I can now read Joseph Conrad. When I was younger I tried and tried, but I never could understand Conrad. But now I can. I guess I had to have more experience with evil to understand Joseph Conrad.
But in the introduction to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and the Secret Sharer, Joyce Carol Oates, herself a masterful novelist, quotes Conrad when he wrote,” 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.”
He wrote that in the preface to The Nigger of the Narsissus,
I had trouble writing that way because I spent so much time in my head. Gradually, the compulsive daydreaming went away when I realized it ws a form of dissociation. By working through memories that caused the dissociation, I was able to stop compulsive daydreaming. Now that I spend most of my time present, I can see the leaves and the trees, watch the rain splatter on the street, watch the street light skate along the wet street. I also see faces and I can describe what I see and hear and feel because I am present to my own senses.
The amazing thing is that Joseph Conrad was born in Poland in 1857. His parents, revolutionaries, died when he was a child. He went to see t the age of 16, and learned English when he was twenty. And yet he is a great stylist of the English language. He died in England in 1924.
When he was thirty, he decided he would write. He left the sea, got married and had two sons. The sales were few, although he was admired by Henry James, Stephen Crane and Ford Maddox Ford. His health was never good. He was gloomy and found writing painful. But he wrote Lord Jim, The Heart of Darkness, Chance and Victory.
It was Lord Jim that defeated me but I read it in high school, decades too soon.
Now I read him slowly, savoring his use of words, the way he makes the reader see, hear and feel each scene.