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WhenLord Jimfirst appeared in 1900, many took Joseph Conrad to task for couching an entire novel in the form of an extended conversation--a ripping good yarn, if you like. (One critic inThe Academycomplained that the narrator "was telling that after-dinner story to his companions for eleven solid hours.") Conrad defended his method, insisting that people really do talk for that long, and listen as well. In fact his chatty masterwork requires no defense--it offers up not only linguistic pleasures but a timeless exploration of morality.

The eponymous Jim is a young, good-looking, genial, and naive water-clerk on the Patna, a cargo ship plying Asian waters. He is, we are told, "the kind of fellow you would, on the strength of his looks, leave in charge of the deck." He also harbors romantic fantasies of adventure and heroism--which are promptly scuttled one night when the ship collides with an obstacle and begins to sink. Acting on impulse, Jim jumps overboard and lands in a lifeboat, which happens to be bearing the unscrupulous captain and his cohorts away from the disaster. The Patna, however, manages to stay afloat. The foundering vessel is towed into port--and since the officers have strategically vanished, Jim is left to stand trial for abandoning the ship and its 800 passengers.

Stripped of his seaman's license, convinced of his own cowardice, Jim sets out on a tragic and transcendent search for redemption. This may sound like the bleakest of narratives. But Lord Jim is also touching, elevating, and often funny. Here, for example, the narrator describes the ship's captain (proving that clothes do indeed make the man):

He made me think of a trained baby elephant walking on hind-legs. He was extravagantly gorgeous too--got up in a soiled sleeping suit, bright green and deep orange vertical stripes, with a pair of ragged straw slippers on his bare feet, and somebody's cast-off pith hat, very dirty and two sizes too small for him, tied up with a manilla rope-yarn on the top of his big head. You understand a man like that hasn't a ghost of a chance when it comes to borrowing clothes.
This is formidable prose by any standard. But when you consider that Conrad was working in his third language, the sublime after-dinner story that isLord Jimseems even more astonishing an accomplishment.--Teri Kieffer--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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ISBN-10:  0451527674
ISBN-13:  978-0451527677
Author:  Joseph Conrad
Publisher:  Signet Classics
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review by . September 19, 2012
On Bob Dylan's latest album, the title track "Tempest" is a relentless narrative of the sinking of the Titanic, the title itself repeating the title of Shakespeare's account of a shipwreck on a deserted island far from land, believed to be based on the real-life shipwreck of the Sea Venture on the islands of Bermuda at the turn of the 17th century.  These are seas Conrad sailed aboard ship and on paper as one of the great writers of his century, perhaps best known for this …
review by . November 22, 2008
By Giordano Bruno (Wherever I am, I am.) - See all my reviews     That title is a knock-off of Ishmael's description of Captain Ahab in Melville's Moby Dick. My guess is that Joseph Conrad never read Moby Dick. His writing career unfolded during the decades before the rediscovery of Melville. I have no doubt that Conrad would have burst with appreciation if he'd encountered the other "greatest" writer of sea tales in English or any language. Lord Jim begins to remind me of Moby …
review by . November 22, 2008
That title is a knock-off of Ishmael's description of Captain Ahab in Melville's Moby Dick. My guess is that Joseph Conrad never read Moby Dick. His writing career unfolded during the decades before the rediscovery of Melville. I have no doubt that Conrad would have burst with appreciation if he'd encountered the other "greatest" writer of sea tales in English or any language. Lord Jim begins to remind me of Moby Dick in chapter four, when the straightforward 3rd person narrative suddenly shifts …
review by . November 22, 2008
A Grand Ungodly Godlike Narrator, November 22, 2008  By Giordano Bruno (Wherever I am, I am.) - See all my reviews     That title is a knock-off of Ishmael's description of Captain Ahab in Melville's Moby Dick. My guess is that Joseph Conrad never read Moby Dick. His writing career unfolded during the decades before the rediscovery of Melville. I have no doubt that Conrad would have burst with appreciation if he'd encountered the other "greatest" writer of sea tales …
review by . August 22, 2005
Young Jim was probably never meant for the sea. As described by Joseph Conrad, the title character of "Lord Jim" had no real love for ocean voyage or relish for adventure except when it was inside his own head. His "dreams and the success of his imaginary achievements" were "the best parts of life, its secret truth, its hidden reality." His passage to the Far East was destined to prove a ticket to failure, and so it was, when he abandoned a foundering vessel filled with pilgrims to save himself.   &n …
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