Conrad’s “The…Narcissus”

When I was contemplating this entry, it is surely telling that my primary concern was whether or not I should use the full title of Conrad’s novella. My instinct was to do so, but recognising that in these sensitive times certain words can be highly offensive and inflammatory, I have settled on an abridged version. There is nothing to be gained by being deliberately provocative…

As for as the story itself is concerned, well, it is typical Conrad (and I love Conrad, by the way). Often dense and overwrought, he can be difficult to get through at times – a little like the sea through which the Narcissus struggles. But there is more brilliance than not: the depiction of the tortuous and brutal passage through the storm; the wonderful portrayal of the waster, Donkin; the agonising decline of the title character. But most stunning for me was the way Conrad describes the ship’s return to London and the Thames. How he wraps up her journey, sees her finally at rest, is masterful.

For a really intelligent analysis of the book I would recommend the relevant chapter in Jacques Berthoud’s Joseph Conrad: The Major Phase – mind you, that’s a pretty challenging read too!