He was. I just did collaborated on the a piece about the colonization of the Congo that used HEART OF DARKNESS as one of its throughlines as a shadow-play. The other story (of King Leopold and the human rights activists who worked against him)took place in front of the shadow play. Conrad himself and some of the real life people he met provided a lot of the material for the people we chose to represent. He was an artist informed mightily by his social conscienceness. That awareness never descended into propaganda which is why his work still resonates so strongly today and seems to adapt to our world as it changes.
Posts: 35 | Location: Portland, OR, USA | Registered: 23 July 2004
Which is why it sometimes saddens me when people call him a racist and a bigot...apparently, the main character in Heart (just slipped my tongue) was too distanced from the African world, and by his description of the natives showed his assumed superiority and hence his true racist self. I had this argument not two weeks ago with a black fellow who wrote his entire 20 page essay on just that topic. Needless to say, I forcefully disagreed with him, and we had a most lively discussion about the late 19th century morality, misconceptions, the ability to feel compassion without superiority, and such things. I'm proud to say that he revised a large part of his essay, and added a few counterarguments to his thesis, which counterarguments he left unresolved (thus in favour of not calling Conrad a racist). I still think he was one of the most un-racist writers of his period, for the sole reason that he experianced over 20 years of sea voyage to some of the darkest places in the world. By the way, did you know he tried to commit suicide at 20? The bullet missed his heart, though. Lucky it did.
Shoot, I'm Black. And Mexican. And I do think Conrad's a racist. And so is Shakespeare and Twain and a host of others. Most of them are ethno-centric and sexist as well. I don't feel the need to absolve them of their faults to appreciate their work and recognize what they were talking about. As an artist in the 21st century I take stands in my work and my life which I can only hope history bears out as the right choice. In Conrad you see a questioning of the nature and purpose of empire. To me, here's a guy who recognizes evil when he sees it in front of him and it makes him question. In a lot of ways Conrad signals the beginning of the end for a certain colonial mindset. Nowadays when imperialist actions are being taken a national power--any power--feels the need to justify it. In SHAKESPEARE: THE INVENTION OF THE HUMAN Harold Bloom argues basically that Shakespeare is responsible for much of human nature as we know it. I believe there's something to that and that it's not solely relegated to Shakespeare. Artists reflect their times and society and great artists reflect AND create those times and society and lay the groundwork for what is to come. Conrad lived a lot of what he wrote and feels complicit--and holds himself accountable--for the evil that he sees. It's that questioning of the way things are that make him extraordinary. I don't know that there was even the word "racist" in those days and if there was it certainly didn't bear the stigma it does today. But Conrad was prescient enough to feel the weight of history on his actions and the actions of Europe as a whole and that is what makes him interesting to a man of color in the twenty first century and hopefully anybody. You can't throw the baby out with the bathwater. One day when people read my work(>ahem< hopefully)they'll be doing so from a much wiser place and hopefully will see the integrity in the representation of the human condition that the artist was striving for and not just the failures of the human being behind the work.
I have so many books I am currently reading, the 4th Harry Potter book, re-reading "Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy" and various Dr Who books.
Last book I finished was the 3rd Harry Potter book.
Keep meaning to re-read 1984 by George Orwell. So that could be the next one on my list.
Originally posted by grasstains: Just thought I'd throw this out there to give each of us, mainly me, a chance to talk about ourselves.
What book are you reading currently? What book did you just finish? What book will you read next?
I'm reading "Rendezvous With Rama" by Arthur C. Clarke. Almost halfway and loving it. Just finished the "Foundation" trilogy by Isaac Asimov, and loved it. Next I'll tackle "Neuromancer" By William Gibson, because Mr.Dark loved it.
Posts: 1 | Location: London, UK | Registered: 11 August 2004
Beirut, But by quastioning the empirialist nature of his world, by writing in a most disgusted manner about the various injustices he saw in Africa, does he not prove himself to be racism-free (or at least as much as his white skin allows him to be)? Was there a possibility for him to be even less racist than he was (and that goes for Twain or Shakespeare)? Shake's Othello was heads above the white folk; that he was impulsive was simply his male characteristic, not a deficiency due to the colour of his skin. He was noble and proud, and loyal, which was hard to say about anybody else in that play. By portraying a moor as better than the whites, and showing that the whites hate Othello simply for being black, does not shakespeare aim to overthrow the notions of racism? Granted, he wasn't married to a black girl, nor did he try to emigrate to the dark continent, but wasn't he doing as much as he could given the restrain put upon him by his white society? Let me know what you think.
omg means OH MY GOD!! my favorite story was THE SKELETON from October Country...omg that story is the best thing in the world and the most scariest thing i have EVER read. omg once i read it, at first i didnt understand but i knew there must be something there so when i re-read the last two paragraphs, it finally hit me, OMG!!!! it was like about 2 in the morning to, and i jumped out of my bed and started walking around the room and i couldnt even get back to bed, so i started walking around the house, increasing my pase, and thinking omg and then i couldnt even stay in the house so i had to go outside and start walking around in circles, like a mad-man. i couldnt go to sleep all night, i just stood up thinking, all night. RAY Bradbury if u ever read this, you are a genius. i dont know how u do it but YOU ARE a genius, i can't even believe man can write a story that keeps you up all night, are u human??? you are a genius ray bradbury!!
Posts: 2 | Location: New York | Registered: 30 August 2004
Just finished the Lensman series. Loved it. Definitely more space opera than sci-fi but the scale of the story was enormous. Doc Smith's humor, especially with the Lensman Nadreck, was often nice and dry. Now reading The Illustrated Man.