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on October 10, 2017
Joseph Conrad's earliest works (Almayer's Folly ,1895; Outcast of the Islands, 1896) dovetailed each other in characters and settings for the plots about Dutch and British expats as lingering legacies of "white man's burden" in former colonial Dutch Indonesia's Borneo and Makassar Is. where intermarriage and lustful intercourse dominant the scandals of Almayer and Willems. The British presence of Capt. Tom Langerd, an island-hopping and river entrepreneur, appears in these two classic Conrad works and in a third published in the 1920s title The Rescue forming in great part an auobiograhical triology of Conrad's fictional themes of human imperfections and dramatic encounters with White Men and colonial cultures and sexuality.The Outcast, the second of Conrad's novellas, captures the twilight of former Dutch colonial Indonesian empire in its personal clashes of morals and ambitions found in Conrad's later works, such as The Heart of Darkness in an African setting. More land clashes than seafaring battles and tragedies, the Outcast better than Al-Mayer's Folly predates Conrad's later successes. Some editing of the Outcast might move the drama a little faster to assist the reader in the endless, it seems, dialogues in which Conrad develops his plots and subplots faces European masters off against Indonesian victims though the victims become masters and the masters victims in Conradian plot paradoxes. With some of the history of the Dutch ventures in southeast asia and the role of Indonesian peoples in the 19th and 20th century in mind, a reader will be delighted to wade through the post-colonial mire and swamps with Conrad's eye for irony and satire as a partner.
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on April 13, 2013
i am trying to do a read of most of conrad, in order; i skipped almayers fancy, then ran right into almayer in this book.
i feel this is a pretty good novel; surprised conrad could write so well so early given his linguistic background; but i didnt spend my time marveling about that so much as in pure admiration of his sweeping descriptions.
thankfully this novel isnt so long (280 p in the Oxford pbk ed.; the typography is nice, just the right weight, not too large or small) as i'm not the best when it comes to a long book; so in hindsight, i'm surprised i finished this because its more or less nothing but long, often repetitive, descriptive passages.
but i thoguht there was a kind of magic in these passages, and if you succumb to it, you may find yourself sitting there re-reading them, sheerly for the wonder of seeing/hearing someone use our language in such a (magnificent) way; expressive, and powerful.
the characters are good, large as life: he paints them as much from within as without. the setting is a river in the jungle of what we'd call Borneo; but it could be the Amazon, or it could be Vietnam. the time period is not that important to the plot i think, but probably second half of 19th cent.

i hope i enjoy the next one as much
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on January 13, 2009
Much -- perhaps too much -- has been written and said about Conrad's racism and/or racialism. By the second term, I mean the predilection of Conrad's contemporaries to explain culture and character by innate racial differences. In that sense, 'race' is one of Conrad's central themes, especially in The Outcast of the Islands, and Conrad is a bona fide quasi-Darwinist believer in racial determinism. Most of Conrad's 'South Sea' adventure novels are built around the clash of races. Again and again, both whites and non-whites devolve, degenerate, dissipate in reaction to each other. One might even say that Conrad is hugely antagonistic to and cynical about the white race in its colonial phase. Three of the white characters in Outcast - Hudig, Almayer, and Willems - mate with non-white women and father half-white children, and in every case the outcome is disastrous for all concerned. The contemptuous language that white characters spout about non-whites in Conrad's novels has earned him hostility from modern non-white readers, but wait! the non-whites in Conrad's novels are just as vituperative and derogatory about whites. Does Conrad take sides? It seems to me that he treats both sides rather harshly. Does Conrad really 'understand' his non-white characters? Now that's a good question, which I'm not anthropologist enough to answer. But it's clear that Conrad is pessimistic about the colonial encounter and the globalization of economic interests, that he perceives only obsessive, blind conflict leading to destruction for both sides. At this point in history, I wouldn't dare fault him as a prophet.

Conrad is also a writer of his times in his consistent portrayal of Nature as powerfully indifferent to humankind's fate, animate yet without animus, a constant beautiful perilous prolific Nature that will outlast humanity, that implicitly mocks humanity's piddling drama and self-importance. Such was the portrayal of nature by Stephen Crane, Thomas Hardy, Jack London and other contemporaries of Conrad. The chief difference is in how gorgeously Conrad describes Nature, how well he treads the line between the emotional perceptions of Nature as "meaningful" for his characters and his own aloof awareness of Nature's unconcern.

Outcast is, briefly, a love story, then a hate story. Sexual energies are seldom beneficent in Conrad, and his women characters are no doubt his weakest. As a previous reviewer, Herr Schneider, aptly points out, the woman Aissa in Outcast is utterly implausible if you stop to analyze her expressions. By the time she begins to have a voice, however, any reader like me will be so caught up in the rip-roaring emotional and physical violence of this novel that he/she will suspend all doubts quite willingly.

The Outcast was Conrad's second novel, but curiously it has more syntactical tangles than Almayer's Folly, his first. One does have to wonder whether editors or colleagues played a role in Conrad's phenomenal command of his third language. Outcast seems to me to start very well, then drift for a few chapters, but then to build in tension and in verbal virtuosity along a parabolic curve of excitement. I swear, I read the 55 pages of the final Part Five without taking a breath.
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on November 1, 2017
Typography and layout make this unpleasant to read. I would never buy another book published by this company.
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on August 4, 2015
It was too convoluted and the characters were not to my liking in this book of Mr Conrad's. I lost interest.
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on July 8, 2016
Good story
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on September 16, 2014
A gripping tale that has something to say about the human condition, and provides a window on what went on at another time and at another place.
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on May 3, 2012
This novel cements my original impression of Joseph Conrad- that he is inconsistent: a gifted wordsmith, but poor storyteller.

I enjoy his adventurous and romantic subject matter, and at times I love his descriptive prose: he is able to capture the moment beautifully.

But more often, he gets too carried away with his own literariness. For all his expansive, melodramatic, flowery language, there is nothing to hold onto. He does not properly develop the plot or storyline, neither does he clearly narrate the action. What should be landmark events of the text are left vague. After a while, this obscurity causes the reader to lose interest: it just does not hold together. Jumping from one sub-plot to another deflates the tension. And everything is delivered with the same monotonous pace. The effect is no different with The Secret Agent, Heart of Darkness, and Under Western Eyes, all of which I similarly trudged through.

Often his characterization is cartoonish. His portrayals of women lack warmth or realism. Willems' wife is practically a cardboard cutout: Aissa is the femme fatale from the underworld. In addition to the pantomime cast, the action can read like a stage-play, complete with theatrical, melodramatic interludes and unrealistic dialogues. Sometimes his insights and philosophical forays are memorable: other times trite or cliched.

*Be aware of the large physical size of this particular edition, its dimensions are 20 X 25 cm. It makes a nice change to read a novel in such large format.
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on December 18, 2014
Total scam. The print is tiny and unreadable.
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on January 7, 2013
I am not accustomed to reading book that ramble as much as this one although, l must admit, it KEEPS you wondee
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