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am 28. Juli 2000
It has been over 30 years since the first time I read this book. Coming back to it after all this time, my overwhelming impression was how much Conrad had compressed into so few pages. TYPHOON can easily be read in a single sitting; but don't plan on going to bed right after. Not without a good stiff drink.
The Nan-Shan, a steamer of Siamese registry but with English officers, and with a cargo of Chinese coolie laborers returning from a stint overseas, encounters a deadly typhoon and somehow survives it. We see the story unfold through the eyes of Jukes, the first mate, who is awed by his stoic Captain MacWhirr's quiet resolve in the face of a storm of the century.
Reading it, I felt transported to the Northridge Earthquake of 1994. A sound as of all the demons of hell -- shaking and rolling in six directions at once -- flashes of light from exploding transformers -- barefooted stumbling for my boots in a world of broken glass and crockery -- found by the police hours later walking down the street, stunned, with blood pouring from my ankle and a gallon jug of water in my hand.
Or, replace it with an equivalent experience of your own. Conrad had looked death in the face and learned how to face it. His Captain MacWhirr stands fast in the fury and doesn't let his imagination of untold horrors interfere with guiding the ship through the storm. At one point, he tells Jukes in the wheelhouse, "We must trust her [the ship] to go through it and come out the other side, That's plain and straight."
Conrad is a wise teacher and a great writer. TYPHOON did more than survive a second reading: It awed me a second time. If I may quote once more from the book: "MacWhirr had sailed over the surface of the oceans as some men go skimming over the years of existence to sink gently into a placid grave, ignorant of life to the last, without ever having been made to see all that it may contain of perfidy, of violence, and of terror."
MacWhirr's initiation into this perfidy, violence, and terror shows us how we might likewise survive the storms and shipwrecks of our own lives. What an incredible book!
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am 16. Mai 2000
I first read this story in high school, 1973, and read it all the time since. Its a quick intense read. I did spend 10 years at sea in Alaska commercial fishing and of all the books on storms, this is still my favorite. Some people don't like Conrad's Lord Jim, but I like all his works. Farley Mowat also has some great sea stories that I feel are pretty realistic. The Serpents Coil, and Grey Seas Under are the two I liked best, and The Boat that Wouldn't Float is one of the funnyest I have read.
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