We are Sailing

21 08 2016

The Shadow-Line: A Confession by Joseph Conrad

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‘A sudden passion of anxious impatience rushed through my veins and gave me such a sense of the intensity of existence as I have never felt before or since.’ Written in 1915, The Shadow-Line is based upon events and experiences from twenty-seven years earlier to which Conrad returned obsessively in his fiction. A young sea captain’s first command brings with it a succession of crises: his sea is becalmed, the crew laid low by fever, and his deranged first mate is convinced that the ship is haunted by the malignant spirit of a previous captain. This is indeed a work full of ‘sudden passions’, in which Conrad is able to show how the full intensity of existence can be experienced by the man who, in the words of the older Captain Giles, is prepared to ‘stand up to his bad luck, to his mistakes, to his conscience’. A subtle and penetrating analysis of the nature of manhood, The Shadow-Line investigates varieties of masculinity and desire in a subtext that counterpoints the tale’s seemingly conventional surface.

Classic Conrad this and the storytelling doesn’t disappoint. Superbly written as ever and with a really powerful depiction of life at sea this really is very good indeed.

 

four stars

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