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 ?

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April 2011
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