Nostromo by Joseph Conrad

Joseph Conrad or to give him his proper name Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski ,was a polish born writer he had a varied life ,working as a sailor ,where the kernel for this book came after a visit to latin america ,he settle in england in his twenties but still travelled he didn’t learn english til his twenties .

Nostromo is a reread for me I read it in my late teens about twenty years ago and like it but didn’t love the book ,but when I read the secret history of costaguna a book based on this book I was advised to reread this by Frank Wynne on twitter and I am pleased I choose to do so ,as the book seemed to have grown in 20 years I think as I m older and more cynical and less idealistic nowadays the book appeals more .So what is the book about well about a silver mine ,a revolution ,a mine owner and Nostromo the man who could save the day .The book shows what a melting pot small harbours where at these  times in latin America where at this time a mix of expatriates ,natives and sailors on shore leave add to a heavy brew the ownership of mine a coup in the air and a pile of silver ,the book moves at a rip-roaring pace you meet a myriad of interesting characters a lot you feel Conrad would have met on his travels when sailing .Nostromo is like some of the great figures from south american history a european that becomes drawn into the struggle for freedom .

In the time of Spanish rule ,and for many years afterwards ,the town of Sulaco – the luxuriant beauty of orange gardens bears witness to its antiquity – had never been commercially anything more important than a coasting port with a fairly large local trade in ox hides and indigo .

The opening lines of Nostromo describe the town of Sulaco .

The story is so modern I felt if you crossed the names and replaced with arabic names you could have the current situation in the arabic world or with african names it could be cotes d ivoire ,at thew heart of the book is greed and money who owns it for silver you could have oil or cocoa in its place .My edition was from Oxford world classics thanks to Kirsty and had a great appendix with loads of facts and explanations on words and sources for the story .As for th story of the silver mine I was reminded of a programme from the early nineties where the radio dj Andy Kershaw and singer Billy Bragg followed the south american silver trail ,at one point we were told there was enough silver mined in the 1800’s to build a silver bridge from south america to Spain .The book shows what greed and colonialism had done to south america using an imagined country was a good idea from Conrad as it could be any of the countries in South America over the late 1800’s to early 1900’s as they all became republics .This book made me think I should read some more classic books than I do .

Have you read this book ?

Have you reread a book and found it better with age on rereading ?

The secret history of Costaguana by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

Juan Vasquez is a Columbian writer ,he studied in Colombia then in France ,living in Belgium then spain in Barcelona where he lives today his first novel was a surprise hit the informers this is his second novel ,he has just published a third in spanish.he has also translated books into spanish .
The book is a imagine tale based round the writing of Conrad’s great latin American novel Nostromo .We meet Jose Altamirano a Colombian ,that has come to live in London ,he has escaped the horrors he saw and witnessed , after the thousand day war in his homeland ,that ran between the two main parties in colombia as the fought over the Panama canal and its riches .Anyway he is introduced to Joseph Conrad and they talk about books and writers  at the time Conrad  is writing a book about revolution and turmoil in latin america ,so he is asked to recount his experiences and his families experiences during the two years of war .These are colourful and traumatic and highly violent at times involving him and his loved ones ,Conrad eagerly takes notes from what he says  ,he opens his heart to Conrad as he trusts him when the meet ,and in doing so is Keen to see what Conrad has woven from his story .Well when he reads the first part work of Nostromo which is based in the imagined land of Costaguana of the title  not his homeland or own town .Jose is shocked he feels he has been removed from his own story .

But the republic does exist ,I said or rather beseeched him .The province does exist .But the silver mine is really a canal ,a canal between two oceans .I know because I know it .I was born in that republic ,I lived in the Province .I am guilty of its misfortunes
Conrad didn’t answer .
Jose finds he has been recast and removed from his tale .

This is a clever juxtapose on the Conrad novel the table flipped a latin american writing about a latin american in london .We find out a lot about Conrad and his novelistic life as a sailor His travels in africa and how he end up as an English writer even thou he was born in Poland .The book shows the danger of telling writers your story and also how British and European writers rewrote and maybe didn’t acknowledge the people who stories they told in their great books of far-flung places .Now this an imagined piece of parallel fiction .But having reread Nostromo and be reviewing it tomorrow you feel Conrad would have used someone like Jose in his writing process to get the hard facts and feel of the place although he imagine Costaguana it could be anyone of half a dozen countries in south america .The book was longlisted for this years IFFP and was translated by Anne Maclean who won last year IFFP prize .


A ball and easter break

Well I m back took long off from blog than Intend .But had a busier easter than expected ,we went to a ball at Chesterfield football clubs new stadium for Amanda and mine work .The people we support have spent the last year rasing funds to pay for the night and to get dressed up in dinner jackets ,suits and ball gowns .They all looked wonderful as did my darling wife in here 50’s style dress .

So we had a long night on good friday til early hours .Then we had family visiting on easter saturday and sunday .I not had time to read or blog a lot but have had a great Time with family and friends and most of all my darling wife Amanda .
I return tomorrow with books and a review .Just wanted to let you know I was here .

when a book sprouts from another !

A recent reading of the secret history of costaguna  set me thinking ,this book is parallel novel to Joseph Conrad’s Nostromo ,there is a clever juxtapose about this thou Vasquez is a latin american writing about events in london and Conrad was an english writer writing about latin america ,the link is the character in Vasquez book tells Conrad his life story about the events in his homeland ,this story forms part of Conrad’s book and the imagined country of costaguna .Well I decide to re read Nostromo and the old saying certain books are best read when you are old was true with this book a book that came to life more than before I felt this was mainly due to my increased cynicism with age,so thanks to Vasquez I ve rediscovered a book and writer I had partly written off as a younger man .I ll shortly be review both books .Thanks to Kirsty at oup for the lovely copy of Nostromo (love the picture on the cover )

Now I have previously read march by Geraldine Brooks another Parallel novel that worked for me ,and some Sherlock Holmes inspired stories that were hit and miss .so the question is –



In answer to the second one I d love see a book on Don Quixote maybe him as a younger man .Perec life a user manual  has loads sub plots and characters that would make great stories on their own .


The museum of innocence by Orhan Pamuk

Source – library

Translator – Maureen Freely

Orhan Pamuk won the nobel prize in 2006 ,he was the first Turkish citizen to win a nobel prize .he is professor of comparative literature at Columbia university ,he has been at odds at times with his own country about its past he has had a number of books translated into in english by Maureen Freely that has also done the Istanbul memories book and his novel snow .,this book like his book Istanbul memories of a city which I read and I feel probably inspired this book in a lot of ways Istanbul is like an extra character at times

Well Museum of innocence is an epic book ,it has scope and vision it use the Janus like city of Istanbul ,a city torn between the arabic and western world ,between old and new ,also between classes .The book is a history of a love affair between   a lowly shop girl and a much older businessman ,now I know what you are thinking this is going be a book about a dirty old man ,a new Lolita  .W ell no it is a bout true love in its purest sense ,about obsession ,class and society within turkey who are these people ? the lowly shop girl Fusun is beautiful the sort of girl who stops men in the track but she is only a shop girl ,the man is Kemal he is heir ,a man railroad into marriage by expectations of his class to keep the status quo going .so they embark on a 20 year affair ,The clandestine couple meet at an apartment ,this place becomes the home of the museum of innocence as Kemal start converting every thing about Fusun ,he has put this lowly girl on a pedestal ,over the course of the book we see the affair unfold and the collecting of items increase greatly .

During my eight years of going to Keshkins for supper ,I was able to squirrel away 4,213 of Fusun’s cigarette butts .Each one of these had touched her rosy red lips and entered her mouth ,some even touching her tongue and becoming moist ,as I would discover when I put my finger on the filter soon after she had stubbed the cigarette out ,the stub ,reddened by her lovely lipstick bore the unique impression of her lips .

Kermal gathering items for his collection .

This book is the best of the four I ve read by Pamuk ,he even writes himself into the story at a couple of points being observed at some parts .I found this love affair touching and sad touched with the sadness of what should have been in a different world .The apartment is a bit like bridge  that cross the Bosphorus connecting the two parts of the city ,in this case the apartment connects two classes of Istanbul .There is something timeless about the story ,I can see this being popular for a long time due the love ,obsession ,city and characters that make up Museum of innocence .the book is on the IFFP short list

Istanbul the heart of this story .


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