had written in French, if he had truly become ‘one of us’, ‘he would have given us a type of novel which we have always lacked: the great novel of psychological adventure’. Conrad, he says, was the only adventure novelist who was also a great psychologist. However, Jaloux does not see the possibility of this novel ever truly being written in France,


‘Les personnages de Conrad ne sont pas des héros de légende, des êtres exceptionnels, complexes, anormaux. Ils n’ont rien de supérieur en qualités physiques, ni en vertus morales.’ 12 ‘En effet, ce qui frappe au premier abord dans les héros de Joseph Conrad, c’est qu’ils ne sont pas faits pour les aventures; il n’y a pas entre l’imprévu et eux cette parfaite adaptation qui caractérisait les héros des anciens romanciers. Ils ont des aventures à leur corps défendant’ (Jaloux 1924, 73). 13 ‘Jusqu’ici nous regardions agir les héros de romans d’aventures comme s’ils appartenaient à une autre espèce que nous. Nous les admirions sans beaucoup croire à leur existence. Mais avec Conrad, nous comprenons soudain que nous pourrions demain être embarqués dans des péripéties aussi extraordinaires que celles qui remplissent La Folie Almayer ou La Ligne d’Ombre’ (Jaloux 1924, 75). 14 ‘Les héros ne sont jamais complètement déterminés; ils sont mouvants et dans un état de perpétuel devenir’ (Jaloux 1924, 76).


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

‘perhaps because the adventure novel comprises above all the examination of human solitude, and the French novel has no other object of study than society’.15 Despite a renaissance of interest in the roman d’aventures in the 1920s, it is arguable that the best answer to the calls for that future novel, ever tantalisingly out of reach, was to come from Conrad. In the translations of his work that were produced throughout the 1920s, we see him being adopted into the centre of French literary culture. As Rivière had predicted, this roman d’aventure psychologique from abroad was ‘infused into the bloodstream of French literature’. As we know, Conrad himself was sceptical of the very idea of adventure. As he said in his 1918 essay ‘Well Done!’, ‘Adventure by itself is but a phantom, a dubious shape without a heart’ (NLL, 190). Davray quotes telling words from him from around the same period. ‘Just after the war,’ he says, ‘speaking of modern methods of destruction, Conrad said to me “Romance died with the knights errant. There is no panache anymore. Adventure must be sought elsewhere, but everywhere that man finds it, he kills it” ’ (Davray 1924). This is the paradox at the heart of Conrad’s writing of adventure: it both belongs to a vanished past, the object of a now painful nostalgia, and it is forever in the future, slipping away over the horizon, in ‘that Ever-undiscovered country over the hill’, never quite attainable. His novels provided at the same time both the essence of adventure, for the French reading public, and a meditation on its impossibility. The French conception of the roman d’aventures, as it developed in the years around the turn of the twentieth century, was of a novel that would transcend the oppositions between the novel of analysis and character and the novel of imagination and incident. Conrad was seen to achieve this synthesis of opposites, being described as both a ‘réaliste imaginatif’ and a ‘psychologue romanesque’. His novel was the one that Schwob and Mauclair had predicted, and had called for, the novel of the crises of the interior and exterior worlds, the novel in which a whole world was created, in which dramatic incident intersects with vivid, living character, in which existential and elemental forces provide the conflict between characters, within them, and with the world around them. It was not only a novel of adventure in the narrative sense, but also in the philosophical, the moral senses, and in its formal experimentation. Conrad’s flawed, human heroes, confronted with the disillusionment of seeing their beliefs in romance shattered, questioned the very possibility of adventure, thus providing the philosophical depth necessary to epitomise this roman d’aventures.

15 ‘Si Conrad était devenu un des nôtres, il nous aurait donné un type de roman qui nous a toujours manqué: le grand roman d’action psychologique. [. . .] On ne voit pas ce genre de roman germant un jour en France; peut-être parce que le roman d’aventures comporte avant tout l’examen de la solitude humaine et que le roman français n’a d’autre objet que l’étude de la société’ (Jaloux 1924, 76–7).



In the 1930s a whole array of passeurs – reviewers, literary critics, publishers, translators acting as ‘foreign exchange brokers’ (Casanova 2004, 21)1 in what Goethe called ‘the commerce of ideas among peoples’ (Casanova 2004, 14)2 – had already contributed to the formation of Conrad’s cultural capital in France. As Mark Fitzpatrick’s contribution to this volume shows, early reviews and translations by Joseph de Smet, H.-D. Davray and Robert d’Humières3 and then Conrad’s adoption by the prestigious Nouvelle Revue Française (NRF), which undertook, under Gide’s supervision, to translate the whole of Conrad’s œuvre, had firmly established Conrad on the French literary scene. As Mark Fitzpatrick also shows in this volume and has shown elsewhere, H.-D. Davray had been the first reviewer to promote Conrad as ‘un-English’ and, essentially, ‘one of us’, thus ‘situating him not merely as French at heart, but also a member of the lettered élite, the world of letters’ (Fitzpatrick 2017, 79). There were also larger issues involved in Davray’s promotion of Conrad as ‘one of us’. Although the period which roughly spans France’s Third Republic (1870–1940) is commonly perceived as marking the ‘triumph of cosmopolitanism’ (Wilfert-Portal 2007, 27),4 with Paris as ‘the capital of the literary universe’ (Casanova 2004, 24),5 translating and publishing foreign literature virtually amounted to taking a stance in a protracted debate that had been raging since the 1880s between the nationalists and the cosmopolitans. In April 1931, H.-D. Davray devoted one of his ‘Lettres anglaises’ columns in the Mercure de France to the art of translation. Adopting the position of the eminent linguist and translator of Wells, Kipling, Wilde, Bennett and Conrad that he was, Davray’s chronicle does not, paradoxically, defend the profession against repeated criticisms of the poor quality of the translations in circulation: ‘[t]hat translators are very often not up to their task, no one denies. How could we? The evidence accumulates in abundance, most of it overwhelming. But if we revile them and if they are rightly held in low esteem, if not in complete disdain, we recognize the usefulness, the importance and the difficulty of translation’ (Davray 1931,


‘Les grands médiateurs (souvent polyglottes) sont en effet des sortes d’agents de change, des cambistes chargés d’exporter d’un espace à l’autre des textes dont ils fixent, par là même, la valeur littéraire’ (Casanova 1999, 43). 2 ‘Goethe tenait à la notion concrète de “commerce des idées entre les peoples”, évoquant un “marché d’échange mondial universel” ’ (Casanova 1999, 33). 3 Chronologically, Conrad’s first translator was his cousin Marguerite Poradowska, whose translation of ‘An Outpost of Progress’ was published in 1903 in Les Nouvelles Illustrées (Illustrated News). H-D. Davray’s first translation of Conrad followed in 1906 when his rendering of ‘Karain’ was published in the Mercure de France. 4 ‘[L]e triomphe du cosmopolitisme’. Wilfert-Portal is here quoting Raimond 1966. 5 ‘Paris, capitale de l’univers littéraire’ (Casanova 1999, 47).


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

470).6 Davray’s stance here is in line with the general devaluation of translators, who were viewed as menial workers whose contribution to the importation of foreign literature more often than not remained anonymous and who formed, as Blaise Wilfert-Portal put it, ‘the proletariat of the world of letters’ (Wilfert-Portal 2007, 29).7 Translation is an art, Davray argues, that is best left in the hands of published authors, real men of letters. Yet, for all his elitist stance, Davray’s point lies elsewhere. In the early decades of this lengthy debate, naturalism, which was increasingly perceived as embodying the respectable and stilted kind of literature upheld by the Academy, was running out of favour. The promotion of foreign literatures – which led to the rise of French Wagnerism in the late 1880s and of Symbolism, and to the importation of Russian literature, of Scandinavian theatre, with Ibsen as the most prominent figure, and above all of the British aesthetic movement – constituted the ‘act of secession par excellence’ (Wilfert-Portal 2002, 32) from the conservative academic pole in an ongoing debate over what French literature actually was or was supposed to be. Around 1895, hostility was mounting against foreign influences, with the ‘nationalists’ railing against the ‘denationalisation of French literature’ (Wilfert-Portal 2002, 39). The responsibility for this state of affairs gradually shifted onto the translators who were accused of contaminating the French language and of contributing to the invasion of foreign novels (Wilfert-Portal 2007, 47). A good translation, the nationalists assumed, should bend the original language to the usages of the target language, rather than corrupting this target language for the sake of rendering the stylistic peculiarities of the original language. Translators thus became ‘border-builders’(Wilfert-Portal 2007, 51),8 contributing to the nationalization of foreign literatures. It was in this general context that H.-D. Davray defended the art of translation against ‘a narrow-minded nationalism priding itself on its narrow, intractable views’ (Davray 1931, 475).9 Opposing the motto of the nationalist, far-right, royalist daily L’Action française –‘all that is national is ours’ (Davray 1931, 469)10 – Davray, one of the founders of the Anglo-French Society and co-editor of the Anglo-French Review, reasserted the importance of foreign imports both for the French literary market and for the French language.11 It is thus reasonable to think that Davray’s promotion of Conrad as ‘one of us’ somehow sought to propitiate the nationalists without conceding any ground in his defence of foreign imports, while Jacques Rivière’s and Edmond Jaloux’s wish that French authors look more


‘Que les traducteurs soient fort souvent au-dessous de leur tâche, nul ne le conteste. Comment le pourrait-on ? Les preuves s’accumulent à foison, pour la plupart écrasantes. Mais si on les vilipende et s’ils sont à juste titre tenus en piètre estime, sinon en complet mépris, on reconnaît l’utilité, l’importance et la difficulté de la traduction.’ 7 See also Wilfert-Portal 2002. 8 ‘Des bâtisseurs de frontières’. 9 ‘Un étroit nationalisme continental tire gloire au contraire de ses vues étroites et récalcitrantes.’ 10 ‘Tout ce qui est national est nôtre.’ 11 Teasingly, Davray also pokes fun, in passing, at columnists who ‘in want of a subject, repeatedly rail against the invasion of French by English words, not that I have ever seen a British columnist lashing out against importations of French words on the other side of the Channel, insularism being too wise to declare exclusivity against what is on the whole a vivifying and enriching contribution’. ‘On a souvent vu un chroniqueur à court de sujet vitupérer l’invasion des mots anglais dans la langue française, encore que je n’aie jamais vu un chroniqueur britannique s’en prendre aux importations de mots français outre-Manche, l’insularisme étant trop avisé pour prononcer l’exclusive contre un apport somme toute vivifiant et qui enrichit’ (Davray 1931, 475).


The French Reception of Joseph Conrad From the 1930s to the Present Day

towards the ‘action-driven psychological novel’ (Jaloux 1924, 76)12 that Conrad practised justified a more cosmopolitan approach to the world of letters. The translation of Heart of Darkness by André Ruyters, the first instalment of which appeared in the 1924 Revue des Deux Mondes commemorative issue, was to provide the required impetus, and the particular status that Conrad’s 1899 novella was to acquire seems to suggest that Jaloux’s call was heard.

The reception of Heart of Darkness in the 1930s Heart of Darkness can indeed be traced as a source of inspiration for a number of novels published in the early 1930s. The most notable among these are André Malraux’s La Voix Royale (The Royal Way), published in 1930, and Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s Voyage au bout de la Nuit (Journey To The End of the Night), published in 1932. In Voici que vient l’été (Here Comes the Summer), André Malraux’s wife, Clara, describes The Royal Way as a ‘very Conradian œuvre where are to be found the themes of this Heart of Darkness that we loved, with its movement back to the sources, its “womb-like” quality, if I may say so, the presence of the forest, and its sense of horror in front of the original mystery’ (C. Malraux 1973, 172).13 André Malraux had read Heart of Darkness shortly after its original publication in La Revue des Deux Mondes between December 1924 and February 1925. Malraux had then just got back from an expedition in the Cambodian forest and was about to leave for Saigon, and it is very likely that Heart of Darkness chimed in with his experience in South-East Asia. Commonly defined as an existentialist novel of adventures, the Royal Way, in its plot, characters, themes and occasionally verbal texture, displays striking analogies with Heart of Darkness. Set mainly in Cambodia and Laos, both of which were under the French protectorate, and Siam, the novel narrates the journey along the Royal Way to Angkor of two main characters: Claude Vannec, a young archaeologist sent by the French government on an exploratory mission who, without the authorities’ permission, intends to steal bas-relief sculptures from the temples; and an older, Kurtz-like character, Perken, a Dane of German origins, about whom the ‘myth’ goes that ‘he had lived amongst the natives, ruled over them in districts where many of his predecessors had been killed, and it was rumoured that the methods by which he had achieved this were more strenuous than law-abiding’ (A. Malraux 1935, 14).14 When he first meets him in Djibouti, Vannec is initially attracted by Perken’s voice, in which ‘there was an


‘Si Conrad était devenu un des nôtres, il nous aurait donné un type de roman dont nous avons toujours manqué : le grand roman d’action psychologique. [. . .] On ne voit pas ce genre de roman germant un jour en France ; peut-être parce que le roman d’aventures comporte avant tout l’examen et de la solitude humaine et que le roman français n’a d’autre objet que l’étude de la société.’ ‘If Conrad had become one of us, he would have given us a type of novel that we have always lacked: the great action-driven psychological novel [. . .] One cannot foresee this type of novel ever germinating in France; perhaps because the novel of adventures involves above all examining human solitude and because the French novel has no other object than the study of society.’ 13 ‘Œuvre très conradienne, certes, où l’on retrouve les thèmes de ce Cœur des ténèbres que nous aimions, avec sa montée vers les sources, son côté, si je peux dire, «matriciel», sa présence de la forêt, son horreur devant le mystère originel.’ 14 ‘la légende de Perken [. . .] Il avait vécu parmi les indigènes et les avait dominés, dans des regions où beaucoup de ses prédécesseurs avaient été tués, sans doute après des débuts assez illégaux’ (A. Malraux 1930, 15).


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

undertone of irony that seemed to lose itself in the dark immensity of Africa’ (A. Malraux 1935, 3).15 Perken’s voice, like Kurtz’s, becomes a leitmotiv in the novel, fascinating Claude who feels increasingly drawn closer to its expression of something obscurely inhuman: ‘a man’s voice, lonely and remote, poised between the shining sky, and death, and darkness; yet in it there was something so inhuman that Claude felt as isolated from it as he would have been by incipient madness’ (A. Malraux 1935, 144–5).16 The African context of their meeting, combined with these repeated references to Perken’s voice, contribute to the novel’s definite Conradian ring. This is not the only link between the the two texts, however, for if the younger character, Claude, may appear to have for Perken the fascination Marlow develops for Kurtz, Perken himself finds in Claude’s project an opportunity to go searching for a friend of his, Grabot, an adventurer who joined rebellious populations in the border region between Cambodia and Laos and was never heard of again. When Grabot is eventually found, at the end of the journey, tortured and blinded, held captive by the ‘rebellious’ Mois, who are depicted as cruel savages, the ‘truth’ that he delivers is all contained in the word ‘nothing’: ‘the man was not insane; he had lingered on the word as if he groped for other words to add. Obviously it was not his memory that failed him, or that he would not answer; this was his truth!’ (A. Malraux 1935, 159).17 The final note at the end of this metaphysical journey thus stresses the absurdity of life, the hollowness of it all. Grabot, who had always considered that he would choose suicide over a senseless death, dies with this last word, ‘nothing’, and Perken, who had always thought that he would put up a good fight to the end, dies a pathetic death, fatally wounded in the release of Grabot, and deprived even of this final experience: ‘There is . . . no death’ (A. Malraux 1935, 249)18 are his dying words. Heart of Darkness thus certainly struck a personal chord in Malraux, whose own novel offers a heightened blend of adventure, violence and a questioning of personal choices, reflecting this ‘obsession with the irremediable’ that he found in Conrad (A. Malraux 1976, 300).19 In L’Homme précaire et la littérature (1977) (Precarious Man and Literature), Malraux later wrote that the modern novel, ‘what, as an essential and international realm, we call the novel’, was born with ‘the persistent questioning of man which is to be found going on since Joseph Conrad, because it will be that of the West itself ’ (A. Malraux 1977, 77).20 Smugly denying the rest of the world any questioning of the human condition, Malraux’s controversial novel21 is also very typical of the colonial literature of the period.


‘[U]n ton de voix d’une ironie insistante qui semblait se perdre aussi dans l’obscurité africaine’ (A. Malraux 1930, 8). ‘Cette voix, seule, entre le ciel éblouissant et la mort et les ténèbres, venait d’un homme mais avec quelque chose de si inhumain que Claude se sentait séparé d’elle comme par une folie commençante’ (A. Malraux 1930, 108). 17 ‘L’homme n’était pas fou. Il avait traîné ce mot, comme s’il cherchait encore, mais ce n’était pas un homme qui ne se souvenait pas, ni qui ne voulait pas répondre; c’était un homme qui disait sa vérité!’ (A. Malraux 1930, 119). 18 ‘ “Il n’y a pas . . . de mort” ’ (A. Malraux 1930, 182). 19 ‘[L]’obsession de l’irrémédiable’. 20 ‘[E]n tant que domaine capital et international, ce que nous appelons le roman est né alors avec ce que nous en avons vu, et aussi avec la pressante interrogation sur l’homme que nous trouverons jusque chez Joseph Conrad, parce qu’elle deviendra celle de l’Occident.’ 21 Although not directly autobiographical, The Royal Way transposes the controversial episode of Malraux removing a bas-relief from the Banteay Srei temple in Cambodia, with a view to selling it to an art collector, an act for which he was arrested and charged by the French authorities. First sentenced to three years’ imprisonment, an appeal, following a petition signed by such famous names as André Gide, Louis Aragon, André Breton and Gaston Gallimard, reduced the sentence to one year suspended. 16


The French Reception of Joseph Conrad From the 1930s to the Present Day

Published two years after The Royal Way, Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s Journey to the End of the Night invited comparison with both Heart of Darkness and Malraux’s novel. Céline never acknowledged any Conradian influence and the only passing reference to his having read any of Conrad’s work occurs in his correspondence with the American scholar Milton Hindus in which, in 1947, he wrote that ‘The Nigger of the “Narcissus” was admirably translated by Gide – a great translator, one must admit.’22 Nevertheless, as Isabelle Guillaume has aptly shown, a common theme, that of otherness, connects the novel with both Heart of Darkness and The Royal Way: ‘[The three fictions] indeed follow the same thematic pattern. The three of them state, in their own way, that the time for discoveries is over and that the discovery of virgin territories, this topos of the literature of adventure, has been replaced by the exploration of the Other’ (Guillaume 2006, 2).23 Only four chapters of Journey to the End of the Night are set in Africa (chapters 10 to 14), and, in these chapters more specifically, analogies can be noted with Heart of Darkness:24 Bardamu, Céline’s semi-autobiographical character, is sent by the grotesquely named Compagnie Pordurière du Petit Congo25 to an inner station to replace a corrupt agent; his itinerary, the sea voyage to the coastal station, then the journey up the river to the inner station seems to follow in Marlow’s footsteps. Their experiences there present a very similar portrayal of colonial life. The general corruption, the constant bickering between the military, the colonial agents and the commercial agents, the absurd tasks with which most of the Africans are kept employed – such as building roads that nobody ever uses – while others, like Conrad’s ‘reclaimed’, are recruited to control them, suggest that, in the outposts of empires, civilization is only skin deep. Bodies talk, and what the ‘biological confession’ (Céline 2006, 95)26 reveals is the general decay and ugliness in these journeys to the end of the night or to the heart of darkness: ‘From that moment on we saw, rising to the surface, the terrifying nature of white men, exasperated, freed from constraint, unbuttoned, their true nature, same as in the war. That tropical steam bath called forth instincts as August breeds toads and snakes on the fissured walls of prisons’ (Céline 2006, 95).27 The analogy drawn here with the war is a reminder that in this anti-patriotic, anti-capitalist, anarchist, anti-colonial novel, the ‘horror’ both precedes and follows the African episode, which illustrates one form of this lack of ‘restraint’ that Conrad depicted in Heart of Darkness. In its generalities and particulars, however, Céline’s description of colonial life and practices recalls what Gide witnessed in 1925–6, which he related in his Congo Diary (dedicated to


Letter of 12 June 1947 (Hindus 1951, 147) (cited in Guillaume 2006, 1). The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’ was actually translated by Robert d’Humières, commissioned by Gide for Gallimard. This speaks volumes about the anonymity of the translators. 23 ‘Celles-ci décrivent, en effet, le même parcours thématique. Les trois récits disent à leur manière que le temps des découvertes est échu et qu’au motif de la découverte de territoires vierges, ce topos de la littérature d’aventure, se substitue celui de l’exploration d’autrui.’ 24 For a comprehensive list of similarities between the two novels, see Farn 2005, 89–95). 25 Left untranslated in Ralph Manheim’s translation, the name is a pun on the French homophones, ‘port’ and ‘pork’, and on the French ‘ordure’, which means either ‘garbage’ or ‘bastard’. ‘Petit Congo’ is the name sometimes given to ‘CongoBrazzaville’, a former French colony, to distinguish it from the Belgian Congo-Kinshasa; the name, nevertheless, belittles the whole colonial enterprise. 26 ‘[L]’aveu biologique’ (Céline 1932, 149). 27 ‘C’est depuis ce moment que nous vîmes à fleur de peau venir s’étaler l’angoissante nature des blancs, provoquée, libérée, bien débraillée enfin, leur vraie nature, comme à la guerre. Etuve tropicale pour instincts tels crapauds et vipères qui viennent enfin s’épanouir au mois d’août, sur les flancs fissurés des prisons’ (Céline 1932, 149).


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Conrad), as well as the colonial literature of the period. As Luc Rasson puts it, ‘the analogies spotted between the two texts (Journey to the End of the Night and Heart of Darkness) should not necessarily point to Conrad’s direct influence. One must take into account the role played by the European discourse on Africa’ (Rasson 1988, 273).28 All three novels, however – Conrad’s, Malraux’s and Céline’s – are structured by their main character’s search for another, Kurtz, Grabot or Robinson, fascinating dark doubles they wish they could talk to and get non-conventional answers from.29 But, as Isabelle Guillaume concludes, in all three novels ‘brotherhood is denounced as an illusion masking the real experience of “separation” ’ (Guillaume 2006, 2),30 and the quest for the Other reveals only the Marlovian conclusion that ‘we live as we dream, alone’. Besides these two very famous novels written by very famous authors, Heart of Darkness also spawned in the 1930s a number of now largely or virtually ignored rewritings. This is the case of René Guillot’s 1932 novel entitled Atonement in the Sun in Philip John Stead’s English translation (Guillot 1944) and Le Blanc qui s’était fait Nègre in the original French, a more offensive title, which literally translates as ‘The White Man Who Had Turned Negro’ and which more clearly advertises its link with Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. René Guillot (1900–69) is more commonly known as the writer of popular novels for children, such as Crin Blanc (1959) (The Wild White Stallion, 1961). Most of these novels are set in Africa, like Sirga la lionne (1951) (Sirga, 1953) or Kpo la panthère (1955) (Kpo the Leopard, 1963, translated, like all those mentioned here, by Gwen Marsh), and all written while Guillot was a maths teacher in Dakar, Senegal. He is also identified as a regionalist writer writing about his native Saintonge, on the west central Atlantic coast. One of these regionalist novels, Vent de Norois (1938) (Norois Wind) may have been inspired by both Typhoon and The Shadow-Line. Subtitled Roman Maritime (Sea Novel), Vent de Norois, as its name might suggest, involves a storm at sea. The ship is commanded by a Captain Mourne, who has a reputation for being cursed, and, when the crew are ill with fever, keeps bemoaning his bad luck (Gnocchi 2016, 5). Sometimes nicknamed the Kipling from Saintonge, René Guillot also wrote three colonial novels, Ras El Gua (1936), Looga (1941) and Atonement in the Sun (1932). This last may be viewed as one of the earliest French rewritings of Heart of Darkness. Guillot borrowed from Conrad the technique of embedded narratives, with an unnamed frame narrator, a young traveller in Africa, relaying the story of an elderly man named Barail, the main character and narrator. His story, told not between the tides but while the young traveller is convalescing in Barail’s hut, nursed by him, reads like the redemption of Kurtz. The telling of it, in Barail’s deep resonant voice, involves the narrative moving back and forth between Africa and Saintonge, turning the work into both a regionalist and a colonial novel. As the title given to the English translation highlights, the novel has a very marked psychological and moral dimension, tinged with elements of mysticism that Guillot borrowed from Flaubert’s tale, The Legend of Saint-Julian The Hospitaller.31 Resting essentially on the

28 ‘Les analogies repérées entre les deux textes ne doivent pas pointer vers une influence directe de Conrad. Il faut faire la part du discours européen sur l’Afrique.’ 29 Robinson, who lets the inner post run wild, appears in Céline’s novel as the antithesis of Defoe’s hero, embodying the opposite of that exemplary colonialist. 30 ‘La fraternité est dénoncée comme une illusion qui dissimule l’authentique expérience de la “séparation” ’. 31 See Gnocchi’s introduction to Guillott 1932.


The French Reception of Joseph Conrad From the 1930s to the Present Day

notion that ‘the power given to the white man in this land at once innocent and barbaric’ (Guillot 1944, 47)32 brought out the worst in men, the novel focuses on a character who, like Kurtz, though differently, is ‘hollow at the core’. Guillot, unlike Conrad, however, turns this into a psychological disposition making Barail, a foundling, dependent on his two ‘secret sharers’, Giraud and Sidoine, to define and guide him: ‘Sidoine, like Giraud, was one of the potentials for Barail who sought himself avidly in others, and found in them strangers who were like himself. [. . .] Each of them had a secret echo in him.’33 Giraud and Sidoine, both named Louis, are two sides of the same coin, one impossibly good, endowed with ‘a morality in black and white where good and evil can never mingle or meet’ (Guillot 1944, 49)34 and the other utterly evil, full of tales ‘of death, of the intoxication of slaughter’ (Guillot 1944, 48).35 In psychoanalytical terms, Barail’s secret sharers function as embodiments of the superego and the id. The sins Barail atones for by becoming ‘a negro’ is the destruction, while all three characters were soldiers in the colonial army, of a whole African village and the slaughter of all its inhabitants in a revenge attack carried out with Sidoine for the apparent murder of Giraud, as well as the subsequent murder of Giraud himself. Giraud, who was, in fact, merely wounded, is then killed by both Barail and Sidoine. Back in civilian life, Barail goes to Giraud’s family farm in Saintonge where he gradually replaces him as a son, husband and father. When the Great War breaks out, Barail enlists, and later joins the colonial army again. Back in Africa at the end of 1920, Barail goes to the government office in Sikasso in Mali, requesting to be granted a concession covering the exact location of the village that he and Sidoine destroyed years before. Using all his money, ‘down to his last farthing’ (Guillot 1944, 9),36 Barail rebuilds the village, digging a creek, bringing water and giving the people seeds to sow. This is the white man ‘gone native’ that the young traveller meets in Dougouni, the village in which, like Saint-Julian the Hospitaller, he is a healer, a mystic of sorts, feeling for both people and animals. Like Kurtz, he is also a voice, addressing the people gathered for the palaver, and convincing them, against the witch doctor’s opinion, that the earth does not hate him, that he is not cursed: ‘Amid the negroes, setting the example, more peaceable, more indifferent, blacker than the oldest of them all, Barail, in his tranquil voice, was promising the future’ (Guillot 1944, 29).37 Like Kurtz, Barail is eloquent, and the story he tells the young traveller convinces him that he is not the old lunatic that government officials take him for. Guillot’s transposition of Marlow’s final lie in Heart of Darkness takes the form of a mysterious twist given to Barail’s story. Shortly after the young traveller’s recovery, Barail comes upon another young wounded man, whom he nurses too. While doing so, he gradually becomes convinced that this is Sidoine’s son. The young man does not survive and is buried next to Giraud. Shortly afterwards, Barail himself dies. The anonymous narrator sees him now as


‘[L]a puissance qui était donnée à l’homme blanc dans ce pays à la fois innocent et barbare’ (Guillot 1932, 51). Translation mine, as Philip John Stead’s translation of the passage does not render the sense of hollowness suggested in the original sentence. ‘Sidoine, comme Giraud, était une forme du possible pour Barail qui se cherchait avidement chez les autres, et découvrait en eux des inconnus qui lui ressemblaient. [. . .] Chacun d’eux avait en lui un secret écho’ (Guillot 1932, 55). 34 ‘[U]ne morale en blanc et noir où ne sauraient se rejoindre, se toucher, le bien et le mal’ (Guillot 1932, 54). 35 ‘[I]l racontait la mort, l’ivresse de tuer’ (Guillot 1932, 52). 36 ‘[J]usqu’à son dernier sou’ (Guillot 1932, 9). 37 ‘Au milieu de ces noirs, donnant l’exemple, plus paisible, plus indifférent, plus noir que le plus vieux d’eux tous, Barail, de sa voix tranquille, promettait les temps futurs’ (Guillot 1932, 31). 33


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Giraud – ‘Now that Sidoine was dead, Barail was Giraud alone, and it was Giraud whom I saw die’ (Guillot 1944, 132).38 When Giraud’s grave is opened, to make room for Barail’s body, it is found to be empty. The whole story is thus predicated on an absence, a void, which takes us back to the hollowness of both Kurtz and of the whole ‘civilizing mission’. The young narrator avoids white people on his way back to France, not even trying to know who the other traveller was. The anonymous narrator has become a believer of sorts, a disguised spokesman for Guillot’s militant humanist and Christian story of guilt and repentance. The gist of the story is given right from the start in a foreword provided by the anonymous narrator. I want to tell, simply, the story of Barail, the white man who became a negro. His last words still sound in my ears, and they are beautiful, with an inexplicable joy: ‘Now I’m finished, this village can have a thousand year’s peace . . .’ And his hand, his barbarian hand, moved in benediction. Guillot 1944, 539 René Guillot’s psychological rewriting of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness thus appears to be an early fulfilment of Jaloux’s wish for an action-driven psychological novel, as well as an early instance of a trend which developed in French criticism, following the publication of Tzvetan Todorov’s 1975 article entitled ‘Connaissance du vide’ (Knowledge of the void), and which favoured psychological interpretation of Conrad’s novella over historicizing readings. In the 1930s, however, when much of the political debate in France focused on French colonies, two related trends developed. On the one hand, there was a new spate of colonial novels. Contrary to received opinion, these were not all of the same hue. To put it succinctly, there are significant differences between Robert Randau’s vision of ‘our indigeneous peoples’ (Randau 1929b, 422) whom ‘we’ need to know the better to ‘govern’ them (Randau 1929b, 418),40 thus justifying the educational and political use the colonial novel can be put to, and Robert Delavignette’s rejection of this essentialist definition of the colonial ‘other’ and his depiction, in Les Paysans noirs (The Black Peasants), for instance, of blacks and whites as having common pursuits and common interests (Delavignette 1931).41 The other trend, which developed simultaneously, was the promotion of ‘reportage’ and of the figure of the ‘grand reporter’, halfway between a journalist and a man of letters. A literary dimension, including the use of stylistic devices and a literary style, was expected of the reporter: their function was to ‘fuse the Anglo-Saxon style of journalism, based on facts only, and a French style of literary journalism which did not neglect style and intertextuality’ (Favre 2007, 1).42 In 1927 and 1928, the publications of André Gide’s travelogues, Le Journal du Congo (Congo Diary) and Retour du

38 ‘Maintenant que Sidoine était mort, Barail était seulement Giraud, et c’est Giraud que j’ai vu mourir’ (Guillot 1932, 140). 39 ‘Je veux dire, simplement, l’histoire de Barail, le blanc qui s’était fait nègre, dont j’entends encore la dernière parole embellie d’une mystérieuse joie. – Maintenant que je vais crever, ce village-ci en a pour mille ans de paix . . . Et sa main de barbare bénissait’ (Guillot 1932, 3). 40 ‘Et en effet, pour gouverner les hommes, il faut les connaître.’ 41 For Delavignette, colonial administrator and novelist, as a defender of decolonialization, see Kalck 1967. 42 ‘Le grand reporter doit donc réaliser la fusion du journalisme à l’anglo-saxonne, attaché aux “faits bruts”, et du journalisme littéraire à la française, ne négligeant pas le recours au style ou à l’intertextualité.’


The French Reception of Joseph Conrad From the 1930s to the Present Day

Tchad (Back from Chad), had already sanctioned the marriage of literature and reportage. The publication in book form of Albert Londres’s anti-colonialist articles, Terre d’ébène (Ebony Earth), in 1929, or of Joseph Kessel’s Le Marché d’esclaves (The Slave Market) in 1933, further blurred the frontier between journalism and literature. In this context, Conrad became a reference point for all would-be travel writers. It is not, however, for Heart of Darkness that Kessel expresses his admiration in The Slave Market, but rather for ‘Youth’, ‘the charm’ of which, ‘among so many stories fraught with poetry, sadness and magnetic power’, is to him ‘indelible’ (Kessel 1933, 125).43 A year after the publication of The Slave Market, another traveller, Michel Leiris, was also to testify to Conrad’s influence in French literary circles. However, Leiris’s L’Afrique fantôme (Phantom Africa) undoubtedly struck a discordant note when it was first published by Gallimard in 1934, just a few months after the return of the Dakar–Djibouti ethnographic and linguistic mission it was supposed to report on. The book did not tally with the strict task Leiris had been assigned, which was to keep a record of the mission’s daily activities. In Leiris’s own words, the book is ‘half documentary, half poetic’ (Leiris 1934, 9)44 and goes well beyond the initial purpose it was supposed to serve. The interesting thing here is that Leiris refers to Conrad not so much to express his admiration for him but to examine his own frame of mind at different periods of his life, including during the ethnographic mission itself. More importantly perhaps, he does not refer to Heart of Darkness, but to Lord Jim and Victory. The text of Phantom Africa is now inseparable from the prefaces Leiris later added; the first one was written in 1950, when the book was republished after being banned – and all copies destroyed – during the war; the second one was written in 1981. In the 1950 preface, Leiris uses a comparison with the character of Lord Jim to explain the transformation that he underwent as a result of the experience: [. . .] ceasing to aspire to the romantic role of the white man who, in a generous leap (like Lord Jim pledging his life on his fidelity to a Malay chief), steps down from the pedestal the prejudice of the hierarchy of the races had created for him, to bond with men situated on the other side of the fence. Leiris 1934, 13–1445 Jim is used here to qualify the ‘mythological idea of Africa’ that was his conception of the continent before he actually went there (Leiris 1995, 880).46 When he launched into the experience, Leiris had just broken away from the circle of the surrealists and was generally disaffected and depressed. He saw in this trip to Africa an opportunity to get out of himself by immersing himself in ‘a primitive mentality he felt nostalgia


‘Il y a chez Joseph Conrad, parmi tant de récits chargés de poésie, de tristesse et de puissance magnétique, une nouvelle dont le charme demeure indélébile. Elle s’appelle Jeunesse.’ 44 ‘[M]i documentaire, mi poétique.’ 45 ‘[C]essant d’aspirer au rôle romantique du Blanc qui, en un geste généreux (tel Lord Jim gageant de sa vie sa fidélité à un chef malais), descend du piédestal que lui a fait le préjugé de la hiérarchie des races pour lier partie avec des hommes situés de l’autre côté de la barrière.’ 46 ‘[L]’idée mythologique que je m’étais faite de l’Afrique.’


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

for’ (Leiris 1934, 13).47 In his successive rereadings of the 1934 text, Leiris is very harsh on himself, repeatedly reproaching himself for his self-centredness, for his constant brooding over his own deficiencies and his failure to see in Africa anything else but a ‘phantom’, and to grant Africa, where he had ‘found much but not deliverance’, the ‘plenitude of existence’ (Leiris 1934, 7).48 In the 1950 preface, Leiris mentions that, to compensate for what he saw as a weakling’s nervousness in himself, he sometimes had mood swings in which he identified, ‘in the blink of an eye, with the brutal colonial he had never been but to whom a certain Conradian taste for the madcaps of the borders could, in brief flushes, give a desire to borrow certain gestures’ (Leiris 1934, 14).49 Towards the end of the journal, Leiris, increasingly bored with the whole expedition, plans to write ‘a tale the elements of which would be borrowed, to the largest extent, from the current reality’, but with ‘a character of the Axel Heyst kind, or even Conrad’ (Leiris 1934, 616).50 Leiris then delineates the plot, commenting on the similarities with and differences from Conrad’s character. Leiris’s outline of the plot and of the narrative devices he intends to use is very detailed and shows his knowledge and understanding of Conrad’s fiction and methods. The context of Leiris’s tale is just ‘any colony’ in which Heyst has just ‘any job’ (Leiris 1934, 616).51 The ‘current reality’ he wants to borrow from, however, is not Africa, but his own feeling of impotence, both sexual and metaphorical. Leiris transforms Conrad’s story of detachment and involvement into a self-portrait, the explicitness of which is definitely not Conradian. Leiris’s Axel Heyst is an exaggerated version of Conrad’s character whose detachment from human affairs could have been ascribed a sexual cause. The plot of Heyst’s story involves rumours of his being either a homosexual or impotent, a man brutal with native whores and servants. It also involves a failed suicide and his eventual death in an epidemic against which he does not try to protect himself (which, accordingly, appears as a substitute for suicide). Closer to Conrad’s fiction are the narrative devices that Leiris borrows from Victory, as well as from Lord Jim and Heart of Darkness. Thus, Leiris borrows the character of Captain Davidson, who becomes an anonymous doctor keeping a friendly eye on him. When, coming back from a lengthy leave of absence, the doctor learns that Heyst has died during the epidemic, he becomes the recipient of a parcel, which evokes the parcel the privileged listener receives in chapter 36 of Lord Jim containing Marlow’s letter and narrative, Jim’s attempt at writing a diary, and his father’s letter. This parcel contains the photograph of a young blonde girl, ‘very sane, of the English kind’, with an inscription on the back, ‘expecting his return’ (Leiris 1934, 617);52 a few books, novels mostly; a volume or two of classical poetry; a guide to Marxism; a few


‘[U]ne mentalité primitive dont j’éprouvais la nostalgie.’  ‘Déception qui, en quelque sorte, amenait l’égocentriste que je n’avais pas cessé d’être à refuser, par le truchement d’un titre, la plénitude d’existence à cette Afrique en laquelle j’avais trouvé beaucoup mais non la délivrance’ (1981 introduction). 49 ‘[U]ne nervosité de femmelette se traduisant parfois en mouvements d’humeur qui tendaient à m’identifier, l’instant d’un éclair, au colonial brutal que je n’ai jamais été mais à qui un certain goût conradien des grandes têtes brûlées des confins pouvait, par brèves bouffées, me donner envie d’emprunter certains gestes.’ 50 ‘Idée d’un conte, dont les éléments seraient empruntés, dans la plus large mesure, à la présente réalité. Un personnage dans le genre de Axel Heyst (voir Conrad).’ 51 ‘Il exerce un métier quelconque dans une colonie quelconque.’ 52 ‘La photographie d’une jeune fille blonde, très saine, de type anglais; au dos une quelconque dédicace tendre se terminant par: “en attendant son retour”.’ This recalls the studio photograph of ‘the Intended’ that Marlow is left with after Kurtz’s death. 48


The French Reception of Joseph Conrad From the 1930s to the Present Day

journals (one of them including a heavily annotated article on Freud); some movie picture magazines; and finally, a rather large batch of loose sheets forming a rather confused diary. The projected diary, Leiris writes, should contain reflections on suicide, on sexuality, on Heyst’s abhorrence of romanticism, although it should also include a few tender words about his fiancée, and, on a separate sheet, dated, perhaps the equivalent of Kurtz’s infamous postscript, a single sentence: ‘even a negro whore’s ass is not for me’ (Leiris 1934, 618).53 After placing Axel’s books on his own bookshelves and hesitating to burn the papers, the doctor then writes a letter to the fiancée, sending back the picture. Leiris, however, does not say what truths or lies the letter may contain. He then jots down in his journal the alterations he plans to make: the diary would have to be replaced by a batch of unsent letters to the fiancée, and the narrative would have to begin with the episode of Heyst going to see the doctor with a head injury resulting from the failed suicide. He then drafts two versions of a preface. The book was never written and, of course, never published. Leiris was the first judge of its flaws, mainly self-centredness and self-complacency – definitely the exact antithesis of Conrad’s restraint – which, he thought, testified to his inability to get out of himself.54 In a note for the 1951 edition, Leiris offers a different interpretation, suggesting that what would have cured Heyst would have been a ‘radical conversion’ to a relationship of ‘pure and simple humanity’.55 Strangely enough, Leiris fails to realize the metaphorical significance of his fear of impotence in a colonial situation which rests on the principles of the colonizer’s potency, might and right of possession.56 In this context, Leiris’s alleged impotence, one suspects, amounts to an inability, or refusal, to endorse the bases upon which the very presence of the expedition is justified; and his choice of fiction, and of Conrad, to express this, testifies to his understanding of a very Conradian linking of aesthetics with ethics. Looking back on the early 1930s, it is altogether remarkable to see how quickly the process of literary appropriation took place, and how Conrad’s fiction, with a new title released every year by Gallimard, seemed to chime with the period. An image of Conrad started to crystallize and, allowing for the customary ebb and flow of reputation and public favour, Conrad was to remain a continuing presence in the French literary market and literary spheres.

Conrad in translation Several decades later, in 1982, the publication of volume 1 of Conrad’s complete works in La Pléaide, Gallimard’s prestigious collection, clearly established Conrad as a canonical author of 53

‘Même le cul d’une putain nègre n’est pas pour moi.’ In a footnote written for the first 1934 edition, Leiris, rereading all this ‘in cold blood’, explains away his dread of impotence and concludes by saying that everything got warped here by the choice of using the fiction of Axel Heyst. ‘Maintenant que je regarde ce journal avec sang-froid, je puis ajouter quelques précisions. [. . .] Du fait d’avoir choisi pour me décrire la fiction d’Axel Heyst, un grand nombre de choses se sont trouvées faussées’ (Leiris 1934, 621). 55 ‘[L]a crainte dont il souffrait de s’avérer inférieur – marquant le prix élevé qu’il attachait à son prestige et le souci trop grand qu’il avait de lui-même – ne pouvait pas se liquider sans une conversion radicale, telle qu’en une femme, par exemple, il aurait su ne plus voir que cette femme au lieu de la réduire à l’état d’instrument lui permettant de tenter une expérience ou de faire ses preuves ; telle en somme que, d’une manière tout à fait générale, inquiet de virilité à un moindre degré il se fût révélé plus prodigue de pure et simple humanité’ (Leiris 1995, 835). 56 In his subsequent career as an anthropologist, the conquest of material possessions was to be replaced by the study of spirit possession and zār rituals in Ethiopia. 54


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

world status, deserving to feature, as far as English or British literature is concerned, alongside Shakespeare and a select few other authors – Defoe, Fielding, Austen, the Brontës, De Quincey, Dickens, Carroll, Kipling, Stevenson, Wilde and Woolf. In between Gallimard’s first translations and the Pléiade edition (five volumes with a publication spanning from 1982 to 1992), there had been virtually no new translations – with one notable exception: Jean-Jacques Mayoux’s translations of Heart of Darkness, ‘Amy Foster’ and ‘The Secret Sharer’ for a bilingual edition in 1980. Not all the translations published in La Pléiade, however, were new translations. In 1982, in his introduction to volume 1, Sylvère Monod, the general editor and heart and soul of the whole enterprise, paid homage to the great pioneers, namely André Gide and G. Jean-Aubry, and specified that the aim of this new publication by Gallimard was ‘to complete and modernize’ their works (Conrad 1982, 32). In the advertisement for the same volume, he added that the decision either to revise existing translations or to produce new translations was not an easy one to make. A number of new translations were produced, however: in volume 1, Almayer’s Folly (Anne-Marie Soulac) and Lord Jim (Henriette Bordenave); in volume 2, ‘The End of the Tether’ (Gabrielle d’Harcourt); in volume 3, The Secret Agent and ‘Poland Revisited’ (Sylvère Monod), Gaspar Ruiz and other tales (Pierre Coustillas) and Under Western Eyes (Jean Deurbergue); and in volume 4, Chance (Roger Hibon), Victory (Paul Le Moal), Within the Tides (Philippe Jaudel) and The Shadow-Line (Florence Herbulot). Gide’s translation of Typhoon, Sylvère Monod specified in the same advertisement to volume 1, was to be viewed as an exception; because it was a literary piece of such high standard, it was deemed unthinkable to touch it. Monod does not go into the details of Gide’s merits in this particular instance, and it remains a question whether Gide’s translation of Typhoon was being republished because of its exceptional quality or whether, because Gide was one of Gallimard’s father figures, it would have been bad politics to question his talents as a translator. This high valuation seemed to be the consensus for a very long time, from the original publication of Gide’s translation in 1918 to 1983 when the first new translation of Typhoon appeared (by Jean-François Ménard, the translator of Harry Potter), for a children’s edition, with illustrations by Sylvaine Pérols. After another fifteen years’ gap, three new translations were published consecutively: Odette Lamolle’s in 1998 (Autrement), Marc Porée’s in 1999 (Flammarion) and François Maspéro’s in 2005 (J’ai lu, Librio collection). In addition to the new translations published in La Pléiade, there were Jean-Pierre Naugrette’s translations of The Shadow-Line (1996) and of A Smile of Fortune (2010), and Claudine Lesage’s very polemic 2009 translation of Heart of Darkness, entitled Coeur des ténèbres, instead of the customary Au Coeur des ténèbres.57 There have also been numerous


Claudine Lesage’s translation caused a bit of a stir. Justifying her approach by referring to Conrad’s letter to André Gide (19 May 1916) in which he stated that ‘one [could] translate [him] faithfully by seeking the equivalent French idioms’ (Conrad 2009, 8), and accusing Ruyters’ translation of being ‘approximate, flawed, colonialist and partisan’ (Conrad 2009, 10), Lesage renders Conrad’s text in sometimes very colloquial French, justifying the erasure of images by the lack of a French equivalent. Thus, the image of the ‘cracked nut’, in the anonymous narrator’s depiction of Marlow as an untypical seaman, is removed because, she claims, Conrad built it from the idiomatic phrase ‘in a nutshell’, which, having no exact equivalent in French, is therefore translated as ‘in a few words’(Conrad 2009, 10–11). One might wonder, however, whether Conrad did not construct the phrase from a French expression, ‘une coquille de noix’, which refers to a frail boat.


The French Reception of Joseph Conrad From the 1930s to the Present Day

reprints in paperback editions, which makes Conrad’s works highly available to the general public. Odette Lamolle’s translation of Conrad’s works is a particularly interesting case. Lamolle – who died in 2000 – was neither a university professor nor a professional translator. She was born in 1910, and, after a BA in English (University of Bordeaux), she taught for a while, then worked in the retail business of hairdressers’ accessories; she then became a cattle breeder, while writing poetry and novels on the side. As a teenager she had read Lord Jim and continued to read Conrad throughout her life. But she found Philippe Néel’s translations very unsatisfactory; accordingly, when she retired, she started to translate Lord Jim. Eighteen other translations followed, all published by Autrement, the last ones published posthumously. Although somewhat daunted in 1982 when volume 1 of the Pléiade edition came out, she did not falter, and her enterprise won her the sanction of Sylvère Monod who, in an afterword to the first volume (Lord Jim) wrote: Nobody can claim that Odette Lamolle’s translations of Conrad are perfect, for the simple reason that there is no perfect translation. But they deserve the homage of admiration and gratitude for a great talent put at the service of a mighty task. They prove that, contrary to an absurd legend, Conrad is not a male readers’ writer only. A feminine sensitivity can vibrate in unison with his art. For these translations are what is called in English ‘a labour of love’, accomplished to satisfy an inner call and a passion. And as such they are sure to satisfy and nourish many others. Conrad 1996, 475 Sylvère Monod’s delicately expressed praise of (and reservations about) Odette Lamolle’s translations and the very publication of Odette Lamolle’s nineteen translations of Conrad’s works illustrate the various ways through which an author ceases to be merely a literary figure and becomes something akin to a cultural object. By publishing the work of an amateur translator whose personal history and personality inevitably generated press reviews that just any new translation of Conrad would not necessarily have attracted,58 the publishing house was not only putting Conrad under the spotlight but was also making him more accessible to general readers. For once, the translator was someone the readers – and female readers at that – could identify with, and the publishing house’s bold decision signified that Conrad was not exclusively the highbrow Pléiade author but also an author who deserved to be the object of ‘a labour of love’, as Sylvère Monod, the general editor the Pléiade edition, warmly put it. The image of a literary author is fashioned by a chain of actions which begins with reviewers, translators and publishing houses deciding to bring him or her to the reader’s knowledge and to market him/her as successfully as possible. But the image of a writer nowadays is also fashioned by other discourses: by the scholarly discourse of academics, for example, but also by other authors or, indeed, other artists working in different media appropriating their writing in their own works. It is also fashioned by the readers themselves who, as we shall see, in the case of Conrad, constitute an important link in the chain of cultural transfers of which Conrad is the object.

58 All press reviews drew attention to the fact that nothing in Odette Lamolle’s life could have predicted her becoming a published translator of Conrad.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Conrad as a cultural object In the 1960s, academic discourse started to take over as the dominant discourse on Conrad. In 1960, a year after the publication of Raymond Las Vergnas’s Joseph Conrad, romancier de l’exil (Joseph Conrad, novelist of exile), Jean-Jacques Mayoux’s seminal Vivants Piliers: Le roman anglo-saxon et les symboles (Vivid Pillars: The Anglo-Saxon Novels and Symbols) stimulated academic interest in his work. As Josiane Paccaud-Huguet put it in her introduction to Conrad in France, which offers ‘a diachronic selection of essays [. . .] representative of Conrad’s reception among several generations of readers and critics’ (Paccaud-Huguet 2006, 1), ‘[a]s often happens in the case of major writers, French Conradian criticism has gone through various stages ranging from the early biographical record or general appreciation, to closer textual readings underpropped by the concepts of modern literary theory’ (Paccaud-Huguet 2006, 1). Academic interest in Conrad has hardly abated ever since. The Société Conradienne Française (French Conrad Society) was founded in 1982. It organizes international conferences and publishes a journal, L’Époque Conradienne. In addition, as another sure sign in France that an author belongs to the canon, five of his works featured on the syllabuses of competitive examinations for teachers: ‘Youth’ as early as 1946; Lord Jim four times, the first time in 1948; Victory in 1980; Nostromo in 1983; and Heart of Darkness twice in 2018, on two separate syllabuses. Fortunately, Conrad is not exclusively an author for students to toil over. In the absence of actual sales figures, which the publishing houses refuse to disclose, one can only fall back on less objective facts such as readers’ blogs59 or rankings60 to get an idea of Conrad’s readership. Conrad features regularly in these rankings, whether they be of the ‘favourite book’ or ‘the best novel of the twentieth century’ type. Unsurprisingly, the titles that appear most often are Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim. Conrad has also been appropriated by other media and adapted or transposed into graphic novels, plays and films or set to music. In 2010, a volume entitled Visions d’Afrique (Visions of Africa),61 collected three graphic novels in black and white by African Francophone graphic novelists and scriptwriters. The first text is based on a prose poem written for this collection by the Mauritian poet Umar Timol with illustrations by the Congolese artist Jason Kibiswa. Entitled Les Yeux des autres (The Eyes of The Others), it relates the dreams of a woman living in an unnamed African country and the realities of her life, which is marked by a sense of confinement and inter-ethnic violence. The

59; http://intemperiesetdetours.eklablog. com/search?q=Conrad;; 60 In the spring of 1999, FNAC (the French retail chain selling books and other cultural products) and Le Monde (the daily evening paper) carried out a survey asking their customers about their favourite books. Choosing from a list of 200 titles – selected by journalists and booksellers – 17,000 people answered. Lord Jim featured 75th out of 100 ( In 2008, the cultural website Culturecafé organized an online survey aimed at establishing a list of 500 favourite titles: 5,000 people responded, more than 3,000 titles were mentioned, and Heart of Darkness came out as number 279, while Lord Jim came out as number 299 ( In March 2010, asked readers to establish a list of fifty ‘must read’ novels: Heart of Darkness featured as number 13 ( roman-litterature/1143815-50-livres-a-avoir-lu-absolument/). 61 Timol et al. 2010.


The French Reception of Joseph Conrad From the 1930s to the Present Day

second graphic novel is an adaptation of Albert Londres’s anti-colonialist work, Terre d’Ébène (Ebony Earth), with drawings by Malagasy graphic artist and press caricaturist Pov, based on a text by Franco-Cameroonian graphic-novel scriptwriter Christophe Ngalle-Edimo. Finally, the third graphic novel is an adaptation of Conrad’s short story ‘An Outpost of Progress’, based on a script written by Jean-François Chanson with drawings by the Cameroonian artist Yannick Deubou Sikoué. Juxtaposing a contemporary vision of Africa to two older texts on colonialism written by European writers, the volume constitutes a reappropriation of a discourse on Africa that had been appropriated by non-African writers, but it also offers a dialogue with texts which quite clearly depicted the absurdities and atrocities of colonialism. In the case of Conrad’s work, by foregrounding ‘An Outpost of Progress’, the volume also gives the lie to Chinua Achebe’s accusations of racism. Since then, Heart of Darkness has given rise to two more graphic novel adaptations. The first one, entitled Kongo: Le Ténébreux voyage de Jόzef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski (Kongo: The Dark Voyage of Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski) was published in 2013 (Perrissin and Tirabosco 2013). Adapted by Christian Perrissin with black-and-white drawings by graphic artist Tom Tirabosco, the volume blends the figure of Conrad with that of his privileged narrator, Marlow, transforming Conrad’s fiction into an autobiographical story. The second adaptation, published a year later, in 2014, and quite straightforwardly entitled Au Coeur des ténèbres (Miquel and Godart 2014), is a less documentary and more literary reading of Conrad’s text in which Stéphane Miquel, the scriptwriter, and Loïc Godart, the graphic artist, enhance the nightmarish quality of Marlow’s journey. Drawn, like the rest of the book, in shades of sepia and ochre, the front-cover shows a shaven-headed Marlow, sitting on board the steamer, his feet in a puddle of blood, an arrow, an overturned lamp and loose sheets of paper scattered on the floor. This is the end of the journey, the story has been told and its horror is reflected in Marlow’s dazed expression. The back cover rewinds to the start of it all and depicts Marlow as a young boy, sitting in what looks like an attic, surrounded by open books and atlases, dreaming away. Taken together, front cover and back cover not only reverse the chronological order of things, but, by suggesting a cyclical movement, also allude to the telling and retelling of this story of a dream gone horribly bad.62 Heart of Darkness has also been turned into drama. As recently as 2015, in Lyons, the Théâtre de l’Elysée presented Joël Jouanneau’s adaptation of Conrad’s text, staged by Michel Raskine. The performance opened with a prologue in which a male actor, Thomas Rortais, read ‘Le Bateau ivre’ (The Drunken Boat), Rimbaud’s allegory of personal, poetic and political rebellion, guiding the audience’s interpretation of Conrad’s text. The adaptation of Conrad’s text proper was performed by Marief Guittier, an actress known for the androgynous roles she repeatedly played and who, alone on stage, evoked the African journey, to music by Benjamin Britten and the Doors. Putting Conrad’s text in context by adding a prologue seems to be a regular practice when it comes to Conrad’s African fictions. This was also the choice made in 2009 by Philippe Adrien who added a prologue to an adaptation of ‘An Outpost of Progress’ at the Théâtre de la Tempête, one of the Cartoucherie de Vincennes theatres. Entitled ‘The Conrad Project’, this prologue

62 For pictures of, and an interview with, Loïc Godart, see


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

stages the production of ‘An Outpost of Progress’ as a work in progress during which the actors and the stage director – played by an actor – discuss the difficulties of avoiding neo-colonial attitudes and the topicality of Conrad’s text. The reviews were, on the whole, not very favourable, the device being generally deemed too didactic. In 2017–18, Conrad’s One Day More – his own theatrical adaptation of his short story ‘Tomorrow’ – was paired with Eugene O’Neill’s The Rope, both translated by Françoise Morvan for a joint production entitled Les Fils prodigues (The Prodigal Sons), staged by Jean-Yves Ruf.63 For once, French theatregoers were given an opportunity to realize that Conrad had not written exclusively about Africa and not exclusively novels and short stories. The cinema seems less obsessed with the African texts, probably because Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now makes it too daunting for any movie director to try to adapt Heart of Darkness again. As the Cahier Conrad, edited by Claude Maisonnat and Josiane PaccaudHuguet for L’Herne, has already shown (Maisonnat and Paccaud-Huguet 2015, 338–61), other texts by Conrad were transposed into films. In 2005, the opera and theatre director, filmmaker, actor and producer Patrice Chéreau (1944–2013) adapted Conrad’s largely ignored early short story ‘The Return’ into a film entitled Gabrielle, set in turn-of-the-century Paris with Isabelle Huppert playing the title role. Chéreau manages to render in cinematographic language some of the most interesting elements in this much-criticized ‘tale of unrest’. In particular, Chéreau juxtaposes black-and-white film with colour, but he completely reverses the more customary cinematographic uses of this juxtaposition. Black-and-white scenes are used to represent the present stifling domestic life of this couple immured in silence, while colour is used for posttraumatic flashbacks following the discovery of Gabrielle’s letter, as Jean (Alan Harvey in Conrad’s story) tries ‘to rescue meaning for the present out of the obscure past’, as Edward Said put it in Joseph Conrad and the Fiction of Autobiography (Said 1966, 99). Jean’s inability to express anything is conveyed by dialogue intertitles, of the kind to be found in silent movies, which are juxtaposed to discordant contemporary symphonic music registering the inner tumult Alan Harvey experiences in Conrad’s story when his wife’s letter abruptly shatters the silence that had established itself as the couple’s modus vivendi: [H]e was stunned by a noise meaningless and violent, like the clash of gongs or the beating of drums; a great aimless uproar that, in a manner, prevented him from hearing himself think and made his mind an absolute blank. This absurd and distracting tumult seemed to ooze out of the written words, to issue from between his very fingers that trembled, holding the paper. TU, 125–6 Far from being lost in translation and in transposition, Conrad’s story gains from this cinematographic adaptation which transformed what could have been treated as a mere period-piece bourgeois domestic drama into a clever cinematic rendering of Conrad’s experiments in style. Chantal Akerman’s free adaptation of Almayer’s Folly, released in 2012, offers another very personal, stylized reading of Conrad’s work. Her complex treatment of time and the sensual



The French Reception of Joseph Conrad From the 1930s to the Present Day

quality of her images, with an emphasis on the meandering river and the jungle, highlight themes that are common to both Conrad and Akerman – alienation, uprootedness, madness, hybridity – subjects she has treated in other films, as well as in documentaries and video installations.64 A few months after the release of Akerman’s film, a newspaper article by Bruno Philip, entitled ‘Joseph Conrad à Bornéo: les tombes oubliées de Berau’ (Joseph Conrad in Borneo: the forgotten graves of Berau) was published in Le Monde on 16 August 2013. This enabled the general reader and viewer to know more about William Charles Olmeijer whom Conrad had met in 1886 in Makassar. Following various leads, the journalist tries, unsuccessfully, to locate his grave, which may be located either in Berau, as is usually assumed, or in Makassar. He is also told by an informant that Olmeijer never had a daughter, but a son. In 2016, a new film adaptation of ‘Youth’ (entitled Jeunesse in French and The Young One in the English-speaking world) was released. Directed by Julien Samani, it is a modern-day transposition of Conrad’s story in which a young man, Zico, dreams of escaping the monotony of his life in Le Havre, constrained by economic conditions and a general lack of prospects. The young man seems to seethe with rage: he wants to run away as much as he wants to discover the world. Without any qualifications, he manages to embark on the Judea, a dilapidated freighter registered under the flag of Panama and bound for Angola. The film then focuses on the relationships between Zico and the other crew members. Faithful to Conrad’s tale of initiation, the film also offers scenes reminiscent of ‘Typhoon’ and The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’ – the storm and the scene in which the body of one of the members of the crew is slipped into the sea – testifying to Julien Samani’s wider knowledge and understanding of Conrad’s fiction. Indeed, as Claude Maisonnat and Josiane Paccaud-Huguet put it, Samani ‘has touched the heart of Conrad’s poetics’ (Maisonnat and Paccaud-Huguet 2015, 156). In addition to these graphic novel or film adaptations, Radio France, the state-owned radio broadcasting corporation, and one of its divisions, France Culture, has made its own contribution to this already rich field. In June 2014, a ‘concert-fiction’ was broadcast, featuring Heart of Darkness, freely adapted by Stéphane Michaka, read by comedians and set to music composed by Didier Benetti and played by Radio France’s National Orchestra. In this free adaptation, Marlow does not relate his story to a group of retired seamen on board the Nellie, but to Kurtz’s Intended; in the ‘whited sepulchre’, Marlow hears agents discussing the ‘civilizing mission’; and the helmsman, who is given a name, Léo, and a voice, speaks both French and some unidentified African language. Léo has also met Kurtz and discusses with Marlow the strange ways of white people. Kurtz, too, is surprisingly vocal. One of Marlow’s controversial statements, for instance, is attributed to Kurtz: ‘The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much’ (HoD, 50–1). To this familiar statement Kurtz adds, ‘So why should you?’ Finally, the reading does not conclude with ‘the heart of an immense darkness’, but with Marlow declaring, on stepping out of the Intended’s house, that he had ‘never felt so alive’. Readings of Conrad’s fictions feature regularly on France Culture programmes, and, in October 2017, the radio channel devoted four consecutive mid-afternoon programmes to interviews with Conrad scholars: Alain Dugrand, Alain Jaubert, Marc Porée and Claude Maisonnat.


For a detailed analysis of Akerman’s adaptation of Almayer’s Folly, see Delmas 2013.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Although, as we have seen, Conrad has been appropriated by other media, literature nevertheless remains the privileged domain of Conrad’s influence. Among the contemporary French writers referring to Conrad in their works, the Cahier de l’Herne devoted to Conrad focuses on Marie Darrieussecq and Patrick Deville. In Kampuchéa (2011), Patrick Deville traces a curious web of connections around the site of Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat was reconstructed by Coppola in the Philippines for his transposition of Conrad’s Congo, as it had been reconstructed for the Colonial Exhibition that took place in Vincennes in 1931, a year after Malraux published his novelistic account of his own journey to Angkor, largely influenced, as we have seen, by Heart of Darkness. Angkor, Deville concludes, is ‘erected on the black heart of Conrad’s œuvre’ (Maisonnat and Paccaud-Huguet 2015, 327).65 Marie Darrieussecq’s use of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is more intimately woven into the plot and texture of her novel Il faut beaucoup aimer les hommes (Men, in Penny Hueston’s 2016 translation for Text Publishing).66 Staging the love affair between Solange, a white French actress living in Hollywood, and Kouhouesso, a Cameroon-born Canadian movie director who wants to shoot a new adaptation of Heart of Darkness in Africa, the novel questions the clichés and stereotypes that have accumulated around such concepts as gender, race and identity. ‘Africa does not exist’ Kouhouesso tells Solange, ‘it is an ethnological fiction’ (Darrieussecq 2013, 89),67 and yet the production that he manages to put on, which includes such Hollywood and international stars as ‘George’ (Clooney) and ‘Vincent’ (Cassel), runs the risk of being anything but an African reappropriation of Conrad’s novella. Solange, somewhat mesmerized by his aura, tries to grapple with several forms of otherness: her distant Black lover, Africa itself that, like Marlow, she discovers gradually, and a book that tells her that women ‘should be out of it’. Before Deville and Darrieussecq, Nobel prize-winner Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio had already proclaimed his fascination with Conrad, whom he read at an early age while growing up in Mauritius. His very Anglophile upbringing there, his consciousness of belonging to a family of colonizers, who may have included slave masters, certainly contributed, he declared in a 2008 interview, to a sense of like-mindedness with Conrad: Conrad very well expressed what I feel, through the character of Marlow in Heart of Darkness. Marlow is a troubled character, the product of British colonization, animated by self-criticism, fascinated by and drawn to the instinctive nature of African peoples, but incapable of completely adhering to it. I am like that, undeniably Western, but distrustful towards everything that is too intellectual, too rational, attracted by magic, by the supernatural, by places where past and present mysteriously and naturally cohabit.68


‘Angkor est érigé sur le cœur noir de l’œuvre de Conrad.’ Marie Darrieussecq’s title draws from Marguerite Duras’s statement that ‘you have to be very fond of men. Very fond, very fond. You have to be very fond of them to love them. Otherwise they’re simply unbearable.’ 67 ‘L’Afrique est une fiction d’ethnologue.’ 68 ‘Conrad a très bien exprimé ce que je ressens, à travers le personnage de Marlow, dans Au Cœur des ténèbres. Marlow est un personnage trouble, issu de la colonisation britannique, animé par un esprit autocritique, fasciné et attiré par le caractère instinctif des peuples d’Afrique, mais incapable d’y adhérer totalement. Je suis comme ça, occidental indéniablement, mais méfiant vis-à-vis de tout ce qui est trop intellectuel, trop rationnel, attiré par la magie, le surnaturel, les endroits où le présent et le passé cohabitent mystérieusement et naturellement.’ entretien-avec-jmg-le-clezio-la-litterature-c-est-du-bruit-ce-ne-sont-pas-des-idees,34562.php. 66


The French Reception of Joseph Conrad From the 1930s to the Present Day

For Le Clézio, then, Conrad is not ‘one of us’, in the French reappropriation of the term initiated by H.-D. Davray, but a very English author to be apprehended from the British tradition of the novel of adventure and the novel of apprenticeship, as he stated in this 1991 interview: It is Joseph Conrad who best combined travelling, memory and the idea of initiation. You find this in Golding’s Rites of Passage, in Stevenson’s Kidnapped! or in Richard H. Dana’s Two Years Before the Mast. It is very Anglo-Saxon and even very English, this idea that the adolescent must suffer and be tested to become a man. This also testifies to a distrust of the psychological approach to the individual, and a desire to show how the transformations of his character are imposed upon him by experience. No doubt, this is the antithesis of French introspection. Assouline 2000, 878–969 In 2014, Le Clézio published a volume of ‘two novellas’ with the very Conradian title of Tempête (Tempest). The back cover of the book gave the French reader, who might not be very familiar with this literary form, a definition (‘a long short-story uniting places, action and tone’), and specified that ‘the perfect example of it would be Conrad’ (Le Clézio 2014).70 For Olivier Weber too, Conrad is a model. In 2011 he published Joseph Conrad, Le Voyageur de l’inquiétude (Conrad: The Traveller of Unrest), which he defines as a literary ‘promenade’ written to ‘pay homage but above all to pay his debt to the illustrious traveller’ (Weber 2011, 13).71 The debt in question is what a ‘grand reporter’, war correspondent, travel writer, novelist and diplomat72 feels he owes to the British writer whom he views as a ‘traveller of the inside’ (Weber 2011, 15),73 for whom the displacement induced by travelling was both a source of unrest and a consolation. Weber draws the portrait of a ‘painter of the human condition’ who, in the Malay Archipelago, ‘discovers another universe that he will make his own’: ‘Not that of landscapes but a portolan chart of emotions crystallized in these geographical and human settings. Fear, awe, fault, guilt, unrest’ (Weber 2011, 71).74 In its exploration of ‘the fringes of progress – or these outposts, as he will denigrate them in his story’, Conrad’s literature is ‘an

69 ‘Joseph Conrad est celui qui a le mieux marié le voyage et la mémoire, dans l’idée d’une initiation. On trouve cela dans Rites de passage de William Golding, dans Enlevé! de Stevenson ou dans Deux ans sur le gaillard d’avant de Richard Dana. C’est très anglo-saxon, et même très anglais, cette idée que l’adolescent doit souffrir et être éprouvé pour être un homme. Cela traduit également une certaine méfiance vis-à-vis de toute une approche psychologique de l’individu, et la volonté de montrer comment les transformations de son caractère lui sont imposées par l’expérience. On s’en doute, c’est là une tradition aux antipodes de l’introspection française.’ 70 ‘En anglais, on appelle “novella” une longue nouvelle qui unit les lieux, l’action et le ton. Le modèle parfait serait Joseph Conrad.’ 71 ‘Ce livre n’est pas une nouvelle biographie mais une simple promenade littéraire en sa compagnie, pour lui rendre hommage, et surtout pour payer ma dette envers l’illustre voyageur.’ 72 Olivier Weber was a war correspondent in Africa and the Middle East, and wrote for the Guardian, the Sunday Times, Le Point and Libération. He was the recipient of numerous prizes, including the Albert Londres in 1992 and the Joseph Kessel prize in 1998. In addition to this book on Conrad, his long list of publications includes books on Jack London and Kessel. 73 ‘Conrad est d’abord un peintre du dedans.’ 74 ‘Dans les villes et escales malaises, Conrad découvre un autre univers, qu’il fera sien. Non pas celui des paysages mais un portulan d’émotions cristallisées dans ces décors géographiques et humains. La peur, l’effroi, la faute, la culpabilité, l’inquiétude. [. . .] La période malaise est une porte qui ouvre sur une nouvelle existence de Conrad, celle du peintre de la condition humaine.’


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

open-air theatre which transforms the simplest human beings into universal heroes’ (Weber 2011, 69),75 and in his fiction, Weber concludes, unrest, ‘this great Conradian malady’ (Weber 2011, 76), is ‘a remedy against darkness’ (Weber 2011, 129).76 Darkness and ‘the fringes of progress’ also feature in one of Mathias Enard’s novels, Rue des voleurs (2012) (Street of Thieves, in Charlotte Mandell’s 2014 translation).77 Conrad is not the only literary reference in this novel in which the circulation of texts, and of goods, is pitted against the limits put to the circulation of peoples and the logic of confrontation that opposes religious, cultural and ideological groups. Street of Thieves opens with an epigraph taken from Heart of Darkness, quoting the Russian Harlequin: ‘ “But when one is young one must see things, gather experience, ideas; enlarge the mind.” “Here!” I interrupted. “You can never tell! Here I met Mr. Kurtz” ’ (Y, 124). Enard’s choice of this epigraph has, of course, a programmatic function: it places the novel under the literary sign of Conradian influence and invites comparison with Heart of Darkness. Enard’s central character, Lakhdar, a Moroccan living in Tangier, is, like Conrad’s Harlequin, a figure of youth. Yet, for a young man growing up in Tangier – ‘Tangier was a black dead end, a corridor blocked by the sea; the Strait of Gibraltar a fissure, an abyss that barred our dreams’ (Enard 2014, 33)78 – youth is a condition that does not leave much to dream of. Lakhdar feels neither any sense of belonging nor any desire to cross over to the other side of the Strait of Gibraltar. History, however, erupts into his life when he is approached by the Group for the Propagation of Koranic Thought. Gradually suspecting that they might be terrorists, Lakhdar escapes and starts a journey from Tangier to Barcelona. Enard’s novel thus inverts the direction of Marlow’s journey and takes Lakhdar from Africa to Europe. Yet it is a journey which, like Marlow’s, takes him from detachment to engagement, to a ‘choice of nightmares’. In the course of his bitter initiation, he encounters a Mr Cruz. This version of Kurtz runs a ‘flourishing business’: [F]or years, he was the one who gathered, stored, and repatriated all the bodies of the illegal immigrants in the Strait. [. . .] Lately, the crisis and better radar at sea had obviously put a slight dent in his business, so he was mostly repatriating workers who had died entirely legally in Spain’. Enard 2014, 154–579 75 ‘[C]es franges du progrès – ces avant-postes, comme il le dénigrera dans sa nouvelle. [. . .] la littérature est un théâtre à ciel ouvert qui permet de transformer les êtres les plus simples en héros universels.’ 76 ‘L’inquiétude, toujours, cette grande maladie conradienne.’ ‘Son œuvre ressemble à un remède aux ténèbres.’ 77 In an interview published in 2015 (Enard 2015, 8), Enard said that ‘Conrad had opened up two worlds’ for him: what is commonly called ‘the world at large’ but also ‘the world of writing’. Noting that Conrad was born the very year Les Fleurs du Mal was first published, Enard associates Conrad with Baudelaire’s traveller who desired to plunge ‘au fond de l’Inconnu pour trouver du nouveau’/‘into the depth of the unknown to find the new’. Conrad is thus our contemporary, he continues, precisely because the perspective that he brought to bear on the unknown was a disenchanted one, subverting any initial apprehension of what the ‘unknown’ had to offer, and confronting the hearts of darkness. Conrad, he concludes, was ‘one of the first to perceive the challenge the “horror” throws to language’ (‘Conrad est l’un des premiers à voir le défi que “l’horreur” jette à la langue’). 78 ‘Tanger était une impasse sombre, un corridor bloqué par la mer; le détroit de Gibraltar une fente, un abîme qui barrait nos songes’ (Enard 2012, 42–3). 79 ‘Le business de Marcello Cruz avait été florissant; pendant des années, c’était lui qui avait ramassé, stocké et rapatrié tous les corps des clandestins du Détroit. [. . .] Evidemment, les derniers temps, la crise et des radars plus performants en mer avaient mis un peu à mal les affaires, alors il rapatriait surtout des travailleurs décédés tout à fait légalement en Espagne’ (Enard 2012, 205–6)


The French Reception of Joseph Conrad From the 1930s to the Present Day

Unlike Kurtz who ‘had something to say’ and who ‘said it’ (Y, 151), Cruz, who ‘always seemed to be hovering on the verge of speech’ (Enard 2014, 168),80 has no voice; he is not a voice, only eyes, sitting for hours in front of his computer watching videos of violent deaths, ‘beheadings in Afghanistan, hangings in the Second World War, all kinds of car accidents, bodies incinerated by a bomb’.81 His ‘monstrous passions’ are ‘gratified’ (Y, 144) by his scopophilic compulsion to watch images of ‘unspeakable rites’ (Y, 118) committed by others. He, too, ‘has cut himself loose of the earth’ (Y, 144). In his case, he has been ‘engulfed by the image’ (Enard 2014, 168),82 by this de-realized cyber-reality which enables him to keep the very material bodies lying next door at a distance. Escaping once again, Lakhdar ends up in Barcelona’s street of thieves, ‘with a heart of sadness, in the Western darkness’ (Enard 2012, 152).83 There, living among migrants of various origins, Lakhdar shares the lives of those for whom globalization has not enlarged the world but has constricted it and caused it to rest on a logic of confrontation. Eventually, suspecting that his friend Bassam, a member of the Group for the Propagation of Koranic Thought, is preparing a terrorist attack, Lakhdar kills him. Writing his story from his prison cell, Lakhdar declares: I am what I read, I am what I have seen, I have as much Arabic in me as Spanish and French, I have been multiplied in those mirrors until I have been lost or rebuilt, fragile image, image in motion. Enard 2012, 24984 No wonder, then, that Conrad is not the only literature referenced in this complex novel that reads like a homage to literature and to reading. Yet it rests on the very Conradian vision of a world that does not exist and has never existed, a truly cosmopolitan world that would allow people to enjoy mobile identities, embrace various influences and circulate freely through them. ‘A Conrad every year, what bliss!’ Marguerite Duras once exclaimed (Duras 1987, 119).85 At the close of this survey of the French reception of Conrad, which has taken us from the 1930s to the present, it appears that her prayer was almost answered. It is commonly assumed that Conrad is a writer’s writer, but the sheer quantity of paperback editions of his works available testifies to the existence of a substantial readership, and the regularity with which theatrical performances, concerts, readings, literary, film or graphic novel adaptations emerge gives the impression that he occupies a prominent position, not only in ‘French letters’, as the generation of H.-D. Davray would have said, but also in French culture. Conrad, it would appear, is truly ‘one of us’.


‘Cruz semblait toujours vaciller ainsi au bord de la parole’ (Enard 2012, 223). ‘[D]es égorgements en Afghanistan, des pendaisons datant de la Seconde Guerre mondiale, des accidents de voiture en tout genre, des corps brûlés par un bombardement’ (Enard 2012, 214). 82 ‘[A]valé par l’image’ (Enard 2012, 224). 83 ‘[A]u cœur de la tristesse, dans la ténèbre occidentale’ (Enard 2012, 201). 84 ‘[J]e suis ce que j’ai lu, je suis ce que j’ai vu, j’ai en moi autant d’arabe que d’espagnol et de français, je me suis multiplié dans ces miroirs jusqu’à me perdre ou me construire, image fragile, image en mouvement’ (Enard 2012, 328). 85 ‘Un Conrad tous les ans, quel bonheur!’ 81




Only in the last few years have scholars begun to investigate the crowded issues that shelter beneath the umbrella phrase, ‘Conrad and Germany’. A few studies exist on the links between Conrad and German literature, as, for example, those of Conrad and Nietzsche, Conrad and Schopenhauer, and Heart of Darkness and the Faust myth.1 But my own research has shown that the story of Conrad’s reception in German begins with the first appearance of his works not only in English-language editions but, more importantly, in translations appearing in the late 1920s and 1930s (Fothergill 2006). As we will see, the availability of Conrad’s works in German leads eventually to his presence in the work of such writers as Thomas Mann, Gottfried Benn, Jakob Wassermann, Kurt Tucholsky and, with a new generation of Conrad readers from the 1960s onwards, such great post-war German writers as Alfred Andersch, Christa Wolf and Lothar-Günther Buchheim. The latter, author of the novel and screenplay Das Boot (The Boat), about a U-boat fighting against the Allies in the Battle of the Atlantic in the Second World War, tells of how he, a war artist/correspondent, along with his U-boat captain read Conrad for moral inspiration and support. The work of more recent filmmakers like Werner Herzog cannot, I think, be understood without acknowledging, as Herzog himself does, the imaginative legacy that Conrad’s works provide, in a relationship perhaps better termed ‘elective affinities’ than explicit ‘influence’. My own research has focused on Conrad’s works in the context of the political and cultural life of twentieth-century Germany, particularly during the Weimar Republic (1920–33) and the Third Reich (1933–45). Looking at Conrad from this historical perspective makes clear the importance of considering what I call ‘cultural translation’. In this chapter, I shall attempt to flesh out that phrase, using Conrad as my example. But as a starting point, I mean by ‘cultural translation’ not solely the literary translation of texts, but more widely the ways in which different cultures understand or read one another according to the assumptions governed by their own cultural, historical and political contexts. Conrad came comparatively late to Germany. True, Tauchnitz Verlag, Leipzig, the controversial entrepreneurial publisher responsible for the pirating of many English-language novels, brought out several Conrad novels in English in their paperback series Collection of British and American Authors from the late 1890s.2 Tauchnitz English editions began with An Outcast of the Islands (1896). Tales of Unrest followed in 1898, and later The Secret Agent, A Set


More recently, two fuller studies have appeared: Gőbel, Seeber and Windisch (2007), and Lorenz (2017). Conrad’s relations with Tauchnitz Verlag were by no means always happy, mainly because Tauchnitz’s reading of copyright laws and their subsequent publication of English-language works did not always result in adequate payment of authors’ royalties. But the publishing house was an important medium for the dissemination of European works, some of which suffered legal censorship in their home countries.



The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

of Six, Under Western Eyes, Chance, Almayer’s Folly, The Rover and other works. But serious translations of the complete works of Conrad were not undertaken until after his death, although ‘Typhoon’ and ‘Amy Foster’ had come out in 1908 (published by Engelhorn Verlag), followed by ‘The Duel’, The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’ and Under Western Eyes (1912–14). Early critical enthusiasm for Conrad in Germany did occur before the First World War and important literary figures were discussing Conrad in letters and diaries, usually referring to English editions. One such figure was Harry Graf Kessler, whose republican, internationalist and socialist sympathies led him to be called the ‘Red Count’ and who, after the First World War, was briefly German Ambassador in Warsaw and wrote a biography of Piłsudski. A Berliner who also shared his time between London, Paris and Weimar, Kessler represented a different sort of Germany from that caricatured by Conrad in some of his fiction. The boorish Teutonic Schomberg in Victory, Hermann in ‘Falk’ and perhaps the GermanJewish hide-trader Hirsch in Nostromo – these are Conrad’s most prominent negative images of the German. A more complicated figure is Kurtz in Heart of Darkness – ‘All of Europe [contributed to his] making’, and his name suggests that Germany had some part in this. Certainly, Stein in Lord Jim represents a thoroughly other Germany, the Germany of the humane tradition of liberal republican Romanticism, the Germany of Goethe and Novalis, of Heine and the early Marx. Stein is in exile from precisely the sort of Germany that the words ‘Teutonic’ and ‘Prussia’ evoked for Conrad. Kessler was of this ilk. Cosmopolitan, Europeanwide in his interests and tastes, politically and culturally a formidably well-informed and wellconnected bon vivant, he was friends with Shaw and Wells, with Edward Gordon Craig, with Gide, Diaghilev and Nijinsky, with Rilke, with Harold Nicholson and Virginia and Leonard Woolf. In 1908, Kessler wrote enthusiastically (and perhaps rather cheekily) from London to one of the most famous dramatists and librettists of the day, Hugo von Hofmannstahl, sending him a copy of The Secret Agent. Kessler recommended the novel as a fine example of excellent writing from which a dramatist such as von Hofmannstahl might learn a lot: In many respects I find it technically peculiarly interesting, how it portrays London without actually portraying it, just through the psyches of his characters . . . for a dramatist [Hofmannstahl!] interested in trying to capture modern life, it cannot be recommended too highly.3 There is more of this kind of early German reception to Conrad, but it is largely restricted to the letters or diary entries of Anglophile German readers. If, in the Anglophone world, Conrad won popular success relatively late (with Chance in 1914), it is perhaps no surprise that he had to wait another dozen years for a similar success in Germany. Part of this delay, this lag, is explained by the First World War, when translated publications were suspended. After that, there was further trouble, as Ernst Freissler, an important early translator of and advocate for Conrad, explains in his 1929 essay, ‘Joseph Conrad und Deutschland’ (Freissler 1929). Although there were pre-war German translation rights for Conrad’s works, they were distributed among a number of German, Danish and indeed English

3 Letter of 30 January 1908 (written from Hotel Cecil, The Strand, London) in Briefwechsel Hugo von Hofmannstahl, Harry Graf Kessler, 1898–1927, trans. by Hilde Burger (Frankfurt a.M: Insel Verlag, 1963).


Publishing under Pressure

publishers, who sat on them. More important is the fact that, under a paragraph in the Versailles Treaty (1919), all German publishing rights to authors of the victorious Allies were suspended. Furthermore, the disastrous German hyperinflation of 1923 radically affected the economics of publishing in general, not least in relation to the cost of paper. So it was only in 1926 that a complete edition of Conrad in translation began to appear in individual volumes, after S. Fischer Verlag secured the German rights for all of Conrad’s works except ‘Typhoon’. It is impossible to understand the cultural and political context of Conrad’s readership without recognizing the importance of Fischer Verlag in post-First World War Germany. It was Fischer Verlag that from 1926 to the late 1930s brought out Conrad’s works in translation. These often first appeared in serialized form in the journal Die Neue Rundschau, which also, from the mid-1920s onwards, published influential articles about Conrad that appeared almost as ‘tasters’ prior to the full publication of the book. Fischer Verlag and Die Neue Rundschau played a vital role in the creation of a liberal democratic interwar cosmopolitan culture in Germany. The nature and breadth of Conrad’s German reception is largely due the fact that he was introduced, albeit posthumously, into this particular cultural context. (To complete the story of Fischer Verlag: after forced exile during the Nazi regime, the publisher returned to its dominant position in the late 1940s and 1950s.) My interviews with Germans now in their seventies and eighties, some of them former academics, have revealed the existence of an early and enthusiastic readership for Conrad. Indeed, one might say that there seems to have been a sort of Conrad cult-following from the late 1920s onwards. From 1926, the individual editions of Conrad’s novels clearly created a growing, knowledgeable public. Until the 1980s, the strongly modernist covers of the editions, designed by Heinrich Hussmann, featured blue and red print against a yellow background, with the familiar Muirhead Bone illustration. Many years later, this visually striking ‘marketing trademark’ was still being mentioned by Conrad’s early German readers. But to return to the reading of Conrad in what Brecht later called ‘These Dark Times’: the writers published by Fischer Verlag, in the original or in translation, offered a roll-call of modern European culture. With the possible exception of Penguin Books in Britain, there is no British or American publishing equivalent to Fischer’s vital cultural role (from its foundation in 1886 to the present day) in offering to the public a broad spectrum of political and artistic works. Fischer’s German list includes the complete works of Thomas Mann, Kafka, Hauptmann, Hesse and Sigmund Freud, and works by Nietzsche, Rilke, Hofmannstahl and Zweig. It was a truly cosmopolitan enterprise from the outset, when from its earliest years it brought to the German reading public translations of Tolstoy, Chekhov and Ibsen, Dostoevsky, Trotsky, Maupassant and Zola, Gide and D’Annunzio. From Anglophone literature it introduced, among others, the Brownings (Robert and Elizabeth Barrett), Oscar Wilde, John Galsworthy, John Millington Synge and Upton Sinclair. It published the complete works of G. B. Shaw, Virginia Woolf, John Dos Passos and Eugene O’Neill, and, later, Ernest Hemingway and Samuel Beckett. In the volume of Die Neue Rundschau (1926) in which Joseph Conrad’s ‘Youth’ first appears, there are essays by G. B. Shaw (not uncharacteristically on himself) and Paul Valéry as well as extracts from the diaries of Tolstoy. Walter Benjamin’s and T. W. Adorno’s early essays also appeared here. Conrad shared a primary place in Fischer’s international list. Tangential evidence for this, perhaps ironic in its own way, comes in a letter from Samuel Fischer to Leon Trotsky in 1929.4 4

Letter of 27 March 1929 in Samuel Fischer and Herdwig Fischer, Briefwechsel mit Autoren, ed. Dieter Rodewald and Corinna Fiedler (Frankfurt a.M: S. Fischer Verlag, 1989).


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Trotsky (living in exile from Stalin’s Soviet Union) is discussing whether his autobiography should really appear with Fischer, who is bringing out his collected works. Fischer is keen on the publication and replies that they have a strong list in autobiographies and in particular have just published Conrad’s A Personal Record. Indeed, the Conrad complete edition took pride of place in Fischer’s interwar list of international authors. The Shadow-Line, Chance and Youth appeared in 1926, followed by The Secret Agent, Lord Jim, The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’, Nostromo and Victory in 1927. Interest in Conrad’s personality had grown so considerably by that time that in 1928 A Personal Record was the next translation. Over subsequent years other volumes appeared, until by 1939 the publication of the complete works, twenty-two volumes, was finished, by far the longest and fullest publishing enterprise undertaken by Fischer Verlag. By that date the company (like many of its Jewish and nonJewish authors) had partially moved from Berlin into exile to escape Nazi persecution. First going to Austria, then to Holland, Fischer Verlag finally went to Sweden, to return to Germany only in 1947.‘Partially’ is appropriate, because a subsidiary Fischer Verlag remained in Germany after 1933. It existed as almost the only large publishing house able to defy and to an extent combat Nazi book-banning and book-burning, the ‘Aryanization’ of Jewish-owned firms and the danger of being placed under full Nazi control. Samuel Fischer died in 1934, and afterwards another hero of Conrad’s German story, Peter Suhrkamp (an ‘Aryan’ in Nazi terminology) took over the German wing of the company when it was threatened with a Nazi take-over. He negotiated the continuance of publishing rights for some foreign and German authors after 1936 and managed to maintain the publishing policy and spirit of Fischer in Germany when its new owner (Gottfried Bermann-Fischer) had to flee into exile in 1936. The history of Fischer Verlag during the period up to 1945 is a politically fraught one. In pursuing it in detailed relation to Conrad, I have studied the many lists of Nazi ‘Banned and Undesirable Books’ issued for Germany and for Poland, as well as the Reich’s Propaganda Ministry records. The story of Nazi book-banning and the more local one of the English-Polish writer Joseph Conrad’s position in it is very complicated, which I will not now elaborate. One aspect of it, though, is important to this chapter. Joseph Goebbels, by 1936 the Minister of Propaganda, controlled not just the publication and selling of books, but also the language of criticism. Indeed, seeking to control the dispersal of information about books and those who perpetrated this dispersal, he ‘banned’ the word ‘Kritik’ (‘criticism’, as in ‘literary criticism’ or ‘art criticism’) in favour of ‘literary/art appreciation’; reviews were permitted to be written only by those reviewers licensed by the ministry. The implication of this linguistic prohibition was that there should be no grounds for any (intellectual notion of) criticism. Fischer Verlag and the broader public were being made to accept alternative ways of understanding culture. It would be an exaggeration to argue that Conrad was a major political fish in this poisoned pond, although he did feature in Nazi anti-Jewish propaganda (as a supposed Jewish writer). Perhaps it was because he was not seen as a big fish by the Nazi authorities that his novels could continue to be read. Thanks to Peter Suhrkamp’s energy and political acumen at manoeuvring around the Nazi laws, Conrad continued to survive in print. Indeed, 1939 saw the completion of the collected works, and Conrad’s works came to represent a beacon of sanity for many Germans in those dark times. As a somewhat ironic footnote to this barbarian period of literary politics, I find it indicative of a less-than-efficient Nazi literary machine that on the Polish List of Banned and Undesirable Books for 1941, the single banned book cited as written by the English-Pole Korzeniowski was Sieg (Victory). Perhaps the censors only read the title. At the 110

Publishing under Pressure

same time the Polish translation of The Rover could be found in the concentration camp library at Stutthof, near Gdansk (Danzig). Interest in Conrad’s works survived Nazi propaganda and control during the war, forming a kind of clandestine, camouflaged resistance to the authoritarian fascist mentality. Nor did interest in his works wane after the Nazi period. In 1961, for example, following Suhrkamp’s decision to undertake a whole new translation of the complete works, Tales of Hearsay appeared with a publication run of 51,000, slightly more than Kafka’s Short Stories, slightly fewer than Mann’s Lotte in Weimar. Other than Ernst Freissler, who was Conrad’s main translator and a major advocate for Conrad in the 1920s, two figures played a crucial role in the Fischer Verlag and German reception of Conrad: Thomas Mann and Jakob Wassermann. Both were major Fischer authors. I have discussed elsewhere what I call the ‘elective affinities’ between Mann and Conrad, suggesting why Conrad was so important to Mann in his own political/historical position during the Weimar period and after (Fothergill 2007, 66ff ). Jakob Wassermann was, in his own right, one of the most widely-read international authors of his day. Perhaps best known today for his novel on that enigmatic outsider figure Caspar Hauser, he is also of interest to Conradians for Bula Matari, his 1932 work on Henry Morton Stanley, in which he refers to Heart of Darkness. In 1926, Samuel Fischer asked Thomas Mann and Jakob Wassermann to write introductory essays to the forthcoming editions of The Secret Agent and The Shadow-Line, the latter of which ran to four further reprint runs between 1926 and 1937. These introductory essays by the two foremost writers of the day proved formative for the contexts within which Conrad was then understood in Germany. Samuel Fischer was a very shrewd publicist and businessman. Even before the First World War he was well aware of the endangering encroachments of other media, and with his essay of 1926 on the ‘Book Crisis’ he identified cinema, radio and sport as particularly ‘distracting’ industrial entertainments, which were challenging the book trade (Fischer 1926, 1–2). So, coincident with the appearance of Conrad in 1926, and also encouraged by new German laws which permitted writers to get royalties for radio readings of their works, Fischer encouraged his authors to use the brand-new format of radio talks to publicize their (that is his) new books.5 On 20 October 1926, Thomas Mann, by this time the great contemporary German writer and about to become Nobel prize-winner for Literature, did his first-ever radio broadcast. He used it to read not from his most recent work, Der Zauberberg (The Magic Mountain), but from his unpublished essay on Joseph Conrad. Mann subsequently toured the country, publicizing ‘Fischer’s German editions’ and lecturing on Conrad as part of his efforts to promote Fischer’s books (and his own). I suspect that, given his own publicity enterprises in America, Conrad would have enjoyed the irony that he was one of the first German examples of publishers’ promotional tours. The stature of (and the endorsement by) Thomas Mann had a lot to do with it. But for Mann himself, moving politically as he was in the mid-1920s from his earlier pro-First World War nationalist ‘right wing’ position to one supportive of the more socialist Weimar Republic, Conrad provided a sympathetic political ‘ironic voice’ and critical perspective on political change as seen from a conservative point of view, sceptical of demagogic movements of both the extreme right and left. 5

Fischer’s acuteness in registering the changes in mass forms of technological reproduction and publicity is measured by the fact that only in October 1923 was a German (Berlin) public radio station established for the first time and only in 1926 was a German national broadcasting station on the air.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Certainly, Conrad remained a crucial figure for Mann. His volumes of Joseph Conrad were among the few books Mann took with him to the USA and which, he records, were always by his bedside. In letters from 1946 and 1947 he continually refers to his reading of Conrad’s novels and urges others to see their importance. In an interview with an American journalist he scoffs at the idea, when ‘Death in Venice’ and ‘Tonio Kroger’ are cited, that he, Mann, was the first great modern European writer of short stories. That prize, he says, goes assuredly to Joseph Conrad. He adds that he is ‘enormously impressed and as a German somehow embarrassed by a manly, adventurous and linguistically-elevated, psychologically and morally deep, art of narration, which for us [the Germans] is not simply rare, but is completely lacking’.6 What imaginative role did Conrad’s works play for those who read him in German translations from the 1920s onwards? Why were translations of him somehow ‘necessary’ and why did they find such resonance at a critical political and cultural moment in German and European life? The active participants in his early reception whom I have already mentioned offer us clues. A whole body of other German reviewers, essayists and thinkers in the late 1920s and 1930s who use Conrad as a touchstone would complicate but, I think, not contradict his early reception. Both Maryla Mazurkiewicz Reifenberg, reviewing ‘Freya of the Seven Isles’ in the Frankfurter Zeitung in June 1929, and Paul Wohlfahrt, writing on ‘Youth’ in the main Jewish newspaper, Central-Verein Zeitung, in 1936 talk explicitly about the ideas of exile and banishment in Conrad’s early life and recognize him as the most important English writer of his age. Expanding upon these ideas, they highlight his fictional themes of loss but also of endurance under stress. Reifenberg was herself Polish, emigrating to Germany to become editor of the ‘Women’s Section’ of the Frankfurter Zeitung, of which her husband Benno Reifenberg was the co-editor. Both journalists, like the newspaper itself, represented strong liberal anti-fascist views. While writing on fashion, she also wrote several times on Conrad and other novelists in the Feuilleton literary review section, including some writing under the Nazis. Her first Conrad review, of 30 June 1929, concentrated on the Freya story. Unlike the English reception of the tale, where it was ignored by contemporary reviewers, it was one of the most popular of Conrad’s works in Germany, going into a large second edition. The review was written in what was becoming a very difficult period with the political and economic chaos in late Weimar Germany. Reifenberg’s account of the conclusion of the work can be read, I think, as a cryptic description of contemporary suffering: And then, when things are at their worst, when human beings are expected to endure the most inhuman suffering, Conrad with a simple gesture of wonderful compassion, lets the story glide out of his hands. The finale of the story is reported in the pitiful voice of one of those also affected by the suffering [Freya’s father]. Through the sound of the broken human voice those whose frightful fate has snatched them away have been called back into the community of humankind. But they do not have any home there anymore. They slide inexorably over into another unnameable community. Like a bitter tear into the ocean’s waters.7


Cited in Mendelssohn 1970, 1059 (my translation). This, like most of her (otherwise unpublished) newspaper articles, can be found alongside other source material in the (Benno) Reifenberg-Nachlass housed in the Deutsche Literaturarchiv in Marbach am Neckar. Two boxes are devoted to Maryla Reifenberg’s papers. Prosa Sammlung, boxes 1 and 2 (my translation).



Publishing under Pressure

In the longest Conrad review she wrote (10 October 1934), on An Outcast of the Islands, entitled ‘Polarstern’ (‘Pole Star’, with a pun, as a fellow Pole), Reifenberg clearly recognizes in her homage to Conrad a voice which could speak to the beleaguered humane people who were threatened in her day: This independence in Conrad is legitimized by way of an unconditional feeling of responsibility, by the strongest sense of conscience. Conrad’s conscience, independence, compassion and courage are as inexhaustible as the sea. And how unremitting he was towards himself in this! How strong is his resistance against accepting something which he cannot answer to in his own heart. Reifenberg 1934 Reading Conrad’s works critically and to an extent metaphorically allowed Reifenberg to articulate a moral and political form of resistance in Germany ‘in camouflage’, when explicit opposition to the regime was well-nigh impossible. Other writers adopted similar camouflage tactics. Paul Wohlfahrt wrote several pieces on Conrad over a number of years, perhaps the most interesting of which was his review of Youth in the newspaper Central-Verein Zeitung, the main organ of the Central Union of Jewish Belief, active in asserting the Germanness of German Jews and still publishing even after the anti-Jewish Nuremberg Laws of 1935. In the review he briefly summarizes Conrad’s biography, stressing his family’s banishment to Russia from Warsaw following his father’s leadership of an unsuccessful political uprising in Warsaw in 1861. The word ‘Verbannung’ (banishment) cannot be heard in the Germany of 1936 without immediate contemporary political resonance, and Wohlfahrt amplifies the echo. He asks, ‘What does he mean directly to us Jews, beside our experience of reading the finest writing in English?’ He mentions positive Jewish characters in Conrad, but more deeply he draws an allegorical picture of Jews from the kinds of tragedies Conrad’s characters confront: They are all lonely, and even the dregs of the street avoid them, as if they knew they were doom-laden. [. . .] this doom hangs literally or metaphorically like a cloud over them all. [. . .] And yet, and this is what raises the lonely characters above the level of ordinary characters in novels, they have a unique sense of duty and faithfulness, which gives them the strength to look fate in the eyes with raised head, to stand resolutely at their posts to the very end. Wohlfarth 1936b, 1 The ship in ‘Youth’ provides ‘the emblem of this resolution and faithfulness’, with its motto ‘Do or Die’. It is wracked by storm, then a ship’s collision and finally by an explosion and fire at sea. But, Wohlfarth concludes, ‘it nevertheless pursues its prescribed course according to some law it has accepted. The name of the ship is Judea.’ The essay was written almost three years before Kristallnacht, at a time when it was still possible to read allegories into stories and even to believe in them. In Conrad’s fictional tale the crew has to abandon the burning ship, but they survive. That is the problem with allegories. In their different vernaculars, answering partially to their own preoccupations, Thomas Mann, Jakob Wassermann and Ernst Freissler identify something in Conrad which became an


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

important leitmotif characterizing the way he was critically and culturally positioned in interwar and Nazi Germany. It was their version of him which made him such a challenging, abidingly powerful and impressive figure through the war years and into postwar Germany. Theirs is a motif which can still speak to us today, in our present and urgent attempts to define what it means to be ‘European’ in terms of, or against, a national/nationalistic culture. If, for brevity, I have concentrated on these prominent advocates of Conrad, I should say that I have found many other writers and readers who record in diaries, letters and interview their discovery in Conrad’s works of the same qualities of sentiment; the same kinds of strengths (and weaknesses); depictions of the same geographies of human trial, failure and endeavour. These writers include Arthur Schnitzler (the dramatist), Kurt Tucholsky (the satirical writer and journalist) and Joseph Roth (the Austrian novelist). Two lesser known but representatively acute readers of Conrad were Gerhard Nebel and Hermann Stresau. Nebel records in his journals how, from a position as chief translator to the German High Command in Paris in 1941, he was demoted to a private and sent to Brittany and then into semi-exile in the (occupied) Channel Islands overseeing the building of Nazi defences and a concentration camp, all because of a satirical anti-Nazi essay he wrote in Die Neue Rundschau. Taking with him his works of Conrad, alongside Baudelaire, Hugo and Stendhal, Nebel in his journals offers a strong sense of engagement with Conrad in a Brittany geography that had been familiar to Conrad some forty or more years earlier. Hermann Stresau was thrown out of his librarian’s job in the Prussian State Library in Berlin in 1936 for alleged socialist-communist sympathies. Without a professional post, he took up again his writing of the first German academic monograph on Conrad, which was published in 1937. Stresau’s book laid the groundwork for German Conradian scholarship for at least the next thirty years. Stresau alighted on a lecture given in 1936 by Dr Wilhelm Stapel, which was subsequently published as a widely distributed pamphlet, The Literary Domination of the Jews in Germany 1918–1933, with an enthusiastic endorsement from Dr Walter Frank, the director of the Reichsinstitut for the History of the New Germany. The subject of the lecture was the condemnation of the ‘cosmopolitan’ cultural links of Germany and France, which was another way of saying the ‘world Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy’. Stapel argues that European Jewry had infiltrated German culture and under the cover of assimilation had come to assert its influence over all significant areas of literary life. It dominated not only publishing and bookselling, but also the writing of poetry and novels, literary criticism and reviews. To make his case, Stapel found in Joseph Conrad a major example of such undesirable writers. He was a foreigner using German-Jewish publishers, including S. Fischer Verlag, and one of the most popular writers in translation (when translation was seen by Nazis as a form of foreign cultural infiltration): the ‘Polish Jew, Josef [sic] Conrad, who writes in English, achieves a widespread readership and fame in Germany too, while these journals remain silent about his Jewishness’. Dr Walter Frank’s foreword praises Stapel’s paper as an example of ‘objective scholarly truth’ and ‘methodological rigour’ in its account and exposure of the insidious presence and assimilation of Jews in Germany, particularly Jewish writers and publishers. The ‘objectivity’ and ‘rigour’ of Stapel’s argument, which was influential at the time in demonstrating the domination of Jews in all areas of German literary culture, contains the following passage which was subsequently seized on by Stresau and other anti-Nazis to fight, as it were, a rearguard action against Nazi cultural and political oppression: 114

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Just as the French Jews in Paris elevated those coming to them from Berlin, so did the German Jews in Berlin celebrate those [Jewish] envoys from Paris. It was in this way that Jewish writers were made into something like foreign policy currency, made into moral stocks and shares. The German-Jewish newspapers on their part also picked up the literary radio signals of the Jews in Paris and London etc. It has been in this way that the Polish Jew Josef [sic] Conrad, for example, who writes in English, was made into a famed and widely-read writer in Germany, and even today he is promoted in certain German literary journals while they keep completely silent about his Jewishness. Still today Jewish writers who have emigrated and their émigré literary proselytizers behave as if they were the true German literature and civilization, which they have never been.8 Stapel admitted later that he had never read any Conrad, but his propaganda interests had already been served. Within days of his lecture, Joseph Goebbels, Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, declared (as noted above) that henceforth the term ‘Kritik’ (literary or art criticism) was banned from use in the press. As a freelance writer, Stresau had written articles and reviews on English and American authors and had been working on a monograph about Conrad, Der Tragiker des Westerns (The Tragic Writer of the West). He took note of this lecture and thought he could use it to demolish Stapel’s ‘argument’ about Conrad and its broader political agenda and to publish anti-Nazi essays in Die Neue Rundschau more effectively. An entry in Stresau’s diary for 1 March 1937 suggests his deep disquiet at Stapel’s attack on Conrad but also his excitement about the opportunity it offers. Paradoxically, Stapel’s very public contribution to the Aryanization of German culture by attacking ‘Conrad the Jew’ provided, in an unintended and extraordinary way, a ‘legitimate’ avenue for a liberal anti-Nazi counter-attack. Stapel’s offensive, in short, is at least partially responsible for motivating Stresau’s articles in Die Neue Rundschau and afterwards the publication of his Joseph Conrad. Der Tragiker des Westens (Stresau 1937). Stresau’s essays shed crucial light on the ways in which Conrad and his work were mobilized in the name and spirit of those opposed to the regime. Because of his already established international status, Conrad came to stand for an ethics and Weltanschauung quite alien to the dominant, narrowly nationalist Nazi ideology. There were many in Germany who still hungered for such an orientation. Conrad provided a voice for this almost voiceless opposition. To summarize their attitudes does not do full justice to the complex views of Conrad’s German readers in the interwar years. But it would be fair to say that they generally perceived in Conrad what I would call a contestation of nationalisms and the need for cultural translation and understanding. There is a sense in which Conrad’s own complexity, his resistance to be categorized in any simple terms, facilitated the richness of his reception. It is to these ideas that I now turn.


‘Genau so wie die französischen Juden in Paris die Abgesandten aus Berlin erhöhten, erhöhten die deutschen Juden in Berlin die Abgesandten aus Paris. Auf diese Weise machte man jüdische Literaten gewissermassen zu aussenpolitischen Werten, zu moralischen Devisen. Die deutsch-jüdischen Zeitungen fingen auch ihrerseits die literarischen Signale der Juden von Paris, London usw. auf. Der englisch schreibende polnische Jude Josef [sic] Conrad z.B. wurde auf diese Weise auch in Deutschland zu einer vielgelesenen Berühmtheit, und noch heute wird er in bestimmten Literaturblättern Deutschlands unter Verschweigung seines Judentums propagiert. Noch heute tun sich die emigrierten jüdischen Schriftsteller und ihre literarischen Proselyten in der Emigration als die wahre deutsche Literatur und Zivilisation hervor, die sie – nie gewesen sind’ (Stapel, 36).


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

In their introductions to The Secret Agent and The Shadow-Line respectively, both Thomas Mann and Jakob Wassermann evoke Chamisso, the late eighteenth-century French nobleman turned German lyric-poet, as the only writer they think compares to Conrad for his multilingualism. For Mann and Wassermann, this term indicates internationalism and cosmopolitanism. Mann talks of how he first got to hear of Conrad from John Galsworthy, who was lecturing in Den Haag on Conrad and Tolstoy in 1923. Who was this Conrad who was being compared to the great Tolstoy? More astonishing, who was this man for whom – and Mann constantly repeats the anecdote – André Gide decided to learn English, in order to read him in the original? How could one explain such cultural boundary-crossings? Where does Conrad’s cosmopolitan quality come from? (Mann claims by contrast that he himself lacks it and bewails his deficiency in foreign languages.) In his essay of 1929, ‘Joseph Conrad in Deutschland’ (in Die Neue Rundschau 40, no. 1), Ernst Freissler, who by this time had become commissioning editor of foreign language works for Fischer Verlag, makes a similar point. Comparing the literary achievements of Stevenson, Kipling and Jack London, all writers who were living more or less in exile from their homelands, Freissler rates Conrad’s literary merit above these other writers, better known to German readers. Freissler offers what amounts to a sort of negative definition of Conrad. It is what Conrad is not that attracts him: Conrad does not fit into categories. He offers alternatives and contradictions, not uniformity. Freissler adds a significant (political) gloss, pointedly directed to his German readers. While the other writers are more accessible to, and less demanding of, German readers, Conrad’s virtue lies precisely in his being somehow ‘unGerman’, in that neither the man nor his writing conforms to categorical expectations. It is this, paradoxically, which finds such strong resonance among his German readers, Freissler argues: [T]he grounds [for his greatness] lie less in Conrad’s than in our [German] characteristics, characteristics which can grow to become a burden: the German, oh so German, desire to categorize, to stamp; to register. And to this addiction Conrad offers no easy palliative. Freissler 1929, 127–8 Mann and Wassermann also stress the uncategorizability of Conrad. Mann insists, in his reading of The Secret Agent, on Conrad’s anti-bourgeois ironies. But he also distances him from any sentimental siding with a socialist artistic avant-garde supporting a proletarian revolutionary movement. Of course, into this configuring we need to read Mann’s own position as an active voice within a volatile Weimar Germany (and recall his own scepticism towards an artistic political avant-garde which was soon to be seen suffering as much under Stalinism as it had under former absolutist regimes).9 Jakob Wassermann’s introduction to The Shadow-Line stresses, rather more, the existential isolation of the individual. The common feature of these essays and the early reviews is a perception of Conrad’s refusal to be aligned. Read within a German cultural politics of the late 1920s, which was daily insisting on the need to belong (to party, to state, to race) or to be damned, this virtue can be seen as offering in its ‘untimeliness’

9 For excellent anthologies of essays on the cultural politics of the period, see Kaes 1983 and Kaes, Jay and Dimendberg 1994.


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a political integrity and intellectual succour for those many German readers who sought a different path from the competing totalitarianisms on offer.10 Another, perhaps even more intriguing, reading of Conrad occurred in the war and on a U-boat. It is a lightly fictionalized account, based on his war notebooks, by the (subsequently) famous novelist Lothar-Günther Buchheim of his experience as a lieutenant when posted as war artist-photographer and correspondent on the submarine U-96 in 1941–2. His novel Das Boot (1970) was later made into a film, directed by Wolfgang Petersen (1981), about the Battle of the Atlantic. Through his fictional and documentary works an important channel of Conrad’s cultural reception in Germany, during the Third Reich but also after it, can be traced. Conrad had no fondness for submarines; indeed, the only serious action he witnessed in wartime was during the First World War, in November 1916, as an honoured visitor and observer on board the British gunship HMS Ready. Renamed the Freya at Conrad’s request, and disguised as a merchant ship, its assignment was to act as a decoy to attract German U-boats in the North Sea. Conrad had been recommended to Buchheim by Peter Suhrkamp, who was publishing Buchheim’s first autobiographical work about sailing alone down the Danube. Before his warposting to work in Admiral Dönitz’s naval forces in the Atlantic, Suhrkamp gave him Youth and The Mirror of the Sea, with the invaluable advice, ‘Buchheim, you must read Conrad!’ These works, his constant quotation of them and his own writing reflect his lifelong admiration for Conrad, expressed in a long autobiographical Afterword to a substantial volume of Conrad’s works published by S. Fischer Verlag, Das Joseph Conrad Buch (1982). Perhaps the irony of The Mirror of the Sea being read by Lehmann-Willenbrock, captain of the U-96, in the middle of a massive storm in November 1941 might not have been lost on Conrad. This is recorded by Buchheim in Das Boot and accords with conversations I had with him much later. Retreating to the officer’s mess from observations on the conning tower, Lehmann-Willenbrock read out a description of a storm from the ‘Rulers of East and West’ chapter. Many more references to Conrad are embedded in Buchheim’s memoires and later ‘autobiofictions’: Der Luxusliner (1980) and Der Abschied (2000). Even in his photo-documentary writings, which use his stunning wartime photos, Jäger im Weltmeer (The Hunter in the Ocean, 1943, 1996) and U-Boot Krieg (1976), Conrad is frequently cited. Buchheim’s recourse to Conrad was at its greatest when the war was going badly. In his Afterword to Das Joseph Conrad Buch, he quotes at length a passage from ‘Youth’, a passage describing the storm-wracked Judea, through which something close to identification occurs, a youthful identification with Conrad: Just as for Conrad, for me too the world was above all the sea and above it the heavens. It was wartime, and I was going in [fighting] ‘agin Engelland’, first of all on destroyers, then on Raumbooten, speed-boats and mine-sweepers, and finally on U-boats. It was on U-boats that I felt closest to Conrad. When the seas ran high and the fore and stern was overwhelmed by seething waters, the bridge was nothing more than a tiny island in a cauldron of sea. [. . .] When things were going particularly badly for me in the war

10 I allude to ‘untimeliness’ as the word used by Thomas Mann to entitle and characterize his cultural essays, but he is borrowing it from a work of Nietzsche. My argument is that Conrad’s belated untimeliness is at this point his strength.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

I would get out my small volume of Conrad with the story of the Judea in it [Youth] and, stretched out on my bunk, would secretly read from it for my consolation. ‘Nachwort’, Buchheim 1982, 427 Buchheim’s very reading of Conrad, secretly, but with the ‘Old Man’ Lehmann-Willenbrock’s endorsement, constitutes a cultural-political gesture at the time. When I asked Buchheim in personal interviews (at his home in August 2001) which books were on board U-96, he said he had Youth and The Mirror of the Sea (in German, Der Spiegel der See). But it’s difficult to remember. I think Lehmann-Willenbrock had Der Spiegel der See. That was certainly the most important book [for him] and me. That is a most unusual book. It is a book for seamen. Only seamen can properly understand it. Know what it means. But there were not a lot who read it. We could not easily talk about things. It might seem extraordinary now but then it was like living in the twilight [Zwielicht]. It was a twilight world and time. Things were not open, you know. Some top commanders were sometimes reported on by their juniors. They could be arrested and tried and even executed for what they said. [‘You could not really trust others around you?’ A. F.] Even between parents and children that could happen. He added that books by foreign authors were hardly being read by the general public or among the younger crew. Curiously, on the publication of Das Boot in 1970, some surviving commanders of Dönitz’s U-boat forces accused Buchheim of betraying the U-boat command’s loyalty to the Reich in his depictions of his and Lehmann-Willenbrock’s conversations about their increasing awareness of the madness of Hitler’s (and Dönitz’s) war and their part in it. Ironically and conversely, at about the same time, the next generation of ‘68ers’, many left-wing students and academics, criticized their own parents for fighting as loyal Nazis in the war. For them, Buchheim’s works embodied hypocritical revisionism. Buchheim, always one to embrace rather than avoid argument and controversy, offered his reading of Conrad as a foundation for his understanding of his experiences and values, citing his accounts of facing a storm as allegory for the need to stay stalwart in the face of overwhelming forces. The Commander totters his way through to the Officers’ Mess and settles himself firmly in his corner at the narrow end of the table. [. . .] All three of us keep our heads bent over our books. After a while he looks up. ‘Just read this! It’s a perfect description!’ I find the paragraph he’s pointing to. ‘The caprice of the winds, like the wilfulness of men, is fraught with the disastrous consequences of self-indulgence. Long anger, the sense of his uncontrolled power, spoils the frank and generous nature of the West Wind. It is as if his heart were corrupted by a malevolent and brooding rancour. He devastates his own kingdom in the wantonness of his force. South-west is the quarter of the heavens where he presents his darkened brow. He breathes his rage in terrific squalls and overwhelms his realm with an inexhaustible welter of clouds. He strews the seeds of anxiety upon the decks of scudding 118

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ships, makes the foam-stripped ocean look old, and sprinkles with grey hairs the heads of ship-masters in the homeward-bound ships running for the Channel. The Westerly Wind asserting his sway from the south-west quarter is often like a monarch gone mad, driving forth with wild imprecations the most faithful of his courtiers to shipwreck, disaster, and death.’ MoS, 83, in Buchheim 1970, 235–6 Buchheim’s immersion in Conrad’s writing is perhaps evident in his epigraph to U-Boat Krieg, in what I read as Buchheim’s evocation of Conrad in a critique of warfare and the rhetoric of its politics: From a long and miserable experience of suffering, injustice, disgrace and aggression the nations of the earth are mostly swayed by fear – fear of the sort that a little cheap oratory turns easily to rage, hate, and violence. Innocent, guileless fear has been the cause of many wars. Not, of course, the fear of war itself, which, in the evolution of sentiments and ideas, has come to be regarded at last as a half-mystic and glorious ceremony with certain fashionable rites and preliminary incantations, wherein the conception of its true nature hast been lost. MoS, 149–50 But such ‘immersion’ has quite different meanings for different seamen. Conrad’s dislike of submarines might have been due to his regarding them as being somehow ‘unfair’, without honour. For all his great admiration for Conrad as a writer and sailor, Buchheim recognizes this. In the opening to U-Boot Krieg, he writes: The moment of sinking is every sailor’s lifelong nightmare, because it means the death of the ship and crew. But for men aboard a submarine, sinking is part of normal seamanship. [. . .] For a normal surface vessel the slightest contact with the seabed is a constant terror. Joseph Conrad is the port of all the humiliations of this predicament. [. . .] But for a submarine, touching bottom is a practised routine. Buchheim 1976, 1 So, despite all their ‘sharing’ of violent Atlantic storms – and Buchheim again cites ‘The Rulers of East and West’ (MoS), implicitly endorsing his admiration for Conrad – their shared experience as sailors and the potential political, allegorical reading he perceives, Buchheim nevertheless recognizes paradoxes. If Conrad is an abiding moral and experiential touchstone for him, he is also a measure by which analogy may move into difference. Many more German writers (and filmmakers) have written on, or ‘used’, Conrad. In their post-1945 works, Christa Wolf, Brigitte Kronauer, W. G. Sebald, Hans Christoph Buch, the Swiss-German writer Urs Widmer and filmmaker Werner Herzog offer examples: all testify to his constant cultural presence and strength as an abiding focal point, even when, or perhaps because, he is subject to revised readings and reimaginings. I will now turn briefly to the larger questions of translation and translatability. What might it mean to ‘translate Conrad’? At the linguistic level the question is problematic enough. Conrad 119

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is not easy to translate. I have had long interviews with the chief translator of the second complete edition of Conrad which Fischer Verlag initiated in the late 1950s, Günther Danehl. When I interviewed him he was in his eighties, but he was some ten years old when introduced to the works of Conrad by his father, who was taking up the Conradian enthusiasms of a friend, the great satirical journalist Kurt Tucholsky, whom one might think of as a sort of German George Orwell. Danehl thus grew up with Conrad’s novels, although, unlike Buchheim, he does not claim an immediate and lifelong infatuation. On the contrary, he has spoken to me of the exasperating vagueness of much of Conrad’s prose. But I should add that translations of an original text focus the mind on what may be the very unclear linguistic texture in the original. Some of what Danehl says has to do with questions of symbol and abstraction, a defying of the concrete, which English and German understand differently. For the translator it is something which may coincide with what Leavis in The Great Tradition (1948) famously called Conrad’s ‘adjectival insistence’. Some problems arise with the novels’ titles. How do we translate, for example, Under Western Eyes? Should it be, as it tends to be, with ‘Mit’ [With] or ‘Unter’ [more literally, Under]? This choice offers quite different, potentially profoundly different, meanings. The same might be said of translating ‘Heart of Darkness’. The English has a dominant connotation, which has almost become a ubiquitous cliché referring to a political chaos, usually in Africa. But the English, with ‘of ’, leaves ambiguous whether ‘Darkness’ is a noun or adjective. Does ‘darkness’ refer to some sort of geopolitical place and culture, or to an internal, moral or psychological quality, as with ‘heart of gold’. German has to resolve this and in German editions it is always with the definite article, thus Herz der Finsternis (which comes closer to the common English meaning). German would probably have to use ‘aus’ for the second meaning, implying quality (i.e., ‘Herz aus Finsternis’, a ‘heart made out of darkness’). So the rich ambiguity of Conrad’s English is compromised to some extent. But as important as this ‘linguistic’ problem is – which could be elaborated upon across different languages – there are also what we may call the cultural and epistemological problems of ‘cultural translation’. It is an even greater issue for us today. My earlier accounts of Conrad’s reception in Germany indicate how he was being ‘read’ politically in Germany’s own troubled times, as a form of what I call ‘camouflaged resistance’. But it goes even deeper. Its forms go to the roots of Conrad’s own concerns, as an outsider in all the cultures he inhabited. The idea of translating experience is quintessentially a Conradian problem. We think of the Marlow of Lord Jim and Heart of Darkness, who acts as a kind of translator of his own, only partially understood, experience of Jim or Kurtz. But translation risks traduction. Marlow prefaces his traduction of the experience of Africa with the disclaimer that ‘we live, as we dream, alone’; that is, an ‘ideal’ translation may be better dreamt of than achieved. We recall the linguistic and epistemological conflations of the problem of translation and edition in Under Western Eyes, with the figures of Razumov and the teacher of languages. So, with German translations of Conrad, what we may be talking about as a linguistic problem at one level is, at another level, a question of transmission: of the possibility and needs of translation. The problem is at least twofold, and the participating agencies are entwined in mutually influencing, dialectical ways. Thus, we need to understand the word ‘translation’ not merely in its linguistic but also in its broadest cultural and epistemological forms. How does a writer understand another culture? And how is another culture reading him? As we all know, Conrad is quintessentially a figure representing translatability, the hope of crossing-over from one language or cultural vernacular to another. This may mean moving from Polish to French to English, or from seaman to 120

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landlubber-writer, or from exiled aristocrat son to impoverished immigrant. Who can count the price of these translations? Even when literal translations are available, and we have them all in German, the question of translatability is a larger, philosophical one. Walter Benjamin, in his aphoristically resonant essay on ‘The Task of the Translator’, talks of the (un)translatability of works. He fears that it could mean that a work might never find an adequate translator in history, amongst men. In which case, rather like Borges’s infinitely knowledgeable librarian or Berkeley’s God, who sees everything and thus guarantees its existence in the absence of men’s sight, for Benjamin a work of art may be translated, fulfilled, only as God’s remembrance (Benjamin 1973, 70). Conrad’s translators were not gods, anticipating all. Even simple-sounding titles produced interesting cross-cultural issues. Take Lord Jim, for example. English publications have editorial notes translating English (sailors’ terminology and jargon) into English, not to mention the different languages (for example, German and French) used in the novel. The novel itself is concerned with translating certain kinds of ideas: honour, habit, bravery. But the novel’s title and that of the ‘hero’ Jim, the would-be outsider saviour, signals mixed cultures and cultural hierarchies. Jim’s Patusan name, ‘Tuan Jim’, is an honorific title meaning ‘sir’ or ‘mister’, but translated back into English, ‘tuan’ becomes ‘Lord’. Jim’s own naming becomes a metaphor for the cultural perception of his own transforming fate. Another interesting, more contemporary, cultural political problem emerges with The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’. The first German translation was in 1912 (Albert Langen publishers) by Ernst Wolfgang Günter, and it was later reissued by Fischer Verlag in 1926 with the same translation (although Günter changed, or translated, his own name, to become Ernst Freissler) and entitled Der Nigger vom ‘Narzissus’. This version is virtually repeated in a postwar translation (by Ernst Wagner, 1971) and bears the same German spelling of the ship’s name, but with a switch of its gender from male to female (from ‘vom’ to ‘von der’). The title of the novel had already raised a question for Conrad with its simultaneous printing in 1897 of the American edition, The Children of the Sea. This was not, as might be thought, to avoid ‘Nigger’ as a potentially insulting racist slur, but rather, as it was explained to a puzzled Conrad, because otherwise it may put off American readers who would not want to read about ‘niggers’ (which of course amounts to second-level racism). In short, it was a marketing decision aimed at a potentially racist white readership. The Wolfgang Krege translation of 1994 (Haffmans Verlag) has it as Der Bimbo von der ‘Narcissus’. Krege offers a very interesting account of the difficulties of translating Conrad in the Afterword to his translation, highlighting various historical, ideological, ‘politically correct’ implications. While ‘Bimbo’ may sound very odd to English speakers, with derogatory femalegendered connotations, in German ‘Bimbo’ originated as a slur referring ostensibly to Black GIs in Germany during and after the Second World War, though more recently it has been used as slang among German youth. The problem is fraught. But we may remind ourselves that because language and its meanings and connotations are constantly changing, particularly with the liveliness of colloquial words – think of the reappropriation of ‘nigger’ and ‘nigga’ among some American-African youth, or the long history of ‘gay’ and ‘queer’ – so we may question but must also be aware of such cultural-political histories. (Even the word ‘bimbo’ is now being ironically reappropriated by some women in the US to undercut its derogatory connotations.) Such interpretive fascinations do not obscure what was the historical need for his transmission, as measured in the echo produced at a certain moment in German history. 121

The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Translations are not always easy and language usually carries cultural implications that native speakers within any culture may well not be conscious of in another language. What Danehl, the main translator of Fischer’s (Suhrkamp’s) postwar new complete edition of Conrad (which repeated the memorable cover style of the first edition), did confirm was the role of Conrad’s writing for a German liberal culture, a role which in its way embraced and breached a very important, probably the most important, political moment of the century. I would suggest that one of the crucial features of Conrad’s writing and life was that at a crisis moment – and Conrad’s works are full of those – he could represent to others the cultural, intellectual and humane space between nations. I mean this in all senses. His works offer the possibility not of naively avoiding ideologies and nationalities but rather of thinking through them. Thus Conrad, coming late to Germany, arrived at a momentous time. His reception extended beyond the moment when many of those who read him and lived with him were forced into exile or prison by totalitarian fascism. Even the arguable failures of translation mark limits which reveal new possibilities of understanding. That Conrad was able to survive as a voice in translation, moving across geographical and ideological boundaries, meant not loss (which is so often the model for talking about the failure of translation) but rather a form of self-articulation for those readers who stayed behind in those shadowed times. The forms of that readership are only gradually becoming clear as I try to trace the figure of Conrad in the lives of his German readers, in exile, abandonment or shelter. Many had to buy him under the counter, as a banned but not-banned book.11 A bookseller might be brave enough to stock them, a reader, to ask for them. These were readers who discovered like-minded people, neighbours, friends, perhaps fellow-soldiers or sailors who knew of him. Bearing in mind the context of The Secret Agent and other sorts of surreptitious purchases and shop-front appearances which Verloc entertains, this political conjuncture of politics and the cultural consumption of Conrad offers for me an odd reflection on forms of forbidden practices.12 In 1945, Peter Suhrkamp was the first German publisher permitted by the Allied forces (more specifically, the British authorities) to publish German works. In Suhrkamp’s proposal to the Allies, Joseph Conrad was named in the first list of those he wished to bring out. As a resurgence of interest and a newly-translated, complete edition of Conrad (1950s through to the 1980s) witnesses, his challenge to contemporary readers has not waned. But even in the 1920s and 1930s, Conrad’s own rejection of limits and defiance of nationalisms, the Conrad who was taken as the symbolic and literal exile, became a sane forewarning, but also an aid, to those whose lives were warmed by his example. In his case, I think it is not just the Germans who benefitted, and continue to benefit, from his translation. English-speaking readers of Conrad, too, can learn from problems of his translatability. For surely, Conrad, of all people, is a perfect example of a writer for whom cultural exchange – in its most literal meaning, the changing of one culture for another – was


Diary entries in the late 1930s talk of Conrad, among others, not being available in bookshops. The Nazi lists of banned books did not function quite as a Vatican (or British Museum) Index of Censored Books might function. That is, as much as brute terror was the censorious language of coercion, the Nazi regime hoped to assume complicity and fear among publishers and booksellers to make some works ‘unavailable’. So, into the 1930s a quietly defiant bookseller and reader could still find one another. But diary recordings deplore the unavailability of, among others, the novels of Conrad. Among other publishers, Fischer Verlag resolutely defied the spirit of new Nazi laws in order to make liberal writers still available, if only under plain covers. 12


Publishing under Pressure

not only a ‘language problem’ but a life’s work. Translatability in its broadest sense, crosscultural understanding or its failure, questions of strangeness and hostility, absorption and integration, mutual recognition and adaption, miscegenation or exclusion, thinking to presume you know who you are talking to in this language – all these form central moments of Conrad’s work. So far as Conrad and Germany were concerned, at a time when (to misquote Karl Marx) the spectre of nationalism was haunting Europe, when rampant nationalisms were distorting a sense of cultural identity up to the point of threatened extermination, Conrad could become a metaphor. He would have been too sceptical to claim the role. But maybe the gods of translating knew better. Conrad could stand for and be a displaced way of discussing a different and more humane European trans-national culture. A Pole turned Englishman, he was, improbably, seen to articulate and test alternative forms of cultural identity. He could be spiritually mobilized in the name of values which were under extreme threat. Sometimes German criticism of Conrad in the late 1920s through to the Second World War took the form of review articles on recent translations. These tended to resort to what we might now think of as sentimental, untheorized dependence on biographical readings, stressing the isolated existential trials of Conrad the seaman, as reflected in his fiction. Leaving aside the fact that English critics were doing much the same, this should not blind us to two other aspects of his German reception. First, the critical emphasis on Conrad’s exile and isolation could act as a life-enhancing metaphor, could give a voice to those facing or experiencing the same condition of exclusion. Secondly, Conrad, through his works, was able to stand, even into the 1940s, as a representative for all those who knew of Secret Sharers and thought them worth sharing. He knew of boundaries, and ShadowLines, and thought them worth crossing.




Introduction The reception of Conrad’s fiction in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) can be divided into three parts in relation to its publication and translation history: first, the period from 1949 to 1954, when there were no new Conrad publications;1 second, the period from 1955 to 1973, when translations by S. Fischer Verlag, West Germany, were adopted; third, the period from 1974 to 1990, when there were a number of totally new translations (after Conrad’s works came out of copyright in the GDR). From the political-ideological perspective, the reception of Conrad’s works in the GDR can also be divided into three parts: first, the period up to the early 1960s, which was marked by a total official rejection of his work because of its alleged anarchistic contents; second, the period up to the mid-1970s, when Conrad was rediscovered as a result of academic research in the Soviet Union and through Arnold Kettle’s Marxist approach; third, the development of an independent branch of research in the GDR with a literary, political, philosophical and ideological approach based on Marxist-Leninist philosophy from the mid1970s onwards.2 In total, thirty-six different single-book editions of Conrad’s works were published in the GDR during its existence. The total number of printed copies of Conrad’s works amounted to about 1.5 million. Conrad’s complete works would probably have been published over the next few years, if the GDR had not come to an end through reunification with West Germany. Only a small number of his novels or short stories were considered unsuitable for publication.3 The decision not to republish these particular works seems to have been based on literary judgement and not solely on political-ideological grounds.4 Over the years, Conrad was acknowledged in the GDR as an important cultural legacy, as a great novelist of world literature and partly (and perhaps surprisingly) as an engaging author for young readers.5 1

Several West German and Swiss publishing houses started to produce reprints of German translations in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Given these reprints and on the basis of a very small number of sources and recollections, it is safe to assume that Conrad was actually read during that period in the GDR. 2 The influence of critics who offered overviews of English literature based on Marxist-Leninist theories needs further research. Two prominent examples from Great Britain are Ralph Fox’s The Novel and the People (1937) and Arnold Kettle’s An Introduction to the English Novel (1953). Although less well known in Britain than Kettle, Ralph Fox, a founder member of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), was judged to have made ‘a decisive contribution to the development of a Marxist-Leninist novel theory in England’ (‘einen entscheidenden Beitrag zur Herausbildung einer marxistisch-leninistischen Romantheorie in England’; Seehase 1977b, 537). The Soviet academic research that was influential in the GDR also needs further investigation (e.g. Animisov 1958). 3 The Arrow of Gold, ‘The Planter of Malata’ and ‘The Tale’ were deemed unsuitable. 4 See Förster 2005, 35. The conclusions drawn there were speculative, but have been confirmed by subsequent archival researches in Berlin (State Library, Federal State Archive, Academy of Arts) in August–September 2018. 5 The sources for this chapter are: (1) literary encyclopaedia, (2) afterwords, (3) archival sources from publishing houses and state authorities, and (4) scholarly articles.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Early years: Conrad and anarchism Shortly after the end of the Second World War, Conrad was reissued and read widely in West Germany. The earlier translations of the first complete edition were not only republished by Suhrkamp-Verlag, but other publishers also offered editions in order to disseminate Conrad’s works. As a result, Conrad’s work was quite widely known through reviews in various newspapers and magazines. In contrast to the enormous efforts made to promote Conrad in West Germany, however, the reception in the Soviet occupation zone (1945–9) and subsequently in the GDR was quite insignificant during this period. A German translation of ‘Youth’ was published by Insel-Verlag in the well-respected ‘Inselbücherei’ (Insel Library) series with subsequent print runs alternately in West and East Germany: it was launched in Leipzig in 1937; the second print run followed in Leipzig in 1947; the third print run was issued in the western part of Germany in Wiesbaden in 1950; and the fourth print run came out again in Leipzig in 1955. The East German weekly newspaper Sonntag published an extract from this translation of ‘Youth’ in 1947. The non-publication of Conrad’s fiction and the lack of critical acclaim in East Germany until the mid-1950s bears similarities to the situation in other communist countries of that time.6 Two main reasons can be adduced to explain why Conrad was treated with such caution (or even refused attention altogether) in the early years of the GDR: first, there was the problem of his depiction of anarchism (especially in The Secret Agent, Under Western Eyes, ‘The Informer’ and ‘An Anarchist’) and, second, there was his alleged ignorance of wider societal connections and relations. The most controversial aspect of Conrad’s work in the 1950s and early 1960s was the question of his relationship to anarchism. In 1955, a critical essay was published by Horst Bien (1920– 93), written while working on his doctoral thesis on Norwegian literature, a research field in which he later became an expert of high renown. Bien’s criticism advanced an explicitly MarxistLeninist line throughout his career.7 His polemical paper on Conrad and anarchism accordingly defends and glorifies socialism, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, condemns capitalism and everything connected with it (including the false consciousness of those living under capitalism). From this position, Bien argues that imperialism was an ‘impenetrable mystery’ for Conrad; although Conrad had ‘honestly described, what he had seen and experienced’, he claimed, ‘the moment he tries to analyse the misanthropic nature of society under the prevailing circumstances, he loses himself in the darkness of mysticism and irrationalism’.8 The same

6 Beran, for example, has shown the enormous influence of the Soviet Union on Conrad’s reception in Czechoslovakia: ‘Conrad, a seemingly apolitical poet of the sea, was not acceptable to the Stalinists of the early 1950s’ (Beran 2010, 436). Voitkovka (2011, 144ff.) discusses the ban on Conrad’s political novels in the Soviet Union. Omelan (2013, 391ff.) offers similar reasons for Conrad’s absence from Ukrainian criticism and the Ukrainian book market. As for Poland, Wąsik remarks, ‘After World War II, the reception of Joseph Conrad’s works in Poland was closely connected with the country’s political situation. The communist authorities soon branded Conrad as a particularly dangerous author, partly because his books had been very popular with members of the wartime Polish Resistance [. . .]’ (Wąsik 2014, 90). In Bulgaria a similar silence fell over Conrad during the 1940s and 1950s (Asparuhov and Grigorova 2013, 50ff.). 7 8 ‘[. . .] ehrlich beschrieb, was er gesehen und erlebt hatte [. . .] In dem Augenblick jedoch, in dem Conrad versucht, die menschenfeindlichen Erscheinungsformen der gegebenen Gesellschaft zu analysieren, verliert er sich in das Dunkel des Mystizismus und Irrationalismus’ (Bien 1955, 447ff.).


The German Democratic Republic

proves true, Bien argues, in describing the proletariat (or ‘what Conrad considers to be the proletariat’) in his anarchistic novels and short stories.9 The main charge against Conrad relates to these ‘anarchistic novels and short stories’. Bien compares the atrocities brought about by imperialism with the effects of the addiction to maximum profit in a capitalist society. Those who rebelled against this profit-seeking culture, he argues, could act only on their own and never within organized structures. They remained revolutionaries from the petty bourgeoisie: ‘Anarchism is a petty-bourgeois and reactionary socio-political current that is hostile to proletarian socialism.’10 They act out of bottomless hatred, individual eagerness for power, or a criminal disposition (Bien 1955, 448). As a result, these lone terrorists and fanatics demoralize the working class and thereby inflict great damage on the real revolutionary proletariat. Bien concludes that the readership of Conrad’s works would hardly be able to differentiate between an anarchist and a true revolutionist (Bien 1955, 458). Bien is obviously thinking of an East German readership when labelling Conrad as impossible for publication in the GDR. He is highly critical of what he sees as Conrad’s supposed philosophy of life: he argues that Conrad’s experiences are no more than manifestations of an anarchic, anarchistic and chaotic world; and he suggests that the roots of his pessimism, fatalism, agnosticism and philosophic anarchism might be found in the circumstances of his departure from Poland in 1874 (Bien 1955, 460). ‘The international labour movement under the leadership of Marxism-Leninism had developed to an important revolutionary force in the meantime; and Conrad, the conservative citizen, would never run the risk of being identified with it.’11 He concludes, ‘The great realists of world literature had denounced the actual misery of mankind and thereby helped to improve things – that is, they encouraged people to undertake liberating actions. Conrad’s works do not do that.’12 Bien’s essay had a most detrimental effect on the reception of Conrad in the 1950s and early 1960s. His accusations were directly or indirectly cited in various sources.13 Eventually, however, Bien’s response to Conrad was rendered obsolete because of the intensive engagement by Aufbau-Verlag in publishing his work from 1957 onwards and through its scholars and external experts writing reviews that challenged this view of Conrad and positioned him within the Marxist-Leninist worldview in a radical, but appropriate and acceptable way from the mid1970s: ‘His whole view of life, which is anything but anarchistic, as he is so often accused of being, rejects anarchic behaviour that endangers the solidarity of mankind.’14 To cite one example, an encyclopaedia of literature, published in 1962, traced Conrad’s alleged ‘anarchistic’ worldview back to his childhood and his father’s activities: ‘C[onrad]’s 9

‘. . . oder besser: das, was Conrad für das Proletariat hält’ (Bien 1955, 448). ‘Der Anarchismus ist eine kleinbürgerliche und reaktionäre gesellschaftspolitische Strömung, die dem proletarischen Sozialismus feindlich gegenübersteht’ (Bien 1955, 457). 11 ‘Inzwischen hatte sich nämlich die internationale Arbeiterbewegung unter der Führung des Marxismus-Leninismus zu einer bedeutenden revolutionären Kraft entwickelt. Conrad, der konservative Bürger, wollte auf keinen Fall Gefahr laufen, damit identifiziert zu werden’ (Bien 1955, 461). 12 ‘Die großen Realisten der Weltliteratur haben das tatsächliche Elend der Menschheit angeprangert und dadurch geholfen, die Dinge zu verbessern bzw. die Menschen zu befreiender Tat zu ermutigen. Conrads Werke tun das nicht’ (Bien 1955, 470). 13 For example, Günther Klotz (3 December 1956), BArch, DR1/3959; Steiner 1963, 146. 14 ‘Seine ganze Lebenssicht, die alles andere als anarchistisch ist, wie ihm so häufig vorgeworfen wird, lehnt gerade anarchisches, den Zusammenhalt der Gattung gefährdendes Verhalten energisch ab’ (Walch 1980c, 425). 10


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

anarchistic Weltanschauung – he had to go into exile with his parents because of his father’s national revolutionary activities – was shaped to a great extent by his youthful experiences. [. . .] C.’s anarchistic novels The Secret Agent and Under Western Eyes are influenced by his unclear ideas of spies and secret agents received at his parents’ house so that he was able to create only pseudo-revolutionaries’ (Steiner 1963, 146). It can be observed that, while the interest in the way Conrad treats anarchism is still an issue, the reluctance to publish stories or novels depicting scenes of anarchistic activity is diminishing and being put into perspective over the years. A subsequent revised and expanded edition of the same encyclopaedia of literature further weakens the argument against Conrad. It is reduced to the statement that Conrad does not succeed in making social contradictions clearly visible in both novels but does not trace this fault back to any parental education (Seehase 1977a, 364). As this demonstrates, over the years, the argument about Conrad’s works was accommodated to the prevailing modes of interpretation. At the same time, Conrad’s depiction of anarchists and anarchism (and his own attitude towards revolution) remained a concern, but now from a different perspective: ‘[In] bourgeois criticism, it is the norm to identify Conrad’s clear rejection of anarchism with his attitude towards social revolution. It is true that among Conrad’s statements, even of a private nature, one would seek in vain for those that could prove that he recognized the significance of the October Revolution. This is clearly not the case.’15 The bias against some of his fiction was a problem for Conrad’s reception in the GDR. But this was only a problem for people who were politically and ideologically blinded. Those involved in the cultural sector, in particular editors and readers from publishing houses and authors of some account, were very much interested in publishing Conrad’s works in the GDR. And one major obstacle had already been overcome: a (nearly) complete edition in German had already been published during the years 1926–39 by S. Fischer Verlag. This meant that most of Conrad’s works were available in German by this time, and they were available in libraries.16 What’s more, as Fothergill observes in the previous chapter, Conrad was read and appreciated by many important and influential authors and intellectuals such as Anna Seghers, Johannes Bobrowski, Willi Bredel, Thomas Mann and Jakob Wassermann and, later on, Christa Wolf, Rolf Haufs, Helmut Heißenbüttel, Franz Hammer, Brigitte Kronauer, W. G. Sebald and Urs Widmer.17 However, this was not so much a matter of a national cultural legacy, but rather a world literature legacy. Nevertheless, it took a long time for the four anarchistic narratives to be published. In the late 1980s there were plans to publish a German translation of The Secret Agent (by AufbauVerlag) as well as of Under Western Eyes (by Dieterich),18 but these plans were not carried out. Translations of both ‘The Informer’ and ‘An Anarchist’ were eventually published together within a German edition of A Set of Six in 1988. Indeed, ‘The Informer’ was actually published

15 ‘[In] der bürgerlichen Kritik ist es die Norm, Conrads deutliche Ablehnung des Anarchismus mit seiner Einstellung zur sozialen Revolution zu identifizieren. Es trifft zu, daß unter Conrads Äußerungen auch privater Art vergeblich nach solchen gesucht werden wird, die belegen könnten, daß er die Bedeutung der Oktoberrevolution erkannt hätte. Das ist eindeutig nicht der Fall’ (Günter Walch (21 August 1979), BArch, DR1/2139a, 377). 16 For example, the university libraries of Leipzig and Berlin and the National Library in Leipzig held copies of the first complete edition. 17 Krehayn 1976, 114–16; Schenkel 2010; and findings in the archive of the Academy of Arts, Berlin. 18 Friedrich Baedke: Aktennotiz (May 13, 1986), SBB, Nachl. 553, 4r.


The German Democratic Republic

twice: the first attempt was designed to try out a new translator and was included in an anthology of crime stories in 1981.19 A political thaw had begun in the 1980s, and a new cultural openness was made possible by glasnost and perestroika. Even though the readers and reviewers weighed their words carefully in their reviews and reports by fully adopting the language of the system,20 the evaluation process on the whole had become less strict and fiction was deemed suitable for publication which might have been rejected some years before. However, neither The Secret Agent nor Under Western Eyes was ever published in the GDR, although they were mentioned in biographical sketches and in afterwords.21 Indeed, although both novels were marginalized in literary reference works in the 1950s and 1960s,22 they were later cited as important and relevant. In addition, there were other novels and short stories by Conrad which were not deemed suitable or recommended for potential publication in the GDR. Some of them were considered for future publication (in the late 1960s), or designated unofficially for publication (in the 1970s), or even officially prepared for publication (in the 1980s). However, as noted earlier, the end of the GDR and the reunification of Germany prevented publishers from pursuing further plans for a complete edition in the GDR. During its existence, due to the state-controlled publication practice in the GDR, the people and institutions involved (publishers, editors, lectors) were carefully calculating which pieces of fiction (likewise which novel, poetry or drama) could possibly be published and which not. These deliberations and discussions with other state authorities could last years. This state-controlled publication practice had been fully established at the beginning of the 1960s (see Westdickenberg 2004).

1957–73: The adoption of West-German translations The years 1957–73 saw the publication of nine books by the publisher Aufbau-Verlag and at least two short stories within an anthology from another publisher.23 All eleven fictional works were published under license from S. Fischer Verlag, West Germany: Nostromo (1957), ‘Heart of Darkness’ (1958), ‘The Black Mate’ (1958), ‘The Secret Sharer’ (1958), Lord Jim (1962), ‘Typhoon’ (1965), Almayer’s Folly (1966), The Shadow-Line (1967), An Outcast of the Islands (1968), ‘Youth’ (1969) and Victory (1970). These imprints carry the notice, ‘Issued for the GDR. With the approval of Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt a. M. Sales in the Federal Republic of Germany, in West Berlin and abroad is not allowed.’

19 Joseph Conrad, ‘Der Spitzel, eine ironische Erzählung’, in Ursula Krause (ed.), Der geheimnisvolle Reisende : Kriminalerzählungen (Berlin: Verlag Neues Leben, 1981), 289–313. 20 ‘The publisher’s and external reports could thus be significantly influenced by their intended effect and did not necessarily reflect the actual opinion of their authors.’ ‘Die Verlags- und die Außengutachten konnten insofern erheblich durch ihre Wirkungsintention geprägt sein und gaben nicht unbedingt die tatsächliche Meinung ihrer Verfasser wieder’ (Westdickenberg 2004, 63). 21 Steiner 1963, 146; Seehase 1977a, 364; Krehayn 1977, 229; Walch 1979, 415; Walch 1988, 287. 22 The same happened, for example, in Czechoslovakia (Beran 2010, 436). 23 Joseph Conrad, ‘Jugend’ (‘Youth’), in Kurt Böttcher and Paul Günter Krohn (eds), Schiff vor dem Wind: See-Erzählungen des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts (A ship downwind: sea stories from the 19th and 20th century) (Berlin: Verlag Neues Leben, 1969), 284–320; Joseph Conrad, ‘Taifun’ (‘Typhoon’), in Günther Cwojdrak and Hilga Cwojdrak (eds), Anker auf! Abenteuer auf sieben Meeren (Anchor up! Adventures on the seven seas) (abridged version) (Berlin: Kinderbuchverlag, 1970), 216–31.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

The publication of what looks like the beginnings of a collected edition can be traced back to the ambitious activities of editors and readers at Aufbau-Verlag and the influence of its major authors. These ambitions had to operate within the constraints then in place. Although censorship was officially abolished, another system of control had replaced it.24 Zipser describes four types of censorship: self-censorship, editorial censorship, state ideological censorship and party censorship (Zipser 1990, 111ff.). In the case of Conrad, state ideological censorship had the biggest impact initially, but it competed with and was replaced by the tacit tactics of editorial censorship in later years. The Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in February 1956, at which the First Secretary, Nikita Khrushchev, delivered his ‘Secret Speech’ denouncing Stalin, marked a significant turning point: it initiated a new stage of development for the whole socialist ideology and for the GDR as well. In July 1958, Walter Ulbricht, at that time First Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands, SED), summarized the obligations of socialists at the fifth party conference of the SED: these were the so-called ‘Ten Commandments of Socialist Morality and Ethics’ (also known as the ‘Ten Commandments for the New Socialist Man’). These commandments were propagated within the party but did not play a major role in public life in the GDR. However, the programme for the victory of socialism was given substance through a couple of conferences involving the Ministry of Culture, publishing houses and state officials engaged in the cultural sector. The Hauptverwaltung Verlage und Buchhandel (HVG, Central Administration of Publishing and Bookselling, founded in 1963) and the Büro für Urheberrechte (Bureau of Copyright, founded in 1966) – both part of the Ministry of Culture – were responsible for licensing and coordinating the activities of publishers.25 In the late 1950s and early 1960s, guidelines were prepared which explained in detail how publishers, external reviewers and state cultural sovereignty had to interact with the objective of controlling the whole system of literature production, translation and publication. In the first instance, the publication plans of a publisher had to be submitted to the Ministry of Culture, often five years in advance, to be approved. Several authorities and people were involved in the process of getting books published in the GDR, and each one could interfere at any stage. Westdickenberg lists a total of more than twenty authorities and persons that could be involved (2004, 278). The number of publishers in the GDR was also restricted, with each one determined in terms of ideological direction and target audience. Interest in publishing Conrad had already started in the early 1950s. Gerhart Pohl, the reader for Aufbau-Verlag in the early years, left the publisher because of political-ideological conflicts in 1950 and found a new home in West Germany. He wrote an appreciative appraisal of The Secret Agent and Under Western Eyes on the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of Conrad’s death in 1954.26 In October of the same year, according to an internal report, dated 24

The Soviet Military Administration had organized censorship in East Germany in 1945. A list of banned books (Liste der auszusondernden Literatur) was published in 1946, 1947 and 1948. 25 The first task for the HVG was the reorganization of the publishers in the GDR. The central state institutions responsible for publicly owned enterprises, the VVB (Vereinigung Volkseigener Betriebe); for printing, the DVK (Druckerei- und Verlagskontor); and for distribution and bookselling, the LKG (Leipziger Kommissions- und Großbuchhandelsgesellschaft) were integrated in the HVG. The general aim was the ‘ideological consolidation’ of the publishers and especially of the readers (Westdickenberg 2004, 23ff.). 26 Gerhart Pohl (1954), ‘Mit den Augen des Westens. Zu Joseph Conrads 30. Todestag (3.8.)’ (Under Western Eyes. For the thirtieth anniversary of Joseph Conrad’s death (3 August)) (AdK, Pohl 203). It is not clear why or for whom the appraisal was written, nor whether it had ever been published.


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25 October 1954, the publisher Paul List had become interested in Lord Jim: the novel is listed together with ‘Youth’ in a five-year plan for the years 1956–60 (BArch, DR 1/1974). It is also listed in Aufbau-Verlag’s prospective plans for the following years on 24 March 1954, on 21 June 1954, and again on 1 July 1955. (The prospective plans had to be regularly submitted to the HVG.) One year later, on 27 April 1956, the prospective plan includes ‘Heart of Darkness’, Chance and Lord Jim. However, these plans were only a first notice of intent: they could result in no further action or – as the next step – the request for a preliminary evaluation of the author and/or narrative. But things did not always work efficiently: if the preliminary report on a book came in after the due date, the relevant evaluation process could be cut short, and those books could pass through without further or deeper assessment (Westdickenberg 2004). This might have happened with Nostromo. Alongside the fourth print run of ‘Youth’ in the ‘Insel-Bücherei’ series in 1955, this short story was also included in two different anthologies of seafarer stories in 1955 and 1957.27 Both anthologies were aimed primarily at an adolescent readership. The assumption was that the stories in these anthologies would contribute to the adventure literature of recent times, which, with its diversity of plots and characters, would be of interest to younger readers. A handwritten memo on a review, dated 17 May 1955, mentions some problem with Conrad and ‘Youth’, but it does not specify exactly what the problem was (BArch, DR1/5113, 223). The editor might have chosen to ignore this memo or might have resolved the problem orally. However, as noted above, the most important early efforts to publish Conrad’s works were undertaken by the publisher Aufbau-Verlag of Berlin. Aufbau-Verlag, which was founded in 1945, was allowed great latitude in publishing works by authors from capitalist countries, and several West German authors, for example, were very interested in publication by AufbauVerlag in order to be published in the eastern part of Germany. Aufbau-Verlag was particularly attractive to them because it was the main publisher for fictional literature in the GDR. Thus, for example, against the will of GDR state officials, Aufbau-Verlag published an edition of the complete works of Thomas Mann. The works of Anna Seghers, the most important author in the GDR by that time, were also published by Aufbau-Verlag, as were the works of Willi Bredel. Interestingly, in 1937, Bredel (under his pen name Storman) had answered a polemic pamphlet by a Nazi collaborator, who had asked whether Conrad might have been of Jewish origin (Förster 2005, 28ff.). Aufbau-Verlag was founded as the publisher for the mass organization Kulturbund zur demokratischen Erneuerung (The Cultural Association for Democratic Regeneration).28 Its original authors were mainly German writers and intellectuals who had come back at the end of the war from exile, emigration or work in the resistance.29 During its participation in the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1954, it was noticed that Aufbau-Verlag had a significant deficit in their publishing programme in relation to work by West European and American authors. The editors, Max Schroeder and Walter Janka, expanded the programme to close that gap. Joseph Conrad was one of the beneficiaries of this expanded programme.


The anthologies have the enthusiastic titles Schiff am Horizont (Ship on the horizon) (1955) and Meer ohne Grenzen (Ocean without borders) (1957). Both were published by Verlag Neues Leben, Berlin. 28 From 1949 onwards, ‘Kulturbund der DDR’ (Cultural Association of GDR). 29 For a more detailed history of Aufbau-Verlag, see Wurm 1995.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

The editors concluded contracts with publishers from West Germany – in this case, with S. Fischer Verlag, which had the translation rights for most of Conrad’s works. Shortly after Lord Jim, ‘Heart of Darkness’ and Chance were mentioned in their prospective plan in April 1956, an external expert report was written by Günther Klotz, at that time postdoctoral fellow at the Academy of Sciences in Berlin, in May 1956. He adopted the argument expressed by Bien regarding the four narratives with anarchistic content. Klotz then focused on Nostromo, which was meant to be published soon afterwards. He added two new sources of information and aids to orientation, namely An Introduction to the English Novel by Arnold Kettle (1953), a Marxist literary critic and member of the Communist Party of Great Britain,30 and a Soviet encyclopaedia on English literature.31 In opposition to the negative judgement of Bien, Klotz strongly recommended the publication of Conrad’s works with the exception of the four anarchistic narratives on the grounds that: In the four works in question, the heroes try to achieve liberation from capitalist slavery through the conspiracy and terrorism of a selected, non-proletarian minority, from a psychologically-based criminal desire, schwärmerei or selfish addiction to celebrity. [. . .] Since the four works mentioned represent traits of anarchism in a positive light, their publication is not recommended.32 The request for an imprimatur for Nostromo is dated 15 September 1956. The typescript was sent to the printing office one month later. There could have been a number of reasons for choosing Nostromo as the first book publication by Conrad in the GDR. The main reason might well have been the discussion of Nostromo within Kettle’s An Introduction to the English Novel, which devoted a whole chapter to the novel. Kettle begins Part II of his book with the statement, ‘With Conrad we are in the twentieth century’ (Kettle 1953, 59), and he then describes the world of Nostromo as a ‘world of modern imperialism, of war and violence and concentration camps, of displaced persons and neurosis, all on a scale and of a kind radically different from previous human experiment’ (Kettle 1953, 59). He interprets the novel from a consistently Marxist point of view: Nostromo ‘is a political novel in the widest sense, the sense in which Aristotle and Marx use the word politics’ (Kettle 1953, 65), and the ‘process which Engels describes in terms of science is precisely the total effect of Nostromo, achieved in terms of art – nothing less than the presentation [. . .] of society in motion, history in the making’ (Kettle 1953, 69ff.). Nostromo, he asserts, ‘succeeds most wonderfully in capturing the truth of

30 According to Kettle, Conrad produced, with ‘Heart of Darkness’, ‘perhaps the most horrifying description of the effects of imperialism ever written’ (Kettle 1953, 69). 31 Conrad’s fiction is summarized as follows: ‘A battleground of egoistic individuals in which the attempts to escape from reality does not save people. In Conrad’s stories everything is permeated by the feeling of fear, the awareness of social disorder and the contradiction of life. Man is lonely and helpless. He cannot count on the support of others. Fatal forces depress him and he must not break their power. In addition, he is forced to encounter the misunderstandings of other people at every turn, not only people of other races and nations, but also relatives and friends. The theme is the loneliness of man in modern life [. . .]’ (Animisov 1953, 76ff.). 32 ‘In den vier genannten Werken versuchen die Helden aus einem psychologisch begründeten verbrecherischen Wunsche, aus Schwärmerei oder egoistischer Sucht nach Berühmtheit ihre Befreiung aus der kapitalistischen Sklaverei durch die Verschwörung und den Terror einer ausgewählten, nichtproletarischen Minderheit zu erreichen. [. . .] Da die vier genannten Werke Züge des Anarchismus im positiven Lichte darstellen, ist von ihrer Veröffentlichung abzuraten’ (Günther Klotz (3 December 1956), BArch, DR1/3959: 174ff.)


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social movement’ (Kettle 1953, 67). These are ideas and arguments which later Germanspeaking commentators also readily referred to. Another reason for the decision to publish Nostromo might be traced back to recommendations from some of the most influential persons engaged in the cultural sector: the authors Thomas Mann and Anna Seghers.33 On 6 December 1956, the editor-in-chief of Aufbau-Verlag, Walter Janka, was arrested (with others) on a charge of counter-revolutionary conspiracy; he was subsequently held in prison for several years (Klotz 1969). After this, Aufbau-Verlag experienced a turbulent period of change: the new editor-in-chief (until 1966) was Klaus Gysi (1912–99), later Minister of Culture. However, the next Conrad book, ‘Heart of Darkness’, was already in progress and was approved with ‘no concerns’ on 14 June 1957 on the basis of an expert report by Krehayn, written on 12 June 1957. Alongside Aufbau-Verlag’s edition of ‘Heart of Darkness’, Union-Verlag also prepared a volume of ‘Heart of Darkness’ (plus three short stories) in 1957: ‘Heart of Darkness’, ‘An Outpost of Progress’, ‘Amy Foster’ and ‘The Partner’ were subsumed under the title Wege ohne Heimkehr (Ways without return home). The book was ready in time for Conrad’s centenary in December 1957. This book is the only one which was translated from Polish: the relevant Polish edition was probably Opowieści wybrane (Selected Stories, Warsaw: Pax, 1952). A review states that big libraries should buy at least one of these editions (‘Heart of Darkness’ or Wege ohne Heimkehr), but they should lend Conrad’s works only after careful consideration, because these books would be suitable only for critical and ‘ideologically clear’ readers.34 Publishers and state officials were apparently surprised by the publication of ‘Youth’, Nostromo and ‘Heart of Darkness’. There were no further Conrad publications for the next five years. At the beginning of the 1960s, new institutional regulations were established by the Ministry of Culture for its subordinate authorities. The normal procedure for publishing a book in the GDR was clearly spelt out.35 The first authority to consider publication was the publisher itself. The editor should commission an expert report for a proposed book by an external academic. The external academic could either approve the book for publication, recommend postponement of the publication or even disapprove the publication. In the case of rejection, the publisher would make no further attempts (or, at least, would postpone such attempts for later years). In the case of a positive report, a reader from the publishing house would write a short review concerning the projected publication. Both the external expert report and the internal review were to be given to the Hauptverwaltung Verlage und Buchhandel (HVG, Central Administration of Publishing and Bookselling) together with a standardized form, the typescript of the book and (if there were one) the typescript of an afterword. This was the formal request for imprimatur without which nothing could ever be printed in the GDR. The HVG could also order a new

33 Anna Seghers owned a few works by Conrad in German translation: Chance (published 1926), Typhoon (1927), Nostromo (1927), Freya of the Seven Isles (1929), Lord Jim (1947) and Almayer’s Folly (1971). Seghers might well have read Nostromo while she worked on her novel Aufstand der Fischer von St. Barbara (The Revolt of the Fishermen of Santa Barbara) and Lord Jim while she worked on Das Argonautenschiff (The Ship of the Argonauts) (Fehervary 2001, 216). 34 ‘Große Bibliotheken sollten einen dieser Bände in ihren Bestand aufnehmen, im übrigen aber alle Bücher Conrads mit der erforderlichen Überlegung ausleihen. Sie sind ausschließlich für kritische und ideologisch klare Leser geeignet.’ Johanna Waligora-Rittinghaus, review in Der Bibliothekar 7 (1958): 768. See also Erich Fetter (26 June 1978), SBB, Nachl. 553, A0642, 42r–43r. Der Bibliothekar was a professional journal for librarians, especially for public libraries. 35 For a graphic representation, see Westdickenberg 2004, 286; for a description, see Westdickenberg 2004, 59ff.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

expert report (even solely on the afterword) in order to assess the external expert’s conformity with state attitudes. The Stasi could interfere at any point in the procedure, even without any scientific or literary knowledge. On the one hand, the view of Conrad was clearly transformed from that current in Bien’s time. Perhaps following Kettle’s lead, it was more and more elaborated according to socialist and Marxist ideas. On the other hand, the adventure-story nature of much of his fiction (the seafaring, the exotic landscapes and the lonely characters outside of society) was also emphasized. In this case, there was no special need to pursue deeper inquiries. The topic of anarchism, which had dominated the response to Conrad in the 1950s, was more and more neglected. It also became common practice to argue that Conrad’s fiction should be placed within its time of origin: that is, the phase of imperialism in its transition to mono-capitalism and just before the beginning of the victory of socialism. The distance between Conrad and modern times was stressed. Thus, we find the following report from a Stasi collaborator as late as 1980: The book, ‘Chance’, was published in 1913. Conrad’s works are characterized by his basic notion that life in bourgeois society is a heroic but hopeless struggle of individuals with the powers of chance. In this context, he revealed anarchist tendencies. [. . .] Although works of Conrad may be interpreted as hostile from today’s point of view, a politicaloperational or criminal relevance is not given but only in consideration of the time of their creation. Checks at the PZF [Post Customs Inspection] and Customs Administration confirmed that [book and author] have not yet been attacked or objected to.36 As this suggests, literary production was tightly controlled in the GDR. Nevertheless, a number of Conrad’s works were accepted for publication. The high point was reached when it was argued that the reader of Conrad’s fiction was confronted with problems relevant to a socialist society: the dubiousness of colonialism, the monopolist as existential threat and the tragic isolation of outsiders within bourgeois prosperity (Anselm Schlösser (20 June 1980), BArch, DR1/3482, 326). It also became possible to print (or designate for printing) even those works formerly branded ‘anarchistic’ narratives. Conrad was thus put on an equal footing with (or at least found comparable to) Robert Louis Stevenson, Herman Melville (both due to the seafaring subject), Rudyard Kipling (due to the colonialist setting), Henry James, Henrik Ibsen, Gustave Flaubert, Guy de Maupassant, Heinrich von Kleist and F. M. Dostoevsky. Conrad was declared part of the humanistic legacy of world culture and world literature.37


‘Das Buch “Spiel des Zufalls” erschien 1913. Conrads Werke sind von seiner Grundauffassung geprägt, daß das Leben in der bürgerlichen Gesellschaft einen heroischen, aber aussichtslosen Kampf der Individuen mit den Mächten des Zufalls darstelle. In diesem Zusammenhang ließ er anarchistische Tendenzen erkennen. Werke Conrads wurden auch in der DDR verlegt. (Bei “Spiel des Zufalls” nicht bekannt.) Obwohl Werke Conrads aus heutiger Sicht möglicherweise feindlich interpretierbar sind, ist allein unter Beachtung der Zeit ihrer Entstehung eine politisch-operative oder straf-rechtliche Relevanz nicht gegeben. Überprüfungen bei der PZF [Postzollfahndung] und Zollverwaltung bestätigten, daß [Buch und Autor] bisher nicht angefallen bzw. beanstandet wurden’ (cited by Walther 1996, 310ff.). 37 ‘In the developed socialistic society of the German Democratic Republic, he becomes alive on the higher level of real humanism and in the sense of Lenin’s concept of legacy.’ ‘In der entwickelten sozialistischen Gesellschaft der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik wird er ästhetisch auf der höheren Stufe des realen Humanismus und im Sinne des Leninschen Erbebegriffs lebendig’ (Krehayn 1977: 231ff.).


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Joachim Krehayn, Aufbau-Verlag and other publishers During this period, the government of the GDR became eager to allow its people wider access to cultural and social life. The objective was the production of sophisticated, internationally oriented, peace-loving, socialist citizens. The intellectual formation of a socialist people, contributing to the development of a socialist national culture, was seen by state officials as the principal cultural responsibility. There was a particular interest in educating children and young people to become such socialist beings. The Ministry of Culture planned to raise this socialist culture to its highest level by providing what they thought was necessary, but at the same time by regulating every cultural activity, especially book publications, theatre performances and film production. The programme of ‘Socialist Realism’ was designed to promote the creation of socialist ideas in the heads of East German citizens. The objective was to raise consciousness and create awareness of the world heritage in terms of literature and arts. In 1960, the officials at Aufbau-Verlag began to look for external experts in the GDR who could interpret Conrad on the basis of Marxist ideology. Accordingly, the publisher engaged an academic from the University of Greifswald, Joachim Krehayn (1927–), for the purpose of evaluating Conrad for the GDR readership. Krehayn seemed to be qualified as an expert because of the 100-page history of English literature he had recently published (Krehayn 1960).38 However, Conrad is mentioned in the preface as one of the authors that will not be discussed in the booklet. The book may have attracted the attention of Aufbau-Verlag – perhaps through its reader Sigrid Klotz.39 She wrote a letter to Krehayn in order to hire him to introduce Conrad to the GDR readership (Joachim Krehayn (6 November 1962), SBB, Nachl. 553, A0642, 78r–79r). Klotz admitted that Aufbau-Verlag had neither a clear conception of Conrad, nor a detailed synopsis of Conrad’s life and works. She suggested that the reason might be because no one was engaged with Conrad at the time (neither in publishing nor at a university), and no one seemed to be willing to read through all of Conrad’s works. The aim of Aufbau-Verlag was to examine the most important works and to publish them in succession every two years. Krehayn later recalled that the Conrad edition for the GDR had to be synchronized with the publication plans for the new West German complete edition (Krehayn 1976, 93ff.). The first complete edition by Fischer was published in 1926–39; the second complete edition started publication in 1962 and was completed in 1984.40 The chaotic order of publication was as follows: ●

Lord Jim (published in 1962 by S. Fischer/published in 1963 by Aufbau-Verlag);

Victory (1962/1970);


In 1951, Krehayn had written his PhD on Henry James. He later wrote his thesis for the postdoctoral lecturer qualification on the reception of fiction from Great Britain and the USA in the GDR (Krehayn 1976). The book is a slightly revised version of a lecture he gave in August 1955. 39 Sigrid Klotz was possibly the wife of Günther Klotz, who had been the author of the first expert report in 1956. 40 The publication order of the new complete edition by S. Fischer changed due to the need to find new translators (the pre-war translations were deemed unsatisfactory) and due to complications with translation rights. (S. Fischer did not hold the rights for Typhoon and other stories, A Set of Six, Tales of Unrest and ’Twixt Land and Sea when planning the complete edition in 1959/60.) The schedule was also affected by the decreasing demand as reflected in sales figures on the one hand and the increasing lobbying of Conrad aficionados by letter on the other hand.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe ●

The Secret Agent (1963/under scrutiny, but then postponed);

An Outcast of the Island + Almayer’s Folly (one volume: 1964/separately: 1968 and 1966);

The Rescue (1965/deemed not suitable);

The Arrow of Gold (1966/deemed not suitable);

Under Western Eyes (1967/under scrutiny, but then postponed);

Nostromo (1967/already published 1957 with the ‘old’ translation (1927));

The Rover (1969/deemed not suitable);

The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’ + The Shadow-Line (one volume: 1971/separately: the former later with a new translation; The Shadow-Line in 1967 with the old translation (1926)).

Krehayn cites Bien’s approach as something which has to be superseded (when dealing with American and British authors from the twentieth century) by a new approach that used the methods of Marxism-Leninism to further the development of a socialistic national literature in the GDR (Krehayn 1976, 117). He produced an external expert report on Lord Jim (Joachim Krehayn (5 September 1962), BArch DR1/3959, 161–5), with his source of information and aid to orientation a Soviet encyclopaedia on English literature (Animisov 1958). Krehayn translated the relevant passages and sent a copy to Aufbau-Verlag as well (SBB, Nachl. 553, A0642, 23r–28r.). Günther Klotz wrote an external two-page review (Günther Klotz (13 September 1962), BArch DR1/3959, 106ff.). Both Krehayn’s and Klotz’s reviews were sent to the Ministry of Culture. As a result, the ministry seems to have approved the ‘restart’ of the Conrad complete edition. Lord Jim was finally issued in late 1963. The last paragraph of the first official afterword (by Krehayn) shows the way in which Conrad’s work has been reinterpreted for this new context: Conrad’s work was bourgeois-international. Because in him the individual reflects the social, the social abolishes the individual, his work is great. To leave it to the people of yesterday would be unforgivable. It is rather a question of appropriating its qualities for the treasury of world socialist culture so that this legacy may announce the overcoming of imperialist misery through art that gave Joseph Conrad’s romantic life’s work force and meaning as the adventurous struggle towards the self-assertion of a nation.41 Krehayn wrote afterwords for all the novels which were published by Aufbau-Verlag until the late 1970s: Almayer’s Folly (1966), An Outcast of the Islands (1968), Victory (1970) and The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’ (1977).42 Through these afterwords, he developed a reading of Conrad


‘Conrads Werk war bürgerlich-international. Weil in ihm das Individuelle das Soziale widerspiegelt, das Soziale das Individuelle aufhebt, ist sein Werk groß. Es den Gestrigen zu überlassen wäre unverzeihlich. Es gilt vielmehr, seine Qualitäten für die Schatzkammer der sozialistischen Weltkultur kritisch anzueignen, damit dieses Erbe von der Überwindung der imperialistischen Misere durch die Kunst künde, die Joseph Conrads romantischem Lebenswerk als abenteuerlichem Bemühen um die Selbstbehauptung einer Nation Kraft und Sinn verlieh’ (Krehayn 1963, 416). 42 Krehayn 1966; Krehayn 1968; Krehayn 1970; Krehayn 1977.


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that profoundly shaped the GDR view of his work. For example, in ideological terms, he argued that Conrad wrote about ‘the failure of the citizen who, in his moral integrity, is powerlessly paralyzed by imperialist morality, since bourgeois education did not provide him with the means to fight or oppose this morality and its corresponding social phenomena’. As a result, ‘Conrad reveals the whole brutality of the antagonists rooted in imperialism, which is stronger than the individual’.43 The only option for the bourgeois citizen was to escape from society and from the real world into an exotic setting, embedded in naturalistic impressions. Other possibilities for the bourgeois citizen would not open up until the October Revolution in 1917 provided the chance to engage with the working class. But Conrad, he argued, could not evaluate those developments and turned his interest in the direction of anarchism. He had no power to develop a progressive Weltanschauung (philosophy of life); he merely criticized the individual (Krehayn 1963, 413). The bourgeois tradition had given its people a solid economic and cultural sovereignty for over 200 years; this elitist status was broken up with the beginning of capitalism and imperialism, the development of class conflict, the lust for power, ‘material interests’, and the ‘destruction of humanity by possessive thinking’ and the inhuman principles of trading companies (Krehayn 1968, 351, 356; Erich Fetter (16 August 1964), BArch, DR1/2091, 302, 305). ‘Typhoon’ was pledged to another publisher, who later became the second main publisher of Conrad: Dieterich’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung (in short, Dieterich). The first and second editions were published under licence from S. Fischer Verlag without an afterword in 1965 and 1967. The third edition was published in 1975; it contained a new translation of the novella by Barbara Cramer-Neuhaus and an afterword by Günter Walch. ‘The Shadow-Line’ was released by yet another publisher: Reclam. Klaus-Udo Szudra, a member of the expert commission for English at the State Secretariat for Higher Education,44 wrote the afterword for the edition. Szudra links The Shadow-Line closely to Conrad’s life and discusses it in terms of a ‘prototypical borderline situation, the expression of Conrad’s belief in fate and, finally, the sombre atmosphere of solitude and isolation’.45 He also discusses Conrad’s values such as fidelity, emphasizing that, in spite of the ‘surrender of one’s own existence’,46 the individual still expresses ‘the private ethos of a noble, philanthropic conviction’47 within the objective reality of late-bourgeois England. According to Szudra, the main problem which Conrad addresses in this work is the preservation of self-esteem rather than the compulsion to self-assertion. Conrad’s publishers in the GDR can be divided into a number of categories. There are, first of all, publishers of fiction who focused on exile, anti-fascism and world literature (Aufbau-


‘[. . .] Scheitern des Bürgers, der in seiner sittlichen Lauterkeit der imperialistischen Moral machtlos gelähmt gegenübersteht, da ihm die bürgerliche Erziehung nicht das Rüstzeug mitgab, diese Moral und die ihr entsprechenden gesellschaftlichen Erscheinungen zu bekämpfen oder zu besiegen. [. . .] Conrad enthüllt die ganze Brutalität der im Imperialismus wurzelnden Gegenspieler, die stärker ist als der einzelne’ (Günther Klotz (13 September 1962), BArch, DR1/3959, 166ff.). 44 Fachkommission für Englisch beim Staatssekretariat für das Hoch- und Fachschulwesen. Szudra had written his PhD on Elizabeth Inchbald (1963) and the thesis for his postdoctoral lecturer qualification on the English novel in the nineteenth century (1974). He had also written a biography of W. M. Thackeray (Leipzig: Reclam, 1968). 45 ‘prototypische Grenzsituation, die Ausprägung des Conradschen Schicksalsglaubens und schließlich die düstere, von Einsamkeit und Vereinzelung kündende Stimmung’ (Szudra 1967, 139). 46 ‘Preisgabe der eigenen Existenz’ (Szudra 1967, 145). 47 ‘dem privaten Ethos einer edelmütigen, menschenfreundlichen Gesinnung’ (Szudra 1967, 145).


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Verlag, Berlin and Weimar) or those whose list centred on classics and world literature (Dieterich’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, Leipzig; Gustav Kiepenheuer Verlag, Leipzig and Weimar). Then there are publishers who had a good reputation because of a well-known book series (Insel-Verlag Anton Kippenberg, Leipzig; Verlag Philipp Reclam jun., Leipzig) or belonged to a political party (Union Verlag, Berlin). But there were also two publishers who specialized in children’s and young adult literature (Verlag Neues Leben, Berlin; Der Kinderbuchverlag, Berlin). They released a couple of Conrad’s narratives in anthologies. In the GDR, anthologies were a way of combining literary with programmatic and societalpolitical intentions and also a means of governmental control through propaganda and cultural political ideas, though they could also have an experimental or subversive character on the part of the publisher or editor (Häntzschel 2005, ix). Anthologies were ideally adapted to introducing young readers to literature within particular thematic frames. Thus, Conrad’s short fiction was included in anthologies of seafaring stories (‘Youth’, ‘The Black Mate’), adventure stories (‘The Black Mate’, ‘The Secret Sharer’, ‘The Partner’) and also murder mysteries (‘The Informer’). Again, despite the framework of external reviewing, publishers’ decision-making and state officials’ approval, it could happen that a single short story was ‘accidentally’ published and distributed in the GDR. In one case, for example, the external reviewer disliked the inclusion of ‘The Informer’,48 but the editor overruled him.

1974–89: Günter Walch and new translations The GDR’s Intellectual Property Law initiated the next phase of Conrad’s reception in the GDR. From 1974 onwards, fifty years after the death of the author, Conrad was out of copyright.49 This opened up the chance for state officials to publish Conrad’s works with totally new translations, even where these books had been published years before with translations provided by S. Fischer Verlag.50 The works in question were ‘Typhoon’ (1975), The Shadow-Line


‘[. . .] “The Informer” by Conrad, a psychologically revealing sketch that does not fit into the collection because it deals with the problem of anarchism, not criminal crime (and even then from a now quite questionable position).’ ‘[. . .] wie auch “Der Spitzel” von Conrad, eine psychologisch sicherlich aufschlußreiche Skizze, die deshalb nicht in die Sammlung paßt, weil sie das Problem des Anarchismus, nicht des kriminellen Verbrechens behandelt (und dazu noch von einem heute recht fragwürdig gewordenen Standpunkt aus)’ (Karl Heinz Berger (4 December 1979), BArch, DR1/3555, 50). The publisher responded, ‘Here, we think Conrad has done nothing but use an historical phenomenon, anarchism, as a background and pretext for a psychologically very well-founded criminal case. And Conrad was important enough for us to be included in this collection.’ ‘Hier, meinen wir, hat Conrad nichts anderes getan, als eine Zeiterscheinung, eben den Anarchismus, als Hintergrund und Vorwand für einen psychologisch sehr gut fundierten Kriminalfall zu verwenden. Und Conrad war uns wichtig genug, in diese Sammlung aufgenommen zu werden’ (Manfred Hoffmann (1980), BArch, DR1/3555, 44). 49 ‘The protection of the rights of the author ends 50 years after his death (retention period). The 50-year period begins at the end of the calendar year in which the author died.’ ‘Der Schutz der Befugnisse des Urhebers endet 50 Jahre nach seinem Tode (Schutzfrist). Die 50-Jahr-Frist beginnt mit dem Ablauf des Kalenderjahres, in dem der Urheber verstorben ist.’ §33 Abs.1 URG [Urheberrechtsgesetz, Copyright Law]. 50 On 17 April 1974, Hans-Jürgen Schmitt (1938–), reader at S. Fischer Verlag in the early 1970s, asked in a letter to Fritz-Georg Voigt (1925–95), at that time editor-in-chief at Aufbau-Verlag and unofficial collaborator with the Stasi (Westdickenberg 2004, 42, 88), ‘Is it really worthwhile for you to translate the whole of Conrad anew?’ ‘Lohnt es sich den wirklich für Sie, den ganzen Conrad neu zu übersetzen?’ (SBB, Nachl. 553, A0642, 36r).


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(1980), Lord Jim (1981), Almayer’s Folly (1982), Nostromo (1983) and Victory (1985). One of the reviewers endorsed the new Lord Jim publication by making a specific contrast to the first release eighteen years earlier: ‘This novel will be submitted for the first time in an own translation for the GDR’ (Anselm Schlösser (1980), BArch, DR1/3476, 115a). Two novels were published for the first time in the GDR in totally new translations: Chance (1974) and The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’ (1977, 1979). A translation of A Personal Record appeared in 1979 at Kiepenheuer Verlag. The GDR could not only adopt Conrad for its own purposes in terms of both political-ideological setting and the surrounding academic research, but also (officially) in terms of the language by creating new translations. In the first phase, the number of copies released at Aufbau-Verlag had usually been 10,000; in the second phase, the print run was increased to 15,000. The selection of each text was justified individually in a long-lasting process of expert evaluation. After Krehayn’s disappearance, a new external expert was acquired by Aufbau-Verlag: Günter Walch (1933–). Walch started to shape the picture of Conrad in the GDR anew. He had been Professor of English Literature at Humboldt University in Berlin and had produced his ‘Dissertation B’51 on English narration between 1880 and the First World War (Walch 1975).52 Walch developed a Marxist interpretation of Conrad’s works that claimed that the author had anticipated the new phase of development several years in advance, by which he meant that Conrad had anticipated Lenin’s fundamental analysis of imperialism (Walch 1979, 424). Walch wrote several external reviews and above all a whole series of afterwords, and his importance for Conradian studies in the GDR is often emphasized.53 He must have had access to up-todate literature from West Germany, because in a passage in his review on Nostromo (published in 1983) he quotes extensively the sources of the novel from the latest biography (by Frederick R. Karl), which was published in a German translation in Hamburg in the same year. In the case of the newly translated novels and the volumes of short stories conceived for a general adult readership, it becomes obvious from the corresponding afterwords and archival reports that the reviewers detected in Conrad’s works a dichotomy between elements that conformed to GDR requirements and elements that did not. This was expressed in relation to ideas about humanity and imperialism. Humanity was related to terms like loyalty, selfdiscipline, solidarity, daringness and the fulfilment of obligations. Following Lenin, imperialism was seen as the historic development after the phases of capitalism and later colonialism. Imperialism is related to the idea of possession and acquisition, eagerness for power, selfish thinking and a loss of humanity, all of which were condemned in GDR propaganda and communist thinking. The reviewers and translators of the 1970s and 1980s (as far as can be ascertained) either revealed close linkages to anti-fascism and socialist ideas or strong connections to the cultural sector. The translator Lore Krüger (1914–2009), for example, had been a German-Jewish resistance fighter against National Socialism, as well as a translator and photographer. She was


The ‘Dissertation B’ was a special type of academic qualification in the GDR to achieve the title of a Dr sc. Other scientific articles examining this topic are Walch 1970; Walch 1981b; Walch 1984; and Walch 1990. 53 ‘Overall, with this afterword Dr. Walch succeeded in making a weighty contribution to Conrad research in the GDR.’ ‘Insgesamt gesehen, ist Dr. Walch mit diesem Nachwort ein gewichtiger, neue Erkenntnisse einbringender Beitrag zur Conrad-Forschung der DDR gelungen’ (N.N. [publisher’s review] (1979), BArch, DR1/3476, 96). 52


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

responsible for the translation of three novels: Chance, Nostromo and The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’. Günter Löffler (1921–) had been a foreign language teacher in Russian and English at the Philantropinum in Dessau, a progressive school based on the ideas of philanthropism. He was the translator of nine short stories: ‘An Outpost of Progress’, ‘Amy Foster’, ‘The Black Mate’, ‘The Warrior’s Soul’, ‘Karain’, ‘The Lagoon’, ‘Prince Roman’, ‘Gaspar Ruiz’ and ‘The Partner’. Barbara Cramer-Nauhaus (1927–2001), a freelance translator, was responsible for one short story: ‘Typhoon’. Carmen Janetzki (1956–), who became a teacher of English in adult education, translated the six short stories from A Set of Six. Irmgard Nickel (1919–), who also translated the works of Anatole France and Emile Zola from French, was responsible for three short stories: ‘An Outpost of Progress’, ‘Falk’ and ‘Amy Foster’. Elli Berger, who had been the reader for Aufbau-Verlag and had supervised the publication of earlier Conrad editions, translated Lord Jim, The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’, A Personal Record, ‘Youth’ and ‘Heart of Darkness’. It is striking how many of these translators were women. The decision to publish new translations of Conrad’s works as soon as they were out of copyright might have been simply a financial consideration – a license to Fischer Verlag was more expensive than payment to a translator. In addition, however, their own translation could better serve the political-ideological interests of the GDR. On the one hand, the new translations could build on Conrad’s status as a writer of adventure and especially seafaring stories, but with precise nautical language. On the other hand, an attempt was made to set the fiction clearly within its time of origin – to make the reader aware of the distance between his/her reality in the GDR and the reality of the fictional work, which was normally set in the time of imperialism. Thus, in the translation of An Outpost of Progress, for example, ‘trading station’ is translated with the archaic word ‘Faktorei’ as well as its modern equivalent ‘Handelsniederlassung’. (It is ‘Handelsvertretung’ in the West-German translation.) Similarly, the translator uses the antiquated term ‘Agent’ instead of ‘Beamter der Handelsgesellschaft’ (officer of the trading station), ‘Vertreter einer Firma’ (representative of a firm) or ‘Handelsbeauftragter’ (delegate for trading) (Joachim Krehayn (12 June 1957), BArch DR1/3959, 125ff.). An example of a more precise use of nautical language can be found by comparing the different translations of ‘Typhoon’. The first and second edition had been published under licence from S. Fischer Verlag; the third imprint of the edition came up with a new GDR translation. The most obvious change in language can be seen in the translation of the following sentence: ‘The lamp wriggled in its gimbals’. This had been translated in the West German version in quite a loose manner: ‘Die Lampe wurde kräftig hin und her geworfen’ (The lamp was thrown back and forth vigorously). The GDR translation translated the sentence word-for-word using the correct nautical terminology: ‘Die Lampe schwang unruhig in ihren Kardanringen.’ Ernst Wagner, Conrad aficionado and sea captain, had denounced the West German translations as ‘mistreated and mutilated’ in a newspaper article in 1965 (cited in Förster 2005).54 The comparison of the eight translations of ‘Heart of Darkness’ and the three translations of Lord Jim confirm that Berger’s translation made in the GDR (1979) rendered the story very closely, preserving the impressionist style and perceptions of Marlow, thus emphasizing his experiences and feelings rather than just the story he is telling. Earlier translations (like both the S. Fischer Verlag 54

It is quite interesting to see that S. Fischer Verlag published a new edition of Lord Jim with a revised translation of the 1962 edition in 1986. In the imprint it is said that on this occasion the original translator Fritz Lorch (i.e. John Stickforth) was helped by the above mentioned Captain Ernst Wagner.


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translations) were guided by older conventions of narration using antiquated methods of stylistic arrangements. This method led to an estrangement of the original story (Czennia 1995a; Czennia 1995b; Czennia 2007; Lorenz 2017, 141–7).

1974–90: Conrad’s adolescent readership During the years 1974–90, the publisher Verlag Neues Leben started to publish translations of Conrad’s short stories as single volumes or within volumes containing a collection of stories. In this way, the dissemination of Conrad’s works amongst adolescents or juvenile readers was intensified. The publication of Conrad as a writer of adventure or seafaring stories for younger readers had already begun in the 1950s with the inclusion of a single short story by Conrad in a volume of stories by other authors.55 In his chapter in the current volume (and elsewhere), Beran recognizes a similar pattern as part of the Czechoslovakian reception of Conrad. He argues that this was part of a deliberate policy designed to reduce the status of Conrad to an author of juvenile fiction of adventure and exotic places in order to lessen his political influence. In the GDR, the Verlag Neues Leben specialized in books aimed at a juvenile readership. They accounted for their publication of Conrad as follows: ‘With this selection we want to introduce the young reader to Joseph Conrad and believe that these narratives are well suited due to their humanistic content and their exciting, psychologically profound arrangement.’56 The Verlag Neues Leben published five stories by Conrad in its series Das neue Abenteuer (The new adventure).57 The circulation of each twenty-eight-page volume amounted to an astonishing 155,000 copies! All the booklets had black-and-white illustrations (Förster 2013; Förster 2018, 97) and, as the series title suggests, the overall thematic framing is as adventure stories. Other foreign authors in the series were Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe, Jules Verne, Mikhail Sholokhov, Jack London, James Aldridge, Leo Tolstoy, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, Prosper Merimée, Robert Louis Stevenson, Stephen Crane, Wilkie Collins and Émile Zola. If there was an intention to reduce the status of Conrad to that of an author of adventure stories, there was also an aim to increase the standard of education of young people. Education was one of the key strands of GDR policy. Kindergarten and school were compulsory and free of charge; libraries, museums, theatres and other cultural resources to educate young people were promoted (and of course controlled). Adolescents were the future and only well-educated citizens could support the ideology of the state. Each and every author of distinction, and each

55 Joseph Conrad, ‘Jugend’ (‘Youth’), in Franz Fabian (ed.): Der Atem des Meeres: Seefahrergeschichten (The breath of the sea: mariner stories) (Weimar: Kiepenheuer, 1955), 235–79. 56 ‘Wir wollen mit dieser Auswahl Joseph Conrad dem jungen Leser vorstellen und glauben, daß sich diese Erzählungen durch ihren humanistischen Gehalt und der spannungsreichen, psychologisch tiefgründigen Gestaltungsweise gut dafür eignen’ (Renate Pape (6 February 1981), BArch, DR1/3557, 220). The same argument was used by the external expert Wolfgang Wicht, an academic teaching English at the University of Potsdam: ‘Due to their humanistic content and their exciting arrangement, the selected narratives appear to be very well suited as literature of high-quality for young people.’ ‘Die ausgewählten Erzählungen erscheinen durch ihren humanistischen Gehalt und durch ihre spannungsreiche Gestaltung sehr gut geeignet al seine hohen Ansprüchen genügende Literatur für Jugendliche’ (Wolfgang Wicht (22 October 1978), BArch, DR1/3556, 164). 57 ‘The Partner’ (1976), ‘An Outpost of Progress’ (1980), ‘The Black Mate’ (1982), ‘The Warrior’s Soul’ (1988) and ‘Amy Foster’ (1989).


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

and every piece of world literature, was published by GDR publishing houses that specialized in a juvenile readership.

Never published in the GDR In July 1964, Erich Fetter wrote an expert report on The Rescue for Aufbau-Verlag (SBB, Nachl. 553, A0642, 12r–18r). He advised them against publishing the novel because rather than being an adventure story, the narrative was overwhelmed by the love story of Lingard and Mrs Travers, and their conversations remained on a level of constant ethical idealism. In addition, Fetter also criticized what he saw as Conrad’s use of imprecise terms and complained that too many irrelevant facts masked the essential things. Nevertheless, he felt that Conrad succeeded in making the character of Mr Travers accessible to the reader as a vain and snobbish white gentleman. But that did not change his overall impression of what he saw as a somewhat tedious story. Over a decade later, in June 1978, Fetter returned to Conrad, writing a review of three books containing German translations of some of Conrad’s short stories (Erich Fetter (26 June 1978), SBB, Nachl. 553, A0642, 42r–46r). In this review, he suggested that ‘To-morrow’ was ‘usable’. The next day, he wrote an expert report on ‘A Smile of Fortune’, recommending it for publication (Erich Fetter (27 June 1978), SBB, Nachl. 553, A0642: 47r–50r.).58 Shortly after that, he wrote a review of a selection of short stories published by S. Fischer Verlag in 1963: Geschichten der Unrast und 6 Erzählungen (containing Tales of Unrest and A Set of Six) (Erich Fetter (30 June 1978), SBB, Nachl. 553, 51r–56r). Fetter suggested that ‘The Idiots’ could ‘possibly’ be published: ‘Hard-heartedness of a supposedly deep believer. The social background worked out well. However, very tormenting. Good character depictions.’59 He also recommended ‘The Return’ but with some reservations: In the self-centred monologues of the man and in the dialogues of the spouses it rises to the level of a super Strindberg, to an anticipation of Albee. [. . .] A psychologically accented novel with strong sociological outlines. Some reasons for moral deformity and this kind of gender struggle would be visible. Linguistically of a noticeably Jugendstillike ornamentation. This reduces the effect.60 Fetter also wrote a review of the first edition of a volume of short stories published by S. Fischer Verlag in 1959, its title borrowed from one of Conrad’s volumes of short stories: Geschichten vom Hörensagen (Tales of Hearsay). This edition had been released as a foretaste of the collected


There is no evidence it was ever published in the GDR. ‘Hartherzigkeit einer angeblich tief Gläubigen. Der soziale Hintergrund gut herausgearbeitet. Allerdings sehr quälend. Gute Charakteristik’ (Erich Fetter (30 June 1978), SBB, Nachl. 553, 51r–56r; here: 52r). 60 ‘In den ichbezogenen Monologen des Mannes und in den Dialogen der Eheleute steigert es sich zu einem SuperStrindberg, zu einem vorweggenommenen Albee. [. . .] Eine psychologisch akzentuierte Novelle mit starken soziologischen Aufrissen. Einige Gründe für die sittliche Deformierung und diese Art von Geschlechterkampf warden sichtbar. Sprachlich von einer spürbar jugendstilhafen Ornamentik. Das mindert die Wirkung’ (Erich Fetter (30 June 1978), SBB, Nachl. 553, 51r–56r; here: 52r–53r). 59


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edition that Fischer Verlag started publishing in 1962. To this end, the book contained a variety of short stories taken from different volumes. The review by Fetter is dated 4 July 1978 and marks Aufbau-Verlag’s interest in publishing its own volume of collected short stories. Fetter proposes several possibilities for a compilation at the end of his review (Erich Fetter (4 July 1978), SBB, Nachl. 553, 57r–68r): he recommends ‘Freya of the Seven Isles’ for publication, most likely together with ‘A Smile of Fortune’. ‘The Inn of the Two Witches’ seems ‘possible’, and ‘Because of the Dollars’ is strongly recommended. But Fetter rejects ‘The Planter of Malata’ and ‘The Tale’, which he feels were not well constructed. None of these stories, however, was published in the GDR, and Fetter’s different proposals for a collection of short stories within one volume were not realized by Aufbau-Verlag. Instead, a different compilation of short stories was chosen by Verlag Neues Leben and released for an adolescent readership.61 In the late 1970s, Aufbau-Verlag increased its efforts to publish Conrad’s works. A letter to a Mr Hoffmann at HVG reveals the ambitious, long-term plans: With the recent publication of eight novels or longer stories by Joseph Conrad, we [. . .] have acquired a right to continue maintaining the works of this author in our programme. The prospective planning of the heritage until 1985 has shown that several publishers want to devote more attention to this author. It should be remembered that all works of Conrad have to be translated anew by us, the fifty-year copyright term expired in 1974.62 Several expert reports and note files reveal more definite plans to publish works by Conrad. For example, there was a plan to release a collection of short stories (‘A Smile of Fortune’, ‘Freya of the Seven Isles’, ‘An Outpost of Progress’, ‘The Partner’, ‘Because of the Dollars’) and possibly a second collection of short stories (‘Typhoon’, ‘The Lagoon’, ‘Karain’, ‘Amy Foster’, ‘The Black Mate’, ‘The Brute’, ‘Falk’). These plans were never realized. Most probably AufbauVerlag abandoned the plan because Dieterich published two volumes of Conrad short stories in 1979 and 1980.63 Aufbau-Verlag was also considering the possibility of publishing The Secret Agent, The Arrow of Gold and The Rover. Günter Walch wrote an expert report on The Secret Agent in summer 1979,64 but might have suggested that the publication should be postponed to a later point in time, as the novel was listed as a future publication in the 1979 letter, but was still on a file note in 1986 (see below). Walch also wrote an expert report on The Arrow of Gold, recommending that it should not be published, noting the novel’s low critical reputation.65 He 61 Joseph Conrad, Der schwarze Steuermann und andere Erzählungen [The Black Mate and other stories] (Berlin: Verlag Neues Leben, 1981). 62 ‘Mit der bisherigen Veröffentlichung von acht Romanen oder längeren Erzählungen Joseph Conrads haben wir uns [. . .] ein Anrecht erworben, die Werke dieses Autors weiterhin in unserem Programm zu pflegen. Die PerspektivPlanung des Erbes bis 1985 hat gezeigt, dass verschiedene Verlage sich diesem Autor verstärkt zuwenden wollen. Dabei ist zu bedenken, daß alle Werke Conrads von uns neu übersetzt werden müssen, denn die fünfzigjährige Schutzfrist der Autorenrechte war 1974 abgelaufen’ (Helga Wendler, Aufbau-Verlag, in a letter to Mr Hoffmann, HVG (23 March 1979), SBB, Nachl. 553, A0642, 31r–32r; here: 31r). 63 The first volume contained translations of The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’, ‘Youth’ and ‘Heart of Darkness’. The second volume brought together ‘The End of the Tether’, ‘The Secret Sharer’ and The Shadow-Line. As this suggests, the emphasis was on Conrad as a writer of the sea. 64 Unfortunately, the expert report could not be found in any archive. 65 ‘The “Arrow of Gold” is considered by many critics as Conrad’s weakest novel yet.’ ‘[D]er “Goldene Pfeil” wird von vielen Kritikern noch dazu als Conrads schwächster Roman angesehen’ (Walch 1975, 169).


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

also suggested that M. Georges and Conrad were too close and that the relationship between M. Georges and Dona Rita lacked substance. The main character would have no political interest, and the novel was without inner tension. ‘The result is a novel in which personal problem solving, precisely because of its low success, can hardly be turned into communicable generalizations.’66 Walch also wrote an expert report on The Rover, dated 8 August 1979 (SBB, Nachl. 553, A0642, 69r–73r). Although he regarded this novel as of high quality, Walch recommended that its publication should be postponed and considered after the publication of other works by Conrad. A file note of 1986 listed the novel as being prepared for publication by Aufbau-Verlag within the next few years. However, once again, the reunification of Germany prevented this plan being carried out. Interestingly, Walch argues that the character of Scevola is problematic for a GDR readership: he suggests that Conrad transfers his understanding of anarchism and revolutionaries, derived from the 1880s in England, to the characters involved in the French Revolution. As a result, he observes, Scevola and other characters are depicted quite negatively. The important question, then, is whether readers can distinguish the differences between the revolution of 1789 (as part of the novel) and the revolution of 1917 and later. A notice of intention in 1986 shows that Aufbau-Verlag had plans to publish new translations of An Outcast of the Islands, The Secret Agent, Within the Tides (one short story would have come from Verlag Neues Leben) and, sometime later, The Rover. Other publishers also had plans to release work by Conrad. Under Western Eyes and Tales of Hearsay would have been published by Dieterich. The publisher Kiepenheuer-Verlag, who had published a translation of A Personal Record in 1979, planned – according to the file note from May 1986 – to ‘examine other autobiographical writings’ (SBB, Nachl. 553, A0642, 4r), which presumably meant The Mirror of the Sea (because ‘Weihe’ had already been published in West Germany) or, possibly, Notes on Life and Letters, which had been mentioned in an afterword. With the reunification of Germany, none of these plans were pursued and the story of the reception of Conrad on the GDR came to an end.


‘Im Ergebnis entsteht ein Roman, bei dem persönliche Problembewältigung gerade wegen ihres geringen Erfolgs zu wenig umschlägt in mitteilungswürdige Verallgemeinerung’ (Erich Fetter (25 August1979), SBB, Nachl. 553, A0642, 76r).



In 1929, a strange rumour was circulating in Swiss newspapers: it suggested that Joseph Conrad, the British seaman who became a world-famous novelist, was actually Swiss. The Neue Zürcher Zeitung reported this news with the astonishing description of him as ‘a Swiss who was Polish and became English’.1 There are some small points of contact between Conrad and Switzerland, but – all things considered – they remain minor biographical details. The details of the journey made by the fifteen-year-old Conrad with his tutor Adam Pulman from Poland via Vienna, Munich, Konstanz, Schaffhausen, Kefikon, Zurich, Lucerne, Furka Pass and Grimsel to Venice has been described by Conrad and repeated several times.2 Later in life, Conrad went to Geneva and its sanatorium at Champel-les-Bains on four occasions. In 1891, he spent almost a month at the Hôtel de la Roseraie, convalescing, undergoing hydrotherapy for the ill-health he was suffering after his experiences in the Congo, and working on chapter 7 of Almayer’s Folly. He returned for a month in 1894 for more hydrotherapy and started work on what became his second novel, An Outcast of the Islands. In 1895, he spent another month at the Hôtel de la Roseraie, seeking relief from ‘attacks of melancholy’ (CL1, 210–11) through hydrotherapy. In 1907, he moved his family from Montpellier to Geneva in search of a better climate for his older son, Borys, who had developed a lung infection. After several days at the Hôtel de la Poste, Conrad moved the whole family to the Hôtel de la Roseraie, where his sons (both of whom were now dangerously ill with whooping cough) could be isolated and Conrad himself could get water treatment for his gout, while revising The Secret Agent. In addition, as Paul Kirschner has shown, it was during this visit that Conrad probably found the name ‘Rasoumoff ’ and acquired the detailed topographical knowledge of Geneva that underlies Under Western Eyes (Kirschner 1992). After so many visits and with such different inputs into his fiction, it might not be so surprising that the Swiss consider Conrad as part of the family. By comparison, in 1868–9, Conrad lived in Lwów, which was the capital of Galicia when it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and in 1914 he travelled via Vienna on his journey to Poland, but there is no evidence (in relation to his publication history there) that either occasion left any permanent impression of an Austrian sense of a relationship to him. Nevertheless, the publication of Conrad’s works in both Austria and Switzerland (and his reception in both countries) reflects the sense of an ‘elective affinity’, to use the Goethean term used by Anthony Fothergill to describe Conrad’s reception in Germany (in his chapter in this volume). Thus, the publication of Conrad’s works was initiated mainly by Austrian and Swiss


Cf. Morf 1929. Morf is best known for his study The Polish Heritage of Joseph Conrad (London: 1930). The afterwords to the Swiss Conrad editions (Böhmer 1993) and even some Austrian newspapers (Böhmer 2003) recount these events.



The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

(German or French) aficionados who were full-time English language teachers, scholars, librarians or well-known authors. There was no editorial plan for a complete edition by a publisher in either country, apart from the comparatively recent attempt by Haffmans Verlag Zurich (1992–8), which published just six volumes in the end. But even this project to produce a complete ‘Zurich Edition’ can be subsumed under the heading of a personal interest in Conrad and an individual’s passionate love for his work.3 This truncated complete edition is thus in line with all the other Austrian and Swiss book publications of Conrad’s work, which either ended up as beautifully produced editions for bibliophiles or were issued as part of a series for young readers. A further significant characteristic might be the fact that Swiss publishing houses not only brought out new translations, but also bought licences to publish both West and East German translations. The lack of a complete edition in either Austria or Switzerland may thus be less surprising given that publishing houses from neighbouring countries issued significant complete editions: Austrian and Swiss libraries hold German, French and Italian Conrad translations from large publishing houses in Germany (Fischer Verlag, 1926–39 and 1962–84), France (Gallimard, 1982–92) and Italy (Bompiani, 1949–66). It is also significant that Austrian and Swiss newspapers have regularly printed reviews of those editions.4 A steady exchange involving French, German and Italian publishers also took place at book fairs. Thus, a distinct national reception history could hardly develop in either Austria or Switzerland. Indeed, when all the Conrad translations published in book form are added up, the result is rather sobering: there was only one book publication from Austria, while the nine publishing houses in Switzerland managed only twenty-three German translations and a handful of French book publications. The fact that there is only one Conrad translation published in book form in Austria might seem to testify against the idea of an ‘elective affinity’ for the author. Fritz Stockmann, a retired teacher of Latin, initiated a bilingual German–English/French series (Die doppelte Bibliothek, The Double Library) to be published by his own newly-founded publishing house. For his edition, he chose, as the first volume of his series, Amy Foster oder Der Schiffbrüchige: 4 Erzählungen (Amy Foster or The Castaway: 4 Tales) (Bad Vöslau, 2002), including a representative sample of short stories: ‘Amy Foster’, ‘An Outpost of Progress’, ‘Youth’, and ‘Il Conde’. Stockmann himself was not only the editor, but also the translator of the published stories. This certainly suggests a strong personal interest in Conrad. The two main Swiss publishers (Manesse and Diogenes) each included Conrad’s works within existing series, and a number of single editions came out before the afore-mentioned attempt was made to produce a new complete edition of German translations with the assistance of distinguished translators from Switzerland and Germany. Manesse was a pioneer in the Swiss publishing of Conrad; Diogenes came to publishing Conrad after a number of other Swiss publishers had already entered the field.


‘Ich liebte diesen Autor über alles, und ich liebte diese kleine Geschichte über alles (beide Lieben haben die mehrjährige Zeit der Übersetzung überlebt).’ ‘I loved this author more than anything, and I loved this little story more than anything (both affinities survived the multi-year period of translation)’ (Hansen 1996, 123). 4 The following newspapers launched and celebrated numerous new volumes of the Fischer collected edition: Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Tages-Anzeiger Zürich, Der Landbote Winterthur (all Switzerland), Die Presse Wien, Arbeiter-Zeitung Wien, Salzburger Nachrichten, Wiener Zeitung and Oberösterreichische Nachrichten (all Austria). A vast collection of German-speaking newspaper articles and reviews have been published in Förster 2005.


Conrad Translations in Austria and Switzerland

The Manesse Library of World Literature (Manesse Bibliothek der Weltliteratur) is a German-language book series produced by Manesse Verlag offering works of world literature. The publishing house was originally located in Zurich, and the series formed its flagship. The volumes were for the most part luxuriously produced with fine linen covers, gold embossing, thin printing paper, thread stitching and bookmarks. The volumes were each provided with an afterword by an author, literary critic or contemporary literary scholar. The series was started in 1944, when the company was first founded, and among the first publications was a volume consisting of a number of Conrad novellas and short stories. The volume was entitled Meistererzählungen (Master Stories, 1947) and was edited (and had new translations) by Fritz Güttinger (1907–92). Güttinger had studied English and German at the University of Zurich, gaining his PhD in 1938. As well as teaching English language in a school in Winterthur, he was a literary critic for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung and other papers. In 1944, he made his name as the translator of the first complete German edition of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. The composition of Meistererzählungen is, perhaps, rather strange: ‘Youth’, ‘Heart of Darkness’, and ‘Freya of the Seven Isles’. This odd assortment of texts, although they present Conrad as a writer of the sea and a writer of exotic locations, might be traced back to the scattered translation rights of Conrad’s titles at that time. The same probably holds true for the second Conrad volume published by Manesse in 1948. This brought together ‘Typhoon’, ‘Amy Foster’ and ‘ToMorrow’ in the translation by Elise Eckert. Although all three originally appeared together in the volume Typhoon and Other Stories, it is probably more important that these three translations had previously been published by Engelhorn (and not by Fischer Verlag). The next Conrad translation appeared in 1949, when Benvenuto Hauptmann (1900–65), the son of Gerhart Hauptmann (who had won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1912), with his second wife, translated and published Almayer’s Folly with Classen Verlag Zurich under the German title Almayers Traum (Almayer’s Dream). This had been the working title for the translation of this novel according to publication announcements in 1927–8 for Fischer’s first complete edition of Conrad’s works. Some years later it was actually published by Fischer Verlag under the title Almayers Wahn (Almayer’s Delusion) (cf. Förster 2005, 23). During the 1950s, three very different works were brought out by Verlag Sauerländer in Aarau, Switzerland. Sauerländer, which was founded in 1807, focused on publishing books for adolescents from the mid-twentieth century onwards and now published three short stories by Conrad in a series for young readers called ‘Juventus-Bücherei’. These were ‘Gaspar Ruiz’ (1951), ‘Youth’ (1955) and ‘Typhoon’ (1956). Richard Mummendey, a library scholar of German origin and later deputy director of the University Library in Bonn (Germany), was the translator for ‘Youth’.5 The choice of texts shows how Conrad could be packaged as an adventure writer for a ‘young adult’ readership. Diogenes Verlag Zurich, founded in 1930, is today one of the biggest book publishing houses in Switzerland. Its focus is on fiction and classics of world literature. In the 1970s, Diogenes published three Conrad books under license from the West German publisher S. Fischer (Lord Jim, The Secret Agent and ‘Heart of Darkness’). Surprisingly, their next Conrad volume, A Set of Six, which was published in 1989, was an East German translation.


For biographical details for Richard Mummendey, see


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Interestingly, another Swiss publisher, Schibli-Doppler, located near Basel, had already followed this route: in 1986, they published the GDR translation of Victory, which had just been published by Dieterich Leipzig a year earlier in 1985. Schibli-Doppler described itself as an antiquarian and modern second-hand bookstore. Their publishing programme republished the GDR editions in the series ‘Sammlung Dieterich’. The reasons for this arrangement lay in the history of the Dieterich publishing house. This long-established publishing house, which had started in Gotha in 1752, had been split in two shortly after the Second World War into a western branch (first in Wiesbaden and later in Mainz) and an eastern branch in Leipzig. Although initially both branches followed the same publication programme, the West German branch ran into financial difficulties in 1955. As a result, the series and all publication rights of the western branch were sold to Carl Schünemann Verlag Bremen that continued publishing a West German ‘Sammlung Dieterich’ (including, for example, the GDR translation of Nostromo, which appeared in 1988). In the early 1980s, having had a minor publishing success with the series in West Germany, Schünemann Verlag entered into an arrangement with the Swiss antiquarian bookstore Schibli-Doppler to produce low-cost ‘special editions’ (Sonderausgaben): as with Carl Schünemann Verlag’s West German edition of Nostromo, the East German branch provided the translations secured by a license agreement (Links 2016, 232). Gerd Haffmans, who had been a reader at Diogenes Verlag, left the publishing house after a dispute with the editorial office of Diogenes and in 1982 founded his own publishing house: Haffmans Verlag Zurich. The editorial plan was to publish authors who were not found suitable for Diogenes. Another part of the editorial plan was to focus on new editions and new translations of classical authors. In 1992, Haffmans began to publish Conrad with newly translated individual volumes under the series title ‘Zurich Edition’. In order to bring this project to the public effectively, an earlier offer by the well-known Swiss author Urs Widmer (1938–2014) was seized upon. In a review in 1983, he had been very critical of the Fischer/ Diogenes translation of Lord Jim: ‘The book is so horribly badly translated that I offered to translate it again for the publisher; so far without response – I would like to inherit a publisher like Fischer one day. With such a neglected backlist, I would keep him on the go in a way no newly-founded publishing house can ever be persuaded to gallop.’6 A decade later, Widmer was contracted to translate ‘Heart of Darkness’ as the first volume of this new Conrad edition. In addition, the ‘Congo Diary’ and the ‘Up-river Book’ were, for the first time, published with it. (In a similar move, Haffmans’s new translation of Lord Jim was published with the report of the Maritime Court of Inquiry held at Aden into the abandonment of the SS Jeddah, the case that was one of Conrad’s sources, and press reports on the Jeddah case in German translation.) Urs Widmer also wrote a long and informative afterword to accompany his translation. Four years later he published his novel Im Kongo (In the Congo, Zurich, 1996), which has strong echoes of Conrad’s novella (Windisch 2007; Schenkel 2010, 456ff.). In order to make the ‘Zurich Edition’ stand out from earlier Conrad translations, the intention was to produce totally new translations, and these totally new translations are variously explained in the afterwords. Without doubt, the translators had a certain literary


‘Das Buch ist so grauenvoll schlecht übersetzt, daß ich dem Verlag angeboten habe, es neu zu übersetzen; bisher ohne Reaktion. – Ich möchte einmal einen Verlag wie Fischer erben. Mit einer so ungenutzten Backlist. Den würde ich auf Trab bringen, so wie man keinem neugegründeten Verlag jemals den Galopp einreden kann’ (Widmer 1983).


Conrad Translations in Austria and Switzerland

renown and had chosen Conrad as someone close to their hearts; they had then approached the publisher with already finalized translations – an approach very different from that of previous German complete editions. Fischer had made the plans for the edition, had contacted translators where needed (some of whom were already members of the publisher’s staff ) and had then approached famous scholars or authors for further material. In the case of Haffmans, it was the other way round. It was the translators who came up with the idea of translating Conrad. Nikolaus Hansen, translator of Freya of the Seven Isles, gives two reasons for his involvement in the project. In the first place, there was his deep affection for Conrad and especially for this novella; and, secondly, there was what he describes as the uncategorizability of Conrad which has been turned into its opposite by German translators. Previous translations had displayed no doubt about the categories of good and bad, about right and wrong. These ‘old’ translations were not adequate, they were ‘too German’. In contrast, Hansen describes Conrad’s Freya as ‘a little masterpiece of what it means to be human [. . .] including all the uncertainties, all the doubts about our own actions, all our capacity for evil and all the destruction that comes with it when we fail with what we are’.7 In the end, each translator was simply drawn by the idea of getting closer to Conrad. The translators tried to ‘tear a hole, from time to time, in the costume of Victorian language’.8 Conrad had to use the linguistic formulations that were allowed at the time; his characters’ talk was not as ‘padded’ as it might seem. The translators wanted to do justice to this perception and to reproduce the texts in a more everyday German. Widmer’s version of ‘Heart of Darkness’ was reviewed as ‘a linguistic modernization [. . .] which does not avoid the argot’, the reviewer going on to add that ‘a new edition of this novella – according to Coppola – is also an endeavour against the tradition that has made Conrad a carelessly read textbook author’.9 To indicate the intention of modernization (and the renewal of Conrad’s texts in comparison to previous editions by other German publishers), the titles were partly changed: Almayers Wahn became his Luftschloss (Daydream), picking up another implication of the word ‘folly’. The translator sensed not only the meaning of ‘madness’ but also that of ‘a delightful fantasy’. This attempt to add another facet of meaning to the title fails in the case of another book: The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’ became the Bimbo, a word with a very different meaning in today’s English. In German it was (and still is) a depreciatory term for people with dark skin (perhaps equivalent to the English ‘darky’), but in the 1990s it was also meant to sound like a colloquial term used by adolescents where, in addition to the basic racist meaning, it also had an inoffensive, flippant teasing element (Krege 1994, 217ff.). The ‘Zurich Edition’ consisted of six volumes: ‘Heart of Darkness’ (1992), Almayer’s Folly (1992), The Secret Agent (1993), The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’ (1994), Freya of the Seven Isles (1996) and Lord Jim (1998) – six of the most important works by Conrad. Unfortunately, Haffmans Verlag had to file for bankruptcy, and the project remained unfinished. Nevertheless, since 1998, there have been a number of reprints of these translations as paperback editions by Piper Verlag Munich.


‘ein kleines Meisterwerk des Menschseins [. . .], inklusive aller Ungewißheiten, aller Zweifel am eigenen Tun, aller Fähigkeit zum Bösen und aller Vernichtung, die damit einhergeht, wenn wir mit unserem So-Sein scheitern’ (Hansen 1996, 124). 8 ‘man kommt Conrad näher, wenn man in sein viktorianisches Sprachkostüm ab und zu mal ein Luftloch reißt’ (Krege 1994, 217). 9 ‘eine sprachliche Modernisierung [. . .], die den Argot nicht vermeidet’ (Pfabigan 1993).


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Coda As a footnote to this footnote, it is perhaps worth noting a critical work on Conrad from Switzerland that broke into the international corpus of Conrad criticism. This was Werner Senn’s Conrad’s Narrative Voice, originally written as an ‘Habilitationsschrift’ in 1977. A revised version was published by Franke Verlag (in the series Swiss Studies in English) in 1980. Conrad’s Narrative Voice, which sets out with the aim of examining ‘certain aspects of Conrad’s literary language and style’ (Senn 1980, 7), begins with an analysis of Conrad’s adjectival style and his characteristic use of ‘negative adjectives’ (‘impenetrable’, ‘inconceivable’, ‘incomprehensible’), but, by the fourth chapter it has moved to Marlow’s first-person narration and the issues of perception and cognition. Chapter 5 considers how author, narrators and characters might all be described as physiognomists, actively engaged in the scrutiny of faces, and explores the related topic of the ‘expressive power of eyes and glances’ (Senn 1980, 75). Chapter 6 considers naming; chapter 7 explores Conrad’s use of modal expressions such as ‘as if ’ or ‘it seemed’; and chapter 8 addresses Conrad’s use of free indirect style. Thus, a work which had its roots in linguistic analysis moves into more general critical and narratological areas. It is also significant, in the context of the Swiss interest in Conrad, that the research project was supported by a grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation which enabled Senn to immerse himself for a year ‘in the sea of Conradian studies in the British Museum and elsewhere’ (Senn 1980, 6). This immersion is evidenced in the text and the bibliography that show extensive knowledge of Anglo-American stylistics, theories of fiction, and Conrad criticism. Although there is some reference to German-language scholarship, there is nothing specifically Swiss about the work: rather, it situates itself in (and is orientated towards) an international (Anglo-American) critical tradition.



Joseph Conrad’s name was never widely known in Italy during his lifetime, when his novels went almost completely unnoticed. In the wake of brief obituaries in leading Italian newspapers (one of them by the Calabrian novelist Corrado Alvaro),1 the publication of the first translations of his novels, either en feuilleton or in volume form, coincided with the writer’s death in August 1924. Before the First World War, only one article about him had been published – by the distinguished Florentine critic Carlo Placci (1861–1941). Born in London, and a prominent personality in the Anglo-Italian community of Florence that succeeded the generation of the Landors, the Trollopes and the Brownings, Carlo Placci was a renowned musicologist, a novelist of some note and a great traveller. Placci was introduced to Conrad’s work by Violet Paget (better known under her pseudonym, Vernon Lee) who lent him a first edition of Nostromo – ‘a book so interesting to Italians’, as she remarked in a letter to Conrad of 3 November 1909 (Stape and Knowles 1995, 70). Having long meditated on Conrad’s work, as shown by his manuscript notes in the Marucelliana Library of Florence, on 15 October 1911 Carlo Placci published a long piece in the influential Florentine journal Il Marzocco, where, although praising Conrad as the greatest living English novelist, he expressed reservations about the writer’s complex narrative technique, particularly about his use of time-shifts and multiple narrators. On 26 October 1911, thanking Placci for sending a copy of his article, Conrad added, ‘On the question of form there really is no defence to offer [. . .] What I am looking for is the effect of the living word [. . .] it is in the living word que l’on saisit le mieux la forme du rêve’ (CL4, 494). This was the second appearance of Conrad’s name in print in Italy. It is quite understandable that during the hectic war years the attention of Italian readers, writers and publishers would not have been focused on a contemporary author, still striving to be accepted in his own adoptive country. After the end of the Great War a third article was published, on 29 November 1919, in the Roman daily paper Il Tempo, by a well-known journalist and translator, Eugenio Giovannetti (1883–1951), who, quite enthusiastically, remarked that if Shakespeare were to return to life and write novels, the Bard would give us something similar to The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’. Five more years elapsed before another article, the fourth on record, was written, on 19 April 1924, for the Rome right-wing paper L’Idea Nazionale by Henry Furst (born in New York in 1893; died in La Spezia in 1967). In his article, entitled ‘L’arte di Conrad’, Furst praised Lord Jim as one of the finest creations of world literature. To demonstrate this, since no Italian translations were yet available, Furst – an American Italophile of German descent, who had studied at Yale and Oxford, had been Gordon Craig’s secretary, Gabriele D’Annunzio’s political adviser, a


Alvaro 1995, 81–2.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

graduate in Belles Lettres from Padua University and a law student at the University of Rome – translated the final episode of Lord Jim into Italian and suggested that either this novel or Victory should be made known to the Italian public as supreme examples of Conrad’s greatness. On 12 August, in the same Rome newspaper, Furst published an obituary note, ‘Il poeta navigatore’, in which he claimed that Conrad’s chief merit had been to rescue narrative art from decadence and inject new life into the sea-novel tradition of Defoe, Smollett, Cooper, Marryat and Stevenson.2 What appears quite singular, in the initial period of Conrad’s reception in Italy, is that, before he died, the author seemed to be known only within the Anglo-Florentine circle of Carlo Placci, Vernon Lee and their friends, or to American exiles and emigrés, including Furst and, most notably, Gordon Craig and Ezra Pound.

The Italian translations of Conrad The first trace of a Conrad translation in Italy was found by Ugo Mursia in an advertisement of the Società Anonima Editoriale del Dr R. Quintieri in Milan. L’Italia che scrive (12 December 1920, 186) did indeed announce the intention to publish L’agente segreto (The Secret Agent) during the following year, but it does not appear that this work was ever published. Furst’s suggestion of making Conrad’s work available to Italian readers was therefore not taken up until a few years later, when La casa sul fiume grande, Lorenzo Gigli’s translation of Almayer’s Folly, began to be serialized, with illustrations by Emilio Sobrero, in the Turin weekly L’Illustrazione del Popolo, from issue 27 of 6 July 1924 to issue 52 of 21 December. Two brief editorial notes had previously appeared in issues 25 and 26, announcing ‘a novel of exotic adventures’ (22 June, 13) and an author ‘whose work in Italy is still almost ignored’ (29 June). It therefore seems likely if, as it seems, the postal services of the time were more efficient than those of today, that Conrad might have managed to see the opening pages of his first novel published in an Italian translation in a magazine that Giorgio Viola, the old Garibaldian from Nostromo, would not have minded leafing through when he was not absorbed in reading his Contraband Bible. This is how the first words of that translation offered to the Italian public ran: – Gaspare, la cena è pronta! Una nota acuta voce risvegliò bruscamente Almayer dal suo magnifico sogno, e lo richiamò alla realtà sgradevole e presente. Anche la voce era molto sgradevole. L’aveva intesa per molti anni quella voce, ed ogni annata gli dispiaceva di più. Non importa; tutto questo stava ormai per finire. Here the question immediately arises whether, in order to translate the ‘Kaspar! Makan!’ of the original, Gigli really knew the Malay language or was drawing on the French translation. In Geneviève Seligmann-Lui’s 1919 translation, La folie-Almayer, the original ‘Kaspar! Makan!’ is translated as ‘Gaspard! le souper est prêt!’


These articles on Conrad were collected by Furst’s widow, the writer and translator Orsola Nemi. See Furst 1970.


The Italian Translations of Conrad

The year 1928 was the annus mirabilis in the history of Conrad’s reception in Italy. Another enlarged edition of the Nuovissimo Melzi dedicated two lines to the ‘British prose writer, born in Ukraine, of a Polish family (Korzeniowski), a captain in the British merchant navy’. In the same year two Conrad translations appeared from Corticelli, Fino all’estremo (‘The End of the Tether’), translated by Giovanni Marcellini,3 and Sotto gli occhi dell’Occidente (Under Western Eyes), translated by Aldo Traverso; two more from Sonzogno: Il negro del Narciso (The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’), translated by Baldi, and L’agente segreto (The Secret Agent); translated by Gastone Rossi; as well as a reissue, again from Sonzogno, of Cuore di tenebra (Heart of Darkness), translated by Alberto Carlo Rossi.4 Also in early 1928, Edizioni Alpes, a new Milanese publishing house headed by Arnaldo Mussolini, the Duce’s younger brother, not only published the travel book Penisola pentagonale by the already renowned Mario Praz and the novel Gli indifferenti (The Time of Indifference) by the newcomer Alberto Moravia (with a printing contribution of 5,000 lire), but also launched the Anglo-Polish writer in grand style. In the spring, the first titles, four in just a few weeks, of Joseph Conrad’s Opere (Works) came out: handsome octavo volumes in paperback with twocolour illustrations by U. C. Veneziani on the cover and a photographic portrait of the writer on the title page. These were Nostromo, in Vittorio Caselli’s version (the first of ten different Italian translations that have appeared to date) and Domani e altri racconti (‘Tomorrow and other stories’), translated by Lorenzo Gigli (who, as we have seen, had already tried his hand at Almayer’s Folly).5 This was followed by the work written in collaboration with Ford Madox Hueffer, Romanzo (Romance), published on 10 March, also translated by Caselli, and L’agente segreto (the first of eleven Italian translations of this work to date), published on 10 April in the version by Lula Jahn.6 A publicity leaflet announced that these works were being ‘published entirely in translation [sic] literarily and typographically accurate’ and went on to introduce the author, whose ‘Slavic mystical and visionary realism, his adventurous life, his cult of duty, his dignified outlook on life, his vast culture, the English language an admirable tool in his hands, are the constitutive elements of Joseph Conrad’s art’. Angelo Rizzoli and Valentino Bompiani tried to remedy the situation of inaccurate translations, made by translators with insufficient knowledge of the English language, who often translated from French rather than the original English, and the resulting undervaluation of Conrad’s work. The former provided new translations, at very low prices, of half a dozen of Conrad’s most important titles in BUR, that is, in the first austere Italian series of cheap paperbacks, which conquered or even created vast categories of new readers. The latter, after having meritoriously introduced the Italians to new Hungarian, English and American fiction – from Kormendi to Cronin and Steinbeck – willingly agreed to the proposal of the poet and critic Piero Bigongiari, whom he met in Florence in May 1945, to coordinate a group of translators to


Marcellini had written to Conrad on 11 June 1924 proposing to translate Almayer’s Folly and some tales from A Set of Six and Within the Tides (Curreli 2015, 11–12). 4 This was first published in 1924 (Milan: Bottega di Poesia), the first Conrad work to appear in Italy in book form. It was reissued with minor revisions to the translation by Sonzogno in 1928. ‘Karain’, translated by Gastone Rossi, was added to this edition without notice on the cover. See Curreli 2009, 189. 5 In 1937, with Oggi si vola (Pylon), Gigli would also be the first translator of Faulkner in Italy. 6 Gastone Rossi’s translation for Sonzongo was published later in the year (15 June 1928); see Curreli 2009, 207.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

work on a worthy and ambitious enterprise: the collection of Conrad’s complete works. This is how the Milanese publisher remembered the young Tuscan intellectual to whom he had entrusted the task of editor: Piero Bigongiari: He has come out of a 16th-century painting. His face is open to the elements. He proposes all the works of Joseph Conrad in exemplary translations, with introductions by the major writers, philologically edited by him. Yes, that was my idea. He also has the right face for the job. Bompiani 1988 The elegant Bompiani edition – in twenty-four volumes, but twenty-two actual tomes, bound in full blue cloth with gilt titles on the spine – which was intended to come out on the occasion of the centenary of the writer’s birth, in 1957, was instead completed over a much longer period of time: from 1949 to 1966. On the one hand, it had the undoubted merit of promoting Conrad, not least ‘visually’, to the rank of a classic, and of offering, as introductions, a large number of essays by European and American writers and critics – from Galsworthy to Gide, from James to Mencken, from Thomas Mann to Virginia Woolf, from Leavis to Cecchi – but, on the other hand, it also had a serious limitation: that of having included, unrevised, many of the pre-war translations that were by then completely unreadable. Published between the end of the 1920s and the beginning of the 1940s, and usually derived from (or distorted by) French versions that were themselves imperfect, these old, unreliable translations, in which the difficulties of interpretation had been tacitly circumvented by means of omissions and macroscopic cuts, appeared alongside new translations, which had frequently been entrusted by Bompiani and Bigongiari to non-specialists of widely varying artistic characters, with their own linguistic tics and particular stylistic features. Furthermore, during the war, with the libraries closed and enormous difficulties with communication, the Bompiani literary editorial staff had been displaced to Fiesole, where about fifty people worked on the Dizionario delle opere e dei personaggi (Dictionary of Works and Personalities), with the only advantage, as the publisher observed, that the intellectuals were all unemployed and available for any work. Some of these would-be translators were actually novelists, critics and poets – all imbued with French rather than English language and culture – who frequented, along with Luzi and Gatto, Parronchi and Montale, Betocchi and Landolfi, Berti and Vittorini, the editorial offices of Solaria and Letteratura, the historic Gabinetto Vieusseux, the welcoming Seeber bookshop, the tables of Caffè Gilli or those of the Giubbe Rosse (with a summer annex by the fourth plane tree of Caffè Roma in Forte dei Marmi), and on Wednesday evenings they would meet up with Rosai, Morandi, Carrà or De Chirico for dinner at the Antico Fattore tavern. Immediately after the war, Dylan Thomas was briefly admitted to that circle ‘of the young intellectuals of Florence, who are rarified and damp: they do not write much but oh how they edit. They live with their mothers, ride motor-scooters, and translate Apollinaire’ (Thomas 1966, 307–16). The translators of this edition – Giovanni Fletzer, Camillo Pellizzi, Francesco Arcangeli, Marcella Bonsanti, Mario Colombi Guidotti and Giorgio Zampa, along with Piero Jahier, Margherita Guidacci and Carlo Emilio Gadda – at best imprinted uneven or excessively personalized stylistic transformations on their translations, which were aimed at a middle-tohighbrow readership. At worst, they infused Conrad’s text with anacoluthic syntax and 154

The Italian Translations of Conrad

Tuscanisms that were weak translations, when not decidedly out of place, coining, for example, the playful augmentative ‘inciampicone’, which, in Luigi Biagi’s poor translation of The Arrow of Gold, is used to translate ‘stumble’. There were also some actual errors, derived from French translations, which, as we have seen, were often just as bad, with excessively marked divergences between source and target languages and with very different stylistic and interpretative results. Gadda himself, well aware of the situation, wrote to his secret collaborator (Lucia Rodocanachi, who also provided other famous authors with ready-made translations) on 10 September 1956, ‘The usual English translations are full of gibberish [. . .] perhaps due to an error in [. . .] the French’ (Gadda 1983). A few years after the death of Ugo Mursia, with whom I collaborated on many Conradian endeavours, the publisher Valentino Bompiani asked me to review some of the old translations of the series directed by Piero Bigongiari, since he intended to reprint them in his Classics series. The agreement was to see whether, in order to republish them thirty or forty years after their first appearance, a simple revision and updating would suffice or whether they would need a more extensive, if not total, overhaul. And so it was that I weeded out the dross from some of those translations, as well as the tenacious encrustation of typos, perpetuated in the various reprints; while other versions, by now absolutely unusable, had instead to be completely redone, to the extent that the name of the old translator had to be removed. Only two so-called ‘author’s versions’ remained practically intact: Carlo Emilio Gadda’s The Secret Agent, published in 1953 and included in 1995 as it was, by the publisher’s decision, in the second volume of Conrad’s Works I edited in the Bompiani Classics; and Margherita Guidacci’s Chance (Destino), which appeared in August 1961, reprinted with editorial bio-bibliographical notes in Tascabili Bompiani in October 1978 and reissued, by me, in Grandi Tascabili Bompiani in March 1993, just nine months after the death of the translator, the Tuscan American teacher and poet. For an overview of this publisher’s decision, let us take some examples from the version of The Secret Agent which appeared under the name of Carlo Emilio Gadda and was published by Bompiani in 1953. Far from showing the characteristic linguistic inventions, the singular mixtures, the heaps of augmentative, diminutive, pejorative suffixes typical of Gadda in his 1957 novel Il Pasticciaccio (That Awful Mess on Via Merulan) and elsewhere, or from offering original stylistic solutions, what stands out is its poor knowledge of English, both on the part of the translator and (if there was one) of the proofreader. For example, when we read in Gadda’s translation that the London coachmen wear ‘i grossi berretti di pelliccia’ (L’agente segreto, 295) (large fur caps), it may not seem a mistranslation; but if we check the original and see that it speaks instead of people ‘sitting motionless under the big fur capes’ (SA, 225), we instantly understand how capes (‘cloaks’) has been mistaken for caps (‘bonnets’) and has produced ‘berretti’. It is evident that we are not dealing here with technical terms or particularly difficult expressions, nor with literary embellishments, but rather with odd misreadings of the original, which always seem to be lying in wait, leading to several instances of misunderstanding. This is what often happens in Gadda’s version, with its typos and subtle oversights which therefore go unnoticed, as when a capital ‘A’ is used instead of Δ to indicate Agent Delta (SA, 27); or a code name becomes Prozov instead of the correct Prozor (SA, 295); or when Mr Vladimir’s lips seem to be made to ‘preferire quei delicati motti di spirito’ (‘prefer those delicate witticisms’; L’agente segreto, 55), instead of ‘proferire’ (‘utter’) (the original actually reads ‘the utterance of those delicate witticisms’ (SA, 24); or ‘scadendo le sillabe’ (L’agente segreto, 262) (expiring the 155

The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

syllable) for ‘scandendo’ (scanning the syllable); or ‘La poltrona dell’ex-galeotto ricevette indignata una tale asserzione’ (L’agente segreto, 292) (The armchair of the ex-convict received such an assertion with indignation), where, instead of poltrona (armchair), what is meant is ‘patrona’, that is, the ‘patroness of the ex-convict’ (SA, 223), the wealthy lady ‘protector’ of Michaelis. Sylvère Monod has pointed out how Jean-Aubry made a similar mistake when, in his translation of The Arrow of Gold, in the scene of the meeting between M. George and the Marquis de Villarel, he makes the latter make ‘un léger mouvement sur son siège qui en craqua d’impatience’ (La flèche d’or, 270), but in the original text we read that the Marquis ‘made a slight movement in his chair which smacked of impatience’ (251) (Monod 1992). The error (consisting of confusing smacked with cracked) transfers the gesture of impatience from a person to a piece of furniture. Intertextuality poses another problem. Obviously, we do not expect Gadda (or his ghost translator) to know how to recognize certain intertextual references; however, these should not escape the notice of the general editor of the series, nor that of a competent editorial staff. For example, when Mr Verloc greedily pounces on the cold roast prepared for him by his wife, ‘The piece of roast beef, laid out in the likeness of funereal baked meats for Stevie’s obsequies’ (SA, 253), the meaning of the phrase is misunderstood in Gadda’s translation: ‘Il pezzo d’arrosto che era rimasto sulla tavola, quasi un banchetto funebre per l’esequie di Stevie’ (L’agente segreto, 327) (The piece of roast that had been left on the table, like a funeral banquet for Stevie’s obsequies). It is not in fact a ‘piece of roast’ but a whole roast, and not left over but prepared and laid out by Winnie. In addition, the phrase is an echo of the well-known lines ‘The funeral bak’d meats / Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables’ in the second scene of Act 1 of Hamlet (lines 180–1), the sad and sarcastic remark of the pale Prince of Denmark. And that same ‘sharp carving knife’ – with which the secret agent cuts himself ‘thick slices’ – should also have reminded the translator of the sharp knife Tess of the d’Urbervilles made identical use of, for and on the treacherous Alec. But Gadda, who misses certain intertextual references, merely passes on to the editor the material passed on to him by his secret collaborator. In the next paragraph, Gadda (or the person who ‘rinsed his clothes in the Arno’) brings to the secret agent’s ear ‘il rumore dell’impannata che si abbassava lentamente’ (L’agente segreto, 327) (the sound of the impannata slowly lowering), where the impannata was the frame on which, in ancient times, in poorer houses, cloth or paper panels were applied (in Tuscany, even the scuretti (window shutters) were called ‘le impannate’). Here, however, in the upstairs room, where Winnie moved silently, Verloc ‘heard the sash being lowered slowly’ (SA, 253), that is, he heard the typical vertically sliding English window, or guillotine window, of Victorian houses, which were also glazed, being lowered. And how can we fail to smile at the ‘traballon traballoni’ progress of the carriage taking Winnie’s elderly mother to the hospice (L’agente segreto, 213)? Here we pass from the pedestrian re-expressions of idiomatic expressions that we find elsewhere in this translation to excessively free and creative variations, drawn, not without irony, from the spoken language, from the vernacular. Moreover, in the original (‘It rolled, too, however’ (SA, 157)) there is no trace of these odd iterative structures, such as ‘trotterellon trotterelloni’, which are typically Tuscan in their expressiveness. Gadda might have been more at ease if Bigongiari and Bompiani had entrusted him with the translation of some maritime tales. The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’, for example, with its 156

The Italian Translations of Conrad

combination of technicalities and a tangle of dialects, would certainly have given him the opportunity to experiment with linguistic pastiches more suited to him. One of the strengths of the Mursia edition – which, compared to the Bompiani edition, came out in a much shorter time span of fifteen years, or even only ten (1967–77) if we consider only the four volumes of the narrative works – was the fact that all the translations, made by a small number of selected collaborators, had been scrupulously revised and standardized by Ugo Mursia himself. His perfect symbiosis with the expressive style of the Anglo-Polish writer and his concern for the greatest possible fidelity to the rhythms of his prose gave for the first time to thousands of translated pages a level of homogeneity, as well as an adherence to the original diction never previously achieved, to say nothing of his absolute competence in maritime terminology. Forty years ago, from the hundreds of different translations listed by Ugo Mursia in his inventory of 1968, one could deduce that the most translated Conrad titles were the following: New translations

Reissued in different series






‘The Secret Sharer’




The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’


4+1 plagiarized version






Almayer’s Folly




Lord Jim


1+1 condensed version


The Shadow-Line




The Secret Agent








Updating this list to 1982 in Ugo Mursia’s Scritti conradiani, I reported a 50 per cent increase in new translations (not just reprints or new impressions) (Mursia and Currelli 1982). Today, the number of versions of Conradian texts has almost quadrupled and continues to grow, with an average of a dozen different translations (excluding reprints) for each title, almost as if to justify Benjamin’s axiom that the classics must continue to be translated. The most interesting aspect, however, is that in the wake of Mursia’s and Prinzhofer’s highly accurate work, we are also finally seeing editions in which introductions of considerable originality and insight – by specialists such as Marenco and Serpieri, Sertoli and Cianci, Binni, Domenichelli and Pagetti – are accompanied by valuable new translations. Some of them, such as those by Luisa Saraval, Marialuisa Bignami, Flavia Marenco or Dacia Maraini, are of an excellent interpretative level: almost as if to prove that women often translate better, perhaps also because, as they do not usually have to support a family with a poorly paid job, they can linger on the texts, filing them down and refining them with care. As Dacia Maraini observed when introducing her version of ‘The Secret Sharer’: Among other things, the art of translation suits women for historical reasons. It is no coincidence that the majority of the world’s translators are women: people who do their 157

The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

best, in a motherly way, for a price that is always too low, to transfer their child from one language to another, from one imaginary world to another, as if from one cradle to another, always making sure that the ‘baby’ is well fed, well washed and well covered. And here are the Conradian works that are most popular with us today, most of them by female translators: New translations

Reissued in different series






Heart of Darkness




The Shadow-Line


22+1 plagiarized version


‘The Secret Sharer’




Lord Jim


17+1 condensed version


The Secret Agent






10–1 condensed version


‘The Duel’








A comparison of the tables confirms the continuing placing of Typhoon in first place, and the stability of the popularity of ‘The Secret Sharer’, Lord Jim and The Shadow-Line; but what stands out, above all, is the rediscovery of Nostromo and the remarkable success of Heart of Darkness. This latter is due not so much to its cinematic associations as to a wide range of multidisciplinary critical approaches that have explored and revealed a multitude of facets of this extraordinary novella. The loss of interest in The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’ is, however, more apparent than real, as the novel has been reprinted again and again, albeit in reprints of old, inadequate translations. Looking at these data, one can see the vigorous impulse given to the reception of Conrad in Italy by the Mursia edition, whose volumes were received with unanimous praise by the public, the most prestigious publications and the most authoritative commentators: from Salvatore Rosati to Gabriele Baldini, from Agostino Lombardo to Remo Ceserani, from Sergio Perosa to Italo Calvino. In addition, it is only over the last three or four decades that some Italian translations have been provided with top-quality introductory essays and notes, as in the case of Franco Marenco’s introductions to Mursia’s collected edition – or to his 1993 Einaudi edition of The Shadow-Line – as well as Alessandro Serpieri’s introduction to ‘Falk’ for Marsilio (1994) and Giuseppe Sertoli’s Cuore di tenebra (Heart of Darkness) for Einaudi (1999). However, a discrepancy between the high number of translations and the small number of first-rate critical introductions is quite striking. Other paratextual material often comes under severe strictures, as when, for instance, in Rizzoli’s frequently reprinted translation of Nostromo, the compiler of the glossary of foreign expressions, having mistaken the word ‘pedlar’ for a Spanish term in the phrase ‘pedlar of the campo’, complains of not having been able to find this word in a Spanish dictionary. The glosses of ‘hombre di muchos dientes’, or ‘peine de oro’ and ‘Rubiacita’, are also


The Italian Translations of Conrad

ridiculously inadequate in this as in other cheap editions (not only in Italian, though), giving ample evidence of the compiler’s ignorance of the matters under discussion. On the other hand, Conrad’s impact on contemporary Italian writers, such as Giuseppe Berto, Raffaello Brignetti, Italo Calvino, Ennio Flaiano, Cesare Pavese, Primo Levi and so on is further demonstrated by Alberto Moravia, who wrote a preface to Lord Jim in 1983 and dedicated to Conrad a chapter of his Lettere dal Sahara (1981) as well as one of his 1987 Passeggiate Africane, introduced by Daicia Maraini. The latter, a distinguished novelist herself, in addition to a number of articles on Conrad, in 1996 provided readers with a brilliant translation of ‘The Secret Sharer’ (‘Il compagno segreto’). The keen interest in Conrad of all these novelists is further confirmation of his enduring appeal for contemporary Italian readers.




The story of Joseph Conrad’s reception in Italy from the 1920s through to the 1950s is dense with history, local cultural traditions, politics and the upholding of humanistic values – in other words, it is a typically Italian story. Academia played a relatively small part in it: the seminal essay on Conrad written by an Italian predates by ten years the official foundation of English Studies in Italy; the main protagonists in the dissemination of Conrad’s texts were two upscale commercial publishers in Milan and two editors working for a third publisher in Turin; the messages that contributed to shaping Conrad’s image in Italian culture were framed having in mind not university students but an intellectual élite, il pubblico colto, which during this period lived through dictatorship, a war that turned into a terrible civil war and – after the Liberation – the excitement of what was felt to be a political and cultural rebirth. Precisely for this reason, it is possible to view this story as a cultural phenomenon that reveals a number of cultural traits peculiar to Italian literary culture; some of these cultural traits, it will be argued in this chapter, are still relevant to Conrad studies today. It is perhaps impossible to say whether these cultural traits can explain why Italy is the only country in the non-Anglophone world that can boast two collected editions of Conrad’s works, the 1949–66 Bompiani edition, in twenty-four beautifully produced volumes, and the 1967–82 Mursia edition, in five volumes. Ultimately, this protracted effort, which involved commissioning new or revised translations accompanied by critical apparatuses of the highest quality, reflects the entrepreneurial spirit shown by the two publishers, Valentino Bompiani (1898–1992) and Ugo Mursia (1916–82).1 An attempt can be made, however, at setting into an historical perspective the key moment in this story, when Valentino Bompiani in the spring of 1945, with the war barely over, decided to put his money behind the idea that, in the case of Conrad, and of Conrad only, a foreign author’s works had to be brought to the general public not only in their entirety but with what at the time was a self-consciously scholarly edition, in which Chance was introduced by Henry James’s 1914 review of that novel or Conrad’s essays by E. M. Forster’s 1921 review of Notes on Life and Letters. Thanks to articles and reviews which appeared in a number of excellent literary journals and in daily newspapers the Italian pubblico colto – as Bompiani knew, having founded his publishing house in 1929 – were well informed about contemporary British and American authors even without having had a chance to read them other than in bad versions of French


The Ugo Mursia edition aimed at improving the philological quality of earlier Italian translations of Conrad, a goal eventually achieved thanks to Mario Curreli, who re-edited for Mursia and, later, Bompiani several Conrad texts which had originally appeared in both collected editions.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

translations. And this for a number of reasons, which had nothing to do with Fascist censorship. Until then, Italian culture had never shown a particular interest in English literature – with the notable exception of two authors: Lord Byron and Sir Walter Scott (Praz 1948, 188). Even those few who wished to learn the language were discouraged by the fact that there were almost no English books available in the country: to the point that when, in 1918, the Minister of Public Education, Agostino Berenini, instituted university chairs of English no candidates applied (Cattaneo 2007, 2–3). And certainly in the humanities faculties, where French literature scholars ruled the roost, no one was in a rush to make room for a new discipline. When the professor of English Philology at the University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’, Federico Garlanda,2 died in 1913, the doyen of French Studies there, Cesare De Lollis, gave a public eulogy awash with crocodile tears; alas, he declared, English was relegated ‘to the extreme periphery of university disciplines’, but if this was the case it was because, he explained, unlike, say, French, German or Russian critics, their English colleagues were incapable of recognizing ‘Beauty unless in those cases in which it is also morally uplifting’ (De Lollis 1914, 240–1). No wonder that Garlanda’s chair remained vacant and the Sanskrit professor, Carlo Formichi, was asked to take over his presumably minuscule teaching load. Obviously, the ‘Facoltà di Lettere’ of ‘La Sapienza’ had taken seriously Kipling’s rhetorical question, ‘And what should they know of England who only England know?’ (Kipling 1891). Things started changing when Mussolini came to power in 1922 and his formidable Minister of Public Education, the philosopher Giovanni Gentile, made sure that an anglista3 was among the recipients of the ministerial scholarships assigned to graduates who intended to study abroad. (These were awarded by a committee which included also De Lollis and Formichi.) The winner, and it couldn’t have been otherwise, had recently turned into an anglista only for lack of better opportunities. His name was Mario Praz (1896–1982); he was Florentine and he held a degree (cum lauda) in International Law and another one, without lauda, in Italian literature, on the language of Gabriele D’Annunzio. His professors didn’t dare publish his thesis for fear of offending the great poet – who was just then becoming an icon of the Fascist regime – and his supervisor, having heard that he had befriended a number of English aristocratic ex-pats, suggested that he should try translating some English poems and maybe write an article or two. It was the kiss of death to his academic ambitions, but fortunately for him outside the universities there were signs of a new interest in foreign literature in the journals which started appearing on the literary scene. In particular, he attracted the attention of another Florentine, Emilio Cecchi (1884–1966), a self-educated writer from a working-class background who, perhaps because he couldn’t aspire to a university chair, had chosen to venture into the undiscovered country of English literature, publishing in 1915 a History of 19th-century English Literature – in fact, a study of the romantics. Cecchi was to become one of the foremost Italian men of letters of the first half of the twentieth century, eventually proving that it was possible to write both as ‘the most self-confident prose artist in Italy after D’Annunzio’ (Binni 1951, 205),4

2 After graduating in classical philology at the University of Turin, Federico Garlanda (1857–1913) left for New York where he lived for several years, learning English and eventually writing several books on the English language and American economy and society, which earned him a professorship of English Philology at the University of Rome. He then opted for a parliamentary career. After being defeated by a socialist opponent, Garlanda returned to La Sapienza. 3 This is the Italian term used for English language and literature scholars. 4 On Cecchi, see Cattaneo 2007, 31–4.


‘The Battle For Conrad’ Inside and Outside Italian Academia in the Years 1924–1960

contributing beautiful essays to the major avant-garde literary journals of the time – such as La Ronda – and as a journalist working, for example, as the London correspondent of La Tribuna in 1918–19 and the Rome correspondent of the Manchester Guardian from 1919 to 1925. Once in London, Praz got down to work on seventeenth-century English poetry and in particular on Richard Crashaw because, as he explained in his first report to the minister, a study of this poet ‘presented numerous advantages for an Italian, since Crashaw was initially inspired by the religious poetry of [Giambattista] Marino’ (Praz 1983, 185). (From the very start, Praz conceived of the discipline he was to found, Anglistica, as an essentially comparative enterprise.) On 18 September 1923, however, he was forced to tear himself away from his beloved seventeenth-century poets when Emilio Cecchi wrote to him asking him ‘[a] small favor’: ‘when you next go to the “British Museum” could you please write down on a sheet of paper a bibliography of all the volumes published on Joseph Conrad?’ (Praz, 1985, 65). The request perhaps did not come as a surprise, since Cecchi must have told Praz that four years earlier he had written to Conrad seeking permission to translate one of his latest short stories or one of his novels for La Ronda, ‘which represents the best of young literature in Italy’, convinced as he was, he explained, that it would be ‘impossible to give a true representation of English prose today without something of yours’. This letter, discovered by Mario Curreli, is of crucial importance in the story of Conrad’s reception, since it documents how Cecchi envisaged the dissemination of Conrad’s works in Italy as an important act of cultural mediation based on the special position assigned to the Anglo-Polish author within contemporary English literature and aimed at a select readership. Conrad later informed his agent, J. B. Pinker, that he had replied to Cecchi suggesting he could translate ‘The Tale’, but nothing must have come of the project ‘since no work of his ever appeared in La Ronda’ (Curreli 2009, 35–7). Three weeks later Cecchi published a feature article on Conrad in La Tribuna and sent a copy to Conrad, who replied, ‘Pray accept my warm thanks for the kind thought of sending me your admirably sympathetic article’ (21 November 1923) (CL8, 227). But for Cecchi a newspaper article wasn’t enough: what he had to say about Conrad required a full-length essay to be published in a literary journal. So he got down to work again, investing time and effort on a project that required his rereading Conrad’s entire opus, as Curreli concluded after comparing the original article and the essay he eventually wrote. An episode that occurred at the time gives us an insight into the value judgement implicit in such an investment. Earlier in 1923, Cecchi had published an article in La Tribuna on Joyce’s Ulysses, and the Irish author had written to thank him for the article and especially for the essay the Italian critic had announced he would write on his masterpiece for the prestigious Milanese journal Il Convegno. That essay never saw the light of day, because Cecchi was too busy writing the one on Conrad, which eventually appeared in the August 1924 issue of Il Convegno (Curreli 2009, 43) – before Conrad’s death that month and the brief renewal of critical interest that followed. The essay was abstracted in the ‘review of reviews’ section of the special issue brought out in December by the Nouvelle Revue Française, Hommage à Joseph Conrad, which contained mostly biographical articles on Conrad the man. In a letter to Praz, Cecchi commented, ‘it seems to me in fact that the articles in it do not, as criticism, add much to what I have already said’ (Praz 1985, 92). And he was right: Cecchi was the first European critic to analyze Conrad’s opus in its entirety. In Italian culture, he fixed forever our perception of Conrad as an artist firmly at the heart of European literature and unique in his ability to synthesize the lessons of a Flaubert and a Dostoyevsky in narrative forms relevant to a new generation of writers and readers. 163

The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Asked for an opinion on the essay, Praz declined to reply. The answer would come years later, after he had returned to Rome in 1934 as the first Professor of English Language and Literature at ‘La Sapienza’ – the event that marks the official birth of English Studies in Italy. He had by then acquired a European reputation thanks to his most important work, La carne, la morte e il diavolo nella poesia romantica (1930, in English The Romantic Agony (1933)), ‘a study of Romantic literature (of which the Decadent Movement of the end of the last century is only a development) under one of its most characteristic aspects, that of erotic sensibility’ (Praz 1933, xv). In looking back at the significance of this pioneering masterpiece of European comparative literature, Frank Kermode in 1970 described it as a ‘classic’, in the sense that it is one of those ‘books that have, in the depth of their insights, power to alter a reader’s understanding of the history of his society, and perhaps of his own history’. For example, he adds, an English reader may well have encountered already one of Praz’s fundamental convictions – that life often imitates art – only voiced, by English critics, ‘with much more overbearing moralistic overtones’.5 For a scholar trying to making a contribution to the study of a foreign culture there could be no greater achievement; in Praz’s case, it also meant disproving the stereotypes his Italian colleagues used to liquidate English Studies as a discipline incapable of an aesthetic appreciation of literary works. Such an achievement was loaded with political significance. Cecchi, Praz and others carried out their work of dissemination of English and American literature in the shadow of a Fascist regime determined to impose ‘an idea of literature based on limited and suffocating national boundaries’, insulated within a ‘nationalistically defined space’.6 Those intellectuals and academics who rejected this idea did so by appealing to two deeply felt values: the autonomy of literature from every external pressure – be it political, religious or moralistic – and the belief in a European literature transcending national cultural boundaries. These are the values Praz brought to his most influential evaluations of Conrad, which we find in the Storia della letteratura inglese he published in 1937 and went on editing and reviewing for decades. Appropriately, for a literary history written by a critic who viewed the decadent movement as a development of Romantic poetry, the final chapter of his literary history is titled ‘Romanticism 3. “The Anti-Victorian Reaction” ’, a phenomenon which, in the perspective suggested by Praz, begins with Walter Pater and ends with the subcategory ‘Exoticism’, that most romantic of literary movements. As it were in opposition to the other two ‘exotic’ writers, Stevenson and Kipling, Praz inserted here two pages on Conrad, in which he provided a few biographical facts and cited a handful of his titles; oddly, considering this apparent lack of interest, he then added a final paragraph in which he praised Conrad’s ‘strange and sinister exotic scenery [which] is like a foreshadowing, a symbol of a mysterious interior landscape, [closer] to introspective novelists like Dostoevsky, Henry James, Marcel Proust’ (Praz 1937, 363). At the first opportunity, the newly appointed professor had publicly commented on Emilio Cecchi’s essay, and imported his own critical views into academic criticism.


Kermode, 1970 foreword to Praz 1933, v, viii. Macchia 1987, 28–9, cited in Cattaneo 2007, 55.



‘The Battle For Conrad’ Inside and Outside Italian Academia in the Years 1924–1960

Many of the more than 2,500 titles in Praz’s bibliography are articles he wrote to introduce hundreds of English and American authors to the Italian pubblico colto in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s. But there were also other intellectual forces at work in Italy that contributed perhaps even more decisively to the creation of a readership for Bompiani’s collected edition. In the 1930s young anti-Fascist intellectuals were pro-Soviet in politics but pro-American in their dreams, and invested their hopes for a brighter future in an idealized USA. Literati such as Cecchi and Praz ended up, as Arturo Cattaneo notes, being locked in an intergenerational conflict between ‘old Anglicists’ and ‘young Americanists’ such as, for example, Cesare Pavese (1908–50), the novelist and communist intellectual whose splendid Melville translations remain unsurpassed still today. Upscale publishers were quick to realize the market value of this passion for American novelists: the first was Bompiani in 1929 with John Steinbeck, followed in 1933 by a Turin publisher, Giulio Einaudi – with whom Pavese started collaborating as an editor – who brought out Hemingway and Edgar Lee Masters (Cattaneo 2007, 40–1, 29). Among these ‘young Americanists’, only one favourite of the ‘old Anglicists’ à la Cecchi remained significant: Joseph Conrad. A couple of weeks after the liberation of Turin from the Nazi-Fascists, Pavese wrote to a Florentine poet-translator Piero Jahier, who in the past had translated ’Twixt Land and Sea: ‘Einaudi is out of the storm. The editors who had gone missing are coming back and the collaborators are resuscitating. [. . .] Send us the latest news about your city and your affairs and, naturally, about the projects you’re working on: Conrad, Molière, the [Arden] of Feversham, Ben [Jonson], etc. We attach especially great importance to Conrad’ (Pavese 1966, 6). Jahier immediately replied, ‘I also care – most of all – about Conrad’ (Pavese 1966, 16). At Einaudi, Pavese could count on a twenty-three-year-old collaborator who arrived in 1947 after having published a novel based on his experience in the anti-Fascist partisan war and having graduated in English Literature at the University of Turin with a thesis on Joseph Conrad. His name was Italo Calvino (1923–85), and he is the first character in this story with a degree in English Literature or, more specifically, in Conrad studies: a second-year Agricultural Science student when the civil war broke out, he later was allowed, as a veteran, to enrol directly in the third year of another faculty, Letters, and this is how he ended up an English Literature major with a clear idea of what his thesis was going to be about (Calvo Montoro 1997, 112). When a new editor for English and American Literatures arrived at Einaudi, Pavese wrote to a friend, ‘all I can do is try in every possible way to bring him around to Conrad’. But at that point, in June 1949, it was too late anyway, since, as he was forced to admit, ‘Bompiani is preparing the entire Conrad’ (Pavese 1966, 391). Giulio Einaudi may have had the best team of Conrad enthusiasts in the country, but it was Valentino Bompiani’s personality and courage that changed the story of Conrad’s reception in Italy. It happened a few weeks after the end of the war, in May 1945. The publisher was standing among the ruins of his Florentine offices, greeting the famous and not so famous Bompiani authors who came to pay homage or simply to show they were still alive; among them, there was a Florentine hermetic poet, literary critic and translator from French, Piero Bigongiari (1914–97), who had the nerve to make a pitch for a grand project: why not publish a complete edition of Conrad, ‘with exemplary translations, introductions by major authors, and great philological attention on his part’? Bompiani approved, since, he recalled, ‘it was already an idea of mine’. Perhaps he wasn’t aware of the fact that Bigongiari didn’t know English, but, as Curreli has noted, what counted were his looks: the poet reminded him of someone who ‘has 165

The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

stepped out of a Renaissance painting’, and with a face like that ‘he was suited to such an enterprise’ (Bompiani 1988, 128). Pavese committed suicide in 1950, and Calvino was left to fight on his own what became a personal ‘battle for Conrad’ in the cultural section of l’Unità, the organ of the Italian Communist Party founded by Antonio Gramsci.7 In reading his two 1949 articles, it is obvious that even the idea of a ‘battle’ became conceivable only thanks to the Bompiani edition launched that year. The August 1949 article begins, ‘In Italy, Joseph Conrad is more often discussed than read. The fact is, his readers are not part of the “cultivated public” but are the clients of the second-hand bookstalls who buy his novels in the red Sonzogno volumes, among the adventure stories of Zane Gray or Curwood.’8 Now, thanks to the collected edition, the Italian pubblico colto could discover first-hand that – as Cecchi and Praz had argued all along – in Conrad’s case adventure ‘is only the outer skin’: [Conrad is] a writer of souls equal to Dostoevsky (whom he detested), a felicitous inventor of stories, figures and atmospheres, and one of the principal artificers, along with James and Proust, of the revolution (and crisis) of narrative technique at the end of the past century. Calvino 1995, vol. 1, 811 The crucial word here is ‘revolution’, which Calvino uses to initiate the next step in his ‘battle’: making a reactionary like Conrad palatable to the communist readers of l’Unità. In the final chapter of his thesis, ‘Narrative Form’, he had written that Conrad is ‘an authentic writer’ because he doesn’t ‘become slave to experience, he doesn’t let himself be defined by experience: Conrad has something new to communicate to men. And to express it, he goes in search of symbols among the most marginal experiences of his life.’9 Again, in a letter to Mario Motta (11 July 1950), Calvino wrote, ‘there’s Conrad, with his black vision of the universe and his faith in man, his morality, founded on work, on the practice of a profession, sailing, (and this morality makes of him a rigid conservative, but who nowadays if not revolutionaries can learn from him?)’ (Calvino 2000, 282–3). Calvino was to transcend, eventually, the opposition of reactionary/revolutionary once he came to identify in Conrad’s novelistic practice a form of action informed by a moral vision of the world which could be useful also for those who wish to change the world. In his last essay on Conrad, he declared: Conrad brought into his tales something that is extremely difficult to write about: the sense of an integration into the world which he has achieved through his practical life,


Gaetani 1994, 86. Calvino’s first article, ‘Ultime edizioni Einaudi. “La linea d’ombra” di Joseph Conrad’, l’Unità (Piedmontese ed.), 15 June 1947, is a press release for an Einaudi translation; the next two – ‘Joseph Conrad scrittore poeta e uomo di mare’, l’Unità (Piedmontese ed.), 6 August 1949 and ‘L’opera di Conrad’, l’Unità (Piedmontese ed.), 12 November 1949 – are reviews of Bompiani volumes; ‘A trent’anni dalla morte. I capitani di Conrad’, l’Unità (Piedmontese ed.), 3 August 1954, was intended as a commemoration of the thirtieth anniversary of Conrad’s death. 8 Both Zane Gray (1872–1939) and James Oliver Curwood (1878–1927) were American authors of adventure stories set in the forests of the Great Northwest or on the American frontier. 9 Cited in McLaughlin and Scicutella 2002, 122.


‘The Battle For Conrad’ Inside and Outside Italian Academia in the Years 1924–1960

the sense of a man who has found self-realization himself through the things he does, through the moral implicit in his work [. . .] This is the lion’s marrow of Conrad’s fiction. Calvino 1995, vol. 1, 815 This is a practical, active ethics which Calvino envisages as shaping the writer’s, not the sea captain’s, work. Calvino’s efforts to find the right words to express what he thought and felt about Conrad’s art would have helped him clarify to himself what literature is all about and what an artist’s position in the world is. The following year he used the expression ‘the lion’s marrow’ as the title of the most important essay of his entire career, ‘Il midollo del leone’ (1955), in which he outlined a personal poetics that would have guided the new kind of fiction he was going to write over the next thirty years. Around that time, in the 1960 edition of his literary history, Mario Praz significantly expanded his section on Conrad, while leaving unchanged those on Stevenson and Kipling. And, interestingly, his new thoughts on Conrad resemble closely those of Calvino’s, even though the two, in postwar Italy, found themselves on the opposite sides of the ideological divide. The main addition Praz makes is a long discussion of the famous passage of the Preface to The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’ – ‘My task [. . .] is, by the power of the written word to make you hear, to make you feel – it is, before all, to make you see’ – which he interprets using another well-known statement, which we find in a February 1898 letter Conrad wrote to Cunninghame Graham: ‘Man is a vicious animal. His viciousness must be organised. Crime is a necessary condition of organised existence. Society is fundamentally criminal – or it could not exist’ (CL 2: 160). Praz rightly views these words as the most radical expression of Conrad’s ‘fatalistic pessimism’ about the human condition; what is significant, for him, however, is not the pessimism itself, but how Conrad succeeded in keeping it under control, transcending it, through action – the same attitude Calvino had recognized as the foundation of Conrad’s ethics. Praz is thinking of a particular kind of action, ‘that form of action that [consists] in artistic creation: fixing a moment of vision, a look, a sigh, a smile’. It is in this sense that the ‘Preface’, written six months before the letter to Cunninghame Graham, is Conrad’s artistic manifesto. ‘Life,’ Praz goes on to write, ‘is horrible, but making others feel with intensity the flavor of life through art: here is the only positive element in the world. Flaubert would have concurred’ (Praz 1960, 627). There could be no greater compliment for someone with Mario Praz’s cultural background. If Conrad’s art elicited an almost identical response in two critics and intellectuals as different as the reclusive, melancholic art collector Praz would become in the 1960s and the communist public intellectual Calvino still was in 1954, it is because the two shared a common view of literature as a value to be preserved from external pressures. This view is the product of certain traits peculiar to Italian literary culture which, as has been argued in this chapter, contributed to shaping Conrad’s reception in Italy in the past. Today, that view of literature could play a role in the search for a new equilibrium between aesthetics, morality and politics, which is much needed in the study of Conrad’s writings.




This chapter addresses Conrad’s reception in Italy from 1924 to the present day. It will focus on literary criticism and not on other forms of reception such as translations, transcodifications into non-literary media and so on. My silence about the international critical bibliography does not mean that the cultural debate on Conrad has been a provincial business in this country. On the contrary, the critics I will discuss have actively interacted with their foreign colleagues. If I restrict my references to Italian criticism, it is because my purpose is to outline the several specifically Italian Conrads that critics have shaped and reshaped in their collective enterprise of interpretation and cultural mediation. As Curreli and Ambrosini have noted in their chapters in the current volume, the first article on Conrad to be published in Italian was by Carlo Placci, a musicologist and writer from Florence. The article appeared in the 15 October 1911 issue of a Florentine magazine, Il Marzocco,1 and contained, besides laudatory remarks, a critique of Conrad’s exceedingly complex narrative technique. After Placci’s groundbreaking piece, there were a few more critical contributions coming almost exclusively from Placci’s Florentine circle, but it was Emilio Cecchi,2 who, in an essay published in August 1924, a few days after Conrad’s death, established him as a master of contemporary fiction for the Italian audience. In this seminal article, published in the magazine Il Convegno,3 Cecchi surveyed Conrad’s whole career and discussed his acclimazione (acclimatization) in the Italian cultural world. Cecchi denied that Conrad was an exotic writer who specialized in sea novels, and regarded him as a modern author who, in terms of style, descended from James and Flaubert and anticipated Proust. In Cecchi’s opinion, Conrad wrote introspective narratives in the manner of Dostoevsky, but at the slower pace and in the resounding, strictly-controlled sentences of Flaubert. Conrad’s interest in thwarted consciences and humiliated existences were the Slavonic and Dostoevskian features of his fiction. But unlike Dostoevsky, Cecchi argued, Conrad believed brotherly love to be ineffectual, and his


Placci, 1911. One of the leading figures in twentieth-century Italian literature and criticism, Cecchi was, in 1919, one of the founders of La Ronda, an influential literary journal whose editorial board included a significant part of the cultural elite of the time (Riccardo Bacchelli, Vincenzo Cardarelli, etc.) The Rondisti’s main assumption was that literature should be essentially concerned with stylistic perfection, modelled upon the great examples of the Italian tradition and not involved with ideology. Besides travel books and literary sketches written in a sophisticated and ‘artistic’ prose, Cecchi wrote extensively on Italian, English and American literature as well as on Italian art. From 1965 to 1969, he also edited, with Natalino Sapegno, a History of Italian Literature in nine volumes, which has been a landmark in the field ever since. 3 Cecchi 1924, reprinted in Cecchi 1976, vol. 1, 202–17. This volume collects three more Conradian essays: ‘Indiscrezioni su J. Conrad’ (1924); ‘Ritorno a Conrad?’ (1949); and ‘Personaggi di Conrad’ (1952). 2


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

outcasts were consumed by a destructive fever. Conrad’s alleged misogyny, on the other hand, was redeemed only by the compassion he occasionally granted to some of his heroines.4 Cecchi made the original argument that Conrad resorted to exoticism and recollection – which he saw as occasional weak points in his fiction – only when he was tired or confused by the complexity of his narrative constructions or by the profundity of the issues with which he was dealing. An advocate of so-called ‘art prose’ and of formal discipline, Cecchi also criticized Conrad’s melodramatic inclinations, the intricacy of his plots, his Wagnerian excesses of lyricism and symbolism and his obsession with textual liaisons. In what will become a common feature of later Conradian criticism, Cecchi divided Conrad’s career into three main phases: a first phase culminating in Lord Jim, in which epic form, realism and moral investigation are completely fused; a second phase in which epic gives way to psychology, and the exotic scenery is replaced by the Western world as a background (The Secret Agent, Under Western Eyes); and a final phase, in which Conrad’s themes and characters are more evidently set in a historical context as in ‘The Duel’, ‘The Inn of the Two Witches’ and The Rescue. As to Conrad’s ‘acclimatization’ in Italy, Cecchi freely accepted the author’s sad monotony and occasional morbidity as evident defects.5 But he preferred this morbidity to the false sanity, happiness and lightness overvalued by contemporary Italian culture or, to put it more explicitly than Cecchi does, by Benedetto Croce’s aesthetics. Cecchi’s article of 1924 continued to exert a profound influence on Italian criticism for several decades subsequent to this. This is evident, for instance, in Mario Praz’s and Aurelio Zanco’s histories of English literature, first published in 1937 and 1944 respectively.6 It is noteworthy that in his handbook, Praz discussed Conrad in a chapter entitled ‘La reazione antivittoriana’ (The Anti-Victorian Reaction), and reiterated many of Cecchi’s views. For instance, Praz too denied Conrad’s exoticism and stressed, instead, his Slavonism, his interest in solitary souls and his obscure, intricate and sometimes melodramatic style.


For later refutations of Conrad’s alleged misogyny, see Chialant 1974–6 and Bignami 1992a, a perceptive study of Conrad’s female characters which groups them under the headings of ‘subjected women’ and ‘femmes fatales’. Bignami regards Henry James’s heroines as models for Conrad’s women, and argues that they are not unsuccessful static portraits but rather effective motors of the plots of which they are part. Agostino Lombardo pushes the antimisogynist argument so far as to call Conrad an anticipator of Virginia Woolf for his clear understanding of women’s conditions; see Lombardo 1992. 5 As evidence of Cecchi’s continuing influence on later critics, many years after Cecchi’s article, the novelist Giorgio Manganelli still emphasized Conrad’s supposed monotony, which he described as a blending of uneasiness and decency. Manganelli discussed Conrad in the very same terms of duplicity previously used by Cecchi. He also found, in Conrad’s fiction, on the one hand, a firm, crafted style (which Cecchi had ascribed to Flaubert’s influence), and on the other, a destructive interior turbulence and hectic passions which were carefully, though only partly, calmed and controlled (seen, loosely, as Conrad’s Dostoevskian aspect); see Manganelli 1981, 78. Conrad was also regarded as homo duplex by Alberto Savinio, writer, painter and brother of Giorgio De Chirico. In Savinio’s view, Conrad’s mistake was indeed his desire to be a different writer from the irrational, Slavonic, indirect and ‘opaque’ author he actually was. As a reaction to such innate ‘opacity’, Conrad appeared to have embraced French models, in particular Maupassant, for their clarity and directness; see Savinio 1950. 6 Praz 1937; Zanco 1947. Among recent publications, see Marucci 2006–11. In this magisterial work, Conrad is presented as a writer who never says the final word on politics or any other issues, a cunning obfuscator, an ante litteram deconstructionist, intimately self-contradictory, undecided for example between the autonomy and heteronomy of art, a decadent in pectore and at the same time an advocate of writing that promotes public values (Marucci 2006, 1076).


Conrad’s Critical Reception in Italy 1924–2021

Cecchi’s ideas are also present, if only e contrario, in a 1946 article by the novelist and poet Cesare Pavese.7 In Conrad’s fiction, Pavese recognized his own pessimistic existentialism and some of his own favourite themes: the absurdity of life, the portrayal of unrealized dreams and of passions that stay unfulfilled. Implicitly dissenting from Cecchi and Praz, Pavese strongly denied Conrad’s Slavonism. To Pavese, in fact, Conrad seems to be imbued with English culture. Unlike Cecchi, who had criticized Conrad’s indulgence in recollection, Pavese appreciated what he described as Conrad’s endless discussions on themes of no apparent importance while his characters’ souls are tormented by anguish and anxiety. In fact, what in Conrad’s fiction wins the reader’s admiration, according to Pavese, is the masterly linguistic connections at work within all parts of his narratives. What to Cecchi and to the culture of art prose had seemed intricacies and involutions were regarded as having a connective functionality by a novelist of the new generation. In broad terms, Conrad’s Italian reception in the 1940s and 1950s was situated within the bounds of a vague existentialism or an idealistic humanism. As the novelist Silvio D’Arzo put it in 1950, Conrad was seen as a profound student of the human condition, especially that of the exile, a melancholy voyager, who traverses the seas of life asking no question, giving no answer, opposing trouble with manly dignity. This apparently generic view of Conrad as humane writer or as analyst of la condition humaine was maintained, with different nuances, by such readers as the critics Ferdinando Neri8 and Marco Forti,9 or Piero Jahier, poet, novelist and one of Conrad’s translators.10 The most obvious features of Conrad’s early critical reception in Italy could be summarized as follows: first, whether decadent or existentialist, Slavonic or Anglophile, Conrad was perceived as a gloomy pessimist, a modern writer with strong debts to Romanticism as well as to realism; secondly, the Conrad canon was dominated by Victory and Lord Jim, which were invariably appreciated either individually or as a golden couple by readers like Furst,11 Cecchi, Neri,12 Pavese, D’Arzo, Montale,13 and later on, Manganelli and Moravia. Although Heart of Darkness was the first Conrad piece to be translated in book form in 1924, the novella was not even mentioned by Bardi,14


Pavese 1951, 201–4. For an introduction to the Conrad-Pavese relationship, see Giovannelli 2005 in Curreli 2005. Curreli’s volume contains several essays on the Conradian presence in Italian literature: Domenichelli on Flaiano, Paruolo and Ferrari on Dacia Maraini. The Conradian presence in Primo Levi’s work is the subject of Capoferro 2014, Bignami 2015, Mengoni 2017 and Cinelli 2017. The same issue of Anglistica Pisana also includes Mastracci 2017 on Alessandro Baricco and Capoferro 2017 on Bonelli comics. Merope 28, no. 70 (2019) contains further studies of Conrad’s influence on Italian authors: Orlando 2019 on Calvino, Bellini 2019 on Svevo, Capoferro 2019 on Marco Consentino, Domenico Dodaro and Luigi Panella. 8 Neri 1936 concluded by recalling ‘the eternal human motifs of love and pain’ around which Conrad’s fiction typically revolves (341). By contrast, postwar Marxist criticism drew attention to the ‘reduction of the humane’, whose space is threatened by conflicting material interests: see Imbroscio 1974, 200. For a variation on the theme from a neohumanistic viewpoint, see Lagazzi 2002, in which the critic defines Conrad as ‘the most humane of all writers’. 9 Forti 1951, 73–5. 10 Jahier 1953. Jahier (1884–1966), a soldier in the First World War, whose horror he recalled in one of his most famous novels, Con me e con gli alpini (1919), contributed actively to such influential magazines as La Voce and Lacerba, through which he tried to spread his strong ethical and religious beliefs. His other noteworthy novel is Ragazzo (1919), a confessional piece, written in a lyrical and expressionist style. 11 Furst 1924. 12 Neri 1936, 338. 13 See Montale 1942, xxii. 14 Bardi 1933, 210–11. Bardi described Conrad as a sea novelist and adventure novelist in the tradition of Stevenson and Kipling, but the limited reliability of this handbook is shown by the fact that he included in the Conrad canon a phantom collection entitled Tales of the Seas, supposedly published in 1919. For more reliable essays on Conrad’s relationship with the sea, see Di Piazza 2006, Bendelli 2012 and Pontuale 2015.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Zanco or Praz in their histories of English literature, nor was it appreciated by any critic of note. Third, Conrad’s narrative complexities were initially criticized but were then revalued in a functionalist turn suggested by Pavese and confirmed by his fellow-novelist Tomasi di Lampedusa, the author of the bestselling and highly acclaimed novel Il gattopardo (The Leopard, 1958), who in 1954 praised the indirect, multiple narration of Lord Jim.15 This new interest in Conrad’s technique led, in 1957, to Giuliana Mazzotti’s essay focusing on what she termed Conrad’s ‘inversion method’ (Mazzotti 1957). Cecchi himself, in an article entitled ‘Ritorno a Conrad?’ (Return to Conrad?) (Cecchi 1949), had already slightly but significantly modified his opinion on Conrad’s style. Here Cecchi noted that, in the ten years following Conrad’s death, his books had been widely translated into Italian, sometimes reasonably well, sometimes not so well. Then his popularity had declined largely because Italian authors, publishers and the reading public had turned their attention towards American literature. According to Cecchi, the new interest in Conrad’s narrative shown by Italian culture in the late 1940s was due to his engagement with the sublime. The Conradian sublime seemed to consist in the solemn slowness and linguistic complexity of his style, which he suddenly transcends through dizzying resolutions that remain among the most remarkable exploits of Romantic literature. In other words, in 1949 Cecchi discovered that Conrad had the technical virtues of his own defects. It is Mario Curreli’s conviction that the early phase of Conrad’s reception in Italy was brought to a close with the completion of the twenty-four-volume Bompiani edition of his works in 1966, while the new era of Conradian studies was opened in 1967 by the publication of the first volume of the Mursia collected edition (Curreli 1984, 126–7). Besides its unprecedented comprehensiveness, what makes the Mursia edition particularly commendable is the high standard of the critical introductions by Elio Chinol, Franco Marenco and Renato Prinzhofer, and the philological accuracy guaranteed by Ugo Mursia’s textual notes and by his personal supervision of the translators’ work. A concomitant factor which had a great impact on Conradian studies, in Italy and elsewhere, was the explosion, in the 1960s and 1970s, of new interpretative approaches such as Marxist historicism, psychoanalysis, close textual reading in all its variants, feminist criticism and, later on, Bakhtinian dialogism. As a consequence of the ensuing lively critical debate, the Italian version of the Conradian canon was redefined and, especially since the 1980s, opened up. New critical attention has been given to Conrad’s supposed minor works and to previously neglected aspects of his literary output, such as his plays and the cross-media connections of his fiction with cinema, television, graphic books and photography.16 An early example of the political interpretation of Conrad’s fiction, obviously inconceivable before Italy’s liberation from Nazi-fascism, was supplied in 1954 by the novelist Italo Calvino (Calvino 1954). In this article, Calvino, who had graduated from Turin University with a dissertation on Conrad, defined him as a reactionary and an atheistic humanist, whose fiction nonetheless deserves our admiration. What Calvino admired in Conrad was his capacity to cope bravely with the fin-de-siècle crisis, just as his heroes face life’s challenges steadfastly, as if they were provided, so to speak, with a lion’s backbone. As to the reshaping of the Conradian canon, in 1954 the cosmopolitan author Tomasi di Lampedusa added Heart of Darkness, The Shadow-Line and a few more previously undervalued 15

Tomasi di Lampedusa 1991, 371–6. On Conrad’s plays, see Pugliatti 1988 and Petrocchi 1998.



Conrad’s Critical Reception in Italy 1924–2021

books to the list of Conrad’s essential texts.17 In 1967 the academic critic Claudio Gorlier, in his turn, mentioned Lord Jim, Nostromo, Typhoon and Heart of Darkness as Conrad’s most representative works.18 However, the reception of the small number of works singled out by Gorlier has been varied. For instance, as shown by Curreli’s inquiry into translations and reissues of Conrad’s novels,19 Typhoon has long been a favourite with publishers and readers in Italy, but has not commanded equal critical consideration: ‘Conrad’s epic vein’, as Cecchi defined it, has appealed to fewer academic critics than Conrad’s modernist production. Among the readers who made a case for Typhoon, the pre-eminent place is occupied by Piero Bigongiari,20 who praised Conrad’s story as an exercise in Wagnerian infinite melody and as a complement to the nearly contemporary Lord Jim, which also deals with the themes of guilt and responsibility. Bigongiari described MacWhirr as Conrad’s counter-version of Don Quixote, who succeeds because of his lack of imagination and his strict sense of duty. Indeed, it is his apparent mediocrity that enables him to turn into a hero when he faces the test embodied by the typhoon. In Gorlier’s reading, Typhoon is neither an adventure story nor a realistic narrative: rather, it is a metaphoric journey, a parallel to the Genesis story of the world’s creation (Gorlier 1990). As in the biblical account, Conrad’s story develops over a six-day span. As a stylized drama, the tale stages the confrontation of two opposite characters: one young, bookish and creative (Jukes); the other, experienced, unimaginative and apparently dull (MacWhirr). What the two sailors have in common is that they both experience the loss of the centre. MacWhirr especially seems to have lost most of his ties with England and even with his family. Jukes, for his part, is a father-seeking figure, still loyal to his country and to the shipowners. But nothing and nobody – not even Jukes, the overachieving pursuer of idealistic goals and the believer in universal values – stays unchanged in a world of collapsing certainties. The traditional hero of sea stories, for instance, is reassessed: he is replaced by the anti-heroic MacWhirr, whose reliability as master of situations Jukes must finally acknowledge. The two sailors represent the opposite sides of a divided self that is plunged into estrangement and isolation by its confrontation with chaos and irrationality. As for Conrad’s language, Gorlier claimed it is functional in the delineation of the two opposed characters. During the storm, in particular, the short and truncated dialogues aptly render the contrasting relation between MacWhirr and his romantic opponent. Unlike Typhoon, which has almost invariably been discussed by critics only in the introductions to popular editions, The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’ has attracted more critical attention. An engaging study of this enigmatic story was provided, for example, by Giuseppe Sertoli, who interpreted Conrad’s text in psychoanalytic terms as the result of authorial acts of unconscious removal


Tomasi di Lampedusa, 371–6. Tomasi’s assessment of Heart of Darkness is remarkable not because it is the first explicit appreciation of the novella (for example, in the article mentioned above, Savinio had already included Heart of Darkness among the most typically – and implicitly valuable – Conradian works, along with Lord Jim and The ShadowLine), but because of the (posthumous) authority of the critic and his reputation as a refined connoisseur of European, especially English and French, literatures. However, no single authority, after Cecchi, has determined decisively the shaping of the Conradian canon within Italian criticism; instead, this has become a collective enterprise in strict interaction with the international critical debate. 18 Gorlier 1976. In the same year, in a review of the Mursia edition of Conrad’s Tutti i racconti e i romanzi brevi, Gorlier presented Heart of Darkness as a model for twentieth-century fiction (Gorlier 1967a). 19 Curreli 2004, 185–207, and Curreli 2009, 148–9. 20 Bigongiari 1955. Piero Bigongiari (1914–97) was a hermetic poet in the tradition of Ungaretti, Quasimodo and Luzi, as well as a literary and art critic well known for his studies of Leopardi and Italian poetry.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

(Sertoli 1974). The return of the repressed determines, in Sertoli’s view, the death of the author as the source of ultimate authority in the text’s meanings and leaves the text open to the sociohistorical practices of writing and interpretation. The story’s beginning proposes the bringing of light to darkness as the white man’s goal. The Narcissus represents orderly society, the Western man’s sense of safety and self-satisfaction as opposed to the threat of natural disorder. But the order of civilization is artificial; the minute parts that compose it never make a whole. Conrad’s aim was to get the ship ready to cope with natural and metaphysical storms, but the text contradicts its author’s intentions by revealing the chaos underlying the apparent harmony of things. In the end, it is death that restores wholeness, while life, in its social and ethical dimensions, is characterized negatively. Death as a positive reconstitution of organic unity is exchanged for life as an expression of disruptive anti-sociality. Nature takes over culture; the negative value that nature had originally assumed is transferred to civilization, to which darkness and chaos eventually belong. Conrad’s intention was to reject as undesirable the end of a social system based upon the solidarity between members of an organic community. Conrad’s text, however, refuses to hide the cracks in the civilized structure and pits the evil side of man and his social dysfunctionality against a self-preserving system, whose aim was to remove all contradictions. Predictably, the relation between the ship community and its individual members has also been touched upon by later critics of The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’. Carlo Pagetti, for example, defined the Narcissus’s voyage as the negative counterpart to Christian’s glorious itinerarium in Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress (Pagetti 1985, 75), while Gorlier interpreted the ship’s community as an allegory of the commonwealth, a social microcosm arranged according to a medieval hierarchy. As in medieval moralities, evil is discomfited but its contagion eventually spreads and Bunyan’s redemptive scheme cannot be iterated (Gorlier 1986, 218–19). Elio Di Piazza, for his part, emphasized the multicultural and chronotopic features of The Nigger, which he reads as an inquiry into the antithetical relations of the black man and the white man, the sea and the mainland, order and anarchy (Di Piazza 2004). Drawing on Michael Echeruo’s terminology (Echeruo 1978), Di Piazza discusses the shaping of Wait as an exocultural character. Wait is read as a cultural stereotype and the product of a racist imagination. In his representation of the sailors, Conrad is seen to depict an ideal community based on a hierarchical order and the principle of authority. Wait’s death marks the end of anarchy and of the subjective time of introspection; what we are left with afterwards is the evolutionary time of a well-ordered community working harmoniously for a common goal. A very different interpretation, comparing the text with its Italian and French translations, was then provided in 2011 by Mario Curreli, who interpreted The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’ as an epic of memory as much as of language, in which, by studying the psychology of the masses, Conrad realizes a small masterpiece in plurilingualism (Curreli 2011). Also concerned with language and space in Conrad’s fiction, but focusing on the whole Conradian macrotext, is a valuable essay by Alessandro Serpieri.21 After stressing the visual 21 Serpieri 1997. On time and space in Conrad, see also Marenco 1990, in which the critic argues that if The Odyssey marked the foundation of Western civilization, Heart of Darkness marked its crisis. While Ulysses’ story deconstructs traditional myths and brings about man’s emancipation by providing him with an independent psychic structure, Kurtz’s story reasserts the power of myth over rationality. Furthermore, if in The Odyssey space is progressively controlled by man, in Heart of Darkness space and time are outside man’s control. Kurtz himself achieves his decadent greatness by occupying a position outside space and time: one characterized by cannibalistic and unspeakable rites. A more recent essay of interest on the same topic is Capoferro 2016.


Conrad’s Critical Reception in Italy 1924–2021

aspect of Conrad’s style, Serpieri defines it as intensely descriptive and baroque, especially in its early phase. Conrad is presented as a strongly subjective writer, whose impressionistic representations of reality are rendered through the technique of multiple points of view. Viewers, in Conrad’s fiction, perceive action in the making or reconstruct it with painstaking efforts, often through the reports of other seers. There are few descriptive pauses in Conrad, because descriptions are rigorously mixed with action. Descriptions are thus both partial and dynamic at the same time. Of course, argues Serpieri, this point is not merely technical: it is a consequence of Conrad’s philosophy, which is influenced by (and cognate to) Schopenhauer’s notion of the Idea and by Nietzsche’s views on the will to live and the representation of the world and mankind as a set of masks. For Conrad, life and the world are irremediably fragmented. The bits and pieces in which they offer themselves to the eyes of baffled perceivers represent disorder, contingency, the puzzling multifacetedness that characterizes the modernist approach to the notions of truth, understanding and experience. This affects Conrad’s representations of space and determines his ample use of space shifts. Such a technique manifests itself in two distinct ways: either characters perceive reality from a limited perspective and are thus led to wrong inferences by their subjective impressionism, or they apprehend reality from a stratospheric perspective (an ironic, nearly expressionist technique, typical of Conrad’s later works, through which the author or a reflecting character expose as illusive the perceiving actor’s impressions). Eloquent examples of this second type of distorted perception are provided in The Secret Agent, in which forms of perceptive de-familiarization include the metamorphosis of the human into the inorganic and vice versa; the beguiling representation of spaces (Verloc’s shop, for instance, that is just a cover for the anarchists’ meeting place); and the hyper- or under-functionalization of objects that are suddenly animated into an independent life or exposed in their apparent usefulness. Generally speaking, however, all types of space in Conrad’s fiction are foreign and unknown. To cast one’s eyes beyond the limen of the usual world implies facing the horror, getting acquainted with man’s animal side, or experiencing the universe as indifferent matter. Conrad is the border-crosser par excellence, but at the same time he is the eternal foreigner and émigré. He projects this condition onto his characters, who are always the Other in a more general sense, because they are strangers to each other and unknowable subjects in a world of masks. What one can accomplish is a sort of complicity with other individuals that are equally unknown to themselves because no one dares look into oneself. The transgressors who enter the dangerous space inhabited by ‘us’ (Kurtz, Lord Jim) do not achieve a safer, communal condition. The space of ‘us’ has foreignness within and not outside itself. In Conrad, the traditional spatial binaries collapse, because, in accordance with his cosmic atheism, all spaces are one and all of them are equally bereft of sense. There is no real difference between the jungle and the city. There is no idealized space to resort to, although there is indeed a positive elsewhere, represented, as in Almayer’s Folly, by the sea as opposed to the jungle (or the wilderness).22 If the jungle is the space of death where the hero typically gets lost, the sea may represent the positive pole of life. At the same time, however, the sea is a non-space, one with no definite shape or boundary; it is unfathomable, bottomless, an enigmatic surface, hiding a terrible, hidden intention. Ultimately, the sea too is part of the space of ‘us’, in which one is


The topic is further developed in Serpieri 2004.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

unknown to oneself and to others. In Serpieri’s interpretation, then, Conrad moves away from literary realism, either under the influence of subjective impressionism or of apocalyptic expressionism. In Conrad’s nihilistic view, the only space available is in fact an aimless indifferent universe, whose silent hostility and absurdity man vainly tries to face. Coming to Lord Jim, an influential critique of this text was provided by the novelist Alberto Moravia in his introduction to the 1983 Rizzoli edition (Moravia 1983). Moravia regarded Jim as the positive counterpart of Kurtz: both of them are white imperialists, characterized by a strong sense of honour. While Kurtz – the representative of evil imperialism – does not care about his reputation, putting himself on a par with the Africans whose rites he adopts, Jim redeems himself from his cowardice and restores his honour as a white man in the face of the local peoples. In this account, Jim represents the good British imperialism so much admired by Conrad. While Nietzsche was building a monument to the German Übermensch, and Dostoevsky was raising a monument to the Slav and Christian idiot, Conrad erected his own paper monument to the commonplace British gentleman. That is why, Moravia assumes, Conrad employs dramatized narrators: he hides his ideas behind Marlow’s figure and the trick of multiple viewpoints.23 A few years after Moravia, Franceso Gozzi interpreted Lord Jim as a Prozess novel, in which the hero obstinately denies the apparent truth that emerges from the court debate because he responds only to a superior and objective justice (Gozzi 1987). Jim dresses in white as a sign of his innocence, but seems unable to communicate the ultimate truth to anyone but Captain Brierly. In the end, Jim is not a Christ-figure, although he has taken all upon his head. As suggested by Marlow’s final considerations, his heroism is very dubious and inspired by his ‘exalted egoism’ and abstract idealism, rather than by concrete love for actual human beings. Another significant interpretation of Lord Jim is Luisa Villa’s new-historicist reading (Villa 2001). Villa places Conrad’s text within a historic context characterized by administrative coercion and bureaucratic control. Jim experiences the unprecedented rigidity of the modern world and is plunged into the evasive world of daydreaming by his frustrated drive to selfrealization. He escapes reality not because of his sense of guilt and consequent urge to expiate, but because reality makes him feel inadequate when he compares his actual self to the idealized image of himself he has built. The profound meaning of Jim’s story, argues Villa, is that he indulges in the internal pain arising from such a conflict, and turns it into a modern way of shaping his own identity. As for Nostromo, the credibility of its postwar revaluation has been tested by numerous critical readings. Let me give a few examples of such interpretations, taking as my starting point an influential essay published in two instalments by Franco Marenco (Marenco 1969/1970). Marenco perceptively read Nostromo as a text whose form rather than its themes mark it out as political. In Nostromo, argued Marenco, all political beliefs are shown as fake and empty. The text’s literary structure discloses this emptiness by the continuous frustration of all

23 For an opposite interpretation of Marlow, see Moretti 1981, 15–18. Moretti claims that in the novels in which Marlow is not employed as narrator, Conrad displays a philistine, Manichean and superficial view of the world. When Marlow narrates, however, through him Conrad manages to provide a social synthesis of the opposites at work in his texts: colonial world vs motherland, sacrifice of exceptional individuals like Jim and Kurtz vs survival of the ordinary man, etc. An analysis of Conrad’s narrators as ‘imperfect storytellers’, intradiegetic agents and epistemological devices is provided in Bignami 2003.


Conrad’s Critical Reception in Italy 1924–2021

the attempts at storytelling, that never manage to be successfully arranged in a conventional plot. Narration itself is thus placed under the sign of scepticism and destruction. Its twists and shifts, its proceeding through the accumulation of detached biographies, show the prevalence of socio-economic forces over all human efforts. The importance of Marenco’s essay can hardly be exaggerated. In fact, it is probably the first Italian study in which the critical focus has shifted from the romantic fatalism and the interior or moral life of Conrad’s characters to the overwhelming power of the socio-economic context. At the opposite end of the interpretative spectrum was Alessandro Portelli’s reading of Nostromo (Portelli 1973). Portelli claimed Nostromo is not a critique of all ideologies, nor is Conrad just a detached and sceptical observer of the socio-economic tragedies taking place in his spectacular universe. Nostromo rather expresses middle-class conservatism and the rulers’ fear of the subaltern classes, whose representation as an irrational mob is just one of the many signs of Conrad’s reactionary ideology. The critical discussion on Nostromo was then reoriented by Mario Curreli in three articles published between 1978 and 1980 (Curreli 1978, 1979, 1980). By connecting the function of literary techniques to the text’s ideological discourse, Curreli read Nostromo as built around the pivotal symbol of the silver, while the characters’ semiotic status was studied as that of, respectively, speakers and agents. Both speech and action are human strategies interpreted by Curreli as inevitably doomed, as typically happens to all the great narratives of politics, economy and even love in Conrad’s fiction. Like Marenco, Curreli depicted Conrad as a sceptical, even apocalyptic author, whose honest representation of political reality is not distorted by his conservative bias. Among further contributions to the understanding of Nostromo, but from a completely different viewpoint, is Carlo Pagetti’s 1992 article on a possible source for Conrad’s masterpiece.24 After discussing several well-known historical and geographic sources for Conrad’s Costaguana, Pagetti added his own original proposal: Tasmania. He claimed that some geographic features of Tasmania, as described by Edward Braddon’s ‘Tasmania and Its Silver-Fields’, published in the October 1892 issue of Blackwood’s Magazine, recall Costaguana. Further links between the two texts are Charles Gould’s name and his connection to mining. In Braddon’s report, Charles Gould is the government geologist who explores Tasmania’s mines and silver fields, while in Conrad’s novel, the character with the same name is the idealistic owner and manager of the San Tomé mine. Another text to be promoted to canonical status by postwar criticism is ‘The Secret Sharer’. In 1967, Ugo Mursia presented it as one of Conrad’s most remarkable stories (Mursia 1967), and in 1975 Andrea Zanzotto, one of the most eminent postwar Italian poets, described it as a work of musical perfection, combining freshness and maturity.25 Interestingly enough, Zanzotto seems to appreciate Conrad for reasons opposite to Calvino’s. In fact, Zanzotto’s Conrad is a decadent, whose outcasts are the counterpart of Nietzsche’s Übermenschen. In Conrad’s fiction, Zanzotto contended, the conscious side of man never entirely prevails over the unconscious, and no captain is really ever an esprit fort, the master of himself, but a victim of colonialism, a pariah of the seas or an innocent dreamer of adolescent adventures and paradises. 24

Pagetti 1992. Another fine example of ‘source hunting’, as David Daiches used to call this type of approach, was provided by Curreli 1980a and 1980b. 25 Zanzotto 1975. On ‘The Secret Sharer’, see also Saracino 1990.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Besides Romana Rutelli’s fine psychoanalytic study of ‘The Secret Sharer’,26 mention should also be made of Francesco Marroni’s 1987 semiotic analysis of Conrad’s story.27 Marroni found it particularly significant that the perfect integrity of norms and conventions can never be achieved by Conrad’s heroes because human experience is always contradictory and incomplete. Men are wanderers always moving towards the dark coast, the gate of Erebus. Even the language, in this highly subjective story, hardly corresponds to objective reality. The lexis of incomprehensibility characterizes the story from the outset, and words work according to what Roland Barthes called ‘le paradigme infini de la différence’ (the infinite paradigm of difference). Another object of critical revaluation was ‘Falk’. The first sign of critical interest in this short story in Italy came as late as 1985, when Mario Curreli and Fausto Ciompi wrote a sociosemiotic interpretation of the tale. The two critics read ‘Falk’ as the Bildung of the modern capitalist, or, as Conrad puts it, the ‘born monopolist’, who descends to hell and to the lowest state of nature, that of cannibalism, only to return to civilization and reproduce there, in the cultural spheres of trade and wooing rituals, the mythical codes of natural, brutal power which he had put on through his katabatic experience.28 In 1989, further attention was drawn to ‘Falk’ by Serena Cenni, whose essay focused on the narrator’s social function and the story’s interpersonal rhetoric (Cenni 1989). As Cenni argued, by placing Falk’s subversive act of cannibalism within the sea code of survival, the narrator normalizes Falk’s diversity, and the cannibal may thus become acceptable to Hermann and the middle-class world he represents. The story requires an internal audience, because the narrator’s addressees are the chosen representatives of the community whose pardon or understanding the transgressor must seek. The importance of the addressor/addressee relation in ‘Falk’ was later confirmed by Francesco Marroni in an article that appeared in the 1995 special issue of the magazine Merope edited by Mario Curreli and entirely devoted to Conrad.29 But the clearest sign of this new critical consideration of ‘Falk’ was probably its first-time stand-alone publication, in 1994, separate from the Typhoon and Other Stories volume. The tale appeared in the Marsilio bilingual series, with an introduction by the eminent Conrad critic Alessandro Serpieri,30 who in 1966 had provided readers with a useful selection of Conrad’s letters. Falk’s story powers along, in Serpieri’s reading, as a rite of initiation and as the enactment of the psychoanalytic principle of incorporation, in which the sexual and alimentary instincts intermingle as the basic components of human personality.


Rutelli 1979. On the ‘double’ theme in The Secret Sharer, see also Fusillo 1999, in which the homoerotic implications of Conrad’s story are rigorously explored. 27 Marroni 1987. Marroni further discussed the topic in Marroni 2015, where he stressed the multiplanar nature of the narrative and the epistemological and moral perspectives triggered by the text. 28 Ciompi and Curreli 1985. The critical literature on Conrad’s lesser or non-canonical texts has increased greatly in recent years. To mention just a few examples: D’Elia 1983 on ‘Il Conde’; Chialant 1996 on ‘Amy Foster’; Vallorani 1994 on Almayer’s Folly; and Villa 2000 on Chance. 29 Marroni 1996. This special Conrad issue of Merope includes essays on Almayer’s Folly by Marilena Saracino, An Outcast of the Islands by Nicola De Marco, ‘Falk’ by Francesco Marroni, Heart of Darkness by Nicoletta Vallorani, The Secret Agent by Cedric Watts and Mario Domenichelli, Chance by Marialuisa Bignami, and on the stories based on Conrad’s first command by Mario Curreli. 30 Serpieri 1994. Among recent contributions, see also Baronti Marchi 2019. Among the outstanding editions of some of Conrad’s lesser-known texts, I would highlight two translations of ‘The Duel’, edited and introduced by Benedetta Bini and Mario Domenichelli respectively: Il duello (Milan: Bompiani, 2018, and Venice: Marsilio, 2004).


Conrad’s Critical Reception in Italy 1924–2021

A further reconsideration of the ‘lesser Conrad’ was proposed by Giuseppe Sertoli in his 2016 introduction to ’Twixt Land and Sea (Sertoli 2016). Sertoli suggests that the three stories in the collection should be read as a sequence as they metaphorically tell a single story. What appears as the sentimental and sexual education of a male subject growing from adolescent anxiety (the young sea captain of the first two tales) to adult virility (the caballero of the third tale) turns out to be a screen hiding a repressed homosexuality, which emerges in the name ‘Bonito’ given by the caballero to the ship he regards as the avatar of the woman he loves. Adopting Ignacio Matte Blanco’s theory of the unconscious, Sertoli observes that the immature captain of ‘A Smile of Fortune’ cannot but flee from the woman who has ‘entranced’ him but at the same time terrified him by making him discover something about himself (‘a cruel selfknowledge’). What this ‘something’ is, the text does not say; but neither does it leave any doubt that it is a ‘catastrophic revelation’ concerning his uncertain and wavering identity. This identity seems to be strengthened in ‘The Secret Sharer’, where the intervention of a male figure (Leggatt), who has the function, in Freudian terms, of an Ego ideal, allows the protagonist, at the end of an educational journey, to establish with his ship – a metaphor, as always in Conrad, of the woman – an apparently heterosexual and mature relationship. A similar relationship is experienced in ‘Freya of the Seven Isles’ – this time with a real woman – by the caballero Jasper Allen, himself a sea captain and the hero of a romance that has all the characteristics of fin-desiècle melodrama. Behind the facade of a romantically masculine identity, which the caballero ostentatiously displays, there lurks an unconfessed crypto-homosexuality, which is revealed by a clue as tiny as it is symptomatic: his ship, which he has painted in Freya’s colours, white and gold, as if to imbue her with the girl’s soul, has a male name: ‘Bonito’. This oxymoron of gender testifies to a return of the repressed as a consequence of that homophile drive which, evoked from the very first page of the first story, continues concealed in the two following stories and (involuntarily) emerges in the third through the name ‘Bonito’, which Jasper’s unconscious has given to the ship. In a ‘Postscript’ to his interpretation, Sertoli concentrates on the symbolic function of the story’s foodstuffs: potatoes and sugar.31 Sugar is associated with the island, the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, and through the island it is associated with Alice. Sugar, then, is Alice: it is the promise of a ‘sweetness’ represented by the woman, which the story will prove to be illusory – indeed, impossible. Alongside the sugar, however, appear the potatoes: those that Jacobus brings on board for the captain’s breakfast on the morning of his arrival in port. The potatoes are also associated with Alice – not only because they have been ‘bartered’ for with her, but also because, stowed in the belly of the ship, they are a symbol of pregnancy and therefore ‘stand for’ what the captain escaped from: the anxiety of paternity. This is a recurring theme throughout Conrad’s work, and behind it there is another, more profound anxiety: that relating to his sexual identity. This anxiety makes him and his male characters run away from the (real) woman. The captain escaped from Alice by taking refuge on board his ship, but the cargo of potatoes (a perfect example, along with sugar, of what Matte Blanco calls ‘symmetrization’) is Alice, so the captain has no choice but to flee the ship as well.

31 Sertoli 2017. Another acute interpreter of gender issues in Conrad’s work is Luisa Villa, who has investigated the complex characterological structure of Chance in relation to the Victorian multi-plot novel (Villa 2015). Conrad in Italy also contains a further example of Sertoli’s revaluation of another ‘minor’ Conrad work, Suspense (Sertoli 2015).


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Italian critics have also progressively revalued Conrad’s later works, among which, however, Victory has always been regarded as one of Conrad’s masterpieces. Despite such a prominent status within the Conradian canon, the first significant critical study to focus on Victory – Valerio Bruni’s La grande burla – appeared as late as 1984 (Bruni 1984). Here Bruni described Heyst as a narcissistic character, whose act of altruism towards Morrrison is motivated by selfirony and amusement, rather than genuine generosity. Heyst fears becoming part of the Great Joke, the grotesque masquerade society ultimately is. He rejects the anti-aesthetic externalization of anguish and chooses to keep aloof in his own refined world. But Heyst is also moved by a Schopenhauerian sympathy towards suffering. Heyst’s detachment and negative utopia are the object of the narrator’s irony, which exposes Heyst’s ‘sharp contradictions’. Through Heyst, Conrad deconstructs the contemporary world without embracing an orthodox nihilism. His view is that total detachment is impossible and even scepticism is incomplete. A partial knowledge of the world and of oneself can be sought after, and achieved, but only on an individual and experiential basis. Life is just a puzzling exercise, in which, eventually, nothing can be done, as the novel’s ending insists. That final ‘nothing’ epitomizes the triumph of Schopenhauer’s will to live and the victory of nihilistic scepticism about the possibility of understanding life’s absurdity. Approaching Victory from a completely different viewpoint, in an article concerned with Conrad’s narrative techniques (Ciompi 1996), I observed, among other things, that, as required by print conventions, in writing dialogic exchanges Conrad usually separates different speakers’ enunciations by placing them in distinct paragraphs. Sometimes, however, Conrad places two different enunciations from different characters within the same paragraph, often with the intention of expressing closeness or complicity of some kind between the speakers.32 In Victory, this seems to happen just once. No sooner has Heyst told Lena of his conviction that nobody can break in on them in Samburan, their Paradise of love, than Conrad disrupts the idealized tenderness of the episode by including, in the same paragraph, Lena’s observation of Wang’s presence: ‘He’s here!’ Since Wang comes to announce the arrival of the evil trio on the island, Conrad’s dialogic technique here seems meant to reinforce a sense of the precariousness of human happiness and the impossibility of man’s separation from hostile interventions. Although several other Conrad texts have received significant critical attention since the 1970s,33 the critical debate has focused particularly on Heart of Darkness, which, as Carlo Pagetti put it in 1987, has long appeared to most critics as Conrad’s text par excellence.34 A sign of the popularity of Heart of Darkness is that Conrad’s novella, regarded as an archetype of modern writing, has been appended unabridged to Remo Ceserani and Lidia de Federicis’s Il materiale e l’immaginario [The material and the fictional] (Turin: Loescher, 1978–80). For


This happens, for instance, in many dialogic scenes in Heart of Darkness, in which Marlow becomes familiar with Kurtz and discovers the horror of colonialism. In contrast, in the novel’s final scene, in which Marlow confronts Kurtz’s Intended, the turn-taking is distributed into separate paragraphs in order to stress that the two speakers have a completely different view of Kurtz. There can be no closeness or unity of vision between the idealizing woman, who still thinks of Kurtz as the epitome of philanthropism, and Marlow, who, despite his present reticence, has fully recognized Kurtz’s deterioration and clearly exposed it to his audience on the Nellie and to the reader. See Ciompi 1988. 33 The Secret Agent, for example, has been studied by Loretelli 1975; D’Elia 1978; Ciompi 1984, 1985; Cifarelli 1991; Domenichelli 1996. Among other introductions to The Secret Agent, the following must be mentioned because of their critical interest: Marenco 1990; Serpieri 1994; and Curreli 1995. 34 Pagetti, D’Egidio and Marroni 1987, 31.


Conrad’s Critical Reception in Italy 1924–2021

years this has been one of the favourite handbooks of comparative literature in Italian high schools. Vallorani (2017) has discussed the dissemination of Heart of Darkness and influences exerted on Italian culture by the text and by the exemplary figure of Kurtz. In addition to this cultural studies approach to Conrad, Heart of Darkness has also attracted the attention of comparative criticism, most notably in Brugnolo (2017). Given the premise that every great literary work necessarily contradicts or exceeds the ideology of its author, Brugnolo reads Heart of Darkness as the complex explication of a parasyllogism: 1) we are not like those savages; 2) we are like those savages; 3) we are more savage than those savages; that is, we are barbarians. This recalls Denis Diderot’s distinction between barbarians (those who are among us always, no matter how civilized they have become) and savages (those who are such only in a particular cultural environment).35 In the postwar reception of Heart of Darkness, we can distinguish four main interpretative approaches. The first one is the humanistic reading in the tradition established by Silvio D’Arzo. In 1956, for instance, incidentally anticipating Guerard’s notion of the ‘night journey’, Glauco Cambon read Heart of Darkness as a narrative charting the descent to the innermost recesses of the human soul (Cambon 1956). This interpretation, taken up, among others, by the philosopher Sergio Givone,36 has been so popular among Italian critics that it is no exaggeration to say that Heart of Darkness has long been convenient shorthand for the dissection of an evil soul. A further humanistic reading of Heart of Darkness was provided, in 1974, by Giovanni Cianci.37 Cianci anticipated Todorov’s view that Kurtz is a hollow man, though a remarkable one, in the first place because he discovers the void at the heart of himself. If, as a Faustian hero, Kurtz experiences the impossibility of achieving or communicating the ultimate truth, Marlow, the ordinary man, finds out that the only defences against the horror of reality are action or the escape into a world of illusions. It is to preserve the artificial integrity of such a world that Marlow lies to the Intended at the end. In 1987, Franceso Gozzi interpreted Heart of Darkness as a medieval morality and a sort of psychomachia (Gozzi 1987). As Marlow seems to suggest through the statement ‘There was nothing either above him or below him’, Kurtz is at the same time Übermensch and beast. In Gozzi’s reading, Kurtz has damned himself by choosing a superb ‘great solitude’. Perhaps he can be saved if he humbles himself before a fellow human being, that is, Marlow. In this reading, Marlow exorcizes the devil within Kurtz, whose hubris is an excessive thirst for knowledge that has led him to explore the area where light and darkness mix and become indistinguishable. The private truth Kurtz has discovered there cannot be communicated. Marlow’s account of it is thus necessarily indeterminate, and his reticence and lies are unavoidable consequences of such incommunicability. In all the humanistic readings discussed above, Kurtz is usually presented as a Faustian, charismatic character, who commands respect and admiration in spite of his evil aura. It is thus small wonder that, in 1980, a book-length essay was devoted to the subject by Valerio Bruni (Bruni 1980).

35 Another notable comparative study is Rocchi 2017. An excellent guide to Heart of Darkness and to the criticism of the novel is provided by Tomaiuolo 2014, written by a leading figure in Conrad adaptation studies in Italy. 36 Givone 2001. For a political discussion of Kurtz as a ‘lost soul’ and an adventurer revolting against society, see also Runcini 1968, and, for a more recent interpretation, Moretti 2017. 37 Cianci 1974. See also Cianci 1990 and Binni 1990, 94.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

A second line of interpretation of Heart of Darkness is explicitly political. In 1973, Renato Oliva provocatively read Heart of Darkness as the expression of Conrad’s imperfect imperialism (Oliva 1973). According to Oliva, Conrad criticizes the brutal exploitation of the Congo carried out by the Belgians, but ultimately supports colonialism in its idealized British version. As we have seen, a further step in mounting this critique was taken by novelist Alberto Moravia, who described Conrad’s politics in terms of an ‘imperfect’ understanding of colonialism (Moravia 1981, 181). For Moravia, in fact, Conrad’s rejection of colonist brutality is not determined by the author’s accurate reading of the historical situation. It is rather the reaction of a conservative, Anglophile gentleman to the insulting inappropriateness of imperialism. Such interpretations were challenged by another critic, Giuseppe Sertoli, who wrote an introduction to the 1974 Einaudi edition of the novella at the suggestion of Italo Calvino and later developed his interpretation in subsequent publications.38 It is no accident, argues Sertoli, that the white characters in Heart of Darkness come from different European countries, and that ‘all Europe’ contributed to the making of Kurtz. It is equally significant that the gloom hanging over London in the story’s incipit becomes the darkness in the heart of Africa. It is, in fact, Western civilization that takes its sepulchral emptiness to the colonized world. In his confrontation with the wilderness, Kurtz yields to the power of unconscious, brutal instincts, and achieves self-knowledge at the expense of his life. Marlow, by contrast, does not cross over the edge. He is no Prince Hamlet but an attendant lord who is unable to challenge conformities. However, if he lies to Kurtz’s Intended, and does not inform her of Kurtz’s reversion to savagery, he does not lie to his audience on the Nellie, nor is Conrad reticent with his reader. The horror of every type of colonialism, concludes Sertoli, is fully exposed. An equally complex view of the fundamental ambiguity of Heart of Darkness has been offered by Francesco Binni (Binni 2004). On the one hand, Conrad’s text is regarded by Binni as a devastating critique of imperialism; on the other hand, it seems to deconstruct itself by exposing the shortcomings of its own impressionistic technique. The third approach to Heart of Darkness is especially concerned with Conrad’s style and literary techniques. In an essay which placed Conrad and Heart of Darkness in the literary system of modernism, Franco Marenco carefully highlighted the connections between literary form and axiology (Marenco 1991). In particular, he characterized Conrad’s rhetoric in Heart of Darkness as ‘devoted to incongruity, to a continual meandering – or unfathomable collation – between the banal and the exceptional, the oppressive and the liberatory, the meaningful and the meaningless’.39 In turn, the novelist Alessandro Baricco, in an essay published in the Feltrinelli edition of Heart of Darkness (Baricco 1995), stresses the imperfections and the casualness of Conrad’s style: the relation between different parts of the text seems to be wrong or at least random; marginal episodes assume disproportionate relevance; expectations are raised in the reader that are then rapidly dissolved, with baffling and disappointing results. All these imperfections, however, are part of the fascination of a text that Baricco defines as ‘enigmatic, unpleasant and upsetting’. Speaking of imperfections, it is of some interest that the

38 Sertoli 1974a, 1974b, 1999. Similarly, for Prospero Trigona, Conrad tries to demystify colonial rhetoric both in his early fiction (Almayer’s Folly, An Outcast of the Islands, ‘An Outpost of Progress’) and in Heart of Darkness (Trigona 1972, 140). 39 Marenco 1991 in Curreli 2015, 56.


Conrad’s Critical Reception in Italy 1924–2021

novelist Elena Ferrante also appreciates Conrad’s style (specifically in ‘The Return’) for such apparent flaws as ‘the interrupted sentences and misguided senses’.40 Among recent publications, the most relevant essay on technique in Heart of Darkness is probably by Giovanni Bottiroli, one of Italy’s leading literary theorists (Bottiroli 2017). Moving between narratology, philosophy and psychoanalysis, Bottiroli argues that, in Lacan’s register theory, ‘we find the tools best suited to approach the dangerous attraction alterity can exert. Marlow is not the double of Kurtz, and does not cut off the link with the Symbolical. His voyage towards the Real, towards the incandescence of das Ding, is knowledge rather than dissolution.’41 The enigma proposed by the text does not lie in the unrepresentable. The most serious flaw in a reading such as Peter Brooks’s consists, contends Bottiroli, in reducing Marlow to his narrative, testimonial function, as if he were telling us only the story of Kurtz and not that of his relationship with Kurtz. It is as if Marlow were ‘sitting on a frame’, and not also within it. As if he were a detective, whose job is simply to ascertain the truth of facts that have already happened. As if the greatest danger on his African journey was to lose his life, as happens to the helmsman of the boat, and not to lose his own soul. From a certain point of view, if there is a double of Marlow in Heart of Darkness, he argues, it is not Kurtz but the Harlequin, that is, the person who has already met Kurtz, perhaps the most dangerous thing he had come across so far. Marlow’s whole journey is an approach to the Thing (das Ding), not so much as a noumenal object but as a zone of incandescence in which the subject risks seeing the contours of his own identity vanish. That is why in this African tale the fog isotopy is so important. Marlow is what he narrates, and his narration narrates the blurring of boundaries: thus, the possibility of his own identity vanishes into a confusing identification. By comparison, Kurtz is a limit-surpassing character, who recalls Nietzsche’s Zarathustra: the one who accesses all opposites. A fourth type of reading of Heart of Darkness is of a symbolic and archetypal nature, such as those provided by Francesco Giacobelli in 1976 (Giacobelli 1980), Domenichelli (1978) and Barale (1990). In his reading, Giacobelli also redefined Kurtz’s fascination by presenting him as an antecedent of Thomas Mann’s magician in Mario und der Zauberer [Mario and the magician]. Kurtz, the corrupt hero, is the link between two cultural and literary situations. In the nineteenth century – the age of the crowds – this type of negative hero was usually driven to self-destruction by his own insanity, but, in the twentieth century, crowds of subjugated listeners and spectators put their wills into the hands of fascinatingly delirious and manipulative figures. In his deconstructive and psychoanalytic approach, Domenichelli interpreted Heart of Darkness as a discourse without a Weltanschauung but a critique for every Weltanschauung, faith or belief. To Oliva, and to the advocates of Kurtz’s sinister fascination, Domenichelli objected that


Ferrante 2016; my translation. For an alternative view of the functionality of Conrad’s style, see Ciompi 2019, in which, among other things, Conrad’s delayed decoding is understood as a legacy of Dostoevsky. On the strategic use of first-person narration in Heart of Darkness as a typological model, see Torino 2019; for a useful introduction, see Bignami 2013. 41 Bottiroli 2017, 13. Another relevant philosophical study is Moretti 2017. According to Moretti, Heart of Darkness can be linked to Johann Jacob Bachofen, particularly in the matriarchal-heretical aspect of the novel. This has particular reference to certain symbols: Bachofen’s swamp and forest and Conrad’s vegetation are almost identical. On the one hand, we have the ‘forest’, the primitive and wild space-time that the civilized Kurtz penetrated and by which, evidently, he was then in turn effectively swallowed up. On the other hand, we have Bachofen’s ‘swamp’, a visible, concrete representation of natural etheric generation, that generation in which birth, generation and death constitute a single cycle devoid of hope and future.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Kurtz is not altogether saved by Conrad by having him acting or speaking grandiloquently in an atmosphere of Faustian grandeur. Kurtz is, like all Conrad’s supposed Übermenschen, just human, all too human, and not the strong producer of his own convictions. He is the beastly body, the repressed desire freed from Victorian constraints that speaks the horror in a devilish voice. He is Baal Zebub, the Lord of the Flies (insects buzz in the great peace of death and announce his presence). In Heart of Darkness each main character has a double, and the connections between characters are described by Domenichelli in terms of the Jungian quaternium. Kurtz is thus, among other things, Marlow’s negative double, the infernal sun, the king of Darkness, the father Marlow tries to kill in order to get hold of the Intended, seen as the pure mother. But the Intended remains aloof and detached. Eventually Kurtz meets her only in the horror of Death. Kurtz’s fiancée is, in fact, Atropos, the third of the Fates, whose obscure fellow-knitters of man’s life are the two old women met by Marlow in the sepulchral city and addressed by him with the words, ‘Ave, old knitters of black wool. Morituri vos salutant.’ This is why, argues Domenichelli, Marlow does not lie when he says the last word pronounced by Kurtz was the Intended’s name. Unfortunately, there is not space to provide further examples of Domenichelli’s pyrotechnical arguments. His interpretation is representative of the contemporary reading of Conrad as an apocalyptic nihilist: a writer who, paradoxically, elaborates the enormous inheritance of different cultural traditions only to expose them all as hollow at the core. This view is shared by, among others, Franco Marenco, who, in the wake of Mario Perniola’s 1966 essay on Conrad’s metafiction (Perniola 1966), has often insisted on the meta-literary value of Conrad’s novels (Marenco 1978, 1996). In Marenco’s opinion, in fact, Conrad’s work both typifies and engages with what Lukács defined as the intrinsic weakness of avant-garde writing, that is, its inability to found positive social and axiological values (Marenco 1996, 48). Marenco’s Conrad is the paradoxical, ironical beginner of the literature of exhaustion which spans from decadentism to Samuel Beckett – and to Kafka, as novelist and critic Claudio Magris later added, Conrad being comparable to a sort of ‘en plein air Kafka’ (Magris 2003). In this sense, the kenosis of traditional fiction Conrad performs in books like Victory is even more important than the literary gymnastics of his more experimental texts. This interpretation is particularly attractive, because it transcends the conventional achievement–decline scheme and blurs several other binaries. For instance, it makes the old opposition of romantic–realist irrelevant. It also undermines the new-historicist claim, cleverly voiced among others by Luisa Villa, that Conrad’s fiction is the work of a split author writing either as an experimental high-modernist or as a garrulous romancer (Villa 2000). The most comprehensive contribution to the reading of Conrad as a nihilist and protomodernist is a 2012 book-length study by Fausto Ciompi, Conrad: nichilismo e alterità (Conrad: Nihilism and Otherness), in which Conrad’s modernism is understood as existential anxiety, philosophical scepticism and technical experimentation. Among the arguments put forward in the book is that Conrad’s ‘philopony’ (the love of work that unites and saves his sailors) differentiates him from the devotees of work as a secular religion à la Carlyle, in that it serves as an antidote to the modern evils of living and as the means to build solidarity among the members of a micro-community.42 Reading Conrad is like taking part in a guided tour of the nineteenth42

For some Ruskinian echoes in relation to Conrad and work, see Cianci 2017; and for an insightful reading of The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’ from the perspective of non-work ethics, see Bellini 2017. According to Bellini, the man who refuses to work, like Wait in The Nigger, evokes the figure of the idiot, a man, as Maria Zambrano so aptly put it, ‘who does not behave humanly’ but rather as ‘a pure inhabitant of the planet’, a mere presence in the sense of Heidegger, one who refuses to act and thus denies the incessant neoliberalist exhortation to invest in ourselves.


Conrad’s Critical Reception in Italy 1924–2021

century cemetery of grand narratives: race, progress, colonialism, coded sexual identity, epistemological incontrovertibility. Conrad is thus interpreted as a transnational author whose sources are to be found in the great European culture, especially that of suspicion and pessimism, which starts with Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. From Nietzsche, among other things, Conrad would reprise in The Secret Agent the trope of the ‘world as hospital’ (‘Nietzsche’s nightmare’, as Alan Bennett has defined it), which is developed especially in Human, Too Human (first translated into English in 1909), where Nietzsche imagines a world made up of a series of health resorts (Gesundheitsstationen), and in On the Genealogy of Morals (first translated into English in 1896). The idea of the world as a hospital, which in The Secret Agent is associated with the anarchist Michaelis, has a long and interesting history in German culture: a narrative which includes Goethe and was certainly known to Nietzsche and perhaps, at least in part, to Conrad. It is part of this story, for example, that the eighteenth-century German poet Johann Jacob Rambach wrote a poem that begins with the lines ‘Die ganze Welt ist nur ein Hospital’ (The whole world is but a great hospital). Rambach collaborated with another famous biblical scholar, Johann Heinrich Michaelis, on a well-known edition of the Bible (Frankfurt, 1720). It would seem, then, that, by attributing to the anarchist Michaelis the ideas and the name respectively of two theologians who shared an interest in pietist philosophy, Conrad was mocking the political agenda of the burly revolutionary of The Secret Agent, which was analogously based on the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity (Ciompi 2012, 175–7). Similar attempts to combine epistemic philology, textual criticism and transnational culture are produced, in Conrad: nichilismo e alterità, in the reading of Conrad’s texts, from The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’ to The Shadow-Line. But the overall interpretative proposal put forward in the book could be summarized in the definition of Conrad as an ‘active nihilist’ in the Nietzschean sense, an experimenter in forms and ideas who identifies writing as the intellectual work of a ‘novelist with a hammer’. Conrad’s apocalyptic nihilism or scepticism is emphasized by several other critics: by Serpieri, who stresses the fact that, in Conrad’s fiction, the sublime is often reduced to the grotesque and the absurd (Serpieri 1997), as well as by Ceserani (Ceserani 1999, 66) and Gorlier, Curreli and Pagetti (Pagetti 1994). The latter deems Conrad the most eminent author at the turn of the century, because, among other things, he revolutionizes the status of the hero and of truth in fiction. This interpretation of Conrad as a nihilist is opposed by a minority of equally influential critics, who do not deny his technical modernity but foreground the ethical side of his fiction. Agostino Lombardo, for instance, regards Conrad as a decadent who transcends fin-de-siècle aestheticism through his modern narrative techniques and his solid ethics (Lombardo 1992). Giovanni Cianci, in his turn, concedes that Conrad’s language is often haunted by a modernist ambiguity, but also emphasizes that, as happens in most Victorian fiction, Conrad’s stories are illuminated by his moral certainties (Cianci 2000). Another debate that has recently interested Italian critics concerns whether Conrad is an exponent of imperial romance or a transnational author.43 This second option has been argued 43

This topic was originally developed in Ambrosini 2013, 1–12. Of considerable interest in this context is Zulli 2019. As Zulli observes, ‘Considering Conrad in transnational terms means [. . .] that his narrative, while benefitting from a comparative reading with Benjamin’s language theories, is also an echo-chamber, or rather, an anticipation of those theories’ (Zulli 2019, 24). Zulli’s book contains perceptive chapters on intertextual relations between Conrad and Nadine Gordimer, on orality and the language of colonialism in Conrad and Stevenson, as well as linguistic readings of ‘Karain’ and ‘Amy Foster’. Ambrosini and Zulli’s transnational approach is not limited to a synchronic heterotopia, but is also interested in insights from the classical tradition. On this latter topic, see also Ambrosini 2019.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

especially by Richard Ambrosini in one of the most significant publications of recent Conrad criticism, the 2019 volume Le storie di Conrad: biografia intellettuale di un romanziere (Conrad’s stories: the intellectual biography of a novelist). According to Ambrosini, Conrad must be compared to such authors as Kafka, Proust and Thomas Mann rather than included in what Leavis called ‘the great tradition’ of English literature. Ambrosini rejects the achievement– decline scheme (Woolf and Moser) and the idea of Conrad’s intellectual vacuity (E. M. Forster). Instead, he proposes to read Conrad’s entire production as the work of an intellectual author, whose self-awareness and maturity are shown by his Author’s Notes,44 which Ambrosini takes as the starting point for his critical analyses. Ambrosini’s aim is ‘to recount not the life of Conrad the “practical person”, but Conrad the “poetic person” [the distinction is Benedetto Croce’s], an intellectual biography based on an intelligence that was expressed in a series of existential and artistic choices’.45 The main ambition of Ambrosini’s study, however, is to demonstrate that the female figures in Conrad’s fiction, from Almayer’s Folly to Suspense, are the fil rouge that allows his authorial intelligence to unfold. Many of Conrad’s stories have a male name in the title or a male protagonist, and it is certain traits of this hero that give the first impetus to the events. But as stories are drawing to a close, in any story that is not a sea tale, the reader is left in suspense, uncertain whether she has witnessed the end of a tragedy concerning male hubris. What actually happens, however, is that, without our realizing it, Conrad has moved the woman from the margins to the centre of the narrative. Most obvious, in this sense, are the cases of Chance and Victory, in which Flora and Lena act as the engines of the final denouement. Ambrosini thus reconceptualizes Conrad as an intellectual, a theorist of the novel, a lucid observer of contemporary geopolitics, who, by interweaving political materials and a numinous writing, increasingly focused on the testimony provided by his women, continually renews the how and what of his stories. Apocalyptic nihilist or inveterate moralist? Imperial romancer or transnational intellectual? Let me conclude with these final bifurcations. In packaging a small part of Conrad’s Italian Wirkungsgeschichte, I started from the early Conrad of the so-called liquid literature, then I outlined, successively, the sublime Conrad devised by the ‘art prose’ culture, Conrad the existentialist, the humanist, the political observer, the apocalyptic nihilist, the meta-literary destroyer of fictional tradition, the intellectual and the revaluer of all values (especially the feminine). In the end, the originally liquid object of my attention unexpectedly metamorphosed into the pretty solid condition of a biblical and Flaubertian god, who shares the axiological certainties of his late-Victorian contemporaries. Every survey of critical interpretations unavoidably confirms that our readings are historically determined. In that respect, the best we


For a perceptive study of Conrad’s Author’s Notes from a transnational perspective, see Lops 2019. ‘una biografia intellettuale fondata su un’intelligenza che si è andata esplicando in una sequenza di scelte esistenziali e artistiche’, Ambrosini 2019, 21 (my translation). Ambrosini, a leading figure in Conrad studies in Italy, is also the author of Conrad’s Fiction as Critical Discourse (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012). On the link between literature and autobiography, see the insightful conclusion of Marilena Saracino’s study: ‘Tanto Conrad, quale protagonista e narratore della sua  autobiografia, quanto i personaggi dei suoi romanzi, traggono dalle loro itineranti “avventure” la materia necessaria per meditare sul proprio destino tragico e, nello stesso tempo, danno vita a ciò che si può definire “autobiografia del procedere artistico” ’ (‘Both Conrad, as the protagonist and narrator of his autobiography, and the characters in his novels draw from their itinerant “adventures” the necessary material to meditate on their own tragic destiny and, at the same time, give life to what can be defined as an “autobiography of artistic progress” ’) (Saracino, 2008, 129; my translation). 45


Conrad’s Critical Reception in Italy 1924–2021

can do is to be the rigorous tracers of chains that bind. But such hermeneutic variance may also give the impression that what critics normally do is, as Cesare Segre put it, to sell or shop in the supermarket of opinions (Segre 1993, 2001). And in this respect, I do not wish to master, to unify, or to reappropriate contradictions. I would rather wish to conclude with the words of two Italian authors and great admirers of Conrad: Daniele Del Giudice and Primo Levi. Quoting a minor Conrad essay, ‘Out of Literature’, which discusses the ‘Notice to Mariners’, in his introduction to Levi’s work Del Giudice shares Conrad’s respect for this ‘good prose’ from which every literary and ennobling aspect is barred ‘except responsibility’ (Del Giudice 1997, xlix; LE, 39–40). In turn, Levi, who quotes Conrad at the end of his 1978 novel The Wrench, elaborates on the value of every kind of poiesis: human activities ‘teach us to be whole, to think with our hands and with the entire body, to refuse to surrender to the negative days and to formulas that cannot be understood’. The ‘profession of writing’, which includes creative literature as well as its critical epiphenomena, ‘grants (rarely, but it does grant) some moments of creation, like when current suddenly runs through a circuit that is turned off, and a light comes on’ (Levi 1987, 52–3). As Levi critic Pierpaolo Antonello, to whom I owe this quotation, observes, ‘such professions disclose an intrinsic ethical programme’ (Antonello 2007, 102).







‘Viva l’España!!!!’ In such enthusiastic terms did Conrad refer to Spain with respect to the ’98 war in a letter to R. B. Cunninghame Graham, and he added, ‘But, perhaps, the race is doomed? It would be a pity. It would narrow life, it would destroy a whole side of it which had its morality and was always picturesque and at times inspiring’ (CL2, 60). Described as ‘an incorrigible, hopeless Don Quixote’ (PR, 50) in his own book of memoirs, A Personal Record (1912), Conrad was an admiring reader of Cervantes’s masterpiece, and the Quixotic drive runs through his narrative fiction, from Almayer’s Folly (1895), Lord Jim (1900) or Nostromo (1904) to Victory (1915). Conrad’s second novel, An Outcast of the Islands (1896), is preceded by a motto from Calderón’s La vida es sueño (Life is a Dream) (1635) in Spanish: ‘pues el delito mayor / del hombre es haber nacido’ (For the greatest sin / of man is that he ever was born). Alert to Spanish culture and deeply sympathetic to the plight of the Spanish people, Conrad named his family’s dog Escamillo after the bullfighter in Bizet’s opera Carmen, based on Prosper Mérimée’s novel. Nostromo, set in an imaginary Latin American republic and written in response to the American-Spanish war of 1898 and American support for the secession of Panama from Colombia, is suffused with Spanish words and expressions and reflects a powerful vision of the Hispanic ‘race’ from a foreign perspective. In 1907, while staying in Montpellier, Conrad took formal Spanish lessons. Finally, ‘The Inn of the Two Witches’, in the collection of stories Within the Tides (1915), is set in the north-west of Spain at the time of the Peninsular War, while the depictions of the ‘Tremolino’ episode in The Mirror of the Sea (1906) and the late novel The Arrow of Gold (1919) dramatize an adventurous affair of gunrunning to Spain in the context of the Carlist wars, supposedly based on Conrad’s own experiences from his youth. As a truly international writer, Conrad is thus linked with Spain and Hispanic culture in many different ways. In what follows, a diachronic overview of the reception of Conrad in Spain will be offered, covering in turn four major areas of interest: translation; newspaper articles and magazine criticism; academic criticism; and literary impact. From the present perspective, and taking all the available data into consideration, the predominant view that Conrad has been little read and underappreciated in Spain needs to be revisited (see Galván 2005, 104–7 and Celada 1994, 56–8).1

Conrad in translation The reputation of Vicente Blasco Ibáñez (1867–1928) as an internationally successful novelist was already well established when he contacted Conrad to obtain his permission to undertake 1

The following survey focuses exclusively on the reception of Conrad in Castilian. Evidences of response to Conrad in Catalan, Galician or Basque fall outside the scope of this chapter.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

the project of translating Conrad’s works into Spanish for the publishing house Prometeo. Ibáñez himself was to ‘oversee the translations to ensure their accuracy and the faithful rendering of the writer’s ideas’.2 In the letter written to Conrad in French on 10 March 1923, Ibáñez declared his admiration for the Polish-born writer in the following terms: I have long admired you through the several novels I have read in French, because, alas, I read English badly. For me you are a true novelist of the kind I admire, and I have always regretted that the Spanish public is unfamiliar with your immortal works.3 In addition, Ibáñez had the intention to ‘write a study of you and your works to preface the novels translated into Spanish’.4 He went on to express his wish that Conrad’s representative would come to an agreement with Prometeo Publishers though, he lamented, ‘the enterprise will be important on literary rather than commercial grounds’.5 After reading Ibáñez’s letter, Conrad described his language as the ‘most extraordinary jargon of French I have ever read in my life’ in a letter to his agent, Eric Pinker (CL8, 52). Nevertheless, Conrad answered Ibáñez’s letter on 21 March, addressing him as ‘Cher et illustre Confrère’ (Dear and illustrious Colleague), telling the Spanish novelist, ‘I am very glad to know of your interest in my work. I wish ardently to be presented to the Spanish public under your auspices.’6 Conrad assured Ibáñez that Pinker would resume negotiations with Prometeo Publishers immediately after his return from the United States, and he added, ‘No doubt there will be no difficulty in reaching an agreement.’7 The project was never fulfilled, but Vicente Blasco Ibáñez’s was the first recorded attempt to publish a collection of Conrad’s works in a Spanish translation. The first book-form translations into Spanish of the works of Joseph Conrad were published by the Catalonian house Montaner y Simón in 1925, just after Conrad’s death. It was thanks to the efforts made by Joan Estelrich, an enthusiastic reader of Conrad who became a shareholder in the company, that the introduction of Conrad’s works into Spain was possible. Though relatively belated, these translations proved to be extremely popular during the next decades. By the end of the 1920s, Conrad’s works, already established as the hallmark of the Montaner y Simón publishing house, were among the few collections considered indispensable to reissue (Bellver Poissenot 2016, 209). Apparently, the original project involved the publication of Conrad’s complete works in translation and, though this ambitious aim was eventually abandoned, the volumes published between 1925 and 1935 are sufficiently representative of the Conrad canon. Translated into Spanish by renowned critics and translators like Ricardo Baeza or Ramón Perés, with introductions written by Estelrich, the Montaner y Simón editions of


‘je vigile aussi les traductions pour qu’elles soyent exactes et reflectent fidelement la pensée de l’auteur’ (Stape and Knowles 1996, 203). The translation into English is provided by the editors. 3 ‘Fait longtemps que je vous admire pour quelques romans que j’ai lu de vous en français, car malheureusement je lis tres mal l’anglais. Vous etes pour moi le vrai romancier tel comme je l’admire, et j’ai regretté toujours que le public de langue espagnole ne connaisse pas vos œuvres immortelles’ (Stape and Knowles 1996, 203). 4 ‘écrire une étude sur vous et vos œuvres qui figurait en téte de vos romans traduits a l’espagnol’ (Stape and Knowles 1996, 204). 5 ‘cette entreprise aura plus d’importance de coté littéraire que du coté commercial’ (Stape and Knowles 1996, 204). 6 ‘Je suis très heureux de savoir que Vous Vous intéréssez a mon oeuvre. Je désire vivement me présenter au public espagnol sous Vos auspices’ (CL8, 54). The translation into English is given by the editors. 7 ‘Sans doute il n’y aura aucune difficulte a nous entendre’ (CL8, 54).


The Reception of Conrad in Spain

Conrad’s works were an immense success among the reading public.8 In fact, not only did the translations for Montaner y Simón popularize Conrad in Spain in the 1920s and 1930s, but they have been reissued in several different editions from the 1970s to the present. After a period of cultural flourishing, when the emergence of the 1927 generation coincided with a proliferation of literary magazines and a growing interest in modern European authors, the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 and the establishment of Franco’s regime changed the cultural landscape completely. Not until the 1970s did new translations of Conrad’s works begin to appear in Spain. From the establishment of democracy to the present, a wide number of translations of Conrad’s works have been edited for different publishing houses, thus confirming Conrad as one of the most frequently translated foreign authors in Spain. El corazón de las tinieblas (Heart of Darkness) (1899) is by far the most popular of all Conrad’s works in Spain. The database of the Biblioteca Nacional de España (Spanish National Library) lists sixty-three editions of the novella between 1974 and 2018, and there are over twenty different translations into Spanish. Lord Jim and El agente secreto (The Secret Agent) (1907) have also been widely disseminated in the Spanish literary market; the BNE records thirty-six editions of the former, and twenty-four different editions of the latter. Other popular works, in terms of the number of editions and translations, include The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’ (1897), Typhoon (1903) and The Shadow-Line (1917), but virtually the whole canon of Conrad’s works is now available in Spanish translations. Finally, it is worth noting that distinguished creative writers such as Javier Marías and Rosa Regàs have also been involved in the translation of Conrad into Spanish, as will be discussed below.

Newspaper articles and magazine criticism Early references to Conrad in the Spanish press, prior to his death and the appearance of the first translations in 1925, include an article in the weekly journal España (Spain) on 12 July 1917, in which Agustín Heredia wrote, ‘The tragic concept of life, the struggle of man against material forces and seemingly fatal forces, against hidden forces of destruction, desolation and insanity in landscapes and masses of greatness and perfect beauty are magnificently described by Mr. Thomas Hardy and Mr. Joseph Conrad in the epic manner.’9 The author also selected Conrad’s Victory for particular praise, forcing a connection with the First World War (in the same issue, there is a text in support of France written by Conrad’s friend John Galsworthy). On the occasion of Conrad’s death, several obituaries appeared in different Spanish papers and magazines. In La Esfera (The Sphere), A. de Tormes reviewed Conrad’s life and work, praised ‘the magnificence of his English prose’,10 and lamented the fact that ‘none of his books are available in Spanish’.11 The Catholic newspaper El Siglo Futuro (The Future Century) also


For more details about Joan Estelrich and the translations of Conrad’s works for the Montaner y Simón house, see the essays by Hurtley and Puxan Oliva in this volume. 9 ‘El concepto trágico de la vida, la lucha del hombre contra fuerzas materiales y contra fuerzas fatales al parecer, contra fuerzas ocultas de destrucción, de desolación y de insania en paisajes y en masas de grandeza y de acabada belleza los describen Mr. Thomas Hardy y Mr. Joseph Conrad soberbiamente a la manera épica’ (Heredia 1917, 11). 10 ‘la magnificencia de su prosa inglesa’ (Tormes 1924, 25). 11 ‘no hay ningún libro suyo en lengua española’ (Tormes 1924, 25).


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

paid tribute to the late Polish-born writer: ‘The literary world has suffered a great loss with the unexpected death of the famous Catholic novelist Joseph Conrad.’12 The Spanish critic Antonio Marichalar (1893–1973) championed the young literary generation of 1927, both in Spain and abroad, and wrote appreciatively on many different Western literary figures in the 1920s and 1930s. On the occasion of Conrad’s death, Marichalar wrote ‘Estela de Joseph Conrad’ (‘In the wake of Joseph Conrad’) for the August 1924 issue of Revista de Occidente (Western Review). It is a short article, and it abounds in the critical commonplaces of the time, such as Conrad’s Slavism or Conrad as a writer of the sea. For Marichalar, however, Conrad is more than simply an adventure writer: ‘Still, what Conrad tells us is not just a good adventure novel, but something else.’13 Marichalar praises Conrad for his analytical sagacity and the creation of characters: ‘Conrad [. . .] is concerned with the proper knowledge of his different characters. He tries to perform his analysis and, in order to accomplish it, he suddenly hurls them into the chances of a complicated action.’14 Joan Estelrich (1896–1958) not only promoted the edition of Conrad’s works in translation for Montaner y Simón, but also produced the first substantial works of criticism about Conrad in Spain. The monthly review Cuba contemporánea (Contemporary Cuba), in its issue for July 1925, published a fragment of the critical study on Conrad which Estelrich had written for Montaner y Simón. Quoting extensively from Conrad’s works in translation, and drawing from critical studies written in French and English, Estelrich defines Conrad as a ‘realist’ and a ‘romantic’ novelist (Estelrich 1925, 258). Defining Conrad as a fatalist and aligning him with Hardy in their contempt for what he calls ‘the bitter comedy of life’,15 Estelrich believes that ‘the higher meaning of Conrad’s work lies in the confrontation of personal effort with the nonhuman potencies of the universe’.16 On the front page of the daily La Voz (The Voice), of 5 March 1927, under the heading ‘La decadencia de la novela’ (The decadence of the novel), the critic Hernández Cata named Conrad as one of the indisputable masters of the novel, alongside Marcel Proust and George Meredith, thus confirming that, by that date, Conrad was read and appreciated by discerning critics in Spain, as well as by the general reading public (Hernández Cata 1927, 1). Curiously enough, on 19 September 1928 an unsigned news report about Arthur Conan Doyle’s involvement with spiritualism and the occult appeared in the journal La Libertad (Freedom). The creator of Sherlock Holmes claimed that the spirit of Joseph Conrad had contacted him through a medium asking him to help conclude a novel he had left unfinished at his death. In Conan Doyle’s reported words, ‘I could not fulfil his wish because the book had already been published with the title of Suspense.’17 The renowned Spanish novelist Javier Marías referred to


‘El mundo literario ha sufrido una gran pérdida con la muerte inesperada del famoso novelista católico José Conrad’ (‘Noticias de Inglaterra’, El Siglo Futuro: Diario Católico, Madrid, 12 August 1924, 5304:1). 13 ‘Con todo, lo que Conrad nos cuenta no es únicamente una buena novela de aventuras, sino algo más’ (Marichalar 2002 (1924), 220). 14 ‘A Conrad [. . .] le preocupa el conocimiento cabal de los diversos caracteres. Trata de hacer su análisis, y para lograrlo, de súbito los aventura en los azares de una complicada acción’ (Marichalar 2002 (1924), 220). 15 ‘la amarga comedia de la vida’ (Estelrich 1925, 251). 16 ‘El sentido superior de la obra de Conrad hay que buscarlo en su confrontación del esfuerzo personal con las potencias inhumanas del universo’ (Estelrich 1925, 259). 17 ‘No pude cumplir su deseo porque dicho libro había sido ya publicado con el nombre de Incertidumbre’ (‘El espiritismo de Conan Doyle’, La Libertad, Madrid, 19 September 1928, 2652: 3).


The Reception of Conrad in Spain

the same anecdote almost eighty years later, in an article translated for The Conradian on the occasion of the 150th anniversary celebration of Conrad’s birth (see Marías 2007a). It was some decades before Conrad reappeared in newspapers and literary journals. In the monthly literary journal Ínsula (Isle), of June 1980, Pérez Minik reviewed Conrad’s work and his contribution to English literature on the occasion of the reissue of Ricardo Baeza’s translation of The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’ for Editorial Planeta (Planet Publishing). Pérez Minik took the opportunity to vindicate the name of Baeza, ‘forgotten today, a writer who in the 1920s and 1930s had a really lucid knowledge of foreign literatures, who sought to mend our provincialism with his most accomplished renditions of so many outstanding western figures of the present and the previous century’.18 Five years later, writing in the November 1985 issue of Ínsula, coinciding with a period when several new translations of Conrad’s works were being published alongside reissues of old ones, Minik engaged in a discussion of Conrad’s moral, political and philosophical outlook (see Pérez Minik 1985, 7). After another five years, the writer Vicente Muñoz Puelles, who had translated Youth and The Shadow-Line into Spanish, wrote appreciatively on Conrad in ‘Joseph Conrad: el mar y los libros’ (Joseph Conrad: the sea and the books): ‘Although it is a frequent setting in his works, Conrad always reacted vehemently against the label of writer of the sea.’19

Academic writing In his book-length study Novelistas ingleses contemporáneos (Contemporary English Novelists) (1945), Ricardo Gullón included a chapter on Conrad entitled ‘Conrad el desarraigado’ (The rootless Conrad). In it, Gullón discusses approvingly the quality of Conrad’s imagination, his ars poetica as expressed in the Preface to The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’, and the mastery of Conrad’s characterization and literary style. Moreover, the eminent Spanish critic sums up the much-debated question of Conrad’s adherence to the adventure novel genre in these terms: As to what is properly called the plot of his novels, Conrad’s imagination is boundless: Nostromo, Almayer’s Folly, Lord Jim, The Arrow of Gold . . . they all constitute a compact and extremely varied network of interesting events, and not merely of adventures, as might be said disdainfully. For adventure here is a pretext, an incitement to souls so that when faced by it, vast spaces open up that would otherwise remain secret, an elaborate device needed for the highest of goals: to capture the complex secret of mankind.20

18 ‘tan olvidado hoy, un escritor que entre los años veinte y treinta poseyó una conciencia muy lúcida de las literaturas extranjeras, que intentó corregir nuestro aldeanismo con sus versiones más cumplidas de tantas figuras sobresalientes occidentales del presente o del pasado siglo’ (Pérez Minik 1980, 7). 19 ‘Aunque es un escenario frecuente en sus obras, Conrad siempre se defendió vehementemente contra el apelativo de escritor del mar’ (Muñoz Puelles 1990, 53–4). 20 ‘En cuanto a lo propiamente llamado asunto de sus novelas, la fantasía de Conrad es inagotable: Nostromo, La locura de Almayer, Lord Jim, La flecha de oro . . . constituyen un tejido compacto y variadísimo de sucesos interesantes, y no solamente de aventuras, como con criterio empequeñecedor podría decirse. Pues la aventura es aquí un pretexto, una incitación a las almas para que al enfrentarse con ella dejen al descubierto vastos espacios de otra manera herméticos, un complicado ingenio necesario al más alto proyecto: capturar el complejo secreto del hombre’ (Gullón 1945, 62).


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Gullón also rejects the idea of Conrad’s supposed ‘Slavism’: ‘Thus every attempt to explain the Conradian world through his Slavic tendences fails; the truth is that those tendencies were subjected to the attraction of the western mentality which was central to his character.’21 In addition, the Spanish critic anticipates F. R. Leavis’s objection to Conrad’s ‘adjectival insistence’ (see Leavis 1948, 206) when, though praising Conrad’s flexible and precise vocabulary, elegant style and wise use of adjectives, he mentions the occasional risk of certain ‘faltering paragraphs’ and ‘adjectival reiteration’.22 The academic engagement with Conrad’s work, however, did not begin until some decades later.23 Among the earliest pieces of academic writing on Conrad produced by Spanish scholars, it is worth mentioning the essay ‘Oscuridad y subconsciente en Joseph Conrad’ (Darkness and the subconscious in Joseph Conrad) (1966), by the late Javier Coy Ferrer, a pioneer in Anglo-American literary studies in Spain. He contributed greatly to the development of English Studies at Spanish universities during the 1960s and 1970s, coinciding with the cultural opening in the later phase of Franco’s regime and the early years of democracy. During this time, the study of modern and contemporary literature in English was gradually established. As a result, from the 1980s to the present a large number of academic articles on Conrad have been produced in Spanish universities. These have been written from a variety of different critical perspectives, including comparative literature as well as post-colonial, feminist or cultural studies. In this context, Heart of Darkness has become the single work by Conrad which has elicited most attention from Spanish scholars and common readers alike.24 It is impossible to offer an exhaustive survey of the scholarly items published on Conrad in Spain over the last four decades, but some articles might be highlighted as a sample. Teresa Gibert (1988), for example, examines the story ‘An Outpost of Progress’ from several interrelated critical angles, while, more recently, Matas Pons (2014) discusses the motif of the double or Doppelgänger in Conrad’s fiction. In 2002, on the occasion of the centenary of the publication of Heart of Darkness in book form, Miguel Sánchez-Ostiz published the essay ‘Conrad y los vagabundos de las islas’ (Conrad and the outcasts of the islands) in Revista de Occidente (Western Review), the widely influential journal founded by Ortega y Gasset in 1923, where ‘Una avanzada del progreso’ (‘An Outpost of Progress’), ‘La Bestia’ (‘The Brute’) and ‘Gaspar Ruiz’ had appeared in 1924, 1926 and 1927, respectively. Finally, the essay ‘Size, Wisdom, and Uneasiness: Further Reflections on the Loss of the Titanic and Conrad’s “Some Reflections” ’, written by the marine engineer officer José González, appeared in The Conradian, the journal of the Joseph Conrad Society (UK) in 2016. The first doctoral thesis on Conrad written in Spain dates from 1980. It is entitled ‘Joseph Conrad: un mundo de soledad’ (Joseph Conrad: a world of solitude), and it investigates the theme of solitude through an analysis of Conrad’s characters, highlighting an implicit acceptance of death and suicide as possible solutions to the overwhelming loneliness they


‘Así falla toda tentativa de explicar el mundo conradiano por las tendencias eslavas; lo cierto es que tales tendencias vivieron supeditadas a la atracción de la mentalidad occidental determinante de su carácter’ (Gullón 1945, 70). 22 ‘el empleo de párrafos entrecortados, de la reiteración al adjetivar’ (Gullón 1945, 67). 23 Gullón was imprisoned for collaborating with the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War. From 1953 to 1956, he lived in Puerto Rico where he had gone to visit his friend, the exiled Juan Ramón Jiménez; he subsequently moved to the United States where he taught Spanish literature at a number of universities. 24 See, for example, Antón García 1983; Galván 1994; Fernández Álvarez 1998; and Carmona Fernández 2006.


The Reception of Conrad in Spain

usually experience (see Serra Cornella 1980). From the 1980s to the present, several doctoral theses on Conrad have been written in Spanish universities, often within the field of comparative literature and usually exploring the interconnection of Conrad’s works with other Western writers and literary or philosophical traditions. Thus Leboreiro Amaro (1989) and Campo Gómez (1994) discuss the problem of evil in Conrad and Herman Melville, and the voyage as a rite of passage in Conrad, Stevenson, Theroux and Coetzee, respectively, while Puxan Oliva (2010) investigates questions of narrative reliability, narrative voice and racial stereotypes in Conrad’s Lord Jim and Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!, and Abril Hernández (2019) discusses the symbol of the labyrinth in Conrad, Borges and Stuart Moulthrop from a semiotic perspective.

Literary impact One of the most distinguished Spanish novelists to have been compared to Conrad is undoubtedly Pío Baroja (1872–1956). It remains unclear, however, to what extent the affinities between the two writers can be ascribed to a relation of literary influence. On the one hand, Baroja was well read from his youth in the tradition of the English adventure novel, and several works by Conrad are located in the library of Itzea, Baroja’s impressive house in Vera del Bidasoa (Alberich 1966, 48). Baroja himself asserted that many of his sailor characters derived from memories of his reading of Poe, Kipling and Conrad (Alberich 1966, 134). On the other hand, according to Julio Caro Baroja, the nephew of the eminent novelist and a member of the Spanish Royal Academy, it was many years after the publication of Las inquietudes de Shanti Andía (The Restlessness of Shanti Andía) (1911) that Pío Baroja first read Conrad’s novels, either in French or Spanish translations (Caro Baroja 1991, 18; see also López García 1995, 59, n. 38). Both Baroja and Conrad experiment with the adventure novel and sea stories from the perspective of strikingly pessimistic worldviews with a common Schopenhauerian root. They also share a nostalgic view of the transition from sail to steam in merchant ships (Allende Portillo, 2010). Nevertheless, their styles are very different; the elaborate and majestic sentences of Conrad’s best works stand in sharp contrast to Baroja’s direct and agile prose style. The connection between Baroja and Conrad was perceived as early as 1926 by J. B. Trend,25 and the comparison between the two novelists has become something of a critical commonplace ever since. According to the controversial critic Ernesto Giménez Caballero, for example, an early champion of the avant-garde literary movement and of fascism in Spain, ‘Conrad, compared to this work by Baroja [La estrella del capitán Chimista (The Star of Captain Chimista)], is reduced to an inventor of little storms and modest voyages.’26 Regarding the connection between Baroja and Conrad, as well as their approach to the adventure novel, Alberich remarks, ‘Adventure is something which can only be observed, something which can only be a spectacle for the writer.’27 It is interesting to note that Baroja


In Alfonso the Sage and other Spanish Essays (1926, 101), qtd. in Alberich 1966, 110. ‘Conrad, al lado de esta obra de Baroja, queda en un inventor de pequeñas tormentas y de modestos periplos’ (Giménez Caballero 1930, 95). 27 ‘La aventura es algo que sólo puede ser contemplado, que sólo puede ser espectáculo para el escritor’ (Alberich 1966, 111). 26


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

himself claimed, referring to his character Zalacaín, that adventure leads to renunciation and philosophical contemplation (Alberich 1966, 111). This observation is pertinent to the endings of Conrad’s Lord Jim or Victory, pointing to further links between the two writers and the way they experimented with the adventure novel. They both exploited and subverted the conventions of the genre, using it as a point of departure for the analysis of literary characters and the exploration of the contradictions of human nature. In the library of the house of the Spanish Nobel Laureate Juan Ramón Jiménez (1881–1958) in Moguer, there are several English editions of Conrad’s works.28 In addition, Juan Ramón had in his library a copy of André Gide’s French translation of Typhoon (Typhon, Nouvelle Revue Française, 1923) and a copy of Jean Aubry’s translation of Within the Tides (En marge des marées, NRF, 1921) with an autograph dedication from Conrad’s friend and first biographer: ‘To Mr. Juan Ramón Jiménez with my admiring friendship, G. Jean Aubry.’29 For Juan Ramón, Gide was ‘the perfect man of letters’, and he ‘translated wonderfully several of Conrad’s novels into French’.30 However, the Spanish poet held mixed opinions about Conrad: ‘I see in Conrad something hybrid, something undefined: an Englishman who is not English. His books look like translations, and I always have the impression of something out of place in them.’31 Conrad himself had remarked, ‘Homo duplex has in my case more than one meaning’ (CL3, 89), but Juan Ramón found that hybridity and the sense of displacement in Conrad’s works troubling: ‘That’s why Conrad is more natural when he writes about the sea, with her universal and strange or familiar men, than when he writes about the land.’32 González Ródenas (1999, 144) found surprising the fact that Juan Ramón had in his personal library so many volumes of English prose writers like Chesterton, Stevenson or Conrad, who are rarely mentioned in his critical writings. Nevertheless, it is clear from the evidence available that Juan Ramón had read Conrad, both in the original and in French translations, and had a certain interest in his work and personality. Despite Juan Ramón’s ambivalent attitude towards Conrad, both writers shared temperamental similarities and a common approach to their art in many significant respects, and it is not hard to imagine how Conrad’s language and poetic descriptions of the sea would have appealed to the author of Diario de un poeta reciencasado (Diary of a Newlywed Poet). Among the Spanish novelists who have been undeniably influenced by Conrad, the figure of Juan Benet (1927–93) stands out. Traces of his reading of Conrad’s fiction are evident in the themes developed, the literary style and certain echoes and allusions in specific passages of Volverás a Región (You will go back to Región) (1967), Sub rosa (1973), and Saúl ante Samuel (Saul before Samuel) (1980).33 Díaz (1995, 120) mentions ‘Typhoon’ and ‘The Secret Sharer’ in

28 Tales of Unrest (Leipzig: Bernard Tauchnitz, 1898), Almayer’s Folly (Leipzig: Bernard Tauchnitz, 1914), Chance (Leipzig: Bernard Tauchnitz, 1914), Victory (New York: Doubleday Page, 1916) and The Shadow-Line (Leipzig: Bernard Tauchnitz, 1928). See González Ródenas 1999, 339. 29 ‘A D. Juan Ramón Jiménez avec mon admirative amitié, G. Jean Aubry’ (González Ródenas 1999, 358). 30 ‘Gide tradujo al francés magníficamente varias novelas de Conrad. Son versiones memorables, verdaderas joyas. Claro es que Gide es el caso del literato perfecto’ (Gullón 1958, 139; see González Ródenas 1999, 145). 31 ‘Yo veo en Conrad algo híbrido; algo que no acaba de definirse: un inglés que no es inglés. Sus libros parecen traducidos y siempre me parece encontrar en ellos algo que no está en su sitio’ (Gullón 1958, 139, in González Ródenas 1999, 145). 32 ‘Por eso Conrad es más natural cuando escribe sobre lo del mar, con sus hombres universales y estraños o propios que cuando escribe de lo de la tierra’ (Jiménez 1990, 622). 33 For more details about the influence of Conrad on Juan Benet, see López García (1995, 63–8).


The Reception of Conrad in Spain

particular as significant influences on the literary style cultivated by Benet in the novella ‘Sub rosa’, a sea narrative with ‘a more elaborate intrigue than is typical of popular literature’.34 Benet also wrote the prologue for Javier Marías’s celebrated translation of The Mirror of the Sea (El espejo del mar) in 1981.35 Of Benet’s literary work, Javier Marías has said that ‘it is the most important work written in Spain in the second half of the twentieth century’.36 Furthermore, speaking about his own connections with Benet as a writer, Marías highlights the common influence of Conrad as a key to their literary and stylistic affinities: I know that there might be some things in that book [The Century] which seem Benetian, but I also know where they come from, and they come from some masters we both had in common, for example Conrad, whose work The Mirror of the Sea I had recently translated, and therefore had influenced me when writing that book. In his [Benet’s] case, more Faulkner; in my case more Conrad; but both of them influenced us both.37 One of the most widely acclaimed and internationally renowned novelists of post-Franco Spain, Javier Marías, has also written about Conrad on several occasions. In Vidas escritas (Written Lives) (1992), a series of unconventional, well-researched and immensely delightful biographical sketches of canonical writers, he includes a chapter on Conrad entitled ‘Joseph Conrad en tierra’ (Joseph Conrad on land). Marías focuses on Conrad’s oddities and temperamental idiosyncrasies from a demythologizing yet respectful and affectionate perspective, drawing from the reminiscences of Ford Madox Ford, Bertrand Russell, Jessie Conrad and Richard Curle as well as Conrad’s own prefaces and autobiographical works. In the chapter devoted to Henry James, Marías also writes about James’s relationship with Conrad: ‘even though he admired his [Conrad’s] works, the man didn’t satisfy him completely, most of all because “at bottom” he was a Pole, a Roman Catholic, a romantic, and a Slavic pessimist at that’.38 Marías published his translation of The Mirror of the Sea in 1981 for the publisher Hiperión. In 2005, a new edition appeared for Reino de Redonda (Kingdom of Redonda), the publishing house Marías himself had founded in 2002. This new edition of El espejo del mar. Recuerdos e impresiones (The Mirror of the Sea. Memories and Impressions), dedicated to Arturo PérezReverte, includes Marías’s revised translation with a note on the text and the preface written by Juan Benet for the Hiperión edition. In the note on the text, written in November 2004, Marías’s discussion of the origins of the project becomes a tribute to Conrad’s masterly prose style: In fact it was I who suggested this book, at that time entirely unknown in Spain, for publication. And in fact it was Juan Benet that I heard mention the book for the first


‘una intriga más elaborada que la característica de la literatura popular’ (Díaz 1995, 121). For a fuller discussion of Benet’s response to Conrad, see Marta Puxan Oliva’s chapter in this volume. 36 ‘Su obra [. . .] me parece la más importante de la segunda mitad del siglo XX en España’ (Marías 1993, 28). 37 ‘Yo sé que quizá haya algunas cosas en ese libro [El siglo] que pueden parecer algo benetianas, pero también sé de dónde vienen y vienen de algunos maestros comunes que tanto él como yo tuvimos, por ejemplo Conrad, de quien yo había traducido recientemente  El espejo del mar y que por lo tanto sí que me había influido a la hora de escribir ese libro. En su caso, más Faulkner, en mi caso más Conrad; pero los dos a ambos’ (Marías 1993, 28). 38 ‘aunque admiraba sus obras, la persona no acababa de satisfacerle, sobre todo porque “en el fondo” era polaco, católico romano, romántico, y además un pesimista eslavo’ (Marías 2007b (1992), 67–8). 35


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

time, many years before 1981, and not just mention it: it was one of his favourite books in the entire history of literature, as it was to be mine as well, especially after facing its devilish and extraordinary prose and having to rewrite it in my tongue. You can imagine that, after rewriting it for the second time, I consider The Mirror of the Sea, somehow, even more of my own than any of my novels, stories or articles, and besides – it goes without saying – infinitely better than all of them, together or separate and without exception.39 In his preface to the text, Benet praises Marías’s translation as ‘the best expression of Conrad in Spanish’,40 and he concludes: ‘I think that a translation like this one forms in such a way that what comes of it is the style, pretty similar to Conrad’s own, of Javier Marías.’41 Both Benet and Marías were dissatisfied with local colour narrative and the social realism which had become dominant in Spanish literature. In their search for models in foreign literatures which could be helpful for their own purposes, Conrad was of paramount significance (see Mena et al. 1992, 356, and Marías 1993, 26). Alongside Javier Marías, Rosa Regàs is another Spanish writer who is an admirer of Conrad’s work, has translated Conrad into Spanish and shows traces of his literary influence in her own narrative fiction. It is also worth noting that both Benet and Marías published some of their books with La Gaya Ciencia (The Gay Science), the publishing house founded by Regàs in 1970 (see Marías 1993, 26). Regàs translated Conrad’s Typhoon in 1985 for the publisher Juan Granica (Barcelona). The first chapter of Regàs’s novel Azul (Blue), which earned her the Nadal Prize in 1994, is preceded by a quotation from A Personal Record in English: Can the transports of first love be calmed, checked, turned to a cold suspicion of the future by a grave quotation from a work on Political Economy? I ask – is it conceivable? Is it possible? Would it be right? With my feet on the very shores of the sea and about to embrace my blue-eyed dream, what could a good-natured warning as to spoiling one’s life mean to my youthful passion? PR, 113, in Regàs 2011 (1994), 11 As an epigraph for the novel, the passage sheds light on the meaning of its title and foregrounds the themes of youthful passion and disillusion. Conrad is often discussed as an enduring influence on the narrative fiction of Rosa Regàs. According to Inma Lyons (2008), for example, Conrad’s sea narratives, together with Heart of Darkness, constitute the most relevant intertexts

39 ‘De hecho fui yo quien entonces propuso este libro, enteramente desconocido en España, para su publicación. Y de hecho fue a Juan Benet a quien le oí mencionarlo por primera vez, muchos años antes de 1981, y no sólo mencionarlo: era uno de sus libros favoritos de la historia entera de la literatura, como luego pasó a serlo también mío, sobre todo tras enfrentarme a su endemoniada y extraordinaria prosa y reescribirlo en mi lengua. Pueden imaginarse que, tras reescribirlo por segunda vez, considero El espejo del mar, en algún sentido, todavía más propio que cualquiera de mis novelas, cuentos o artículos, y además – huelga decirlo – infinitamente mejor que todos ellos, juntos o por separado y sin excepción’ (Marías 2005, 27). 40 ‘la mejor expresión de Conrad en castellano’ (Benet 2005 (1981), 19). 41 ‘yo creo que una traducción de éstas forma de tal manera que lo que sale de ella es el estilo, bastante conforme con el de Conrad, de Javier Marías’ (Benet 2005 (1981), 19).


The Reception of Conrad in Spain

in Regàs’s Azul.42 Enrique Ávila López has compared Regàs’s novel Luna lunera (Moon, little moon) and Lord Jim in relation to the shared motifs of the journey, fantasy and the dream (2003, 167–8). As a passionate reader of Conrad, Regàs has also written about his work on several occasions. In the literary column ‘Las tinieblas de Conrad’ (Conrad’s darkness), Regàs briefly discusses the multiple layers of meaning in Heart of Darkness, and she concludes: The point is not trying to find in Heart of Darkness a moral message which in no way did the author seek to transmit to us. The point is not finding in that splendid novel or in the journey it tells the keys of human behaviour from some characters so well drawn that they seem to be, and in fact are, more real than our neighbours and the murderers we see on a daily basis. But if there is a reason for the eminence of a text like this, it is the movement it arouses in our intelligence.43 In 2000, Mondadori republished Regàs’s translation of Conrad’s Typhoon (Tifón) with a letter by Juan Bonilla appended as a coda. The letter offers a critical appreciation of Conrad’s art and Typhoon in particular, disguised as a fictional epistle addressed to Captain MacWhirr himself. Bonilla also singles out The Mirror of the Sea for praise, a true favourite among Spanish writers and a work that he ‘had read fascinated in [his] youth just because it had been translated by Javier Marías’.44 On the topic of the Conradian ‘voice’, Bonilla concludes, ‘That voice which, making of the ellipsis a refined art, succeeds in creating characters like you, MacWhirr, and also succeeds in making an illusory homeland of the sea.’45 The late Javier Reverte (1944–2020) made a masterful contribution to contemporary travel literature. His ‘African trilogy’ is heavily indebted to Conrad, whom Reverte had admired since his youth. In El sueño de África (The dream of Africa) (1996), the first book of the trilogy, Reverte echoes the well-known anecdote which Conrad had recorded in Heart of Darkness, as well as in the essay ‘Geography and Some Explorers’ and his autobiographical work A Personal Record: My readings and my childish dreamings, as had happened to Joseph Conrad, were invariably directed to Africa and, when I was about to reach my fiftieth birthday, I thought that at last I would go there. There aren’t, of course, great blank spaces on the


‘As in many of Joseph Conrad’s novels, the symbolic use of the sea is crucial in Regàs’s narrative. [. . .] Both protagonists, Marlow and Ures, enter darkness: the African Congo and a mysterious Mediterranean island respectively. [. . .] Both settings, characterized by mystery, deformation, and grotesque images of nature, symbolically express the protagonists’ introspective look’ (Lyons 2008, 90). 43 ‘No se trata de buscar en ‘El corazón de las tinieblas’ un mensaje moral que de ningún modo quiso transmitirnos su autor. No se trata de encontrar en esa espléndida novela ni en el viaje que nos cuenta las claves del comportamiento de los humanos a partir del de unos personajes tan bien dibujados que nos parecen y de hecho son, más reales que nuestros vecinos y que los asesinos que vemos actuar a diario. Pero si algo tiene de superior un texto como éste es el movimiento que provoca en nuestra inteligencia’ (Regàs 2000). 44 ‘El espejo del mar de Joseph Conrad, que leí fascinado en la adolescencia sólo porque la había traducido Javier Marías’ (Bonilla 2000, 156). 45 ‘Esa voz que, haciendo de la elipsis un arte refinado, consigue crear personajes como usted, MacWhirr, y consigue también hacer del mar una patria ilusa’ (Bonilla 2000, 158–9).


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

map of the continent any more, but the heart of Africa still keeps its mythic aura, or at least it kept it for me at that moment.46 In fact, the passage from Heart of Darkness referred to above is selected as an epigraph for the whole book, together with a quotation from Graham Greene and the Roman proverb Semper aliquid novi ex Africa (see Reverte 2003a (1996), 15). Conrad’s tutelary presence becomes pervasive in Vagabundo en África (Vagabond in Africa) (1998), the second book in the trilogy. From the opening chapter, Reverte recounts how he consciously sought to emulate Conrad’s own legendary journey up the river Congo: I was travelling in the wake of Joseph Conrad, leaving the port of Kinshasa far behind and heading for distant Kisangani, the Conradian ‘heart of darkness’, on the river André Gide and Graham Greene had also sailed, and where, long before, the canoes of explorers Stanley and Brazza had gone down. The exhilaration of fulfilling a cherished aim made me a happy traveller.47 Later in the text, Reverte remarks, ‘Joseph Conrad navigated the Congo in 1890, driven by a desire for adventure which made him compare himself to Don Quixote.’48 On Heart of Darkness, he states, ‘Conrad’s book is a parable on how the human soul, driven by lofty ideals, can slip to the border of barbarism, a question which has permeated twentieth century history and literature, and which Conrad lucidly anticipated.’49 A marked hypertextual dimension is one of the distinguishing traits of Reverte’s travel literature, and Conrad is the central figure which agglutinates all the other literary and historical references in the text (see Peñate Rivero 2005). Besides the Conradian background for the African trilogy of travel books, the influence of Conrad is also manifest in Reverte’s fictional works. Thus, for example, Lord Jim is a fundamental intertext in Reverte’s novel Lord Paco (1985) (see Dos Santos and Meuwly 2005). Among Spanish writers of a younger generation, several names are worth highlighting, including Juan Manuel de Prada and Arturo Pérez-Reverte. There was some critical debate with respect to the sources of inspiration for Morir bajo tu cielo (To die under your sky) (2014), de Prada’s historical novel about the Spanish Empire’s loss of the Philippines and the subsequent siege of Baler, in which an isolated group of Spanish troops continued to fight Filipino forces until 1899. According to Pere Gimferrer, it is ‘an admirable novel which combines Joseph


‘Mis lecturas y mis ensoñaciones infantiles, como le sucedía a Joseph Conrad, se dirigían sin remedio a África y, en el alba de mis cincuenta años, pensaba que al fin debía ir allí. No quedan, por supuesto, grandes espacios en blanco en el mapa del continente, pero el corazón de África sigue conservando su aura mítica, o al menos la conservaba en ese momento para mí’ (Reverte 2003a (1996), 20). 47 ‘Viajaba en la estela de Joseph Conrad, dejando ya muy atrás el puerto de Kinshasa y en dirección al lejano Kisangani, el conradiano ‘corazón de las tinieblas’, en el río que también habían navegado André Gide y Graham Greene y por donde mucho antes descendieron las canoas de los exploradores Stanley y Brazza. La euforia de cumplir un acariciado propósito hacía de mí un viajero feliz’ (Reverte 2003b (1998), 17–18). 48 ‘Joseph Conrad navegó el Congo en 1890, impulsado por un deseo de aventura que le hacía compararse a sí mismo con Don Quijote’ (Reverte 2003b (1998), 19). 49 ‘El libro de Conrad es una parábola sobre cómo el alma humana, impulsada por ideales nobles, puede deslizarse hasta el límite de la barbarie, una cuestión que ha impregnado la historia y la literatura del siglo XX y que Conrad adelantó con lucidez’ (Reverte 2003b (1998), 20).


The Reception of Conrad in Spain

Conrad’s spirit of adventure and the excitement of John Ford’.50 In Luis Alberto de Cuenca’s opinion, however, it is Jack London, and not Conrad, whose influence is patent in the novel. Juan Manuel de Prada settled the argument: ‘There is more influence from Conrad on the novel, and even some explicit tribute to him.’51 Arturo Pérez-Reverte, a successful contemporary novelist and a member of the Spanish Royal Academy, is a self-confessed admirer of Conrad, whose tutelage is evident in such works as La carta esférica (The Nautical Chart) (2000), El tango de la guardia vieja (translated as What We Become) (2012) and Los perros duros no bailan (Tough Dogs Don’t Dance) (2018), to name but a few (see Ramón García 2018). Passionate about the sea and a holder of the title of Yacht Master, Pérez-Reverte paid a heartfelt tribute to Conrad in his article ‘La Posada de Dickens’ (The Dickens Inn), which earned him the Mariano de Cavia Prize, awarded by the daily newspaper ABC, in 2019: ‘Conrad is the only writer of whom I have a photograph in my work library; the one who never deserts me and grows old with me.’52 That Pérez-Reverte holds Conrad as a moral reference-point is also clear from his article ‘Un barco no es una democracia’ (A Ship Is Not a Democracy), published in July 2020, in the middle of the crisis brought about by the pandemic. To end with some more contemporary references, there is, first, the prize-winning novelist Lorenzo Silva. Paul Van Den Broeck (2004, 623) cites Conrad among Lorenzo Silva’s favourite writers, and those who have had some influence on his prose. The distinguished novelist Antonio Muñoz Molina, another member of the Spanish Royal Academy, has also expressed his long-held admiration for Conrad on several occasions. In ‘Visiones de Joseph Conrad’ (Visions of Joseph Conrad), he clearly affirms this sense of affiliation: ‘Conrad is our contemporary in spite of the ideological anathemas which have befallen him in this age of virtuous simplifications.’53 In the light of the discussion above, it becomes apparent that the still prevalent idea that Conrad has not elicited much interest among Spanish readers, critics and writers does not hold water. The publication of Conrad’s works in translation by Montaner y Simón from 1925 onwards was an immense success, and Conrad has been a favourite among the Spanish reading public ever since. If there was a long period of neglect for Conrad in Spain, it was due to the tragic development of the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath, which equally affected every other area of Spanish cultural life. During the final years of Franco’s regime and with the advent of democracy, however, interest in Conrad revived in Spain with the appearance of many journals and publishing houses which released numerous new translations of Conrad’s works, and a parallel development of academic studies as departments of English were being established at Spanish universities. Yet the most significant area of interest in Conrad has arguably been in the field of literature among novelists and writers. A bond of deep admiration


‘Una novela admirable que aúna el espíritu de aventura de Joseph Conrad y la emoción de John Ford’ (see Arias Toribio 2014). 51 ‘Hay más influencia de Conrad, y algún homenaje explícito incluso’ (Arias Toribio 2014). 52 ‘Conrad es el único escritor del que tengo una fotografía en mi biblioteca de trabajo; el que no me abandona y envejece conmigo’ (Pérez-Reverte 2019). 53 ‘Conrad es nuestro contemporáneo a pesar de los anatemas ideológicos que han caído sobre él en esta época de simplificaciones virtuosas’ (Muñoz Molina 2017).


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

for Conrad has linked several of the most eminent and successful Spanish novelists of the twentieth century, from Pío Baroja and Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, through Juan Benet, Javier Marías, Pérez-Reverte and Rosa Regàs, to Juan Manuel de Prada and Antonio Muñoz Molina. Conrad has become a classic cultural reference-point in Spain, and his indisputable tutelary power continues even under the present political, economic and social upheaval.



In a recent volume geared towards the general reader, Héroes, aventureros y cobardes, Barcelona journalist Jacinto Antón speaks of his devotion to Conrad’s novel of 1900, Lord Jim. He goes on to explain how he continually returns to his copy, a now battered paperback, published in Spanish in the Catalan capital by publishing house Bruguera in 1981.1 In 2002, the municipal authorities in the city launched an exhibition in Catalan around the centenary of the first publication of Heart of Darkness in book form.2 In an introductory note to the catalogue for the exhibition, the then (Socialist) Mayor of Barcelona, Joan Clos, spoke of ‘the contradictory and profound meaning of [Conrad’s] masterpiece’ (‘el significat contradictori i profond d[e l’] obra mestra [de Conrad]), whilst placing it in the contexts of both the European colonization of Africa and the latter-day arrival of Africans in Europe, ‘motivated by different concerns’ (‘amb motius diferents’) (Institut 2002, 11). Since then, Conrad has been taught at university level as well as lectured on to a wider audience.3 These latter-day traces of the impact of Conrad on ‘common readers’ and at an institutional level, both municipal and academic, signal an intellectual and political interest in (as well as a passion for) Conrad’s writing in twenty-firstcentury Catalonia. However, almost a hundred years earlier, an impassioned intellectual and ideological interest had already been generated, giving rise to the Polish writer’s works in English being translated into Catalan during the decade of the 1920s. In an article of 1998, Sílvia Coll-Vinent convincingly demonstrated that the route for entry into Catalonia and Catalan translation for a number of late nineteenth- and early twentiethcentury novelists in English (Dickens, George Eliot, Hardy, Meredith, Henry James, Conrad, Virginia Woolf and the now lesser-known Maurice Baring and Margaret Kennedy) was via France. Translations into French and/or the critical defence of, for instance, Dickens by Taine (1856) and George Eliot by Montégut (1885), both of whom responded to the moral dimension reflected in the works of the two English novelists, would lead to Conrad’s ethical dimension acquiring a wider critical appeal.


Antón 2013, 467. The translation in question was originally produced by Cuban-born Ramón D. Perés, writer critic, journalist and a translator, who became the editor of the original L’Avenç journal between 1883 and 1884. For further information, see Ramon Pla i Arxé, ‘L’Avenç: la modernitazació de la cultura catalana’, lavenc-1881-1893/detall. 2 For the catalogue of the exhibition, which includes a translation into Catalan of Heart of Darkness by graduate in Catalan philology and translator Montserrat Vancells, see Institut de Cultura de Barcelona (2002). For further comment on the 2002 exhibition, see Iribarren 2003, 31. 3 During the academic years 2016–17 and 2017–18, Lord Jim was a set text on an undergraduate course devoted to the novel in English and delivered by Dr Marta Puxan-Oliva in the Departament de Llengües i Literatures Modernes i d’Estudis Anglesos at the University of Barcelona. In 2019, Dr Isabel Alonso lectured on 29 January on Heart of Darkness to a reading group dedicated to Africa, organized by the Museu d’Història de Catalunya in Barcelona.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Assessment by commentators and translators unsympathetic to French naturalism, Marcel Schwob (1888) and Teodor de Wyzema (1907), the latter writing in the Revue des Deux Mondes, and, later, novelist André Gide, in the Nouvelle Revue Française, further paved the way for an eager embracing of Conrad’s fiction; indeed, as Mark Fitzpatrick’s chapter in the present volume suggests, the novel in English, and Russian, came to be viewed as a healthy antidote to French naturalism. In the wake of Schwob’s arguing in favour of a new novel, Coll-Vinent further highlights ‘two essential concepts’ that were ‘to remain associated [in France] with the roman anglais: aventure and être vivant’, whilst also citing Jacques Rivière’s ‘seminal article’ of 1913 in the NRF on the novel of adventure (Coll-Vinent 1998, 212). And so, as Mark Fitzpatrick shows, Conrad enters into French as an author who foregrounds questions of moral concern in adventure fictions by convincingly depicting characters as living beings with psychological depth (Coll-Vinent 2010, 111). Gide subsequently took on the task of translating Conrad’s Typhoon (1903) into French (Typhon, 1921). However, that novella would not appear in Catalan until the turn of the decade, by which time a sample of Conrad’s fictional talent had already been made available in Catalan, in 1924, the year that Conrad made a grander debut in Barcelona in Spanish, thanks to a publishing venture founded and developed by Catalans, whose literary editor was a speaker of mallorquí, a variant of Catalan spoken in Mallorca. Before alluding more specifically to the Spanish publishing house, the literary editor in question or the Catalan review in which Conrad’s fiction first appeared, it is worth focusing some attention on the political and cultural contexts in Catalonia in the period between the wars.

Conrad comes to Catalonia, in Spanish The autumn of 1923 brought political upheaval to Catalonia: in the month of September, with the consent of the reigning monarch, Alfonso XIII, General Miguel Primo de Rivera established a military dictatorship in Spain. The new regime came to signify the undermining of the notable progress that had been made in the north-east of the country with regard to the consolidation of norms concerning the Catalan language and the development of a series of institutions and bodies.4 Together with initiatives in the private sector, the Catalan authorities had geared their efforts towards securing a distinct political and cultural identity, a consciousness of which had been growing at a pace since the turn of the century and had succeeded in creating a greater sense of national self-assurance in the wake of the founding of an administrative powerhouse for Catalonia, the so-called Mancomunitat, in 1914.5 Catalonia’s material prosperity had grown over the second half of the nineteenth century through the development of industry and commerce. The territory’s damp climate favoured the textile industry; thus, machinery was imported from Britain and manual labour facilitated by the arrival of migrants from poorer parts of Spain. Following the construction of the railway line between Barcelona and the coastal town of Mataró, north of the Catalan capital, in 1848,


For instance, the Institut d’Estudis Catalans (The Institute of Catalan Studies) (1907), responsible for publishing the Normes ortogràfiques (1913), designed to regulate the written use of the language; the founding of the Biblioteca de Catalunya (Catalan National Library) (1914); and the Escola de Bibliotecàries (School of Women Librarians) (1915). 5 For further information on the Mancomunitat, see Murgades 1987, 42.


From Unrest to Anthropology

the transportation of goods and people would become faster and more efficient. Industry was established in the capital as well as further afield.6 Books had been an important feature of the city since the Middle Ages and the publishing industry was now developing too, incorporating mechanization, the captains of industry keenly aware of business opportunities as well as the importance of the acquisition of knowledge for creating a well-informed citizenship. The leading publishing house Montaner y Simón was founded in 1867 by Ramon Montaner i Vila (1828–1921), born in the coastal town of Canet de Mar, north of the Catalan capital, and Barcelona-born Francesc Simon i Font (1843–1923).7 Originally situated in central Barcelona, in Plaça Catalunya, the publishing house moved into premises further from the city centre in the 1880s, on carrer Aragó, a building designed by the Catalan architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner (1850–1923), nephew of the elder of the founders, which would come to be within easy reach of the train station on the Passeig de Gràcia avenue. As Manuel Llanas has pointed out, on the basis of its volume of production and the quality thereof, Montaner y Simón would soon become the most distinguished publishing house in Spain and the one which led in exports to Latin America (Llanas 2007, 117). Speaker of mallorquí, Joan Estelrich i Artigues (1896–1958) was born in the Mallorcan town of Felanitx, though his use of the Catalan variant was coloured by his early education on another Balearic island, Menorca.8 A University of Barcelona Arts graduate, he joined the youth movement within the right-wing Catalan party, the Lliga Regionalista, becoming private secretary to the co-founder and leader of the party, Francesc Cambó i Batlle, before joining Montaner y Simón in 1924.9 According to his own account, towards the end of 1923, Estelrich had travelled to London where he met publisher William Heinemann, who sang Conrad’s praises. Some two years on, Estelrich would explain, ‘An interest in the author’s work followed my interest in the man. His texts have travelled with me around the world over the last two years and have been good companions.’10 It was before the end of August 1924, then, in the wake of Conrad’s death, that a contract was drawn up between the author’s executors and representatives of Montaner y Simón with a view to securing the rights to publish in Spanish translation the complete works in English, for both Spain and Latin America, of the Polish author.11 What became the Obras Completas (Complete Works) project began with the Spanish translation of Almayer’s Folly and Under Western Eyes in 1925 and continued into the years of Spain’s Second Republic (Bellver Poissenot 2017, 485–90), by which time Estelrich had published his own critical assessment of Conrad in two Barcelona-based journals in Catalan (Estelrich 1925a, 1925b), whilst ‘The Lagoon’, from Tales of Unrest, Almayer’s Folly and ‘Typhoon’ had appeared in Catalan translation. Before focusing on these texts, I wish to consider the cultural interest in Conrad in the context of a curiosity and appetite for adventure on the part 6

See Sobrequés i Callicó 1995. The Catalan surname Simon became Simón in Spanish. For further information on the founders of Montaner y Simón, see Sàiz i Xiqués 2008, 3–8, and Castellano 2008, 224–5, 228. 8 According to the Mallorcan intellectual Joan Pons i Marquès, Estelrich spoke ‘un mallorquí menorquinitzat’ (Pons i Marquès, cited in Graña 1996, 13). 9 For further information on Estelrich, see Coll-Vinent 2011, and the chapter by Marta Puxan-Oliva in the present volume. 10 ‘A l’interès desvetllat per l’home, seguí l’interès per l’obra. La seva lectura m’ha acompanyat en dos anys de rodar món. Em venia adequadissima’ (Estelrich 1996, 277; my translation, above). 11 A carbon copy in Spanish, a ‘Memorandum de Contrato’, dated 15 August 1924, can be consulted in the Joan Estelrich Papers (Fons Joan Estelrich, Biblioteca de Catalunya, henceforth FJE). 7


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

of a Catalan bourgeoisie that was driven to assert its desire for nationhood, materially equipped to satisfy its adventuresome inclination and anxious to figure on a par, at least, with other European nations.

Africa and the Catalan gaze In the year that William Heinemann spoke of Conrad to Joan Estelrich in London, the leading Catalan journal D’Ací i D’Allà published a twelve-page report on a hunting expedition along the River Gambia in West Africa, led by the Menorcan-born architect and landscape gardener, then Head of Parks and Gardens in Barcelona, Nicolau Maria Rubió i Tudurí (Rubio 1923). It appears that early on, Nicolau Maria had fallen under the influence of an uncle who was a lover of adventure;12 indeed, Tudurí himself remembered his Uncle John (Catalan Joan) teaching him how to catch birds as a child in Barcelona.13 The family had moved to the Catalan capital in 1897 and by the time the boy was growing up there, later to become an undergraduate in the School of Architecture at the University of Barcelona, an awareness of the world beyond Europe and Latin America was growing, not least through Spain’s colonial interventions in North Africa (Martínez Carreras 2009, 361–5) and at home by means of the ambitious publications of Montaner y Simón. Since the 1870s, the publishing house had been producing ‘World Geographies’ (1875–6, 1878–83) and had brought out a world atlas (1877). Later volumes were devoted to Africa (1888, 1908) and India (1901), with a major ‘New World Geography’ published over a six-year period, from 1911 to 1917.14 In 1875, in Valencia, Francisco García Ayuso published an account of David Livingstone’s travels in Africa (Ayuso 1875), and, as the final decade of the nineteenth century began, another Barcelona publishing house, Espasa, brought out Henry Morton Stanley’s Darkest Africa, translated into Spanish as En el África tenebroso (Stanley 1890).15 Rubió i Tudurí mentions both Livingstone and Stanley in his writing in the 1920s (Rubió i Tudurí 1926), whilst Luna and Nogué remark that between 1926 and 1932, four noteworthy books were published in Barcelona providing accounts of journeys to West Africa, two of which were authored by Rubió i Tudurí (Luna and Nogué 2008b, 322–4). Indeed, Luna and Nogué claim that African subjects came to rouse great enthusiasm in Barcelona towards the fin de siècle16 and into the new century. Hence, Rubió i Tudurí’s interest in the continent was far from an isolated phenomenon, though, it may well be argued, his Christmas in West Africa in 1922 was unique. Before examining the content of the article, it is worth considering where Nicolau Maria Rubió i Tudurí & Co17 chose to publish the account of their expedition. Under the title ‘Safaris 12 Bosch 1989, cited in Luna & Nogué 2008a, 203–04. 14 Nueva Geografía Universal: los países y las razas. Obra presentada en forma enteramente nueva, compuesta por eminentes especialistas de Europa y América, con arreglo a los más recientes trabajos e investigaciones de la ciencia (Barcelona: Montaner y Simón, 1911–17). 15 Espasa also published a translation of Stanley’s Through the Dark Continent (El continente misterioso), but this large format, illustrated edition carries no date of publication. 16 ‘A Barcelona, en efecte, es vivia amb gran passió la temàtica africana i des de molts punts de vista’ (Luna and Nogué, 2008b, 324). 17 The article is signed by himself and three others: his friends Josep Botey and Raimond Duran, and his brother Ferran Rubió, all of whom travelled together. 13


From Unrest to Anthropology

along the Gambia River’,18 it appeared in what Joan Manuel Tresserras has described as ‘the most spectacular of the illustrated journals ever published in Catalan’: D’Ací i D’Allà (From here and there).19 The journal first came out in January 1918 as a monthly magazine and sold for one peseta. A product of Editorial Catalana (1917–24), the cultural enterprise sponsored by the ‘versatile and affluent’20 Lliga Regionalista politician Francesc Cambó, it was intended that the journal would work alongside the Lliga Regionalista daily La Veu de Catalunya (The Voice of Catalonia) to reinforce the values of the neoclassical movement, noucentisme, which constituted the ideological foundations of the Mancomunitat. As a result, Tresserras claims, ‘the long shadow of the Lliga [Regionalista]’21 haunts the journal’s pages. However, he also recognizes its appeal for a significant sector of the Catalan bourgeoisie given the quality of the print, a subject matter of interest on occasions (the qualification is Tresserras’s), and the opportunity to read the best of latter-day Catalan writers as well as the fiction, plays and poetry of established foreign authors in translation. Art critic Alexandre Cirici claims that from the start, D’Ací i d’Allà sought to be ‘the high-life journal’,22 hence, the portrait which follows, which illustrates one of the pursuits of the restless ranks within Barcelona’s bourgeoisie in the roaring ’20s. A paratextual piece introduces the account of the expedition, identifying the four travellers as inhabitants of Barcelona23 (the text never loses sight of them as citizens of the Catalan capital or of the nation, Catalonia), whose day-to-day reality was, as is declared, not one spent in the pursuit of animals in the wild – that is, until this particular moment in time, when these pioneering citizens spent a month thus engaged. The text hails the intrepid nature of the travellers, describing the feat as heroic, and even ‘a new mark of glory for our race’.24 At this juncture, France and England are alluded to as the countries of ‘the great hunting or scientific expeditions’25 and such exploits are further described as having been on many occasions of even greater importance than the creation of new industrial manufacturing. It is then claimed that the current expedition was not undertaken as a recreational pursuit but carried out efficiently and with a scientific end in view; thus, the exploits of the four Catalans are potentially placed on a level with the achievements of the two aforementioned colonizing nations. Finally, a ‘strong desire’26 is expressed that the expedition might prove inspirational for Catalan youth who, ready for tough challenges, might follow in the footsteps of the four trailblazers, taking to the world’s great highroads in pursuit of major conquests so that in the future ‘our Catalonia’,27 small as it is, territorially speaking, might acquire ‘the spiritual vastness of great cultures and strong races’.28 18 ‘Caceres al riu Gambia’ (my translation of the Catalan title into English, above, and of the extracts which follow from the article, Rubió et al. 1923). 19 ‘la més espectacular de les revistes il.lustrades que mai s’hagi editat en llengua catalana’ (Tresserras 1993, 15). My translation, above, and in the quotations which follow. 20 ‘polifacètic i acabalat’ (Tresserras 1993, 15). 21 ‘l’ombra allargada de la Lliga’ (Tresserras 1993, 39). 22 ‘la revista de la high life’ (Cirici 1974, 462). The italics figure in the Catalan original; my translation, above. 23 ‘barcelonins’ (Rubió et al. 1923); page unnumbered. 24 ‘un nou segell de glòria per la nostra raça’ (Rubió et al. 1923); page unnumbered. 25 ‘les grans expedicions cinegètiques o científiques’ (Rubió et al, 1923); page unnumbered. 26 ‘vehement desig’ (Rubió et al. 1923); page unnumbered. 27 ‘la nostra Catalunya’ (Rubió et al. 1923); page unnumbered. 28 ‘la vastitud espiritual de les grans cultures i races fortes’ (Rubió et al. 1923); page unnumbered. Arguably, there are echoes of Thomas Carlyle in the discourse contained here. Carlyle and his notion of the heroic had been alluded to by the noucentista ideologue Eugeni D’Ors i Rovira (1881–1954) in his column in the Lliga Regionalista daily La Veu de Catalunya. See D’Ors 1950, 259.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

The account which follows, illustrated with twenty-three photographs, the first of which identifies the travellers as hunters, Catalans, Europeans and Catholics, whilst picturing them alongside Catholics of the indigenous community (Rubió et al. 1923, 164), reads as rather more recreational than research-like, even suggesting a hedonistic aspect of the experience, connected with the lifestyle of a class enriched in the wake of the First World War (Cirici 1974, 462). The opening paragraphs are conversational in tone and a vein of irony may be detected throughout the text, hence somewhat undermining the paratextual pomp that precedes it, before the article becomes more diary-like in describing the steps taken in preparation for the journey and the journey itself. The party embarked on 16 December 1922 on a French ship for an eight-day journey to Dakar, to be followed by a 400-km journey by train to Tambacounda and then in a lorry on to Missira and on again to the Nieri Ko camp, from where the party would descend to the River Gambia, the habitat of hippopotamuses, which the ‘Barcelona Four’ had come to hunt. The text expresses the party’s impatience to reach the hippos though it also registers the temptation to hunt the antelope en route, whose pursuit is assessed as being of ‘an obsessive liveliness and intensity’;29 at this same juncture, hunting the wild boar is also portrayed as ‘highly recommendable’. Without doubt, the text is punctuated by the thrill of the hunt and unreservedly expresses ‘the hunter’s passion’;30 however, it is also informative as regards the variety of animals and birds encountered. There are elephants, lions, buffalo, hyenas, crocodiles, monkeys, vultures and marabou storks, the text becoming overwhelmed, as it were, by the number and range of creatures, thus: ‘thousands of birds of ten thousand colours’!31 Finally, some detail is provided as to ‘housing’ arrangements, describing the bamboo and mud huts set up by the indigenous inhabitants accompanying the four Catalans, and the food provided by the local cook: boiled guinea fowl and roast partridge as well as bread made in situ and water to drink. These contribute to the success of the supper, as in Catalonia, we are informed. The account ends with the party paying a courtesy visit to the indigenous chief of Dialokoto with whom plans are made for a future journey, which promises to be longer and more ambitious. The text ends on a note of nostalgia for the African experience, a visit to the lions in Barcelona’s zoo providing a poor substitute for those encountered in the wild, and a note of regret in the present for ‘our pitiable imprisonment’.32

Capital Conrad/Conrad capital in Catalan The account provided by the four Barcelona citizens appeared in the March 1923 issue of D’Ací i D’Allà, and by the time Conrad’s first novel, Almayer’s Folly, was translated into Catalan by Josep Carner Ribalta and published in what is understood to be 1929, the metropolis had acquired an appetite for and knowledge of the exotic, not least through the pages of the journal. In addition, an interest in Conrad had been promoted, particularly via the articles by Joan Estelrich in the Barcelona journals La Revista de Catalunya and La Revista. With regard to an


‘una vivor i [. . .] una intensitat obsessionants’ (Rubió et al. 1923, 175). ‘la passió del caçador’ (Rubió et al. 1923, 170). Instances of such can be seen when the party rise at 6 am to hunt and in the emotion registered on contemplating the hippos in the river for the first time (Rubió et al. 1923, 171, 172). 31 ‘ocells mil, de deu mil colours’ (Rubió et al, 1923, 170). 32 ‘el nostre lamentable engabiament’ (Rubió et al. 1923, 176). 30


From Unrest to Anthropology

exotic aesthetic, Cirici mentioned the contemporary taste for tropical vegetation as one of the manifestations of the exotic, as reflected in the Paris Art Déco exhibition of 1925,33 and, more recently, Tresserras has drawn attention to the female figures that appeared in D’Ací i d’Allà by the illustrator Emili Ferrer, who exuded an Orientalizing sensuality.34 In connection with the promotion of Conrad, the first of Estelrich’s articles, in May 1925, highlights aspects of the writer and his writing which connect to some degree with the D’Ací i D’Allà account of the expedition to Africa by Rubió i Tudurí and Co., such as respect for the man of action, the depiction of adventure, the discovery of new worlds and the stuff of heroes. Following Conrad’s death in August 1924, the September issue of D’Ací i D’Allà published ‘The Lagoon’, the final story included in the author’s Tales of Unrest (1898). It was translated into Catalan by the young Barcelona dramatist, poet, author of short stories, translator and occasional contributor to La Veu de Catalunya Josep Maria Millàs i Raurell (1896–1971). The translation was preceded by a biographical introduction to the author, ‘Josep [sic] Conrad: a Pole who became England’s leading novelist’, attributed to Millàs-Raurell and illustrated by a photograph of Conrad as well as a caricature of the author, signed by ‘Matt’ (Millàs-Raurell 1924). ‘La llacuna’ occupies six pages of the journal, each page carrying an illustration (except the final one, which carries a reproduction of Conrad’s signature), all of which are attributed to an artist who appears to have been of Hungarian descent: Szathmary.35 Teresa Iribarren i Donadeu has drawn attention to Millàs-Raurell’s early interest in James Joyce, assessing the translator, critic and writer-in-the-making as ‘one of the transnational pioneers in the translation, critical discourse and creative reception’36 of the Irish writer in English (Iribarren i Donadeu 2004, 48) with regard to Catalan culture. As documented by Iribarren i Donadeu, in the month of February 1924, Millàs-Raurell published his rendering into Catalan of three poems from Joyce’s 1907 collection Chamber Music, in La Revista, and two years later his translation of the Dubliners tale ‘Evelina’ would appear in D’Ací i D’Allà. In a piece published alongside the translation of the short story, Millàs-Raurell expressed his awe in relation to Joyce’s achievements as a writer. In the introduction to the Catalan translation of Conrad’s ‘The Lagoon’, the translator appears less awe-struck in relation to the Polish writer in English, the text initially conveying the air of an assignment and seeming somewhat unsure of itself, concerned not to offend ‘those who know better’. It begins by expressing regret that ‘Josep [sic] Conrad’ was not familiar to Catalan readers, though the statement is immediately qualified by the claim that it was, rather, the common Catalan reader who was unacquainted with the Polish writer in English whilst those who enjoyed ‘English literature’,37 either in the original or through translation, did appreciate him and held him in high esteem. The remaining section of the opening paragraph asserts that Conrad may be considered ‘one of the most important figures within contemporary prose writing’.38 The text then goes through the


Cirici 1974, 459. Tropical vegetation is much to the fore in both ‘The Lagoon’ and Almayer’s Folly, the two texts by Conrad to first appear in Catalan. 34 Tresserras 1993, 26. For more on the impact of Orientalization on Ferrer, see Tresserras 1993, 23–4. 35 The name of the artist figures thus in the issue’s List of Contents and at the end of the translation, though the artist’s signature on each illustration appears to carry an accentuated second ‘a’. It is unclear whether it is ‘à’ or ‘á’. 36 ‘un dels pioners transnacionals en la traducció, en el discurs crític i en la recepció creativa’ (Iribarren i Donadeu 2004, 48). My translation, above, and in the extracts from ‘La llacuna’ which follow. 37 ‘la literatura anglesa’ (Millàs-Raurell 1924, 98). 38 ‘una de les figures més importants de la prosa contemporània’ (Millàs-Raurell 1924, 98).


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

biographical and literary listing with regard to writer and writing, ending with an allusion to Conrad’s current popularity in English-speaking countries as well as in those other countries that had an educated reading public with a literary appetite for the best (hence the aspiring writer’s bow before his elders and betters). ‘The Lagoon’ may be considered a challenging piece for the translator on a number of counts. The Malay setting of the short story brings in its wake culture-specific referents which lend authenticity to the portrayal of place, thus, the captain of the boat which brings the white man to Arsat’s clearing is referred to as the ‘juragan’,39 both early on in the text and in the final paragraph. Millàs-Raurell translates the term into Catalan, ‘patró’, on both occasions (Conrad 1924a, 100, 105), as he does when a Malay sailing boat, a ‘prau’, is alluded to, simply referring to it as a boat: an ‘embarcació’ (Conrad 1924a, 104) in Catalan. Another feature of Malay culture is also sacrificed in the Catalan translation of Arsat’s speech, when he is describing the speed at which the boat in which he and his brother, together with Diamelen, were making their escape: ‘the boat went as straight as a bushman’s dart, when it leaves the end of the ‘sumpitan’ (TU, 198–9), which is rendered into Catalan as ‘la barca anava tan ràpida com la fletxa d’un guardaboscos, quan deixa l’arc’ (Conrad 1924a, 103). It is not unreasonable to speak of the dart or arrow leaving the bow (‘arc’) in conveying Arsat’s comparison in Catalan, but the culturespecific sumpitan, meaning ‘a kind of blowgun for discharging arrows, used by the indigenous peoples of Borneo and islands adjacent’,40 is lost. It might be argued that, by eradicating the culture-specific referent both here and in the case of ‘juragan’ and ‘prau’, the translator sought to render the text more readily accessible to Catalan readers. However, on two other occasions, the indigenous terms are respected – the reference to a kind of vessel, a ‘sampan’, a ‘Malay flatbottomed skiff usually propelled by two short oars’, and to a piece of clothing, a ‘sarong’, a ‘loose garment made of a long strip of cloth wrapped around the body chiefly of the Malay Archipelago’ (Russo 2018, 79) – with explanatory footnotes being provided in the target text. Furthermore, when addressing ‘[t]he white man’, Arsat uses the term of respect ‘Tuan’, meaning Sir or Lord in Malay, a form which is used consistently throughout the source text and is respected in the translated tale. Finally, one reference to local vegetation, the ‘nipa palms’ (TU, 187), is carried over into Catalan, ‘palmeres de nipa’ (Conrad 1924a, 100), but, in another instance, the ‘nibong palms’ (TU, 189) simply become ‘palmeres’ (Conrad 1924a, 100). Overall, a tendency towards simplification may be detected either through outright omission or through a failure to replicate a more elaborate description in the source text. Thus, towards the denouement of ‘The Lagoon’, the text records, ‘Arsat burst out with an intense whispering violence’ (TU, 202), whilst in the Catalan, the quality of the violence is unspecified and, arguably, becomes less disturbing: ‘Arsat esclatà amb violència’ (Conrad 1924a, 104). In the longer paragraph which follows, in which the death of Diamelen will occur, the mist is described as vanishing into ‘thin flying wreaths’ (TU, 202). The Catalan omits ‘thin’, perhaps no great loss, though the sacrifice of the death imagery, by conveying ‘wreaths’ as curls, ‘rulls’ (Conrad 1924a, 104), may be considered regrettable. Another instance of metaphor being dispensed with is in Arsat’s description of the (intense) haste employed in paddling as he and his brother sought to escape, having kidnapped Diamelen: ‘The blades bit deep into the smooth water’ (TU, 198). In the


My emphasis, both here and in the words in bold which follow throughout the text. Definition taken from



From Unrest to Anthropology

translation, the verb ‘enter’ replaces ‘bite’ and punctuation is introduced, which reduces the sense of sheer intensity and speed in the flight, also achieved in the source text through the pile-up of monosyllables, the alliteration in ‘b’ (blades bit) and the accumulation of voiced consonants (blades bit deep): ‘Les pales entraven, profundes, en l’aigua llisa’ (Conrad 1924a, 103). Finally, I wish to focus on the omission of a phrase from the end of a paragraph in which, during Arsat’s absence in the hut in which Diamelen is in the throes of death, ‘[t]he white man’ ponders human mortality and the presence of evil, coming to see ‘the earth’ as ‘a shadowy country of inhuman strife, a battle-field of phantoms terrible and charming, august or ignoble, struggling ardently for the possession of our helpless hearts’ (TU, 193–4). The vision of the earth and humanity’s place in it is scarcely rosy but the binary nature of the phantoms, ‘terrible and charming, august or ignoble’, and the struggle therein, arguably provide some grounds for optimism. However, the paragraph ends on a more pessimistic note – ‘An unquiet and mysterious country of inextinguishable desires and fears’ (TU, 194) – but this is not the case in the Catalan version, where the phrase is absent. The translator may have overlooked it, but in the light of other instances of ‘transcreation’41 in ‘La llacuna’, the explanation may lie elsewhere. By the July, August and September issues of La Revista in 1925, the Catalan critic Josep Carbonell would be delivering his thoughts on moral reform, leading him to conclude that ‘our moral ill’ was, on the one hand, a consequence of ‘the general sickness in Spanish society’ and, on the other, attributable to ‘the literary spirit of the time’. He further elucidated in relation to the latter that ‘the ungodly current of literary practices in Europe (particularly fashionable in France), understanding as ungodly, not so much the lack of faith as the lack of respect, of awe of the sacred, of all the nuances of human dignity’, which were seen to have also ‘poisoned’ the literary spirit in Catalonia.42 Would the final (omitted) phrase, mentioned in the paragraph above, be an instance, then, of withdrawing from the Catalan translation what smacked of the profane? The question might seem impertinent were it not for three other instances in ‘La llacuna’ where very specific changes, of a moral nature, were made. Whilst addressing ‘[t]he white man’, Arsat pronounces, ‘We are of a people who take what they want – like you whites. There is a time when a man should forget loyalty and respect’ (TU, 196). With regard to the highlighted verbs, on both occasions the text is adapted in order to render Arasat’s claims less morally reprehensible whilst also placing ‘[t]he white man’ in a (relatively) more positive ethical light. Thus, ‘want’ becomes ‘need’ and the modal ‘should’ is replaced by the Catalan equivalent of the English ‘may’, expressing possibility in a given circumstance rather than an obligation or imperative.43 Later, Arsat will recall his brother, identifying both his sibling and himself as ‘freeborn robbers’ (TU, 198), where ‘robbers’ is rendered as (potentially) upright


Spinzi et al. 2018. ‘nostre mal ètic [. . .] la malaltia general de la societat espanyola [. . .] l’esperit literari del temps [. . .]el corrent irreligiós dels costumes literaris d’Europa (d’una guisa especial de França), entenent per irreligiós, no tant la manca de fe confessional com la manca de respecte, de temor pel sagrat de tots els matissos de la dignitat humana, [. . .] intoxicat’ (Carbonell 1925, 213). My translation. 43 ‘Som d’un poble que pren el que necessita – com vosaltres els blancs. Hi ha una època a la vida quan un home pot oblidar la lleíaltat i el respecte’ (Conrad 1924, 102; my emphasis). Later in the text, Arsat’s brother will recall Arsat’s pronouncement, lending it further approval: ‘It is right, [. . .] We are men who take what we want’ (TU, 197; my emphasis). The Catalan text repeats the change made in the earlier passage, that is, the verb change from ‘want’ to ‘need’: ‘És veritat [. . .] Som homes que prenem el que necessitem’ (Conrad 1924a, 103; my emphasis). 42


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

citizens in the Catalan, that is, freeborn men: ‘homes lliures de naixença’ (Conrad 1924a, 103). Finally, at the start of the paragraph which ends with the omitted phrase commented on above (‘An unquiet and mysterious country of inextinguishable desires and fears’), ‘[t]he white man’ is represented as peering into the darkness and the text continues, The fear and fascination, the inspiration and the wonder of death – of death near, unavoidable and unseen, soothed the unrest of his race,’ the sentence ending ‘and stirred the most indistinct, the most intimate of his thoughts’ (TU, 193). Arguably, the sentence becomes cryptic: what is ‘the unrest of [the white man’s] race’? What are ‘the most indistinct’ and ‘the most intimate’ of the white man’s ‘thoughts’, which become ‘stirred’? However, before this juncture, the highlighted elements in the sentence from the source text, reproduced above, have been modified in the target text: ‘death’ is not related to ‘inspiration’ and ‘wonder’; evocation (‘evocació’) and mystery (‘misteri’) are provided in the Catalan; and the soothing is removed – indeed, quite the opposite effect is described: the experience excited the true unrest of his race (‘excitava la inquietud genuïna de la seva raça’) (Conrad 1924a, 101). These changes deny the consciousness of death in ‘[t]he white man’ as either inspirational or capable of striking awe, and neither can such a perception deliver calm (soothing). Ultimately, the changes seem geared towards providing a more favourable representation of the Westerner, less guilt-ridden and suspicious of the indigenous Other. In the article devoted to Millàs-Raurell’s interest in and translation of Joyce’s writing (referred to earlier), Iribarren i Donadeu further signals the extent to which the Irish writer’s influence was reflected in a book of short stories published by Millàs-Raurell in 1927, La caravana (The caravan). However, in spite of what Iribarren i Donadeu signals as the ‘specular relationship’44 between two short stories in Dubliners and two in La caravana, as well as traces of Ulysses in another piece, she demonstrates how the Catalan texts become less transgressive and the extent to which (unlike Joyce’s) they bow to the values of the Catholic establishment.45 In the case of ‘La llacuna’, the text fundamentally follows Conrad’s story in terms of plot but, as is illustrated in the instances cited above, Arsat’s convictions are brought into line with the moral (Catholic) majority in Catalonia together with a concern to uphold a more positive portrayal of ‘[t]he white man’. Similarly, Arsat’s brother’s proud assertion of Arsat and himself as outlaws (‘robbers’) is censored.46 It might be said that 1925 was Conrad’s year in Catalonia. Following the publication of the translation of ‘The Lagoon’ in September 1924, Estelrich published articles on Conrad in May and June 1925; the poet, critic and translator Carles Riba mentioned Conrad in his much-cited lecture delivered in the month of June at the Ateneu Barcelonès (Riba 1979); and in the article by the English writer and critic Edward Shanks, carrying his reflections on the recent history of the English novel (translated by Millàs-Raurell and published in the final issue of La Revista for the year), Conrad was hailed as ‘the most outstanding representative of the English novel today’.47 Undoubtedly, the prospect was promising in terms of readiness on the part of the


‘relació especular’ (Iribarren i Donadeu 2004, 49, 50). Cases in point would be Manuel de Montoliu, Carles Riba and Maurici Serrahima. Their responses, and that of others, to Millàs-Raurell’s La caravana are cited in Iribarren i Donadeu 2004, 51–2. 46 For more on the short story in English gaining ground in Catalonia in contrast to the novel, given the latter’s transgressive evolution in terms of both technique and Christian morality, see Iribarren i Donadeu 2017. 47 ‘la figura més significativa de la anglesa d’avui’ (Shanks 1925, 242). My translation. 45


From Unrest to Anthropology

literary establishment to embrace Conrad’s output; however, the publishing infrastructure was lacking. The novels might well have been candidates for publication in the Biblioteca Literària, a series produced by Editorial Catalana, dedicated to foreign authors in translation and overseen by the journalist, poet and cultural mediator Josep Carner i Puig-Oriol (1884–1970), but Conrad’s Catalan heyday had passed48 and there would be no further Conrad capital in Catalan until the end of the decade.49 In the meantime, Montaner y Simón would be bringing out titles in Castilian within the ‘Obras Completas’ project, five titles appearing between 1925 and 1928.50 Conrad’s first novel and the first translation to be published in Spanish was Almayer’s Folly. La locura de Almayer appeared in 1925, which means that the Catalan translator of the novel, Josep Carner Ribalta,51 would have been able to access the Spanish version before the publication of his Catalan text in 1929. Born in the inland Catalan town of Balaguer in 1898, Carner Ribalta left Catalonia in 1921 and worked for a cousin’s business venture in London before taking up a post as a teacher of Spanish at the Berlitz School in Reading.52 In 1923, he took up residence in Paris, where he edited Estat Català (The Catalan State), a mouthpiece for the political party of the same name. Founded in 1922 by Francesc Macià i Llussà (1859–1933), together with others, Estat Català was inspired by the Irish struggle for independence.53 Macià’s political leanings inclined to the left, in contrast to the right-wing persuasion of the Lliga, and he sought to establish an independent Catalan republic.54 In this connection, Carner Ribalta travelled to Russia with Macià in 1925, subsequently co-translating Gorky’s essays on Lenin and the Russian peasant into Catalan.55 Carner Ribalta appears to have received a fee of 400 Spanish pesetas for his translation of Almayer’s Folly, produced by López Llausàs’s publishing venture Catalònia.56 In January 1930, the Catalan journalist and writer Just Cabot published what promised to be a review of Carner Ribalta’s translation in the Catalan daily La Publicitat. However, the major part of the two columns occupied by Cabot’s text are taken up with data relating to Conrad’s life and writing in general (eight paragraphs), before he homes in (in four paragraphs) on the translation

48 Editorial Catalana existed between 1917 and 1924, when it became financially unviable. It was then taken on by Antoni López Llausàs, who led the bookshop and publishing venture Catalònia (Murgades 1987, 50). By 1924, Carner i Puig-Oriol had become a Spanish diplomat, having already left Barcelona for Geneva in 1921. 49 A letter addressed to Joan Estelrich by Josep M. Aparicio of the Barcelona publishing house Mentora, dated 9 October 1926, reveals that Estelrich was attempting to bring out Conrad’s Complete Works (as undertaken in Spanish translation by Montaner y Simón) in Catalan. Aparicio suggests that a trial run of two translations might be attempted with a view to observing how the reading public responded (Fundacio Joan Estelrich). See also Coll-Vinent 2010, 112. 50 La locura de Almayer (1925); Alma Rusa (Under Western Eyes) (1925); Nostromo: relato de un litoral (1926); Lord Jim: narración (1927); Gaspar Ruiz (1928). 51 J. Carner Ribalta came to place a hyphen between his two surnames (thus, Carner-Ribalta), but the hyphen was not present in this early publication. 52 Carner 2017, 11–12, 151. 53 The Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed in December 1921 and divided Ireland into the twenty-six counties of what would become the Republic of Ireland and the six counties of Northern Ireland, remaining part of the United Kingdom. 54 For information on Carner Ribalta’s activities in the 1920s, see his memoir (Carner-Ribalta 1972). 55 Màxim Gorky, Lenin; El pagès rus, trans. Ventura Gassol and Josep Carner-Ribalta (Valls-Barcelona: Les Edicions de l’Arc de Barà, 1928). 56 See the unsigned carbon copy of a letter addressed to Antoni López Llausàs (by Joan Estelrich), dated 10 October 1929, in which Estelrich explains that six copies of the translated text should be sent to the translator at a New York City address. He also requests that the translator’s fee be paid, which was, as he recalls, 400 Spanish pesetas. File: Correspondència 1 (Correspondence between Joan Estelrich and Antoni López Llausàs), Fundacio Joan Eestelrich.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

proper, dismissing it as ‘a great disappointment’ and of ‘poor literary quality’.57 Cabot’s diagnosis is pronounced in conjunction with his praise for ‘the excellent French translations’,58 which, in Cabot’s view, are not plagued with the type of imperfection found in the Catalan rendering. He specifically mentions Anglicisms, a Catalan contaminated by Spanish, and grammatical errors, which he ascribes to negligence: the translation, apparently, not having been checked (according to Cabot) once it was finished or at the proof stage.59 Finally, Cabot provides some fourteen instances to illustrate his criticism, four of which cite the original English in inverted commas within brackets, and he claims that many more examples are to be found at the ‘appalling’ rate of more than one per page.60 In spite of Cabot’s writing off Carner Ribalta’s Catalan translation, it would be republished in 1985 (with some revision) by the Barcelona publishing house Edhasa in the Modern Classics series, dedicated to nineteenth- and twentieth-century authors.61 Undoubtedly there were instances in the translation of 1929 which fell short of what might be considered a satisfactory rendering of the original text in English. These are already in evidence in chapter 1. The novel opens with Mrs Almayer calling her husband to table, delivered in direct speech. The description in the brief paragraph which follows, focalizing Kaspar Almayer’s mental response, moves from descriptive narrative to free indirect discourse: ‘An unpleasant voice too [. . .] No matter; there would be an end to all this soon’ (AF, 3).62 Later in the chapter, Carner Ribalta respects Conrad’s use of elements of the Malay lexicon in the English text, providing footnotes for a reading public in Catalonia in 1929 who would be largely unfamiliar with Malaysia: ‘punkah’ and ‘prau’ are cases in point, though Dain’s allusion to the Dutch colonials or nationals as ‘Orang Blanda’ (AF, 48), that is, blond/fair men, defeats the translator in a pre-globalized world.63 Dain’s distorted use of tense in English, ‘Tuan, tomorrow we talk like friends’ (AF, 15) for ‘will talk’, is ‘corrected’ in Catalan, where the future tense, ‘parlarem’ (Conrad 1929, 18), is used. Dain is thus transformed into a more educated speaker or, more precisely, Conrad’s use of a non-standard English to mark non-English speech is not reproduced in the translation. A different issue is raised when, in chapter 3, Almayer’s ‘fleeting hopes’ (AF, 34) are rendered as floating in the target text: ‘flotants’ (Conrad 1929, 44),


‘una grossa decepció [. . .] poca qualitat literària’ (Cabot 1930). My translation, and in the following quotations from Cabot’s review. 58 ‘les excellents traduccions franceses’ (Cabot 1930, 4). 59 As documented in his memoir, Carner Ribalta’s political activity alongside Macià in the 1920s in Russia, France and Cuba appears to have been intense. See Carner-Ribalta (1972) and his son’s biographical essay (Carner 2017). George Carner, Carner Ribalta’s son, dates his father’s employment with the American cinema corporation Paramount between 1928 and 1931, when he was resident in New York and Hollywood (Carner 2017, 151). 60 ‘[la proporció] esgarrifosa’ (Cabot 1930, 4). 61 Clàssics moderns. E-mail correspondence, with Francesc Parcerisas, 13 January 2020, in charge of the Edhasa series when the revised translation of 1929 appeared. 62 ‘A més era una veu enutjosa [. . .] Tant se valia, però; aviat s’acabarien totes aquestes coses’ (Conrad 1929, 5). The emphasis added here in the Catalan highlights the conjugated verbs in a past tense, which undermine the use of free indirect discourse in the source text. Both these instances are maintained in the 1985 republication. 63 Carner Ribalta is misled by ‘Orang’, associating the term with simians and assuming that the indigenous population would refer to the colonial master in pejorative terms (Conrad 1929, 18). On other occasions, the Malay lexicon is reproduced in italics, or not, and not footnoted, e.g. in chapter 2, ‘Ubat’ (medicine) appears in italics in the target text, but no translation or explanation is provided, whereas ‘Mem Putih’ (white lady), in the same sentence and also in italics, is footnoted (AF, 31; Conrad 1929, 41). Again, in chapter 3, ‘Datu Besar’ (Big Chief) appears without italics or footnote whilst ‘surat’ (book) appears in italics (AF, 40; Conrad 1929, 50).


From Unrest to Anthropology

which sacrifices the implicit comparison with ‘the rapidly disappearing vapour’ (AF, 35).64 In the same chapter, Carner Ribalta takes on the role of the nineteenth-century narrator guiding his/her reader when, in the reference to ‘that joyous night’ when Almayer’s house received ‘the name of “Almayer’s Folly” ’ (AF, 37), the target text impresses on the Catalan reader, lest s/he miss the point, that the name is ‘significatiu’ (significant).65 Finally, with regard to chapter 3, Carner-Ribalta modifies Mrs Almayer’s vindication of her status as Kaspar Almayer’s spouse according to Dutch law: ‘I am your wife! Your own Christian wife after your own Blanda law!’ (AF, 40).66 In the target text, ‘Christian’ is replaced by the circumlocution ‘la teva dona davant l’església’, that is, before the Church, thus replacing any evocation of Christ or Christianity with a potentially more anonymous reference to the institution. Similarly, in Mrs Almayer’s recollection of her convent days, the (ironic?) reference in the source text to ‘the good Mother Superior’ carries no attributive adjective in the target text: ‘la Mare Superiora’.67 In chapter 4, whilst Nina contemplates the boat carrying Dain down the river, ‘the folds of white vapour’ are described as ‘shrouding the middle of the river’ (AF, 56). The imagery of death is forfeited in the target text, and what is rendered there as the thickness of vapours is described as repeatedly flying over the river.68 In chapter 5, two paragraphs focus on Nina’s perception of Dain and his of her whilst in a third, their encounters, overseen by Mrs Almayer, are referred to: ‘And they used to pass many a delicious and fast fleeting hour under the mango trees behind the friendly curtain of bushes till Mrs Almayer’s shrill voice gave the signal of unwilling separation’ (AF, 64). Carner Ribalta presumably considered further identification, beyond the pronoun ‘they’, to be required in the new paragraph, and refers to Nina and Dain as ‘the lovers’.69 The reference to the couple’s separation as ‘unwilling’ is not carried into the Catalan where it is described as ‘fatal’ (Conrad 1929, 80), that is, a consequence of fate rather than highlighting the agency of those affected by the separation – although it is also possible that the adjective is being used hyperbolically, simply to mean ‘terrible’. A later paragraph in the same chapter begins with a statement by the narratorial voice which may be identified with a sceptical (and relativistic) attitude rooted in Conrad’s worldview: ‘There are some situations where the barbarian and the, so-called, civilised man meet upon the same ground’ (AF, 67). Conrad emphasizes the scepticism by means of punctuation, more forcefully drawing the reader’s attention to ‘so-called’ through the (ironic) pause created by commas. They are excluded in Carner Ribalta’s translation.70 Towards the end of the chapter, the source text carries a fourteen-line sentence describing an encounter between Dain and Nina.71 The intensity of sensual effect is achieved by means of the pile-up of natural description, creating an erotic


In the 1985 republication of Carner Ribalta’s translation, ‘flotants’ (Conrad 1929, 44) is replaced by the Catalan equivalent of ‘fleeting’ (AF, 34) with regard to Almayer’s hopes, i.e. ‘fugisseres’ (Conrad 1985, 44). 65 Conrad 1929, 46. Carner Ribalta’s addition of ‘significatiu’ is maintained in the 1985 republication (Conrad 1985, 46). 66 My emphasis here and in the words which follow in bold in relation to Almayer’s Folly. 67 Conrad 1929, 52. The Mother Superior is qualified as ‘good’ once again in the 1985 republication: ‘la bona Mare Superiora’ (Conrad 1985, 51). 68 ‘l’espessor de baus [sic] que revoleiaven [sic] per sobre el riu’ (Conrad 1929, 71). Carner Ribalta uses ‘baus’ for ‘vapors’ or ‘bafs’ and ‘revoleiaven’ for ‘revolaven’ (or, rather, ‘revolava’ since the subject is singular: ‘l’espessor de baus’). 69 ‘els amants’ (Conrad 1929, 80). Not adopted in the 1985 republication (Conrad 1985, 75). 70 ‘Hi ha certes situacions en les quals els bàrbars i els anomenats homes civilitzats es troben en un mateix pla’ (Conrad 1929, 83). The same sentence appears in the 1985 edition (Conrad 1985, 78). 71 Within the paragraph that starts ‘He stood up attentive [. . .]’, the sentence in question begins, ‘In a moment [. . .]’ (AF, 71) and ‘Un moment més tard [. . .]’ (Conrad 1929, 88; Conrad 1985, 82–3).


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

charge (ultimately, disturbingly intertwined with a sense of ‘horror’ at the ‘corruption’ that is also part of natural processes); this is undermined in the target text by the single sentence being divided into three.72 However, Carner Ribalta’s marking off of a first sentence, following ‘a high canopy of dense foliage’, may be considered as not inappropriate since the lyricism of the text develops in what follows: ‘while above, way up in the broad day, [. . .]’ (AF, 71). In 1930, Conrad’s ‘Typhoon’ (1903) would be introduced to readers of Catalan. As was the case with La follia d’Almayer, El tifó was published by López Llausàs’s Catalònia in a translation produced by Alfred Gallard i Genís. Born in the Costa Brava town of Palafrugell in 1899, Gallard i Genís had published a book of short stories and a novel in the early 1920s and became a frequent contributor to both newspapers and journals already mentioned here: La Publicitat, La Veu de Catalunya, La Revista and D’Ací i D’Allà. A companion of Joan Estelrich, like the Mallorcan-born writer and cultural mediator, Gallard i Genís joined the youth movement of the Lliga Regionalista party and was also employed by the publishing house Montaner y Simón.73 Given Coll-Vinent’s existing analysis of Gallard’s translation of ‘Typhoon’, as mediated through André Gide’s translation of the novella into French (Coll-Vinent 1998, 220–2; CollVinent 2010, 112–13, 115–18), and, possibly, through a translation of the same source text into Spanish (Coll-Vinent 1998, 221), I shall turn my attention now to the growth of Conradian cultural capital in Catalonia in the 1930s. The cultural contribution of literary and art critic, teacher and translator Ramon Esquerra i Clivillés, born in Barcelona in 1909, has been particularly recognized since the turn of the twenty-first century through the research and publications of Iribarren/Iribarren Donadeu/ Iribarren i Donadeu (1998, 2003, 2003, 2006, 2010) and, more recently, in a full-length study by Guillem Molla (2014). Educated by the Jesuits and a graduate in Law and the Humanities, Esquerra’s premature death on the Ebre Front in 1938 abruptly ended the already ‘brilliant literary career’74 of a young man now acknowledged as having introduced comparative literature into Catalonia and regarded as the most tenacious and insightful critic of the contemporary novel in English, as reflected in the Barcelona press in the late 1920s and the decade of the 1930s leading up to the Civil War. His Lectures europees (1936) brought together a series of articles which had appeared in the daily or periodical press in Barcelona between 1932 and 1935, two of which were devoted to Conrad and the cinema. Both had originally appeared in June of 1932 in the Catalan journal Mirador, which displayed a particular interest in the new art form.75 In ‘Conrad i el cinema’ (Conrad and the cinema) (1932), Esquerra reminded his readers that three of the Polish author’s fictional texts in English were available in Catalan translation: ‘The Lagoon’, Almayer’s Folly and ‘Typhoon’. The translations generated further Conrad capital


The three sentences in the Carner Ribalta translation are reduced to two in the 1985 edition, which also introduces nine changes into the 1929 rendering at this juncture. 73 For additional information on Alfred Gallard i Genís, see;; See also an interview with Gallard following the Civil War (P.B., 1944). 74 ‘brillante trayectoria literaria’ (Iribarren 2016, 385). 75 In December of the same year, Esquerra devoted a ‘strictly literary’ (‘estrictament literari’) article to Conrad’s The Arrow of Gold, which was published in the liberal Catholic newspaper El Matí (Esquerra, 1932c). See Iribarren i Donadeu 1998, 70, n. 195).


From Unrest to Anthropology

in the shape of articles or reviews76 before the publication of another of the Tales of Unrest, ‘An Outpost of Progress’, was translated by Esquerra himself, together with one Francesc Detrell,77 and brought out in wartime Barcelona in November 1936. In his articles on Conrad and the cinema four years earlier, Esquerra had revealed his awareness of film versions of works by Conrad, pointing out that they had been unsuccessful, apart from the version of what he considered one of the author’s best works, Victory.78 Esquerra attributed the lack of success of such attempts to the fact that, in his view, the cinema falls short of the novel when ‘the soul of the characters’ is being represented, hailing Conrad’s rendering of ‘the moral and psychological anatomy’ as the most successful aspect of his writing.79 However, the articles were less interested in assessing the film versions of Conrad’s texts or in considering the impact of the cinema on Conrad’s writing. Indeed, as Esquerra points out, the author was already writing in the later part of the nineteenth century, prior to the cinema becoming the popular art form of the twentieth, yet he displays a technique which anticipates the camera eye: ‘the style and procedure displayed by Conrad are absolutely original, and he can be considered to be a forerunner of the major directors of today’.80 In this connection, he recalls a scene from The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’, highlighting the play of dark and light as members of the crew enrol on board the ship, described by Esquerra as ‘a series of magnificent close-ups’,81 and another from ‘An Outpost of Progress’, the moment when Kayerts spies Carlier’s feet jutting out from behind a corner: ‘a pair of turned-up feet. A pair of white naked feet in red slippers’ (TU, 113).82 It will be observed that in the Catalan translation, cited from Esquerra’s article of 2 June 1932, the ‘naked’ has been omitted. It was subsequently included in the 1936 translation of the whole text: ‘un parell de peus amb la punta cap amunt. Un parell de peus blancs, nus, amb sabatilles vermelles’ (Conrad 1936, 42). It might be argued that, on the one hand, the later inclusion reveals Esquerra’s/Esquerra and Detrell’s careful attention to the translated text – though it may have struck Esquerra in the first instance that ‘naked’ wasn’t necessary (if the feet were seen to be white, they were obviously naked). However, Esquerra/Esquerra and Detrell may have realized the importance of including this word, not simply in deference to the source text, but because of the collapse of ‘civilization’ being demonstrated in the denouement of the tale: the white men come to have naked feet too, highlighting their likeness to, rather than difference from, the indigenous population. Earlier I suggested that 1925 might be considered ‘Conrad’s year in Catalonia’, given the prominence assigned to the writer and his work on a number of fronts. Seven years later, however, Esquerra makes the point that Conrad had not become a highly popular writer,

76 Iribarren cites the names of sixteen writers and critics, among them Estelrich, Just Cabot and Esquerra (Iribarren 2003, 32). 77 I have been unable to verify the identity of Francesc Detrell. I wonder if he was Francesc Detrell Tarradell (Santiago de Cuba, 1908–Mexico City, 1990), resident in Catalonia since childhood before going into exile in Mexico in October 1936. See Domènech 2014. However, both Iribarren i Donadeu and Molla refer to Esquerra’s co-translator as Josep (rather than Francesc) Detrell: see Iribarren i Donadeu 1998, 5, n. 2; Molla 2014, 30. 78 Esquerra 1932b, 4. This was, presumably, the silent film version directed by French director Maurice Tourneur in 1919. Iribarren mentions Tourneur, together with other American film versions of Conrad’s works (Iribarren 2003a, 33). 79 ‘l’ànima dels personatges [. . .] l’anatomia moral i psíquica’ (Esquerra 1932b, 4). 80 ‘l’estil i els procediments que Conrad empra són absolutament originals i pot considerer-se’l com un precursor dels grans directors d’ara’ (Esquerra 1932a, 6). 81 ‘una sèrie de primers plans magnífics’ (Esquerra, 1932a, 6). 82 ‘un parell de peus amb la punta per amunt. Un parell de peus blancs amb sabatilles vermelles’ (Esquerra 1932a, 6).


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

claiming that this is ‘a natural consequence of the high standard of his writing’;83 as a result, his readers are few, though faithful (among the few, it might well be argued, Esquerra himself).84 Moreover, the critic claims that, in spite of the efforts of Joan Estelrich and others, Conrad’s fiction was often placed alongside the likes of Mayne-Reid or Salgari. Contrary to the decline in the writer’s reputation, as recorded by Esquerra, the latter’s own devotion to Conrad’s output is manifest in Catalan translations of two further stories of the six which make up Tales of Unrest: ‘An Outpost of Progress’ (mentioned above), which Esquerra and Detrell appear to have had some difficulty in publishing (Iribarren i Donadeu 1998, 69, n. 194), before it was finally brought out in November 1936 alongside Millàs-Raurell’s D’Ací i D’Allà translation of ‘The Lagoon’, dating from 1924, together with his biographical introduction, in the so-called ‘Literary Notebooks’, the weekly paperbacks first launched by the enterprising young poet, publisher and sometime journalist Josep Janés i Olivé in 1934.85 There is evidence that Esquerra also undertook the translation of the first story in Tales of Unrest, ‘Karain: a Memory’, though a full text appears not to have been completed and what was translated has never appeared in published form.86 Correspondence in the FJE reveals that there was an early interest in translating the entire Tales of Unrest into Catalan;87 however, apart from Millàs-Raurell’s translation of ‘The Lagoon’, no further stories from the volume appeared in Catalan until the Esquerra and Detrell rendering twelve years later. In the meantime, ‘An Outpost of Progress’ had appeared in Spanish translation in 1924, in an issue of the journal founded by José Ortega y Gasset in Madrid in 1923, the Revista de Occidente (The Western Review);88 no translator is acknowledged. It is possible that Esquerra and Detrell had consulted the 1924 Spanish translation, though the two translations do show a number of differences. However, an early mistranslation in both texts suggests that Esquerra and Detrell did consult the Spanish rendering of the previous decade.89 Nonetheless, Esquerra and Detrell’s translation may be considered competent overall; indeed, miraculously so given the wartime context. I shall limit comment here to four particular


‘una conseqüència natural de la bona qualitat de la seva obra’ (Esquerra, 1932a, 6). Doubtless, Conrad’s moral preoccupation would have an appeal for Esquerra, apart from his professional interest as a critic and teacher of literature with regard to questions of form and technique. 85 For further information on Josep Janés i Olivé and the Quaderns Literaris, see Hurtley 1986, 128–45, 354–62, and Mengual 2013,138–67. 86 A manuscript of twenty-eight pages (a rendering of only the first and third sections of the short story), entitled ‘Kárain [sic]: un record’, is preserved in the Fons Ramon Esquerra, deposited at the Biblioteca de Catalunya (Molla 2014, 32). See 87 See the correspondence between Artur Perucho i Badia (1902–56) and Joan Estelrich in the FJE, dating from February 1929 to April 1931. In a letter from Perucho to Estelrich, dated 10 April 1931 (four days before Spain’s Second Republic was declared), Perucho enquires, ‘What are you thinking of doing with my translation of Conrad’s Tales of Unrest?’ (‘Què penseu fer amb la traducció dels “Contes d’inquietud” de Conrad que jo vaig traduir?’; my translation). Coll-Vinent refers to this correspondence (Coll-Vinent, 2010, 113, n. 77). 88 A footnote to the short story explains that the translation has been authorized by Conrad’s executors, Ralph L. Wedgewood and R. Curle, and by Montaner y Simón (Conrad 1924b, 52). Two further stories appeared in Spanish translation in the Revista de Occidente: ‘La bestia’ (1926) and ‘Gaspar Ruiz’ (1927). 89 The list of articles belonging to Kayerts and Carlier that litter the plank floor of the ‘building’ where the two white men reside includes ‘town wearing apparel’ (TU, 87). The Spanish translation supplies ‘ropa de uso destrozada’ (Conrad 1924b, 53), and the Catalan ‘ropa feta malbé’ (Conrad, 1936, 12), both of which refer to old, worn or threadbare clothes. More recently, Miquel Barceló provided an appropriate translation into Catalan: ‘roba d’anar a ciutat’ (Conrad 2005, 24). 84


From Unrest to Anthropology

instances, two of which are cultural and two stylistic, which illustrate some of the challenges faced in translating the text. The source text repeatedly refers to the Sierra Leonean, Henry Price, and other representatives of the indigenous population as ‘niggers’, which appears in the target text as ‘negre’ (plural ‘negres’), that is, a black-skinned person (or people). No indication is provided in the target text that the term used in the source text conveys ethnic contempt towards the Other. With regard to Price, the source text establishes early on that he speaks both English and French, and the character will reveal himself on more than one occasion, in direct speech, in English or in Pidgin. Thus, when he challenges Kayerts, who is ‘nearly burst[ing] with indignation’ on realizing that Price (Makola) has traded men for tusks, the latter keeps his cool: ‘ “I did the best for you and the Company,” said Makola imperturbably. “Why you shout so much? Look at this tusk” ’ (TU, 104).90 The target text does not reflect the distortion of tense and interrogative, but simply renders the text in Catalan as if it came from standard English usage: ‘Why are you shouting so much?’91 With regard to style, Esquerra and Detrell replicate the death imagery introduced around Kayerts’s hysteria in realizing that Carlier’s body is a corpse, for which he is responsible: He stood up, saw the body and threw his arms above his head with a cry like that of a man who, waking from a trance, finds himself immured forever in a tomb. [ . . . ] A shriek inhuman, vibrating and sudden, pierced like a sharp dart the white shroud of that land of sorrow. Three short impatient screeches followed, and then, for a time, the fogwreaths rolled on, undisturbed, through a formidable silence. TU, 115–16 The ‘tomb’ (Catalan tomba) and ‘shroud’ (Catalan mortalla) are present in the target text but the shape of wreaths produced by the fog, as described in the source text, become the equivalent of belts, bands or strips of fog (Catalan llenques) (Conrad 1936, 45). Finally, in the penultimate sentence of the text, Kayerts’s stiffened corpse, ‘hanging by a leather strap from the cross’, is parodically described as (seemingly) ‘standing rigidly at [sic] attention’ and further (literally) held up to ridicule: ‘with one purple cheek playfully posed on the shoulder’ (TU, 117). It might be argued that the thrust of the mockery, the degree of grotesqueness and the representation of the forfeited established order achieved through colonial rule is diminished in the target text by ‘painting’ both cheeks purple.92 The publication of the Esquerra and Detrell translation would mark the end of Conrad’s cultural capital in Catalan for a generation. General Franco’s regime imposed Castilian Spanish in official oral and written contexts, yet, paradoxically, translation (into Spanish, perforce) from a number of (mainly) European languages, became a major cultural source of expression in the context of the Second World War and into the post-Civil War period in Spain, largely via Barcelona-based publishing houses. However, translation was also frowned upon by relentless


My emphasis here and in the following words in bold in this same paragraph. ‘Per què crideu tant?’ (Conrad 1936, 31). See also Price’s calling out to Kayerts towards the end of the story, as the steamer arrives, ‘They whistle for the station. I go ring the bell. [. . .] I ring’ (TU, 116) Again, this is translated into standard Catalan: ‘Xiulen [. . .] Vaig a tocar la campana. [. . .] Jo toco’ (Conrad 1936, 46). 92 ‘una de les purpúries galtes’ (Conrad 1936, 47). 91


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

representatives of the newly-established status quo, who viewed the ideas or practices represented in the imported literature as threatening ‘sound Spanish values’, hence the mutilation to which many of the texts were subjected by zealous ‘readers’, employed by the regime’s censorship apparatus (Hurtley 2007).93 Apart from a 1966 version (Catalan versió) of ‘Typhoon’ by writer and translator Ramon Folch i Camarasa, published by the Barcelona publishing house Nova Terra, founded in 1958 by a group of progressive Christians (Llanas 2006, 116–20), translations of Conrad into Catalan would only begin to surface once again following the death of the dictator, the establishment of the Spanish Constitution of 1978 and the process of bringing the Catalan language back into her own through the task of ‘normalització’.94 Thus it is that, since the late 1970s, there have been translations of texts by Conrad in every decade, both the republication of early renderings (as in the case of the 1985 La follia d’Almayer by Carner-Ribalta) as the recovery of the language took shape, and the production of new translations. Lord Jim was published in 1979 by Proa, a publishing house originally founded in Badalona, some ten kilometres north of Barcelona, in 1928, which had issued a substantial number of texts in translation up until the Civil War.95 Other publishing houses, for the most part established in Barcelona, have been bringing out Conrad titles since then: for instance, the translation of ‘Typhoon’ of 1966 (Laertes, 1982) and the translations of ‘Heart of Darkness’ (En el cor de les tenebres, Destino,1989) and Nostromo (Nostromo, Edicions 62, 1989). In 1986, Edicions Bromera was founded in Alcira, situated in the Autonomous Community of Valencia, by Josep Gregori Sanjuan, who was born in the Valencian town known as Alzira in Castilian Spanish. Bromera brought out another translation of ‘Typhoon’ in 1990 whilst, in the same decade, the 1979 translation of Lord Jim was republished in Proa’s ‘Clàssics moderns’ series (1997), and the 1966 version of Typhoon was again republished, now by Columna, in the same year. In 1998, Edicions 62 brought out the 1989 translation of ‘Heart of Darkness’. The Mallorcan publishing house Ensiola Editorial was founded in 2003, in the town of Muro, and in 2005 published Una avançada del progrés, another translation of Conrad’s ‘Outpost of Progress’ by the Mallorcan historian Miquel Barceló. Barceló also provided an introduction to the edition, which, additionally, included illustrations by the Mallorcan artist Maria Carbonero. In 2006, Josep Marco, a lecturer in the Facultat de Traducció i Interpretació (Faculty of Translation and Interpretation) at the Universitat Jaume I in Castelló, produced an adaptation of The Secret Agent (L’agent secret: una història senzilla), including an introduction, glossary and ideas for teaching the text, for Tres i Quatre, the Valencia-based publishing house.96 The second decade of the twenty-first century has been particularly rich in translations of Conrad’s texts, seven translations having been produced by both well-established publishing houses (as in the case of Edicions 62, a product of the early 1960s) and by more recent concerns (such as Viena Edicions, founded in 1991); an edition of the Tales of Unrest (Contes del neguit,


Historian Josep Benet claimed that the state established under General Franco following the Civil War was guilty of attempting cultural genocide in Catalonia. See Benet 1979, 11–12, and Benet 1995. Manuel Llanas speaks of genocide without further qualification (Llanas 2006, 22). 94 See 95 Full details of the 1979 translation of Lord Jim and of the translations mentioned in the remaining part of this paragraph will be found in the ‘Translations and editions in Catalan and Valencian’ list at the end of the present volume. 96 For further information on Josep Marco, see the chapter by Jacqueline Hurtley and Marta Ortega Sáez in Elinor Shaffer and Catherine Brown (eds), The Reception of George Eliot in Europe (London: Bloomsbury, 2016), 254–7.


From Unrest to Anthropology

Alpha, 2012); a rendering of ‘Amy Foster’ (Allò que el mar ens duu i allò que ens treu (What the sea brings and what it takes away from us), Enric Peres i Sunyer, 2013); another translation of ‘Heart of Darkness’ (El cor de les tenebres, Edicions 62, 2014) with a prologue and notes, aimed at young readers; a translation of The End of the Tether (Amb la corda al coll (With the rope wrapped tightly around one’s neck), Viena, 2015); and, two years on, yet another translation of ‘Heart of Darkness’ (El cor de les tenebres, 2017), published by the Valencia publishing house Sembra Llibres, founded by Joan Carles Girbés and Xavi Sarrià in 2014. In the same year, the L’Avenç publishing concern (producing books and a journal, L’Avenç) brought out a translation of Conrad’s A Personal Record (Memòria personal) and, in the following year, also published The Shadow-Line (La línia d’ombra). Finally, in 2019, L’Avenç published a new translation of Almayer’s Folly (La follia d’Almayer). Another valuable dimension of Conrad’s reception in the later part of the twentieth century are the academic articles produced in Catalan and published in both paper format and online.97

Conrad rewritten, rehistoricized and retranslated The most recent Catalan rendering of Conrad’s widely recognized classic ‘Heart of Darkness’ (El cor de les tenebres), with an introduction by the Catalan anthropologist and novelist Albert Sánchez Piñol, was produced by Yannick Garcia, a graduate of the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona in Translation and Interpretation, and a practising translator and a writer himself in Catalan. In the mid-1990s, some hundred years on from the serialized publication of ‘The Heart of Darkness’ in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine (1899), Sánchez Piñol was carrying out field work with the Mbuti people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, ‘in a place very close, in geographical terms, to where Conrad situated Kurtz’s terrible camp base’.98 Whilst Sánchez Piñol was there, the Civil War broke out, leading the ‘poor anthropologist’99 to witness the death and destruction that ravaged many members of the Mbuti community, murdered by soldiers in particular battles, in executions or through hunger, some having taken to the forest in an attempt to escape and finding themselves without any means of sustenance. The writer reflects, ‘War is one of the forms that the horror takes. And our experience of war becomes the horror of horrors.’100 Sánchez Piñol records returning from Africa embittered, leading him to abandon the project of producing a PhD, but prompting the birth of the writer. His highly successful first novel, La pell freda (Cold Skin)101 was published on the occasion of the centenary of the original publication of Heart of Darkness in book form (1902), and he has claimed that his text is ‘an explicit version’102 of Conrad’s, the protagonist’s final words providing a retort to

97 See Eduard Vilella, ‘El macabre espai de l’altre. Tenebra i evolució personal en Joseph Conrad’, Els Marges (Barcelona) 53 (September 1995): 101–8, and Javier Giacomelli, ‘El motiu de la mort en L’agent secret de Joseph Conrad’, Lletres de Filosofia i Humanitats (Barcelona) 2 (2010): 114–33. 98 ‘en un lloc geogràficament molt proper on Conrad situa l’espantós camp base de Kurtz’ (Sánchez Piñol 2017, 16). My translation. 99 ‘pobre antropòleg’ (Sánchez Piñol 2017, 17). 100 ‘La guerra és una de les formes de l’horror. I la nostra vivència de la guerra, l’horror de l’horror’ (Sánchez Piñol 2017, 17). 101 Translated into English by Cheryl Leah Morgan (Edinburgh: Canongate Books Ltd, 2007). 102 ‘una versió explícita’ (Sánchez Piñol 2017, 17).


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Kurtz’s. Sánchez Piñol’s second novel, Pandora en el Congo (Pandora in the Congo),103 takes the reader to Africa, but his first novel is situated on a remote island in the South Atlantic where the protagonist, a disillusioned Irish Republican taking up the post of meteorologist on the island, with a particular focus on winds, will, initially, join forces with the only other human inhabitant, the pugnacious lighthouse keeper, an Austrian exile from the First World War. The attitude of the Westerners towards the reptile-like inhabitants of the island echoes that of nineteenth-century colonizers as depicted in ‘An Outpost of Progress’ or ‘Heart of Darkness’: the indigenous Other is constructed as monstruous and subjected to the will of the colonizer. The unnamed protagonist of Cold Skin comes to see that the indigenous inhabitants of the island are not the monsters he and his fellow European have perceived, but the final paragraph of the novel marks the measure of his disillusionment as he contemplates the lighthouse keeper, bellicose as ever: ‘Without a doubt, the world was a predictable place with nothing new to offer.’104 In 2017, Conrad’s A Personal Record (Memòria personal) was translated and brought out by the publisher of L’Avenç and journal editor Josep Maria Muñoz. In 2018, L’Avenç published The Shadow-Line (La línia d’ombra) in a translation by the translator and graduate in Romance Philology Marta Bes Oliva, a graduate in French and English translation from the Escola Universitària de Traductors i Intèrprets (EUTI) at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. In the same year, ‘El cor de Conrad’ (The Heart of Conrad) appeared in the journal L’Avenç, the translation of Colm Tóibín’s review of Maya Jasanoff ’s The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a Global World (2017), originally published in the New York Review of Books some three months earlier (Tóibín 2018). Most recently, 2019 saw the publication of Josep Maria Muñoz’s new translation of Almayer’s Folly (La follia d’Almayer). Muñoz is a graduate in History and, on a personal level, his interest in Conrad was acquired ‘historically’, that is, from a grandfather, a lawyer by profession, who was interested in adventure and the sea (having descended from a family who earned their living as sailors in Tarragona) and who was a fond reader of Conrad.105 On a professional level, as both publisher and historian, Muñoz was interested in incorporating Conrad’s memoir in the firm’s output since he values diaries and memoirs for the historical insights they may provide, and with regard to Conrad’s memoir in particular, he found the unconventional nature of the memoir attractive: ‘the fact that it wasn’t a “normal” autobiography’, that it disrupted the borders of the genre.106 He also valued it because of the text’s link to Conrad’s own writing.107 Given that a number of references to the writing of Almayer’s Folly are present in A Personal Record, it is perhaps not surprising that Muñoz should go on to translate Conrad’s first novel, a text which the translator-historian found of particular interest given the dynamic of the past (Almayer, the father) and the present/future (Nina, the daughter), with the figure of the offspring acquiring, in Muñoz’s view, ‘a degree of nobility’.108 Indeed, Muñoz regards Nina as the protagonist of the novel, hence the cover chosen for the paperback edition, which represents the face of a young Indonesian woman. Only half of the face is visible in the close-up, the other half veiled and in darkness, thus reflecting (arguably) the ambivalent role 103

Translated into English by Mara Faye Lethem (Edinburgh: Canongate Books Ltd, 2009). ‘Definitivament el món era un lloc previsible i sense novetats’ (Sánchez Piñol 2018, 299). (My translation above.) 105 Interviews with Josep Maria Muñoz, 17 July 2019 and 23 December 2019. 106 ‘el fet que no fos una autobiografía “normal” ’ (interview with J. M. Muñoz, 23 December 2019). 107 See also Serra 2017. 108 ‘certa noblesa’ (interview with J. M. Muñoz, 23 December 2019). 104


From Unrest to Anthropology

performed by the character until she comes to fully assert the identity denied her by the Law of the Father.

Conclusion Almost a century has passed since Joan Estelrich met William Heinemann in the autumn of 1923 in London. That November encounter was the first step in Conrad’s work becoming accessible in Spanish translation before the appearance of ‘The Lagoon’ in Catalan shortly after the author’s death. The qualities highlighted by Estelrich in the articles he devoted to Conrad in the 1920s – a sense of duty, of loyalty, of perseverance (the stuff of heroes); a respect for order, for efficiency and discipline – were values with an appeal in Barcelona, ‘a growing capital city’109 from the second half of the nineteenth century, whose industrial impresarios required a workforce without a bent for Bolshevism or anarchist experimentation. Conrad’s Catholic roots, his parents’ resistance to imperialist Russia, the writer’s anti-revolutionary convictions110 and his own cosmopolitan identity would also strike a chord with the Catholic intelligentsia of Catalonia, as would the nationalist struggle of Conrad’s parents and the experience of exile. After Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship in the 1920s, Conrad was championed by Ramon Esquerra in the increasingly revolutionary decade of the 1930s, through the latter’s attention to film adaptation, but also on account of Esquerra’s response to Conrad’s groundbreaking literary technique coupled with the Catalan’s talent as literary critic and translator. Following the Civil War, the Catalan reading public was deprived of translations of Conrad, and much else, in Catalan, for a generation or more. However, since the later 1960s, and, more particularly, from the late 1970s onwards, Conrad has been a constant presence as the Catalan language gradually regained ground as an open means of communication in public life and as publishing houses in Catalan multiplied, embracing Conrad’s works. Since the decade of his death, Conrad’s writing has also complemented a taste for the exotic as part of Catalonia’s cosmopolitan aspirations, an enthusiasm for travel and a curiosity about territories and cultures beyond the West. The growing critical awareness and knowledge of imperial ruthlessness would develop in the second half of the twentieth century with the fin de siècle and early twenty-first century producing a post-colonial re-assessment and latter-day philosophical angst. In this connection, J. M. Muñoz has identified in Conrad ‘a contemporary vision with regard to colonialism’ and an awareness of ‘Europe’s failure towards indigenous peoples’.111 Muñoz’s view is shared by Sánchez Piñol, more specifically with regard to Africa (Sánchez Piñol 2017, 17), although his first-person narrator’s final reflections in La pell freda (Cold Skin) go on to express an ubiquitous sense of hopelessness, not unlike the scepticism found in Conrad, it might be claimed, in spite of the likes of Captain Giles in The Shadow-Line. However, in 2017, the Catalan novelist expressed, with some restraint, what he described as his forerunner’s major discovery: ‘Perhaps Conrad’s great find has been to show


‘una capital en expansió’ (Castellano 2008, 228). See Conrad’s pronouncement on ‘[t]he revolutionary spirit’ in ‘A Familiar Preface’ (APR, xix). 111 Interview with J. M. Muñoz, 23 December 2019. 110


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

us that, when all is said and done, the authentic heart of darkness lies in the depths of our own hearts.’112 Whether or not this is the case, in the words of the narrator of The Shadow-Line, be it in Poland, Russia, Ukraine, France, England, Malaysia, Africa or Catalonia, ‘One goes on’ (SL, 3), as do the translations of Conrad in Catalonia. The texts speak to this time and place today, more than ever.


‘Potser la gran troballa de Conrad hagi estat mostrar-nos que, després de tot, l’autèntic cor de les tenebres es troba a les tenebres del nostre cor’ (Sánchez Piñol 2017, 17).



Joseph Conrad’s reception in Spain is extensive but also belated. Initially, it flourished immediately after his death during a period in which Spain sought renovation by setting its eyes on Europe’s modernization. This Spanish renovation began at the turn of the twentieth century, but Spain vamped up its efforts in the 1920s and 1930s, a period that produced an avant-garde and raised awareness of the importance of investing in cultural education personally and institutionally. The Spanish Civil War cut short some of these initiatives, which were deferred or reconfigured with publications that, at least ideologically, became much less progressive with the establishment of the Franco dictatorship (1939–75). Although the publication of some authors became problematic during this period, Joseph Conrad’s work saw an uptick in the 1940s. Finally, from the 1960s onwards, the number of translations of his works has increased substantially, coinciding with a publishing boom and with the cultural regeneration that came with (and persisted after) the end of the dictatorship, with the number of editions rising enormously. Joseph Conrad has been acknowledged as a fully established canonical author in Spain ever since. This is a story that, like any reception story, branches out in multiple directions. But the branches of this tree are still only partially discernible. This chapter offers three vignettes – roughly corresponding to three historical moments and three kinds of reception figure. To complement the chapters by Daniel Zurbano García and Jacqueline Hurtley in this volume, and the earlier work by Sílvia Coll-Vinent and Teresa Iribarren, this chapter focuses on key aesthetic and social concerns in Conrad’s work that attracted Catalan and Spanish intellectuals and explores the ways in which these Conradian concerns ran parallel to or directly influenced their personal editorial and literary projects. This is thus an approach that, rather than adopting a sociological perspective, traces Conrad’s reception in terms of a dialogue with his ideas and literary poetics. The first vignette is devoted to Conrad’s early editor, Joan Estelrich; the second vignette focuses on a Catalan writer and critic from the 1940s, Josep Pla; and the third vignette considers a Spanish writer who flourished in the 1970s and 1980s, Juan Benet. The three are among the finest editors, critics and writers that Spain and Catalonia have ever produced, though they have not always received sufficient recognition.

First vignette: Joan Estelrich, editor The building in Barcelona that currently hosts the Fundació Tàpies, devoted to the contemporary artist Antoni Tàpies, is well known to tourists and citizens alike. Its history, however, is much less well known. Until 1981, the building served as the Montaner y Simón publishing house. 227

The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Built from 1880 to 1882 by the Catalan modernist architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner in a style heavily influenced by Art Nouveau, the building was constructed with exposed brick, extensive wrought iron and stained glass. Over the last decades of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth, along with marketplaces and train stations, new factory and company buildings like this one propelled a renovation project in Catalonia that aimed to modernize construction by turning to industrial and local materials – like tile and brick – that had previously been considered less valuable. These first architectural steps encouraged this same architect to build a concert hall and a public hospital whose modern, social and ideological functions served the educational and recreational needs of the popular classes, while improving health through architectural design. Remote as these developments might sound in relation to Joseph Conrad, they actually have a close connection to his reception. As Daniel Zurbano Garcia notes, under the leadership of the journalist and editor Joan Estelrich, Montaner y Simón planned to publish the Complete Works of Joseph Conrad. The company’s impressive building epitomizes the industrial potential of the city of Barcelona, whose flourishing publishing industry made it, along with Madrid, one of Spain’s foremost publishing centres. It is no surprise, therefore, that most of Conrad’s works published in the country (at least until the 1940s), both in Spanish and in Catalan, were printed in Barcelona. Montaner y Simón seems to have taken up the publication of Conrad’s complete works around the same time as another Barcelona-based publishing house, Ediciones Artemisa. The Biblioteca de Catalunya holdings include two translations published by Ediciones Artemisa, one of El negro del Narcissus (The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’), translated by Ricardo Baeza, and the other of El corazón de las tinieblas (Heart of Darkness), translated by Julia Rodríguez Danilewsky. In the catalogue, both works have a publication date of circa 1920 – but the Biblioteca de Catalunya’s dating for these editions is provisional and unreliable. I have found no further information about Ediciones Artemisa and its editorial project: the project might have been agreed upon in collaboration with Montaner y Simón, but the background to these publications remains a mystery.1 The Artemisa editions, the covers engraved with an image of Conrad’s face, were certainly more luxurious than the volumes published by Montaner y Simón. The first translation of Conrad’s works, and the only one recorded during his lifetime, was ‘The Inn of the Two Witches’, translated by Juan Guixé and published by the republican morning newspaper El Día Gráfico in Barcelona in 1913.2 As noted earlier, on a trip to England, through a meeting with Heineman, Estelrich acquired the exclusive rights to Conrad’s translations into Spanish (for Spain and Latin America) for Montaner y Simón, where he was the general editor from 1924 to 1949 (Coll-Vinent 2010, 110). Montaner y Simón authorized the publication of short stories like ‘Una avanzada de progreso’ (‘An Outpost of Progress’, 1924)


There is a problem here with dates. The foreword by the well-known translator Ricardo Baeza to The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’ in the Artemisa edition mentions an essay by Estelrich, which introduced Alma Rusa (Under Western Eyes), published by Montaner y Simón in 1925, and was included in Estelrich’s book Entre la vida i els llibres (1926). The Biblioteca de Catalunya’s catalogue dates those translations to ‘ca.1920’ (The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’) and ‘1920?’ (El corazón de las tinieblas). The history of Ediciones Artemisa, the number of works they published and when, and their connections to Montaner y Simón remains to be elucidated. For further research, the Biblioteca de Catalunya preserves the Estelrich papers and part of Montaner y Simón’s archive. 2 Information retrieved by Diana Roig-Sanz from the Biblioteca Nacional catalogue.


The Spanish and Catalan Reception of Conrad’s Poetics

and ‘Gaspar Ruiz’ (1927) in journals such as Ortega y Gasset’s Revista de Occidente.3 This represented a foot in the door for modern English literature in Spain. Montaner y Simón published their collected edition of Conrad’s works between 1925 and 1935. They began by publishing Alma rusa (Under Western Eyes, literally ‘Russian Soul’), translated by Juan Mateos de Diego, and La locura de Almayer (Almayer’s Folly), translated by Rafael Marquina, in 1925. They then published Nostromo: Relato de un litoral (Nostromo, 1926), in two volumes, translated by Juan Mateos de Diego; Lord Jim (1927), in two volumes, translated by Ramón D. Perés; and Seis relatos: Gaspar Ruiz, El delator, La bestia, Un anarquista, El duelo, El conde (A Set of Six, 1928), with the following translators: ‘Gaspar Ruiz’ by Gonzalo Guasp; ‘The Informer’, ‘An Anarchist’, ‘The Duel’ and ‘Il Conde’ by Ramón D. Perés; and ‘The Brute’ by José Torroba. This was followed by two further collections of short stories, Cuentos de inquietud (Tales of Unrest, 1928), translated by Marco-Aurelio Galindo and C. De Rivas Cherif, and Un tifón. Amata Fóster. Falk. Mañana (Typhoon, ‘Amy Foster’, ‘Falk’ and ‘Tomorrow’, 1929), translated by Ramón D. Perés; Victoria: La novela de una isla (Victory, 1930), also translated by Perés; and another collection of short stories, Juventud. Seguida de La posada de las dos brujas y Un socio (‘Youth’, ‘The Inn of the Two Witches’ and ‘The Partner’, 1931), where ‘Youth’ was translated by Vicente Vera, and ‘The Inn of the Two Witches’ and ‘The Partner’ by Juan Guixé. The year 1931 saw a spate of translations: El corazón de las tinieblas (‘Heart of Darkness’), translated by Julia Rodríguez Danilewsky; Entre mareas (Within the Tides), translated by Juan Guixé; La línea de la sombra. Una confesión (The Shadow-Line), translated by Ricardo Baeza (with a foreword); and Un vagabundo en las islas (An Outcast of the Islands), translated by Antonio Guardiola. The next three years saw El cabo de la cuerda (The End of the Tether, 1932), translated by Marco-Aurelio Galindo; El rescate: un romance de los Bajíos (The Rescue, 1932), in two volumes, translated by Marco-Aurelio Galindo: El negro del ‘Narcissus’ (The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’, 1932), translated by Ricardo Baeza; La flecha de oro (The Arrow of Gold, 1935), in two volumes, translated by Marco-Aurelio Galindo; and El agente secreto: una historia simple (The Secret Agent, 1935), again translated by Marco-Aurelio Galindo.4 The Spanish Civil War began right after the publication of the last of these novels. However, the project appears to be complete, since all the titles listed on the back of the book jacket as ‘soon to be published’ were in fact published. Some of Conrad’s books were left out, but there is reason to believe that they were not part of the project, whose header changed from the original ‘Obras completas de José Conrad’ to just ‘José Conrad’ when listing published and upcoming works. This interesting publication project is heterogeneous with respect to its translation policy, which was clearly left to the prestigious translators’ individual discretion. Thus, some volumes have footnotes to clarify issues of vocabulary; some have a preface or introductory note; and some even include Conrad’s prefaces. The works are mostly translated directly from English, often in contrast to French translations, as Sílvia Coll-Vinent (2010) has demonstrated. These were inexpensive books and appear to have been addressed to the general public. The vagueness


Revista de Occidente published ‘An Outpost of Progress’ (‘Una avanzada de progreso’, XVI, October 1924) and ‘Gaspar Ruiz’ (XLIII, January 1927) with acknowledgements to Conrad’s executor Ralph L. Wedgewood, Richard Curle and the Spanish translation rights’ holders, Montaner y Simón. 4 These details are as registered by the Biblioteca de Catalunya. The order in which Montaner y Simón published the works is not the order in which they listed them on the interior of the dust jacket.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

of the taglines also hints at a general readership: Nostromo is advertised as a ‘suggestive story of political intrigue and hidden treasures’; the various stories that comprise Within the Tides are summed up as the ‘powerful painting of a remote environment’; while Heart of Darkness is presented as simply ‘the most beautiful short novel in English’.5 Catalan translations of Conrad’s works also appeared during this period in journals such as Quaderns literaris and in book form. The publishing house Llibreria de Catalònia published La follia d’Almayer (Almayer’s Folly) and Un tifó (Typhoon) in a prestigious collection called Biblioteca Literària in 1929 and 1930 respectively. This collection was transferred from Editorial Catalana (1917–24), which had initiated the collection under the editorial director Joan Estelrich.6 The publishing of Conrad’s works in Catalan had similar objectives to those described in an editorial note in Quaderns Literaris when publishing Dues històries d’inquietud (Tales of Unrest) in 1936: namely, ‘bringing the most important universal authors to Catalan’.7 With Catalan recently normalized and introduced into the education system, translating great ‘universal authors’ into Catalan became a priority for national construction as well as for the modernization of the país (country). One might think that, as a commercial publisher, Montaner y Simón would not be concerned with the push to modernize Spain’s cultural landscape, but their use of distinguished translators such Ramón Perés y Peres and above all Ricardo Baeza, and their connections to the Revista de Occidente, suggest otherwise.8 It is not always clear, however, whether the país to be modernized by turning to European and AngloSaxon authors was Catalonia or Spain, but even when these two projects sometimes appeared to pull in opposite directions, perhaps their needs were not so different. The publication of modern English writers such as Conrad in Spanish by Revista de Occidente and Montaner y Simón and the publications in Catalan by Llibreria de Catalònia and Quaderns Literaris all aspired to renew and modernize the cultural texture of Spanish and Catalan societies. This renewal hinged on cultural mediators like Josep Estelrich and Josep Pla, working in these professional circles in the Spanish and Catalan languages simultaneously. This peculiar


All translations in this chapter are mine. ‘Sugestiva historia de intrigas políticas y tesoros ocultos’; ‘imponente pintura de un ambiente remoto’; ‘la más bella novela corta de la lengua inglesa’. 6 The ‘Catàleg de la Llibreria Catalònia. 1931–1932’ (Llibreria Catalònia (1931?)), includes these works within the collection ‘Nova sèrie de la Biblioteca Literària. 60 volums – Novel·la, poesia, teatre i narracions’. It includes prices for La Follia d’Almayer: Rga. 3.50 and Tela: 5.50. These also appear to be the prices for Un tifó. On the previous page, the catalogue lists various titles under ‘Biblioteca Literària de l’Editorial Catalana’. (The co-owner of Llibreria Catalònia, Antoni López-Llausàs, who bought this editorial collection, was subsequently exiled to Argentina, where he founded the prestigious publishing house Sudamericana. For the transfer of Editorial Catalana to Antoni López-Llausàs, see Llanas and Pinyol 2011.) The catalogue defines the collection as ‘Collecció completa de 107 volums en la que figuren els noms més eminents de les literatures antigues i modernes, i els autors catalans més prestigiosos’ (A complete collection of 107 volumes including the most renowned names in ancient and modern literature, and the most prestigious Catalan authors). There is no mention of Conrad in it nor in the titles listed under Editorial Catalana (Llanas and Pinyol 2011, 79–80), but the list includes only eighty-seven of the 107 titles. This catalogue also includes works by authors published by the same publishing house, including J. Estelrich (La qüestió de les minories nacionals and Cataluya endins, De la Dictadura a la República, Valoració internacional de Catalunya) and Josep Pla (Vida de Manolo, Cambó, Cartes de lluny, Cartes Meridionals and El sistema de Francesc Pujols). Retrieved from Biblioteca de la Universitat de Barcelona. 7 ‘Aportar al català els més importants autors universals’ (Quaderns Literaris 136, November 1936). For an excellent analysis of these translations, see Hurtley’s chapter in this volume. 8 Prior to Conrad’s death, Ricardo Baeza was one of the main literary critics to introduce modern contemporary authors in Spain through the review magazine Prometeo. Indeed, Blasco Ibáñez sent a letter to Conrad suggesting that they publish him in Prometeo. The outcome of this initiative has still to be explored.


The Spanish and Catalan Reception of Conrad’s Poetics

modernization is also embodied in the modernist building that housed Montaner y Simón, combining its Spanish and Catalan cultural projects in one. Publishing the complete works of Conrad would not have been possible without Joan Estelrich (1896–1958), a cultural mediator whose role in the definition of Catalan culture has gained greater recognition as scholars have delved into his work. Diana Roig-Sanz and Reine Meylaerts recently defined a ‘cultural mediator’ as ‘an actor active across linguistic, cultural and geographical borders, occupying strategic positions within large networks and being the carrier of cultural transfers’ (Roig-Sanz and Meylaerts 2018, 3). Estelrich was just such an actor. Journalist, editor, literary critic and the Spanish representative at UNESCO (1952–8), he had the finest sense for literary value and an acute understanding of the intertwining of culture and politics in Spain. Living between Mallorca, Menorca, Barcelona, Madrid, Geneva and Paris, he was devoted to expanding Catalan and Spanish cultural relations internationally. Originally an active member of the Regionalist League, he later worked for the Francoist Paris Propaganda and Press Office (1937–40), which attracted some Catalan animosity. In his role as cultural mediator, working for both the Catalan and Spanish-language publishing world, and with his previous experience at Editorial Catalana and Llibreria de Catalònia, Estelrich undertook the Spanish publication of Conrad’s works for Montaner y Simón as a personal project that contributed to refashioning and modernizing the publisher’s catalogue. As noted earlier, he carefully selected his translators, some of whom were very renowned, such as Ricardo Baeza.9 However, his influence over the way in which Conrad was received in Spain did not end there. Joan Estelrich is the author of the first and perhaps the longest essay ever written in Catalan (and probably also in Spanish) on Conrad’s work. This essay was first published in parts in the Revista de Catalunya and La Revista in Catalan (Estelrich 1925a, 1925b); he then wrote the long foreword ‘Joseph Conrad’ in Spanish for the first volume published in the Montaner y Simón edition of Conrad’s works, Alma rusa (Under Western Eyes, 1925). This essay was then republished in Catalan in his most important work, Entre la vida i els llibres (Between life and books, 1926), as well as in Joseph Conrad (1857–1924): El autor y su obra (Joseph Conrad (1857– 1924): The author and his works) published by Montaner y Simón in Spanish in 1931 (Estelrich 1931). In an exquisite portrait, Homenot (Great man), that the writer and critic Josep Pla dedicated to Joan Estelrich, Pla noted that this collection of essays, Entre la vida i els llibres, was meant to be the first of a series of volumes that Estelrich envisioned as his major work, a series that he never managed to write. In Pla’s view, this was unfortunate, since it meant that Estelrich’s great literary talent was never fully recorded (Pla 1969, 490). Yet, in spite of the editor’s ‘dispersed’ character, as Pla described it, Estelrich included his essay on Conrad among the scattered writings that he selected for Entre la vida i els llibres, alongside essays on Giacomo Leopardi, Søren Kierkegaard, Joan Maragall, Charloun Rieu and Jules Romains. This book attests to Estelrich’s expertise in comparative literature and the wider European cultural traditions, and it displays his interests in humanism, philosophy and lyricism.10 Estelrich divides his Conrad essay in two parts, one dedicated to Conrad’s character and the other to his works. In the first part, he emphasizes Conrad’s morality in both his personality and his work, drawing from multiple sources including John Galsworthy, Richard Curle, 9

For an overview of Estelrich’s work at Montaner y Simón, see Coll-Vinent 2011. For Ricardo Baeza’s work as translator in the magazine Prometeo and his efforts toward the modernization of Spanish culture, see Lagete 2010. 10 On Joan Estelrich’s participation in the 1930s humanism discourse in Europe, see Coll-Vinent 2014.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Válery-Larbaud, Edmond Jaloux and Cunninghame Graham, as well as Conrad’s own works. Estelrich praises Conrad’s simplicity, modesty, stoicism and fidelity. As a humanist, the Catalan editor sympathized very much with Conrad’s character and expatiated on Conrad’s rectitude and deep understanding of human faults. He observes, for example, that Conrad ‘did not offer opinions if he was not knowledgeable; he dismissed insolent theories; he hated vanity. Likewise, he distrusted dilettantes who claimed to understand everything and witty know-it-alls. However, he respected the man of action and the man who carried his enterprise to the end’ (Estelrich (1926) 1996, 282).11 Estelrich links Conrad’s character to his work, praising him for his straightforward narratives nurtured by a knowledge of other worlds. Estelrich notes the misperception of Conrad’s work and his belated success – a fact that Josep Pla also observes – recalling the Polish author’s complaints about his lack of success and his labelling as a sea novelist. In line with his reception in France, the Catalan editor notes that ‘his topic is not the sea, but the human struggle that takes place there; he knew its cruelties too well. He loves ships, not the sea. He loves simple heroes, not those who weaken, and he is indifferent to the forces of nature, which he has nonetheless described with singular force and mastery’ (Estelrich 1926, 287).12 As for the debate about Conrad’s relation to the adventure novel, Estelrich distinguishes Conrad from English writers like Stevenson and Kipling. Rather than comparing him to Dickens, Hardy and Joyce, however, persuaded by Emilio Cecchi, he places Conrad’s novels closer to Dostoevsky’s and Gorky’s. He argues that: Conrad’s adventurer is not the authentic one that Stevenson describes – as conventional as Walter Scott’s stranded, medieval knight or Dumas’s musketeer – and he is not Kipling’s energetic, obstinate hero, who derives from an imperialist view of life. On the contrary, Conrad’s characters were not born to be heroes; they are heroes when they need to be, against their own will. They would desire to live as ordinarily as possible; only exceptional circumstances lead them to exceptional deeds [. . .]. They are mostly victims of a fate stronger than their wills. With all the necessary qualifications, in their psychology they are closer to Dostoevsky than to Stevenson, to Gorky than to Kipling. Estelrich 1926, 28813 Estelrich’s placing of Conrad amongst these canonical Russian authors leads him to discuss two types of heroes, a bold, straightforward one and a mysterious, psychological one, whom he aligns with Russian literary characters. In a section labelled ‘Preferences. Slavism’, Estelrich delves into Conrad’s ‘reserved and refined patriotism’ which, as he notes, surfaces in the short 11 ‘No donava parers si no era competent en la matèria discutida; menyspreava les teories insolents; odiava la vanitat. Es malfiava igualment del diletant que vol entendre en tot i del pedant massa eixerit. Però respectava l’home d’acció i el que porta fins a l’acabament de la seva tasca.’ 12 ‘el seu tema no és la mar, sinó la lluita que hi lliuren els homes; massa en coneixia les crueltats. Estima els vaixells, no la mar. Estima els herois senzills, que no defalleixen, i és indiferent a les forces de la natura, les quals ha descrit tanmateix amb singular força i mestratge.’ 13 ‘L’aventurer de Conrad no és l’aventurer autèntic definit per Stevenson – tan convencional com el cavaller errant medieval de Walter Scott o el mosqueter de Dumas-, ni és tampoc l’heroi enèrgic i tossut de Kipling, emanació d’un concepte imperialista de la vida. Al contrari, els personatges de Conrad no van néixer per herois; en són quan s’escau, a contra-cor. Llur desig seria de viure tan normalment com fos possible; només circumstàncies excepcionals els menen a fets excepcionals [. . .]. Són víctimes, sobretot, d’un destí superior a llurs forces. [. . .] [A]mb totes les reserves exigibles, són per llur psicologia més aprop de Dostoiewski que no de Stevenson, de Gorki que no de Kipling.’


The Spanish and Catalan Reception of Conrad’s Poetics

story ‘Prince Roman’ (Estelrich 1926, 294). In discussing Conrad’s relation to Slavism, Estelrich argues that ‘the positive fact is that Conrad rejects the “Slavic spirit” and feels himself absolutely detached from it’ (Estelrich 1926, 295).14 However, for Estelrich, what Conrad rejects is ‘the current notion of the “Slavic spirit”, a concept already stereotyped in the “Russian Soul,” a mixture of primary and simplistic false ideas, of disorder and decaying humanitarianism that perhaps might not fairly apply to all the best Russian writers’ (Estelrich 1926, 296).15 However, the Catalan editor finds a strong, shared Slavic quality in Conrad’s works. This might also suggest the editor’s predilection for the Slavic, as suggested by the fact that Under Western Eyes (Alma rusa) was the first of Conrad’s novels to be published in the complete works in Spanish. Estelrich also finds other aspects of Conrad’s writing that reveal his Slavism: Horror everywhere; an inexplicable, ineffable horror that slowly invades the soul, the abundantly shed blood; the mystery enshrouding things, the webs of plots and fatalities trapping individuals; the objects and characters drawn quietly, in the path from dark to light, subtly evoked through sharp yet simple contrasts. It is not easy to describe, other than as the tone, the atmosphere, the deep rhythm that is so specific to the best Eastern European writers. As in the most memorable passages of Russian literature, as we have seen, Conrad’s characters are often failed déclassés, maladjusted people; their mistakes, uncertainties and misfortunes have pushed them to the margins of society; they are victims of life. Still, the writing is simple, with a modest absence of rhetorical effects, with rich human psychology in its moral nuances, coming off as unfinished works that are always becoming more perfect: all formal features of the Russian novel. Estelrich 1926, 29716 However, what distinguishes Conrad’s Slavism is his adoption of an English moral attitude based on purity of the soul and self-control (Estelrich 1926, 298). Estelrich, a bilingual speaker himself, who simultaneously shaped Spanish and Catalan editorial agendas in Barcelona, ends with a defence of Conrad’s reasons for adopting the English language in which he disagrees with the idea that this implies that Conrad has rejected his own people. In the shorter, second part, Estelrich explores Conrad’s narrative method, linking it to the previously highlighted features. For him, Conrad’s creation of mystery and his use of impressionist techniques enable him to create a particular way of delving into reality through narratives of human exposure and complex psychology. Estelrich pays special attention to how 14

‘el fet positiu és que Conrad rebutja l’ “esperit eslau” i que se’n considera totalment deslligat’. ‘la noció corrent de l’“esperit eslau,” aquest concepte ja estereotipat de l’“l’ànima russa,” barreja d’idees sumàries, de simplismes falsos, de desordre i d’humanitarisme deliqüescent, que postser no pot aplicar-se amb tota justícia, a tots els millors escriptors russos’. 16 ‘L’horror arreu; l’horror inexplicable, inefable, que envaeix lentament l’ànima; la sang vessada a dolls, el misteri que cobreix les coses, la xarxa de complots i fatalitat que embolcalla els individus; els objectes, els personatges que es van dibuixant silenciosament, en el camí de la foscor a la llum, per suggestions progressives, per durs i simples contrastos. No és res fàcil de classificar, sinó el to, l’ambient, el ritme profund, tan particular, dels millors escriptors de l’Est europeu. Com en els passatges més caraterístics de la literatura russa, els personatges de Cornad són sovint, com ja hem vist, uns fracassats, uns declassés, inadaptables; llurs errors, inquituds o dissort, els han dut al marge de la societat; són víctimes de la vida. Hi ha, encara, la simplicitat en les narracions, la púdica absència d’efectes retòrics, la rica psicologia humana en els matisos morals, la impressió que sap encomanar-nos l’obra inacabada i que sempre va perfeccionant-se: tot característiques formals de la novella russa.’ 15


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Conrad’s characters unfold, many of whom we get to know through a series of unexpected encounters (Estelrich 1926, 313). The absence of psychological commentary maintains the mystery of personality. For Estelrich, Conrad’s sense of fidelity involves the simultaneous abandonment of and adherence to facts, following the movements of their formations until the characters become perceptible and penetrate our souls: ‘At this point of intimate crystallization, they serve mystery without artifice and are perhaps mysterious, not because we ignore them but precisely because we understand them in their totality, thanks to our slow immersion in their lives’ (Estelrich 1926, 313).17 It is through this very sophisticated narrative method that Estelrich understands Conrad’s acute sense of perception and morality. Estelrich’s interest in Conrad’s works emanates from his contemporary preoccupations with the way literary production deals with humanity and with minority identities that are politically mistreated by greater powers. He traces Conrad’s search for a humanist, intimate force to disclose the aesthetic and moral powers of his works, and he places the Polish author at the very top of the European and Eastern literary tradition. By this means, he opened a path to reception in Spain that, while fairly limited in the early decades of the twentieth century, recognized Conrad’s literary value and rejected any associations with popular literature. In a note preceding this important essay, Estelrich recalls that, on the afternoon of the day Conrad died, he had a long conversation in Paris that was the seed of his essay on Conrad. That conversation took place between him and the writer and literary critic Josep Pla (Estelrich (1926) 1996, 279).

Second vignette: Josep Pla, writer and critic In 1943, the illustrated cultural magazine Destino had a special announcement to make: the Barcelona-based publishing house Destino had bought the rights to the Spanish translations of Conrad’s untranslated works. With a little commercially-motivated exaggeration, Destino added that ‘several of his greatest and probably finest narratives’ remained untranslated (Pla 1943, 6).18 The publication of Un hermano de la costa (The Rover) that same year explains the page-and-a-half promotional essay on Conrad entitled ‘La vocación irresistible de Joseph Conrad’ (The irresistible vocation of Joseph Conrad). The writer of this important essay was none other than Josep Pla. Josep Pla was a well-known Catalan writer, impressively informed and with a remarkable critical sense which contemporaries frequently relied on. This critical talent was drawn on by editors to guide them in relation to what to publish in both Catalan and Spanish.19 From February 1940, he became a regular contributor to the weekly magazine Destino, founded by Catalan Francoist intellectuals and written in Spanish. Despite these origins, it brought together highly relevant critics and journalists and gradually, from 1942 onwards, offered material that went beyond traditionalist, Francoist cultural promotion by publishing texts on subjects that trod the bounds of censorship.

17 ‘Arribats a tal punt de cristal·lització íntima, serven el misteri sense artifici i són potser misteriosos, no per allò que n’ignorem sinó precisament perquè els coneixem en llur totalitat, gràcies a la nostra lenta immersió en llur vida.’ 18 ‘varias de sus grandes narraciones y probablemente de las más finas’. 19 For evidence of this, see his correspondence with the Catalan editor, Cruzet, in Gallofré Virgili 2003.


The Spanish and Catalan Reception of Conrad’s Poetics

Pla’s view of Conrad’s life and works is very revealing about Pla himself. For example, he notes that Conrad was a polyglot who wrote in the language of which he was least the master. Pla himself was a writer who, in 1943, saw his ability to write in Catalan being reduced by the shrinking possibilities of Catalan publication under early Francoism. Pla, who was the author of perhaps the best pages on the sea ever written in Catalan, was fascinated by the intricate understanding and description of it in the works of a Polish author who did not see the sea until he was seventeen years old. Pla’s understanding of the sea was aligned to his precursor’s, as can be seen in his later collected writings Aigua de Mar (Sea water (1966) 2010), a volume wavering between memoir and fiction. Pla’s writing recalls Conrad’s semi-autobiographical texts and shows a similar sensitivity in grasping environments and people. Interestingly, the 1943 issue of Destino that promotes Conrad also had a striking front page. Although published in the middle of the Second World War, the image used celebrated the fourth anniversary of the end of the Spanish Civil War (what it termed the ‘liberation war’). In case the image left any room for doubt, a footnote states, ‘On this date, Destino once again recalls the intimacy of that decisive victory that let Spain enter a period of full national dignity. We owe our undisrupted peace to Generalísimo Franco, leader of the Army throughout the war years. His wonderful governing touch has led the nation through this difficult period that all of Europe is living through’ (Destino, 27 March 1943, 1).20 This front page is noteworthy in a magazine that, in many ways, took up earlier projects to keep Spain and Catalonia connected to the rest of Europe and resisted the traditionalism that ultimately fossilized Spanish culture, at least until the Franco regime opened up slightly in the 1960s. In the 1943 article printed in this issue, Pla views Conrad’s ‘irresistible vocation’ with a historical nostalgia that is not far from Conrad’s own: Let us admire a time: a Polish man of Russian citizenship who first sailed in French ships and then became a Captain in the British Merchant Navy. This was already hardly possible then, even before our present war. Today, if a vocation like his, in someone of Conrad’s personal circumstances, declared itself, it would fail hopelessly. What a fortunate age, when one could travel the world without documents! It was only yesterday, and yet, that time seems long gone. The world has progressed so much that one can barely leave one’s own home! If only we could know what we’ve lost! Pla 1943, 621 Though Europe was at the heart of editors’ and critics’ concerns in 1943, given the two world wars, this was not the first time that Conrad’s works presented an opportunity to reflect upon a rapidly changing Europe. For very different reasons, and as part of a new admiration for


‘En esta fecha Destino recuerda una vez más, el íntimo sentido de aquella victoria decisiva que significó para España la entrada en una etapa de plena dignidad nacional. Al Generalísimo Franco, conductor de los Ejrcitos en los años de guerra, se debe que no se haya malogrado el fruto de la paz. Su maravilloso tacto de gobernante, conduce la nación a través de esta etapa difícil que atraviesa toda Europa.’ 21 ‘Admiremos una época: un polaco perentoriamente ciudadano ruso, que puede primero navegar en barcos franceses y llegó a ser capitán de la Marina inglesa. Ello ya no era posible, ni antes de la presente guerra. Si hoy apareciera, en las circunstancias personales de Conrad, una vocación como la suya, se truncaría fatalmente. ¡Dichosa edad aquella en que se viajaba por el mundo sin papeles! Era ayer y, sin embargo, la época nos parece remotísima. ¡El mundo ha progresado tanto que es casi imposible salir de casa! ¡Si supiéramos lo que hemos perdido!’


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Europe that Conrad’s early readers in Spain associated with his works, in 1926, an article in Revista de Catalunya referred to Joseph Conrad’s last unfinished novel, Suspense, and cited the critic Aynard to observe that with ‘this finished work we may have the double image of Europe as the great Englishman perceived it in 1814 and as we perceive it today’ (M. F. 1926, 223–4).22 Pla guides the reading of Conrad’s work by distancing it from the adventure novel, reviewing the adventure novel’s place in the contemporary literary system and outlining the risk of being misunderstood that Conrad took in his writing. Thus Pla warns Destino’s readers, ‘The genre of the novel in which Conrad wrote is enormously dangerous. The adventure novel is mostly a trivial and insignificant gimmick, based on the interest that some melodramas generate against an exotic and distant background. The French have tried to write the adventure novel and have never succeeded. The genre has not even been attempted here’ (Pla 1943, 6).23 A few months later, in a review of Un hermano de la costa (The Rover, published by Destino, 1943) in the same magazine, a critic likewise insisted that conceiving Conrad as an adventure novelist would be a mistake. As the returned, exiled critic Eugenio Nadal asserts: ‘The author has reached a point that comes very close to a pure dramatic dialect of feelings, the most distant possible point from the adventure novel; this is an intense and soberly great work’ (Nadal 1943, 10).24 In his 1943 article in Destino, Pla goes further than Estelrich in relating Conrad’s English literature to French and Spanish literature with regard to the adventure-novel genre. After suggesting that, in France, there is no desire to look beyond that nation’s own empire and no interest in adventure whatsoever, he states that, in Spain, there is even less and that, when the writer is not just a cardboard rhetorician, he falls for the ferocious realism of the picaresque novel. In Spain lyricism, vagueness and a somewhat floating lifestyle – like a cork

22 ‘Amb aquesta obra acabada, tindríem la doble imatge d’Europa tal com la veia a l’any 1814 el gran anglès i de l’Europa tal com la veiem avui.’ 23 ‘El género de la novela que Conrad construyó es enormemente peligroso. La novela de aventuras es, generalmente, un truco pueril e insignificante, basado en el interés que producen los melodramas sobre un fondo de exotismo y de alejamiento. Los franceses han probado la novela de aventuras, y no han acertado jamás. Aquí no se ha intentado el género siquiera.’ 24 ‘El autor ha llegado muy cerca de una pura dialéctica dramática de sentimientos, lo más lejano posible a toda novela de aventuras, es esta una obra intensa y sobriamente grande.’ We find a similar reading in the foreword to the 1943 Destino inaugural edition of El hermano de la costa (The Rover), translated by J. G. Luaces (probably also the author of the foreword). The editors translate the title, The Rover, as ‘A brother of the coast’, taking the term from Conrad’s text, rather than using an alternative such as ‘The Pirate’ in an attempt to distance Conrad’s works from the genre of adventure novels. As they argue, ‘The translation of the English title of the novel is justified by the dedication to Conrad’s friend, the French translator M. Jean Aubry, which did the same. It reveals that the novel tells the story of the last days of a Brother of the Coast, that is, of a representative of a curious association of sailors that infested the Indian Ocean, living off their own efforts and the unconditional help that members lent each other. Among the various translations of the word “rover,” Conrad’s clarification invites us to use the version we selected for our edition. This formulation is at least more specific and, overall, more exact than those of pirate, privateer, or freebooter that our dictionary might offer us and that would have led, in our language, to innumerable misunderstandings.’ ‘La traducción del título inglés de la novela, viene justificada por la dedicatoria que de la misma hizo Conrad a su amigo y traductor francés M. Jean Aubry. En ella se indica que su obra no es otra cosa que el relato de los últimos días de un Hermano de la Costa, o sea, de un representante de una curiosa asociación de marinos que infestaban los mares de la India, viviendo del propio esfuerzo y de la asistencia que se procuraban incondicionalmente todos los asociados. Ante la serie de posibles traducciones que podían darse a la palabra inglesa “rover,” la aclaración de Conrad invita a utilizar la que hemos escogido para nuestro original. Fórmula en todo caso más concreta y, sobre todo, mucho más exacta que las de pirata, corsario o filibustero que podía ofrecernos el diccionario y que se prestaban, en nuestra lengua, a innumerables equívocos’ (Conrad 1943, 13).


The Spanish and Catalan Reception of Conrad’s Poetics

on the waves – is absolutely unheard of, but, in England, on the other hand, there is a tradition of this: there is a cosmopolitan mentality, and, above all, ‘all windows look out to the sea, towards the horizon, towards the Empire’ (Pla 1943, 7).25 Paradoxically, for Pla, Conrad’s description of the sea is the key to gauging his literary superiority. Conrad’s sea is a real sea, that of seamen, which is located, as Pla writes,‘between the ridiculously sublime and the sublimation of ridicule’ (Pla 1943, 7).26 As Pla notes, Conrad’s early reception in Spain was not framed within the genre of the adventure novel per se, but the later framings of his work as universal sometimes misconceived the author, and, because of these misrepresentations, Joseph Conrad’s work was subjected to a restricted and uneven reception.27 The representation of the sea is key to Pla’s interest and understanding of Conrad because both writers share a similar perspective on the oceanic. Conrad’s concerns about the maritime profession and its development of specific lexicons and practices that reflect experience, training and professionalization are central to Pla’s works. Pla, who is a major canonical writer in Catalan literature, mostly writes non-fiction – moving easily between memoirs, diaries, journalism, travel literature and chronicle writing. Part of the development of his non-fictional literature has to do with his fine observations and his impulse to examine acutely his immediate reality, both natural and social. His interest in everyday working life – also manifest in Conrad’s repeated reflections on his daily work as a writer – leads him to write literary passages that are strikingly similar to some in Conrad’s fiction. For example, in Aigua de Mar, Pla devotes a number of essays to his knowledge and experiences with maritime smuggling on the northern Catalonian coast, the Empordà, where he lived. With the necessary caveat that Pla’s output is extremely vast (his collected works runs to thirty-eight volumes), a couple of passages in this volume show an obvious affiliation between the two writers. First, like Conrad, Pla shows himself to be very well versed in relation to the winds, the sea and sailing. Among many other examples, in a passage reminiscent of Conrad’s The Mirror of the Sea, in his essay ‘En mar’ (‘At sea’) he describes an episode navigating a small boat, the Rufi, during which he observes the effect of the north and north-western winds: With a Northerly or North-Western wind, the sea’s appearance is unmistakable. On the surface, the speed of the wind gives the waters a river-like current – tingling, living, effervescent. Below the current, to put it in words, a deep, long wave structure, with pronounced depressions and high crests, takes hold. The waves rock the boats, thrusting them up and down like seesaws in the balance. The ocean’s current and the wind’s power keel them over to one side or the other, depending on the direction of the gusts of wind. Thus, with the prow windward bound, ships sail forth in an oscillating manner, like a wheel falling first to one side, then the other. With the rudder in his hand, Martinet tried to get the Rufi through one of the sharpest and most uncomfortable of batterings, but the


My paraphrasing and translation of ‘todas las ventanas dan al mar, al horizonte y al Imperio’. ‘entre el ridículo de la sublimidad y la sublimidad del ridículo’. 27 Several critics have mentioned Conrad’s uneven reception in Spain. In a notable essay that discusses Conrad’s language as anticipating a cinematic style, for example, the writer and translator Ramon Esquerra says that nobody reads Conrad anymore or they think of him as an Emilio Salgari, the Italian writer of popular adventure fiction (Esquerra (1936) 2006). 26


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

buffeting of the wind and the sudden, drastic pounding of the sea made everything creak with the pressure of the unleashed elements. Pla (1966) 2010a, 41528 Secondly, in this same essay, an incident takes place with which Conrad’s readers would feel quite at home in terms of its attention to specific details about the sea and to professional attitudes. In this passage, Pla narrates a disagreement between Pla and the captain regarding the different strategies with which to proceed, since it is not clear whether the boat will manage to reach the harbour of Barcelona safely because of the strong wind conditions. ‘Martinet’ – I said. ‘What?’ – he replied, drying the splashed water that dripped down his face. ‘Will you get through the Martell straight on, facing the wind and the sea?’ ‘Of course. What else would you have me do?’ ‘I see, but we could also dock, seek refuge on the coast.’ ‘Oh, no! I won’t hear of the coast. Boats want water.’ ‘Alright. But the closer we are to land, the less we’ll feel the wind and the sea.’ ‘No, no! I don’t want to risk the boat. I don’t know these sandbanks. I want these waters.’ ‘Alright. You decide. Keep in mind, however, that if we head toward the coast and the engine stops, we could get past the Martell if we sail near the shore.’ ‘You are proposing we do what fishermen do – he replied, coldly. – But I am not a fisherman, as you know.’ Pla (1966) 2010a, 41729 This recalls, for example, the navigational disagreements in Conrad’s ‘Typhoon’ between Captain McWhirr and his mate, Jukes. In this case, however, Pla presents his nautical experience as more modest and local: it is an argument between a sailor and fisherman which arises from their differing sailing strategies. As the episode unfolds, echoing Conrad in a minor key, the 28 ‘Amb tramuntana o mestral, la mar agafa un aspecte inconfusible. A la superfície, la velocitat del vent dóna a les aigües una correntia de riuada, formiguejant, vivíssima, efervescent. A sota de la correntia, per fer-nos entendre, hi ha una estructura d’onades profundes i llargues, de depressions pregones i de crestes altes. Les onades fan capcinejar les embarcacions, les alcen i les abaixen com en un moviment alternat de balança. La correntia de la mar, la força del vent, les escora, sobre una banda o sobre una altra, segons la direcció de la ratxa. Així, navegant de proa a aquest vent, els vaixells avancen en un moviment d’oscil·lació, com una roda que cau ara d’un cantó, ara d’un altre. Amb la canya del timó a la mà, Martinet tractava de fer passar el Rufi per ull dels embats més secs i desagradables, però els xocs del vent i de la mar eren molt sobtats i dràstics i tot cruixia una mica per la pressió dels elements desfermats.’ 29 ‘Martinet!’ - que jo li vaig dir.  ‘Digui!’ – contestà eixugant-se un escalitxot que li queia cara avall.  ‘Penseu guanyar el Martell de dret, donant tota la cara al vent i a la mar?’ ‘És clar. Què faria vostè en el meu cas?’ ‘Ja ho veig. Però també ens podríem aterrar, buscar l’empara de la costa.’ ‘Oh, no! No em vingui pas amb la costa. Els vaixells volen aigües.’  ‘D’acord. Però com més aterrats fóssim menys sentiríem el vent i la mar.’  ‘No, no! No vull pas perdre el vaixell. No conec pas els secs del platjar. Jo el que vull són aigües.’  ‘Molt bé. Vostè mana. Pensi, per altra part, que, guanyada que tinguéssim la costa, si el motor es parés podríem guanyar el Martell navegant amb una mica de drap al fil del litoral.’  ‘Vostè proposa una cosa que fan els pescadors! – digué sec –. Però jo no sóc pas un pescador. Ja ho sap.’


The Spanish and Catalan Reception of Conrad’s Poetics

ship’s engine fails and the Rufi ends up at the wind’s mercy. Dangerous situations and shipwrecks recur in Conrad’s fiction and in Pla’s writings, and, as we shall see, interested Juan Benet as well. Thirdly, Pla recalls Conrad in the use of shipwrecks to explore human nature. In studying the surviving documentation on local shipwrecks in his essay ‘Anàlisis d’uns naufragis’ (‘Analyses of some shipwrecks’), Pla observes that: They have served to lay bare, viciously and roughly, the most abject operations of human egoism, the preservation instinct, which is far stronger than all ethical principles and moral phraseologies – an instinct that permanently keeps people who were not born with a saintly vocation in the territory of potential, inexorable corruption. Often, people who have been unfortunate enough to experience shipwreck have committed wrongdoings during the catastrophe that they would have never done at an ordinary time, deeds we need to qualify as absolutely despicable, but which we might have committed ourselves, if faced with those very circumstances. Pla (1966) 2010b, 42630 This question underlies Marlow’s response to Jim’s account of his experiences on board the Patna in Lord Jim. In Pla’s essay, this leads to a reflection on imprudence: I am among those who think that, in life, we are constantly imprudent – perhaps, taken plainly, life is nothing more than a continuum of imprudence – and that, given this misfortune, people we deem prudent, cold, cautious people are not exemplary either. We are imprudent on land and at sea, but our imprudences are usually more spectacular and dramatic at sea, perhaps because there are always fewer people there than on land. I must acknowledge one thing fully: in this unfortunate affair, we have demonstrated absolute ignorance when it comes to our country’s meteorology and sea, a definitive, total ignorance. Pla (1966) 2010b, 42731 These observations on Josep Pla’s work as a critic and as a writer show the ways in which his own works and interests reflect Conrad’s and the ways in which his criticism helped promote readings of the Polish-English writer that steered Conrad’s reception away from that of a popular adventure novelist.

30 ‘han servit per a palesar d’una manera nua, violenta i grollera els més abjectes moviments de l’egoisme humà, de l’instint de conservació, que és un instint molt més fort que tots els postulats ètics i tota la fraseologia moral – un instint que manté permanentment les persones que han tingut la desgràcia de naufragar han comès, en el curs de la catàstrofe, accions que mai no haurien realitzat en moments normals, actes que hem de qualificar d’absolutament vituperables, tot i que potser si nosaltres ens hi haguéssim trobat hauríem reaccionat igual.’ 31 ‘Jo sóc dels qui creuen que en la vida es cometen imprudències constantment – potser la vida ben mirades les coses, no és més que una imprudència continuada – i que, d’aquesta fatalitat, no en són pas exemples les persones tingudes per més prudents, fredes i cautes. Es cometen imprudències en terra i en mar, però aquestes últimes, potser perquè en mar hi ha sempre menys gent que en terra, solen ésser més aparatoses i dramàtiques. Una cosa he de reconèixer, sense cap reserva: en tot aquest lamentable afer hem demostrat un desconeixement de la metereologia i del mar del país, definitiu, total.’


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

Third vignette: Juan Benet, a writer in the shadows The Mirror of the Sea (El espejo del mar) was first translated into Spanish in 1981 by Javier Marías, with a prologue by the major twentieth-century Spanish writer Juan Benet (1927–93). That same year, Montaner y Simón closed down. At the beginning of his preface to this translation, Benet recalls his first encounter with Conrad’s book. During his 1954 engineering internship in Sweden, Benet was captivated by Rachael Carson’s The Sea Around Us, in which the author recommended Conrad’s The Mirror of the Sea. After making great efforts to try to find a copy in bookshops in Stockholm, Copenhagen and Amsterdam, Benet finally bought a French translation in Paris. Benet also recalls in his preface that, ten years earlier, he had persistently read Conrad in Spanish, in his grandfather’s copies, published by Montaner y Simón. As Benet writes in his preface to the Spanish translation, The Mirror of the Sea left such an impression on him that it inspired him to write one of his theses on style. Collected in his monograph La inspiración y el estilo (1966, Revista de Occidente; 1973, Biblioteca Breve/Seix Barral), his essay ‘Algo sobre el buque fantasma’ (‘Something about the haunted ship’) suggestively points to the elaboration of an unresolved enigma in the novel of the sea as the birth of the modern novel. Benet notes that ‘the novel of the sea [. . .] has an aura – and I do not know exactly why – of a kind of permanent mystery, of subtle, vague silhouettes, perhaps fed by the dense, relentless movement of a medium that one peers into, “anxious to anticipate one’s own grave” ’ (Benet 1973, 145).32 This indeterminacy is intrinsic to the late nineteenth-century writer who faces the enigmas of life and humanity without necessarily tying mystery to the supernatural. Benet takes this hint from Joseph Conrad and asserts that Conrad is the only writer of the sea who not only avoided the topic’s seduction but also downplayed the supernatural. Viewing literature of the sea as an exploration of an environment that is not seen from ‘the most archaic ignorance and the most impertinent fantasy’, Conrad ‘never felt the need to draw on the mysteries of the sea because, being a unique connoisseur of it, he could simply illustrate and interpret what he had seen and felt, so as to surround the reader with an aura that, even if not supernatural, at least enjoyed all the virtues that produce enchantment’ (Benet 1973, 146).33 Benet reiterates Pla’s notion that the idea of life’s vagueness is unheard of in Spanish literature but characteristic of the English prose tradition in which Conrad’s style developed. Benet’s interest in Conrad’s specific treatment of the enigmatic is not simply curiosity. If there is a writer who pushed the enigmatic even further in Spanish peninsular literature, that writer was Juan Benet. This occurs in his best-known novel Volverás a Región (Return to Región), published in 1967, in which memory’s inability to recover the past leaves the enigmas in the story both unresolved and unresolvable.

32 ‘la novela del mar, en contraste, está con mucha frecuencia aureolada – y no sé muy bien por qué – de una suerte de misterio permanente, de vagos y sutiles contornos, acaso alimentado de esa impenetrable e incesante movilidad de un medio al que el hombre se asoma “ansioso de anticipar su tumba” ’. 33 ‘con la ignorancia más arcaica y la fantasía más pertinente. No tuvo nunca la necesidad de recurrir al misterio del mar porque, conocedor único de sus cosas, le bastó pintar e interpretar lo que había visto y sentido para lograr envolver al lector en un aura que si no era sobrenatural participaba por lo menos de todas las virtudes que producen el encantamiento.’


The Spanish and Catalan Reception of Conrad’s Poetics

In 1973, Benet published the novella Sub rosa. In the same year he republished the essay ‘Algo sobre el buque fantasma’ (‘Something about the ghost ship’), with Conrad’s work as a starting-point for his reflections on the myriad possibilities of style in The Mirror of the Sea and the rich explorations of the enigma in Conrad’s sea fiction. Sub rosa is practically a rewriting of Conrad’s ‘Typhoon’ and Melville’s Benito Cereno, fused together in a colonial narrative hinged on a single idea: that what happens in the open sea is irrecoverable and that the human tragedy of those who find themselves trapped at sea is unfathomable. The novella tells the story of a voyage on board the Garray, a nineteenth-century Spanish merchant ship travelling from Cuba to Seville on a secret mission. The ship is blown off course toward Brazil by a typhoon after a harsh disagreement between the captain and the first mate. When the storm subsides, the sailors revolt against the captain. In response, near Cape São Tomé on the Brazilian coast, the captain kills his two mates and is, in turn, attacked by a mysterious, freed prisoner before the vessel is finally shipwrecked. The novel’s mystery connects the secret mission, which supposedly concerns a slave revolt, with the mutiny against the captain on board. The trial in Cadiz, the hub of Spain’s colonial traffic, never fully explains the events that took place at sea. The narrative revolves around the mystery of this fatally stranded colonial ship in an extraordinarily convoluted style, with various rumours filtered through an unreliable voice that further precludes finding a solution to the enigma. In this story, the disagreement about the appropriate navigational strategy in the event of a typhoon clearly recalls Conrad’s novella ‘Typhoon’. At the same time, in a passage of Marlovian reflection, the narrator warns of the unsatisfactory nature of his attempt to tell the story: From time to time, gradually decreasing, the contradictory traces of an event that will forever lack truth emerge, just as a miracle will never look the same to its various witnesses, until oblivion and indifference forever swallow it, like the waters of the Atlantic [. . .] sealed once more in the black-foamed whirlpool where the hull of the Garray disappeared. Benet (1973) 1998, 18534 Benet’s later reflections in the preface to The Mirror of the Sea strongly suggest that his style has similarities to Conrad’s in terms of the slippery relationship between reality and language. (Edward Said discussed this aspect of Conrad’s work in ‘Conrad: The presentation of narrative.’)35 Benet describes Conrad’s style as a ‘spiral, convoluted, always high in tone and slippery, as slippery as it is dangerous. A style that the English people very graphically call convoluted, which can push the careless translator toward the ridiculous, as the men in Montaner y Simón


‘de tiempo en tiempo, y con frecuencia decreciente, van surgiendo los contradictorios vestigios de un suceso que carecerá para siempre de verdad, de la misma manera que un portento no presentará nunca el mismo cariz a los diversos testigos que lo presenciaron, hasta que el olvido y el desinterés se cierran definitivamente sobre él, como las aguas del Atlántico [. . .] se soldaron y cerraron de nuevo sobre el remolino de espuma negra donde desapareció el casco del Garray’. 35 ‘Conrad: The presentation of narrative’ was collected in The World, the Text, and the Critic (1983). Two of Said’s books containing key critical essays on Conrad, Culture and Imperialism and The World, the Text and the Critic, were translated into Spanish by Nora Catelli (Cultura e imperialismo, 1996) and Ricardo García Pérez (El mundo, el texto y la crítica, 2004) respectively.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

duly demonstrated’ (Benet (1981) 2007b, 31).36 Benet finds the climax of Conrad’s ‘pure’ style in his memoirs and shorter fiction, believing that this was sacrificed, in Conrad’s longer pieces, for the sake of other narrative demands. Benet’s appreciation of Conrad’s style is so profound that his critics recognize in his words a description not only of Conrad’s style but also, and probably even more so, of the literary style of Juan Benet. Indeed, Benet drew on his understanding of Conradian narration to push his own even further. He left out the conventional devices that he believed Conrad sometimes used to satisfy some of his audience’s expectations. By allowing himself to do what Conrad did in The Mirror of the Sea, Benet achieved a high degree of complexity and impenetrability, most impressively in his narrative voices, in his management of time and space and, above all, in his creation of the narrative enigma. At the same time, in opposition to the virtuosity that he attributes to Joyce’s style, as he argues in his provocative essay ‘James Joyce: Una separación’ (2007a), Benet sees in Conrad’s convoluted style a powerful wish to understand human nature that moved other writers and critics, among them Estelrich and Pla. In a later essay entitled ‘La ciudad invisible’ (‘The Invisible City’, (1990) 2010b), Benet goes even further in his reflections on mystery. He reads Conrad’s literary move from life at sea towards the city as complicating the outcast figure. To Benet, the city, in Conrad’s view, is the site of double outcasts, of those who ‘inhabit the very environment that is the origin of all their conflict’ (Benet (1990) 2007c, 17).37 This perception of the city as the site of the outcast attests to Conrad’s constant alertness to the unexpected in everyday life, revealing how far his contemporaries were from understanding the true nature not only of far-off colonies but also of the very European and British modern cities from which they wrote (Benet (1990) 2007c, 16). This double marginalization, reflected in the experience of an exile that can only be expressed in an unresolvable, convoluted style, lies at the core of Benet’s own novels. And yet, as Pla observed, that narrative style was unknown in Spanish literature in the 1940s and even in the 1980s. As a result, Benet’s superb works, like the early translations of Conrad, only partially found the recognition they deserved.

36 ‘espiral, enrevesado, siempre alto de tono y escurridizo, tan escurridizo como peligroso. Un estilo que los ingleses llaman de manera bastante gráfica convoluted, y que al traductor poco precavido le puede hacer caer en los mayores ridículos, como demostraron – asaz cumplidamente – los hombres de Montaner y Simón.’ 37 ‘viven el propio medio que es origen de todo su conflicto’.



The novel as a literary genre involves a constant exchange and circulation of ideas, ones which, in the case of European literature, flow not just within the continent but around the world. Thus it is with the novels of Joseph Conrad, in which nations and cultural areas appear as dynamic and interrelated systems (Even-Zohar 1999; Hermans 2014). His texts depict emerging and decaying empires and the colonization of certain countries in America, Asia and Africa at the turn of the twentieth century, and he presents a highly hierarchized Europe with dominator versus dominee relations, as reflected by Pascale Casanova in The World Republic of Letters (2010). This is one of the reasons why Heart of Darkness was so widely influential in Spanish-speaking countries. The Nobel Laureate for 2010, Mario Vargas Llosa, is a self-declared admirer of many European and American writers, such as the French authors Gustave Flaubert (Vargas Llosa 1975), Victor Hugo (Gladieu 2018, 77), Marcel Proust (Martin 2012, 35) and Jean Paul Sartre (Vargas Llosa 2010, n.p.), the English novelists E. M. Forster (Vargas Llosa 2019, 225) and Virginia Woolf (Vargas Llosa 1990, 81–90), the Irishman James Joyce (Vargas Llosa 1993, 34, 148) and the Americans William Faulkner (Gladieu 2017, 277–82) and John Dos Passos (Martin 2012, 24). Among writers in English, Joseph Conrad occupies a notable place at his literary altar, to such an extent that he has followed the path trodden by the Polish writer into the Congo, both personally and in his fiction. Indeed, his devotion to Conrad as a writer leads Vargas Llosa to turn Joseph Conrad into a character in one of his recent novels, El sueño del celta (2010), translated into English as The Dream of the Celt (2011). However, this debt to the Polish novelist is present not only in this relatively recent work. As the Peruvian writer acknowledged, the influence began in his early childhood, when he first read Conrad’s novels. As early as in 1948, when he was twelve years old, he confessed his desire to become a merchant marine officer, as he states in El pez en el agua (A Fish in the Water) (Vargas Llosa 1993, 75), and in his eighties he continues to read and admire the author of Heart of Darkness, as he makes clear in the interview that follows this chapter. In fact, Conrad is one of the few writers mentioned explicitly in his speech to the Nobel Committee in 2010, entitled ‘In Praise of Reading and Fiction’ (Vargas Llosa 2010, n.p.). The books by Conrad that Vargas Llosa might have read in his early years are those issued by the publishing house Emecé in Buenos Aires (Kristal 2019, n.p.), following guidance given to the company managers by Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares, directors of the collection La Puerta de Marfil (The Ivory Gate). In that series, the following works by Conrad were published in 1946: Bajo las miradas de Occidente (Under Western Eyes), Freya de las Siete Islas (Freya of the Seven Isles), El negro de Narcissus (The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’), Cuentos de inquietud (Tales of Unrest), La locura de Almayer (Almayer’s Folly), La línea de sombra: una confesión (The Shadow Line: A Confession), Gaspar Ruiz and Nostromo: Relato de un litoral 243

The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

(Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard). In the following year the same publishing house would issue Victoria (Victory: An Island Tale), Lord Jim (Lord Jim: A Tale), Un vagabundo de las islas (An Outcast of the Islands) and El agente secreto: Una simple historia (The Secret Agent: A Simple Story) in 1948. As Ian Watt has noted, Borges was one of the writers in Latin America who revered Conrad and who wrote texts directly influenced by the Polish writer. Among these is a poem in English entitled ‘Manuscript found in a book by Joseph Conrad’ (Watt 1988, 90). Two of Borges’ tales rewrite two of the novels by the Polish author. The first of these tales is based on Lord Jim: ‘La otra muerte’ (‘The other death’), published in La nación 9, no. 1 (1949) and subsequently included in El Aleph (1949). The second is ‘Guayaquil’, based on Nostromo, which appeared in the magazine Periscopio 4, no. 8 (1970) and was later incorporated into El informe de Brodie (The Brodie Report, 1974). Borges’ interest in Lord Jim was due to his obsession with honour and the question of shame for cowardice and treason. It was also because, in 1956, he had taught a course at the University of Buenos Aires in which Conrad was one of the main authors on the syllabus (Borges and Vázquez 1965, 49, 69). Broadly speaking, we can say that Borges was a key figure in the reception of Conrad in Latin America, in that he encouraged, albeit indirectly, the writers of the so-called Latin American boom (Gabriel García Márquez, José Donoso and others) to read the Polish author. Other Argentinian editions of Conrad’s texts which might have been accessible to Vargas Llosa include Tifón (Typhoon) and El Colono de Malata (The Planter of Malata), issued, in 1945 and 1946 respectively, by the publishing house Siglo Veinte; El negro del Narciso, issued by Ayacucho in 1946; and El corazón de las tinieblas (Heart of Darkness) published by La reja in 1954. Additionally, El solitario de Samburán: Victory was in print as early as 1941, published by the Mexican company Editorial Lemuria. Emecé in fact would publish most of Conrad’s works for the whole Latin American market, republishing the Spanish translations made for the Barcelona publishing house Montaner y Simón from the 1920s onwards; thus, for example, La locura de Almayer (Almayer’s Folly), translated by Rafael Marquina in 1925, would be republished in Buenos Aires by Emecé in 1946. Vargas Llosa might have read Conrad in the Borges editions either in Bolivia, where he received his primary education until 1945, or back in Peru, where the family moved that year and where he undertook his secondary education. Moreover, according to Efraín Kristal, The Dream of the Celt (2010), his novel about Roger Casement, may also have been inspired by a Borges story, ‘Theme of the Traitor and the Hero’ (‘Tema del traidor y del héroe’, 1944), ‘in which an Irishman is remembered as a hero because his people want to remember him as such, even though he is deeply flawed’ (Kristal 2012, 141). Indeed, in The Dream of the Celt, the protagonist is a tragic hero in that he was both unable to represent the values of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland – while he served as a diplomat – and was also unsuccessful as a tentative leader of the Irish rebels that he decided to support. Vargas Llosa’s 1990 essay collection, La verdad de las mentiras (The Truth in the Lies), includes the article ‘El corazón de las tinieblas (1902), Joseph Conrad: Las raíces de lo humano’ (Heart of Darkness (1902), Joseph Conrad: The Roots of Humankind). The essay is divided into three sections, The Congo of Leopold II, Konrad Korzeniowski in the Congo, and Heart of Darkness (Vargas Llosa 1990, 35–49), and in it Vargas Llosa’s early impressions of Conrad were revisited by the novelist as a critic. He rejects F. R. Leavis’s criticism of Conrad’s English for its ‘adjectival insistence’ (Leavis 1977, 48), and, instead, praises the stylistic device as one of Conrad’s necessary attributes in order to ‘desracionalizar y diluir la historia en un clima de total 244

The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Latin America

ambigüedad, en un ritmo y fluencia de realidad onírica que la hagan persuasiva’ (48) (‘derationalize and dilute the story into a climate of total ambiguity, in a rhythm and fluency of oneiric reality that would make it persuasive’). Kristal argues that, from the time of his early fiction, Vargas Llosa had already ‘transposed aspects of Conrad’s African novel in The Green House, most notably in the character of Fushía, who was created by the fusion of a real-life character and Conrad’s protagonist’ (Kristal 2012, 142). Vargas Llosa expresses not only his admiration for the Polish author and a recognition of the harsh effects of his experiences in Africa on his writing, but also presents a thorough analysis of Heart of Darkness, in which he emphasizes the following: The extreme complexity of the story is perfectly highlighted by the complex structure of the narration, and by the narrators, settings and times superimposed within the novella. Communicating vessels and Chinese boxes that are brought into relief and overlap in order to build a narrative package which is both functional and subtle. [. . .] But, in this binary reality, in which there are two women associated with Kurtz –the black one, ‘barbaric and proud,’ and his delicate white girl-friend– there are also two narrators, since Marlow narrates within the narration of another narrator-character (who speaks about ‘us,’ as if he were one of the friends listening to Marlow), who is anonymous and furtive, and whose function is that of veiling the story, dissolving it in a mist of subjectivity. Or, rather, of subjectivities that cross and unravel in order to create the saturated atmosphere in which the story takes place. An atmosphere at times confusing and sometimes a nightmare, in which time becomes denser, seems to become steady and to jump later to a different moment, in a syncopated way, leaving intermediate empty spaces, silences, and implicit ideas. This atmosphere, one of the great accomplishments of the book, emerges from the powerful presence of loaded prose, at times grandiloquent and torrential, full of mysterious images and magic-religious resonances, one might say pregnant with vegetal abundance and with rainforest vapours.1 This long excerpt clearly indicates the depth and detail of Vargas Llosa’s reading of Heart of Darkness. However, as Gene M. Moore has argued, in The Dream of the Celt, Vargas Llosa seems to have been particularly influenced by The Secret Agent, since both novels involve ‘moral ambiguity, political intrigue and domestic squalor’ (Moore 2004, 234). As the previous chapters have shown, there are other Spanish writers who were influenced by Conrad, namely the Catalán Joan Benet, who read him in the 1940s in the first Spanish 1 La extremada complejidad de la historia está muy bien subrayada por la compleja estructura de la narración, por los narradores, escenarios y tiempos superpuestos que se van alternando en el relato. Vasos comunicantes y cajas chinas se relevan e imbrican para edificar un todo narrativo funcional y sutil. [. . .] Pero, en esta realidad binaria, en la que hay dos mujeres asociadas a Kurtz –la negra ‘bárbara y soberbia’ y su delicada novia blanca– hay también dos narradores, ya que Marlow narra dentro de la narración de otro narrador-personaje (que habla de ‘nosotros’, como si fuera uno de los amigos que escuchaban a Marlow), éste anónimo y furtivo, cuya función es la de velar la historia, disolviéndola en una neblina de subjetividad. O, mejor, de subjetividades que se cruzan y descruzan, para crear la enrarecida atmósfera en que transcurre el relato. Una atmósfera a ratos de confusión y a ratos de pesadilla, en la que el tiempo se adensa, parece inmovilizarse, para luego saltar a otro momento, de manera sincopada, dejando vacíos intermedios, silencios y sobreentendidos. Esta atmósfera, uno de los mejores logros del libro, resulta de la poderosa presencia de una prosa cargada, por momentos grandilocuente y torrencial, llena de imágenes misteriosas y resonancias mágico-religiosas, se diría que impregnada de la abundancia vegetal y de los vahos selváticos (Verdad, 47).


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe

editions of Montaner y Simón, which he found in his grandfather’s library (Benet 2002, n.p.), and Javier Marías, who includes Conrad in his gallery of ‘Artistas perfectos’ (perfect artists) (Marías 1992, n.p.). Among Latin American writers, Julio Cortázar followed Conrad in Los premios (1960) (The Winners, 1965) and Gabriel García Márquez, who included Conrad in a cameo role in Amor en los tiempos de cólera (1985) (Love in the Time of Cholera, 1988), was clearly influenced by Nostromo. Marie-Madeleine Gladieu in her article ‘Joseph Conrad et Mario Vargas Llosa’ goes as far as to argue that all texts dealing with Amazonia are ultimately inspired by Heart of Darkness (Gladieu 2017, 221). Vargas Llosa’s admiration for Conrad also extended to The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’, in that he follows ‘the art of fiction’ as depicted by the Polish writer therein. Moreover, in the public presentations of his novels the Peruvian writer indirectly reflects the artistic manifesto that Conrad had set out in the Preface to that novella, when he seeks to show his audiences how hard and steady his writing task has been, and how he struggles with words to create works of art for his readers. As Conrad put it: The sincere endeavour to accomplish that creative task, to go as far on that road as his strength will carry him, to go undeterred by faltering weariness or reproach, is the only valid justification for the worker in prose. And if his conscience is clear, his answer to those who, in the fullness of a kind of wisdom which looks for immediate profit, demand specifically to be edified, consoled, amused; who demand to be promptly improved, or encouraged, or frightened, or shocked, or charmed, must run thus: – My task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word to make you hear, to make you feel – it is, before all, to make you see. NN, Preface, xli–xlii; emphasis in the original All in all, Conrad is a key figure for many Latin American writers such as Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel García Márquez and Julio Cortázar, and in particular for Mario Vargas Llosa, an admirer from his early childhood as he demonstrates in the interview that follows.

Acknowledgement This essay was supported by the following funded projects and institutions, which are hereby gratefully acknowledged: the research projects ‘The animal trope’ (PGC-2018-093545-B100) and ‘Migratory Cartographies’ (PID2019-109582GBI00); the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness / ERDF-UE; and the Research Group of Modern and Contemporary Literature, CLIN, Universidade da Coruña.





Good afternoon, Dr Vargas Llosa. Thank you for coming to A Coruña to tell us about your work, and for granting us this interview on El sueño del celta (2010) (The Dream of the Celt). My first question will be: when did you first read Joseph Conrad? I first read his novels when I was very young, at school. He left a strong impression on me from the beginning. Eventually, I read all his work in English. I was particularly impressed by The Secret Agent, by his description of the anarchists. That is a dazzling case. It is worth noting that Conrad did not really learn English until he was eighteen years old. He could speak Polish and French. When he joins the merchant navy, he has to decide whether to write in English or in French. It is certainly an extraordinary case, really unprecedented, I think. And he comes to write in an English of great, baroque, exuberant richness, as if he really were a native English speaker. Although Dr F. R. Leavis, a renowned English critic, always pointed out that surely no English writer could have handled the English language with such exuberance, diversity and the slightly exotic taste that is found in Conrad’s English (Leavis 1948). I consider him to be one of the greatest novelists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, because he is halfway between the two centuries. Besides, I am indebted to Conrad in that through him I discovered Roger Casement, the main character of my novel El sueño de celta (2010) (translated as The Dream of the Celt [2011]). To me it was very interesting because I had always been intrigued as to why Conrad, who had signed a three-year contract to be captain of one of the ships of the company that administered the Congo, resigned and came back to England after just three months. What happened exactly? Why did he break his contract with the company so abruptly? His big dream had been to be a ship’s captain, and he had been given the chance. And what happened is that the first person he meets when he arrives in the Congo is Roger Casement, who had already been there for eight years and who was later the British Consul there, and who opens Conrad’s eyes to [. . .] the terrible violence being exerted by the Belgians on the poor Congolese indigenous peoples, confronting thus the prevailing mythology in Europe and the rest of the world, really, about the true reality of the Congo, which was by no means what it was believed to be, but rather a world where the native population was exploited in a particularly fierce, inhuman and savage way. So I found all this out, following somehow in the footsteps of Conrad, and I discovered that, in fact, it was Roger Casement who was already systematically keeping a record of the horrors perpetrated against the indigenous peoples, who opened Conrad’s eyes to the reality of the Congo, and probably also the one who


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe




encouraged him to step away, to leave this world of horror which was the Congo at the time. And then I found myself becoming very interested in the character of Roger Casement; I discovered that his life was like that of the hero of a novel, and thus it was that I embarked on the adventure of writing a novel about Roger Casement, which is The Dream of the Celt. Yes, a wonderful novel, and one which I feel ought to have been far more positively received than it was. His is a very mysterious case, very unclear. Because, objectively, he is a hero, a person who, over many years, documents in great detail, and very precisely, the horrors committed under Belgian colonialism in the Congo. While fulfilling his duties as consul, he secretly uses direct, first-hand information gathered by himself in the Congo to supply magazines and those people who were campaigning in Europe to expose the horrors committed in the Congo and who demanded that, for once and for all, the Belgian king should hand over the Congo to the Belgian state so that the Western powers might pressurize Belgium, something that had been impossible before, because the Congo had been given to the King of Belgium personally: he was given a country which was eighteen times bigger than the European country over which he ruled. Then there was this tale that he was a fighter for the Christianization of Africa and against the Arab slave traders who were kidnapping African natives to sell as slaves; whereas, in fact, the King of Belgium was the first perpetrator of genocide in the twentieth century. In truth, the first genocide took place in Africa, in the Congo, and was committed by the Belgian king, who never set foot in Africa. Then again, Roger Casement has been largely discredited due to the notorious diaries, apparently written by him, in which he relates terrible things related to homosexuality and paedophilia, which he would seem to have committed during those years. Well, as you surely know, there are many opposing views about these diaries; there is even some debate about their authenticity1 and the suggestion that it was the British police itself that forged them in order to discredit Casement for alleged treason against Great Britain. It has been impossible to reach a final conclusion on this matter, as the diaries could have been forged. Let’s say it wouldn’t be impossible, although it would be difficult, because in many ways the diaries match the autobiographical facts known about Roger Casement. There are discrepancies in many respects. I have this theory, which I think it is difficult to substantiate, that although he wrote those diaries, he did not live them; that those experiences, rather, he invented in order to live them, which is what novelists do. He fantasized, or . . . Well, I think that in this respect . . . because there are some testimonies; for instance, a very important testimony by an assistant he had while he was consul. And this gentleman, who later became a career diplomat, a British one, says that it would have been impossible, in that reduced, minuscule diplomatic world in the Congo, for Roger Casement to have lived out such adventures . . . That would have been known!

O’Sullivan 2014.


An Interview with Mario Vargas Llosa




News about such a thing would have spread. Thus, it is absolutely impossible. Either they invented it or he himself invented it to be able to play out fantasies which were probably haunting him. This will never be known, either way. But Roger Casement’s fate is a very tragic one: he was sentenced to death and eventually hanged. He was the only person that Great Britain hanged for treason over the course of World War I. In fact, for a long time, in his own country, for which he had worked so much as an Irish nationalist, there was great reluctance to acknowledge him, to grant him the merit he had justly earned as a great fighter against colonialism and for the independence of Ireland. I think that this reluctance has changed over time, and that nowadays there is a fairer vision on the matter, and that Roger Casement’s merits as a fighter against colonialism and in favour of Ireland’s independence has been recognized. Still, I think that, thus far, the homage has not been as complete as it should have been. Yes. Yes, I think in that respect I would agree with you. And, how would you define the relationship between The Dream of the Celt and Heart of Darkness? Well, there is, so to say, a common background, which is that atrocious phrase that summarises Heart of Darkness: ‘The horror! The horror!’ That is truly a description of horror. That horror was lived by Roger Casement: he saw it, he was witness to it and he kept careful records of those horrors. In this sense I think there is common ground between Heart of Darkness and El sueño del celta. One understands, after becoming aware of all of these things, Conrad’s decision to leave the Congo, as if he were escaping Hell. Because it was, in fact, Hell. I think the degree of cruelty with which the indigenous population working for the Belgian king’s company was exploited is unprecedented and it does not have . . . It has no emulators, either. Emulators. I think a monstrous record was established there: severing hands, arms and legs of the poor Africans who did not meet their quotas, punishing women and children when they escaped or tried to escape . . . Well, in truth, one is blinded by the magnitude of the cruelty, and by the systematic way in which it was applied, solely and exclusively for the sake of enrichment, to benefit from that horrible exploitation. Certainly. And . . . what about Nostromo? Nostromo . . . well, it is a . . . [laughs] it is a novel about Latin America in which there is a mixture, somehow an absurd one, of things taken from Venezuela, from Uruguay, from absolutely distant countries. But I think that, at the same time, there is something like an intuition – he did not spend much time in Latin America, Conrad, by the way – but about all of these places there is an intuition about the historical violence that has marked life there, the republican life, mainly, of Latin America. And there is also the presence of the landscape, exotic, exuberant . . . of that warm world. In the novel there is something like an atmosphere that has to do with the Caribbean and to do with those extreme climates of the tropics. And, at the same time, it is a novel full of colour, full of adventure. To me it is not one of his best novels, but I think all Conrad is attractive, magnificent. He described a world of adventure that is very similar to that reality of the Third World, so to speak, that he came to perceive from a close standpoint, through his experiences as a seaman. 249

The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe







I think that you had already followed Conrad’s trail in The Green House and the character of Fushía, hadn’t you? Very likely, for sure, very likely. Already in The Green House there is a presence, because he is an author I have read a lot, so . . . We are not always aware of the authors that leave a mark on us as writers, are we? Sometimes it happens in a very unconscious way. But I think that with Conrad there is no doubt at all, because, as I have told you, I discovered him when I was still very young. And, since then, I have read and reread him many times. And I have some of Conrad’s novels, such as The Secret Agent . . . that seems to me to be an absolute work of art. Nobody has portrayed terrorism, for instance, like Conrad. The character of the professor in The Secret Agent is something wonderful. That anarchist who is like a bomb himself, because he was surrounded by explosives in case the police might come to arrest him and put themselves within reach of those explosions. [He smiles.] That character is absolutely wonderful. Yes, yes. When I was reading The Dream of the Celt I thought, ‘The driving forces of Eros and Thanatos are very well combined here.’ Oh, yes. Clearly. In that sense, that is a reality in Conrad . . . And in your novel, also. If he were to have been killed in the Congo, he would probably have said: ‘Well, I’ve done my part.’ Yes, I think that is so. And, I was thinking about jail, about the jail chapters . . . Oh, I see. Roger Casement’s? . . . those about Roger Casement, in your novel, connecting them with Nelson Mandela, when he was in jail. Well, you see, this may be, because I visited the island where Mandela was imprisoned in South Africa. I was even in the cell where he lived in solitary confinement for the first six months, and this may have been imprinted into my subconscious mind and may have had an effect on my writing. I was mainly referring to the idea that Mandela forgave, in a way. Oh, yes, indeed. That was the idea. The connection, as well, but also that idea of healing. Well, not really. Consciously, I did not . . . But I was so impressed by that visit and by getting to know Mandela’s world . . . It is a really extraordinary case of generosity. Furthermore, he is a man who was once a terrorist, who fell into that when he was young and who, later on, in the isolation of such long confinement, concludes that that is not the method, that the English must be retained in South Africa and that a reconciliation of the communities must take place. The incredible thing is that, from his cell, he manages to convince his own party first, and then the white people in South Africa, to stay. It is a really extraordinary case. Truly. By means of that well-known rugby match . . . Yes, yes. But he manages to imbue his party with those ideas – a party that had not previously shared those ideas at all. Indeed. It is a really extraordinary case, a statesman with a generous vision, deeply democratic. Extraordinary. And then I was thinking, when we were talking about Conrad, about the fact that he was Polish. But then again, Conrad was from what we now call Ukraine.

An Interview with Mario Vargas Llosa







Certainly. He was born in Russia. Ukraine belonged to Russia at that time. Exactly. His parents were persecuted. I have been in Gdansk recently, to the Emigration Museum in Gdynia, in the Baltic, to learn about his family, etc. and you can empathize with that person, someone who no longer had a homeland to return to, in that it was Russia then. It was not Poland or Ukraine. Ukraine didn’t exist . . . Poland did not exist, Ukraine did not exist. It was part of Tsarist Russia. And I was also thinking that Casement, at some stage, flees from feeling like a slave, and at a given point in time Marlow becomes a slave as well. Certainly so. Casement had to live a life of pretence. He had to live a life in which he fully disguised his true intentions, his true convictions. That is what makes him a hero. So, there is a parallelism . . . to avoid being a slave, in that sense. I was impressed by the degree of research which was evident in the novel. Yes. You know that I have been to the Congo, and seldom have I had such a negative impression of a place, to the point of believing that there was really no solution for that country. Because the devastation caused precisely by Belgian colonialism crushed the primitive indigenous societies to such an extent that they have never been able to recover from the fundamental damage they suffered through their contact with the European world, at the hands of the Belgians. Yes. And I was wondering . . . and perhaps it’s excessive, because we critics wonder too much, but Oscar Wilde came to my mind, too. Oscar Wilde? Why? What is the relation that you have found with him? In connection with the fact that Oscar Wilde was in prison in Reading. Oh, sure. In Reading Gaol. Because of the period, because he is Irish, too . . . Yes, and because of his sexuality, so repressed. Exactly. And the trial of Oscar Wilde. I saw some kind of parallelism there. Yes. A parallelism can probably be found there. . . . and because of his educated family. I am in contact with a well-known Catholic poet from Belfast, Medbh McGuckian. And when I told her, ‘Look, I have read this book by Vargas Llosa and I was so interested in the character of Casement . . .’ She said, ‘I grew up on Casement’s family estate.’ She is a Catholic, but I think her family must have been in the household of Casement’s family in some way. Interesting. She told me this, but I don’t think she knew all there is to know about Casement at that time. I believe that in Ireland there is not as much knowledge about him as there should be. No, there is not. He has been hidden. Not so much now, not so much now . . . I was given an award in Ireland for that novel.2 It is the least they could do . . . I think today there is a deeper understanding of Roger Casement, but he has not been honoured to the extent that would be right and proper.


Presidential Distinguished Service Award for Arts, Culture and Sport, 2015.


The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe






MJLM: 252

I even thought, in cinematographic terms, that The Green House was a prequel to The Dream of the Celt. Oh, really? Well, maybe in some way. Evidently, an author cannot have that vision. But when a critic has such an overarching view, he establishes some parallelisms an author himself cannot establish – the author lacks the necessary perspective to do so. What I am fully convinced of is that Conrad has had a great influence on my work. Of that there is no doubt. I was reading this morning, before coming here, in La verdad de las mentiras (The Truth about Lies), the chapter on Conrad. That is where you mention F. R. Leavis . . . Indeed. Yes, for sure, because Leavis admired him deeply. He always defended him greatly. And there are testimonies now about Conrad in which it is stated that he spoke incomprehensible English. How curious! Someone who wrote such marvellous English, when it came to speaking . . . Well, the English are rather chauvinistic. Maybe it was just a matter of accent. He had a rather marked accent. [Laughs.] . . . and just because of that they called it ‘incomprehensible’. I dare say. [They both laugh.] Well, when Roger Casement was convicted, a group of writers signed a manifesto, and Conrad refused to sign it. And that must have really hurt him. In your novel, Casement asked whether Conrad had signed a letter of support for him or not. Because he had a great admiration for Conrad. He admired him; he was a dedicated reader of Conrad. So this must have really hurt him. But one can understand it: Conrad had obtained British citizenship, but he was surely in a very unsafe situation, in case . . . because it was wartime. There was a war at stake. And he had nowhere to go back to. He had nowhere to go back to, nowhere to go. Conrad’s case was dramatic. Certainly so, because his family had suffered greatly. His whole family, yes. Fine. I do not want to take up any more of your time. Just one thing, the book in which this interview is to be published is called The Reception of Joseph Conrad in Europe. So, just one final question, do you consider yourself to be a European writer, an international writer, a transnational writer or . . .? I believe I am a transnational, international writer . . . because although I was born in Peru, I have both Peruvian and Spanish nationality. I feel at home. Wherever I have lived, and I have lived in France, in England, in Madrid, in Barcelona . . . I have always felt at home wherever I’ve been. And literature cannot have borders. Literature has to be international, or it simply cannot be. I think literature cannot have a homeland. It has to be within everybody’s reach. If not, it is not literature. It is folklore, it is ethnology. But literature is universal. It must be universal. We must be able to read an author. If an author is great, we can read their work no matter where we are from, or where the author is from. This is the case with Dostoevsky, with Tolstoy . . . and then with Cervantes, Balzac . . . with Dickens, Victor Hugo . . . with all the great authors, anyway. Thank you so much for your time.


Borges and Conrad are two authors who on first impression might appear to have little in common. Borges is known for succinctness: he famously never wrote a novel and according to him, he seldom read novels, though his vast critical output casts doubt upon this assertion. As regards Conrad, Borges unquestionably read his novels extensively, imaginatively and productively. In his Introduction to English Literature (1965), he names Conrad as ‘one of the greatest novelists and short story writers in English Literature’ and analyzes briefly no fewer than nine works: Almayer’s Folly, The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’, Lord Jim, Chance, The Secret Agent, Heart of Darkness, Youth, The Duel and The Shadow Line, though without drawing any overarching conclusions (Borges 1979, 848–9).1 Nevertheless, it is interesting to note what he has to say about them. For example, he considers Lord Jim Conrad’s best novel, identifying as its central theme the interplay between an obsession with honour and the disgrace of cowardice.2 I shall come back to this. His summary of Chance is similarly suggestive: ‘two people meet a third, and proceed to reconstruct, by speculating, this person’s life’.3 This is also telling in that the themes and procedures here identified can be said to resonate in some of Borges’s own fictions, though it is interesting to note the absence from this list of the short story ‘The Secret Sharer’, perhaps the most Borgesian in the bond established between one man and another, his other self. Other points of commonality between the two authors are dualism and the idea of the Doppelgänger; the confusion of opposites such as between hero and traitor, or concepts such as civilization and barbarism (a foundational dichotomy in the consideration of Latin American identity). Anecdotally, the first present Borges gave to a particular lady-friend after a romantic night out was a copy of Youth, which, incidentally, does not seem to have been appreciated and may have led to their drifting apart (Canto and Williamson 2004, 277). He had problems in enthusing his sister, Norah, too, but Borges’s own devotion to Conrad remained steadfast. He refers to him repeatedly as one of his favourite authors, the others being Voltair