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The Mirror of the Sea Paperback – February 2, 2013
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From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers "In a Dark, Dark Wood" and "The Woman in Cabin 10" comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel, "The Lying Game." See more
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About the Author
Conrad is regarded as one of the great novelists in English, though he did not speak the language fluently until he was in his twenties (and then always with a marked Polish accent). He wrote stories and novels, predominantly with a nautical setting, that depict trials of the human spirit by the demands of duty and honour. Conrad was a master prose stylist who brought a distinctly non-English tragic sensibility into English literature. While some of his works have a strain of romanticism, he is viewed as a precursor of modernist literature. His narrative style and anti-heroic characters have influenced many authors.
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Top customer reviews
This is an autobigraphical book about a very good writer's experiences at sea, in the final era of wooden ships powered by the wind. Once "steamers" were on the horizon, the artistry of sailing nature's winds was over, other than for sport. It's an amazing time and you are constantly reminded how these men battled the deep, wild seas with little more than the stars to guide them, not knowing where exactly land was or how the weather would turn just around the Cape. A life full of unknowns, but confronted with no fear---just blind hope and the experience that comes with many journeys. Although Conrad didn't even learn the English language until in his 20's, he is masterful with the building of the sentence into stunning paragraphs that ebb and flow like the sea. I've never read another book like this.
No doubt there are times during the reading that get a little slow, maybe dwelling a bit too long on the nature of the Northwest wind, or fighting through a particularly difficult gale, for example, but rarely did I want to skip over anything because I was afraid I would miss something important. Conrad is notable for slipping in a very significant gem of a thought without much fuss, a thought that you would stop to think about, a thought that had universal appeal, a thought that somehow made perfect sense and seemed to sum up all your own thoughts magically, in a quick, clean arrangement of words. Great writer!
And he makes you feel that you are out at sea. This is one of the best description of life on the ocean, that I've read, and that includes another of my favorites, "Moby Dick".
Conrad is one of the few authors that I can reread over and over.
Read this one and then read "Lord Jim",another story of the sea.
Also, the price is right.
I like A Personal Record a lot better than The Mirror of the Sea.
With Conrad, fiction beats non-fiction.
An amazon friend's review of a Gide essay collection recently was entitled `non fiction beats fiction'. (Gide was Conrad's French friend in the literary world.)
My opinion on Conrad is: while Gide's fiction may have sunk with time, and his essays may still be floating, with Conrad it is the other way round. His sea fiction has enormous buoyancy, while his essays have a certain leaden quality.
During his struggle with Nostromo, in 1904/5, Conrad wrote, on the side, and by dictation at night (I am wondering about the opportunities involved in that), a series of sketches of autobiographical nature. They were all published separately in newspapers and magazines, and then collectively as The Mirror of the Sea.
The book was a critical success, but it has been shown that it was unreliable as a biographical source. Conrad made things up and misrepresented facts. Which proves my point, he was a fiction writer.
The book is a lament of the lost culture of the sailing ship, and at the same time of a closed chapter of his own life. He had quit the sea for the life of a writer on land, and it was a hard life, the writing.
JC says in his own introduction: I have attempted here to lay bare ... the terms of my relation with the sea. ... for twenty years I have lived like a hermit with my passion! ...Within these pages I make a full confession not of my sins but of my emotions.
So, he goes and writes, at times entertainingly, about landfalls and departures, anchors and wrong language (casting!), drinking captains and presumptuous mates, storms, pleasure sailing, the ethics of craftsmanship, ships in calamity (overdue, missing, stranded, lost), the near mystic relation between man and ship (a she!), between man and nature, about river estuaries, ports, docks, about Nelson and Trafalgar and about some stories from his youth... This is an easy process for Conrad, compared to the hard labor of his fiction. The writing did not require his usual meticulous composition; the voice is that of a TV documentary host. The texts are assembled without subtitles, and in a sequence which is different from the publishing chronology.
Is it worth it? For me and for other members of the fan club, sure. For aficionados of the subject, i.e. ships and the sea, certainly. For others, hardly.
Now the Personal Record is another matter entirely. JC wrote it for his soon to be former friend F.M.Ford, who wanted to start a new magazine and publish literary autobiographies. JC's text focuses mainly on two subjects: his escape from Poland for the sea, which meant moving to the West, and his escape from the sea for writing as a living. Interestingly, he denies explicitly that the question why he chose to write in English is a legitimate question at all. After all, what else could he have done?
We follow different episodes involving the growth of Almayer's Folly, his first novel. We follow JC on a visit to Poland to his relatives and hear a lot about the family history back to Napoleon and about the uncle, who had adopted JC when his parents had died.
Why did he `run away' to the sea after all? He was a reader from childhood on. He likens his escape to the exodus of Don Qijote from his village in La Mancha: the romance of adventure.
Now, honestly, does that amount to a `Personal Record'? Critics at the time were annoyed. Not only was the text absolutely no record of anything, rather a rambling discourse which jumps through chronos like we love it from Conrad's fiction. Well, some of us do. I do.
Conrad anticipated some opposition. He quotes Marcus Aurelius asking for heroic truth. He makes a categorical statement: JC's truth is more of the humble kind.
And anyway, another quote, now from Novalis (not so beloved by me): I will believe myself as soon as I find somebody else who believes me. (Maybe that's less a quote than a free interpretation.)
As I said, Conrad was great at fiction, his fiction beats his non-fiction hands down. Lucky for us, he was no fanatic of bare facts.