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masterwork from a master writer
am 24. Mai 2000
Conrad is my favorite 20th century author, so I am biased. The reviewer who compared him to Tolstoy was on the money. Both lived lives that gave them fodder for their fiction; Tolstoy as a soldier in the Crimean war, an aristocrat facing the turbulence of the political and social upheavals of fin-de-siecle Russia, and Conrad as a mariner and a Polish transplant who carved out a language and a career for himself in England. Nostromo contains some of the most vividly realized characterization, plot, and sensory detail of any novel ever written in the English language, period. Do not pay any attention to a customer whose review is based on listening to the audio tape version. It doesn't do the book justice and is indeed labored to the extreme. I would also hope that readers do not form their opinions from the BBC film. It is infinitely shallow by comparison to this rich work. While the "eponymous" character remains purposefully enigmatic, the other inhabitants of Costaguena are stereoscopically fleshed out. We are on intimate terms with the Goulds. We know Decoud's innermost thoughts. It's true that Decoud is the central character of this novel. His isolation and mental defragmentation is Conrad's arguement for and refuation of existentialism. We are all islands, yet no man is in island. Take your pick. This is a very large piece of fiction. Do not approch it as you would some best seller. It's not going to entertain you on every page. What it will do is reward you in riches that can never come cheaply. Yet it is not like Finnegan's Wake, where you have to have your Boedekker's guide to see you along your journey. It's also a great adventure story, with a larger than life hero. If I could suggest one book to represent the most finely crafted novel of its era, this would be it.