Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Joseph Conrad

Having recently finished Joseph Conrad's Secret Agent, I've concluded that while it is a near-perfect novel, it results in a decidedly imperfect reading experience. No doubt, Conrad was a master stylist: the structure and composition of his works -- including Secret Agent -- are exceptional. The pacing, the drama, the technique: all of it is deliberate; there is no hesitation. And yet, why is that after nearly 300 pages, I felt very little for Conrad's characters, and less, still, when their web comes undone? I think, ironically, that it owes something to Conrad's style: everything is intentional; the prose are superb; but there's a heavy lift which must be done: this is not quite Henry James in the fragmentation and heft; and yet, there is an aspect of having to traverse a great deal of beauty in order to arrive at satisfaction. In the end, as much as I admired Secret Agent as just that -- as a thing of literary beauty -- I failed to attach myself and my imagination to its characters and their denouement. Conrad's subtle plot comes undone in flawless prose: but perhaps, upon reflection, all that perfection, and all the work required to seize it, had left me fatigued, and less interested in all those sinister agents than I might otherwise have been. 

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