37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on 6 August 2008
I was given this book as a teenager, and made half-hearted efforts to read in over the past twenty years but rarely got beyond the first couple of pages. I had decided on very little basis that I didn't like Conrad, that his writing was uncomfortable, old-fashioned and read like another language translated into english.
I have entirely changed my mind. Older, not neccesarily wiser, but more exposed to the world and its vageries I have fallen utterly in love with Conrad and his writing which is engaging and modern. He is the most humane of writers, capable of being moving without lapsing into sentimentality, and maps the human spirit with all its pride, nobilty, hope, optimism, youth, experience, realism, and evil. Lord Jim combines all these with the excitement of an adventure story and prose that is beautifully written. As I rush headlong towards middle-age I can see much of my past, and my changing attitudes, in the tale of Jim.
I can understand people that don't like Conrad, having been one of them myself: that has changed completely, and he is now undoubtedly my favourite author. Maybe it's akin to liking olives, or cigars, or whisky, a passion that comes with age - but it's been worth the wait.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 9 April 2010
I was familiar with Conrad's style after reading "Heart of Darkness" and few of his short stories. His descriptive, slightly long-winded style mightn't be to everybody's taste. It seems that, as a non-native English speaker, Conrad was showing off his impressive command of the language of Shakespeare and Dickens. I found I enjoyed "Heart of Darkness" more when I read it the second time.
Lord Jim is one of his most famous works and is also written is this style. It is a lot longer than "Heart of Darkness" so I approached reading it with a bit of trepidation. Sure enough I found the book dragging at times.
The story is simple enough but worth telling. Jim becomes a seafarer as a youngster and dreams of glory and adventures. However, when the ship that he is mate on runs aground he joins the rest of the white crewmembers in abandoning the passengers (pilgrims going to Mecca) to their fate.
Immediately he realises he has done wrong but sees what he did as being atypical of his character. He is determined to prove to himself and the world that he is not a coward. No longer able to work on ships he gets a job in a remote outpost where fate decides that he will have the safety of the natives in his hands during a crisis. Jim's character is quite interesting and the reader has some sympathy for him, given the youthful enthusiasm he shows in abundance and the abject remorse he feels for the mistake he has done.
Conrad had an exciting seafaring career and there is no doubt that his descriptions of places and people have an air of authenticity to them.
The build up to the running aground and the climax of the story are told at a decent pace that has the reader anxious to see what happens next. However I found that the middle part of the book dragged a lot. Here Jim meets the narrator - Marlow - during the inquiry into the crew's actions and we are eventually told exactly what happened. Marlow, after what seems an age, decides that the young man is worthy of his help and tries to rehabilitate him as best he can. I felt this part of the book could have been a lot shorter and Conrad's penchant for detailed passages describing their encounters only slowed down the story.
I expect that, like "Heart of Darkness", I would enjoy a second reading more. Perhaps familiarity with the story will help me to appreciate Conrad's use of language. However I might leave it a few years before joining Lord Jim on his adventures again!
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
There is no doubt that Conrad is one of the master writers of the previous century, however I tend to find him rather a chore to read. Not that reading is supposed to be "easy" of course, but that's just by way of a warning. In this novel, he not only embarks on epic page-long sentences, but engages in a whole range of innovative (for the time) techniques for telling the tragic tale of Tuan/Lord Jim. These techniques include abrupt shifts and jumps in time, and a great deal story within a story constructions. The bulk of the story is recounted by a seaman named Marlow (who also was narrator for Heart of Darkness), who is often retelling what he heard from another source, or even third-hand. Some may find this a little confusing at first, but it shouldn't be a surprising device for the modern reader. Technique aside, this is an exceedingly dense work, rich in lengthy descriptions, and requiring the reader's utmost attention.
Jim is a well-bred young Englishman who takes to the sea, envisioning a series of adventures in which he will prove his mettle and emerge as a well-regarded man. Alas, when a ship carrying a load of Malay pilgrims to Mecca strikes something and seems destined to sink, and his senior officers all abandon ship without rousing the passengers, he experiences fear and abandons ship as well. But when the ship doesn't sink, Jim is the only crewman to step forward and present himself to the maritime court of inquiry, which strips him of his sailing papers. Thereafter, Jim knocks around the South Seas, working as a water clerk in various ports, and departing whenever someone recognizes him. Finally, the narrator Marlow arranges for Jim to be installed as manager of a remote Malaysian trading post. There, he becomes the ruler and protector of the native people.
The story is not really of importance though; really, we are meant to be taking a long and careful look at the character of Jim. Some may find him to be a tragic and romantic figure, however I view him as the embodiment of self-absorption and pride. Jim's vision of himself as a brave and true fellow is so key to his ego that he literally can't face his own past actions, even though they are utterly understandable and human. And far from seeking to prove or redeem himself, he seeks to remove himself from the sight of anyone who might recognize him. His self-imposed exile among the Malays allows him to fulfill his dream of being an respected leader, and allows him to avoid introspection. Indeed, had he been even slightly introspective, he might have eventually recognized that his overwhelming adherence to a code of honor has not served him particularly well. Ironically (or maybe predictably), at the end of it all, his misguided sense of honor brings death to him, and destruction to his people. It's not too hard to figure out what Conrad, who spend several decades on the high seas, thought of this ideal of honor. One character gives voice to Conrad's views, by saying that Jim died for "a shred of meaningless honor".
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 1 May 2009
This is one of Conrad's earlier novels and is definitely one of my favourites along with `The Secret Agent' and the novella `Heart of Darkness'. As with many of his novels, Conrad draws on his experiences when travelling with the merchant navy. The story itself is about the penance the main character forces on himself due to his guilt for a cowardly transgression whilst at sea and his struggle to atone for this in his own mind.
This is a fantastic Conrad book and a good one for anyone interested in Conrad to start at. It's worth mentioning that there is an excellent film adaptation of the book starring Peter O'Toole.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 July 2012
Some say Lord Jim is Conrad's best novel- whether that is true or not, one thing is for sure: it is a top candidate for his most "difficult" novel. The narrative is heavily experimental. The bulk of the novel is narrated in the form of an after dinner reminiscence by Marlow (also the protagonist of Hearts of Darkness, Youth and Chance). Further narrations take place within the main narration which makes for a nested structure. Not an easy structure to penetrate and in many cases the reader is bewildered as to who is actually narrating. Further, Conrad is doing a thing he often did in those early books of his, which is describe things as they happened, rather than as they are happening. It's the technique of a younger author and seems to be almost totally absent in his later works.
There are two main strands in the plot. Firstly, Jim's fall from grace and then his attempt at redemption. The text is, as usual, heavily lyrical with paragraphs instead of sentences- nothing you wouldn't expect from Conrad. Nevertheless, I was fascinated by Lord Jim and its details are fresh in my mind. It seems as if Conrad can make anything come to life and you can actually see the whole setting in your mind's eye. Such is the power of his narrative.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 5 October 2011
I can understand that Conrad is not to everyone's taste but I find his work exquisite and consoling. What animates his beautiful writing is the subtle accuracy by which he portrays the human condition, careful to avoid moral simplification. For me this psychological realism enriches the characters and delivers a profound depiction of human strife.
Jim is a man desperately grappling with the fatality of his existence. At a time when liberal ideologies encourage us to believe we can be the masters of our destiny, Conrad's relevance is only going to increase.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 2 July 2014
This is one of the more "difficult" Joseph Conrad books, and forms a sort of family with "Outcast of the Islands" and "Victory". As Conrad himself made clear he meant the book to ask questions about our actions - are we fully responsible for them, or do our own pasts and maybe certain external forces compel us to behave in a certain way?
The answers I draw fo these existential questions come more from Ibsen (Peer Gynt, Brand) and McGoohan's "The Prisoner" (McGoohan was agreat admirer of Ibsen btw) than from Conrad. We are our past. If we peel all our experiences away, we are left with nothing. But we aren't trapped by our past. We aren't our own gaolers. We can and should use our pasts, do our best to atone for any regrettable actions, but we should also always be on the look-out for new experiences to expand our personal lebensraum.
Surely if Jim had taken that attitude his tragedy could have been averted. What do you think?
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Lord Jim is a rather downbeat novel, telling the tale of a young romantic who finds himself unable to forgive himself for a moment of moral weakness when he flees a sinking ship without attempting to rescue any of the hundreds of travellers asleep within. Plot-wise this book is incredibly slight, with Conrad taking an age to stretch out what is essentially a short story into a full-length novel, but despite the meandering pace the authors use of the English language is simply stunning, and provided you have the willpower to continue you will be rewarded with a stylistically rich character examination that more than repays the readers patience.
Honour, like virtue, or like reputation, is more easily lost than regained. Such is the premise of Lord Jim. Conrad himself half-admits in his cover note that this is probably his best novel. For more than an absorbing tale of guilt, love, and adventure, it is also a book that asks big and incisive questions. What is honour? Is there such a thing in life as principle? Or rather can one live without principles and, if not, then what if one has to die for them?
Jim is young and idealistic, a talented and unafraid sailor, but he has made an early mistake, a lapse that caused him to abandon ship at the wrong time. Relegated to the fringe of the mariners' community, he drifts into in a lost corner of the Indonesian islands. It is there that he becomes Lord Jim, a pacifier, an arbiter among the local folk, a living legend. The lost province of Patusan, besides, is where he finds romance in the person of the smart, attractive, and spirited half-caste Jewel. Yet as strife re-emerges in the shape of a pirate raid on the town, Jim is soon torn between the defence of his patiently rebuilt self-regard and his love and life's salvation.
Lord Jim is told in two parts, both drawing minutely and to striking effect from Conrad's personal experience of the sea and the tropics. First comes the strange and paradoxical shipwreck of the Patna, a transport for Meccan pilgrims on which Jim acts as skipper. Then the book follows Jim in his subsequent drift and his reinvention in Patusan. The story is told by sea captain Charles Marlow, the same narrator Conrad has in Heart of Darkness, here however developed as a character at greater length and to greater effect. Finally, for those worried about political correctness, this is no tale of the white man come to rule over the brown, and Conrad's humanistic credentials only come out reinforced. Lord Jim is required reading for fans of Conrad and, capturing the values of a disappearing world like no other, one of the great novels of the turn of the twentieth century.
on 30 January 2014
The form of this novel is intriguing, it's delivered in story teller form by the wise old sea dog Marlow as a series of tales delivered in different circumstances: a club somewhere in the tropics, letters to a retired friend in a land locked city,... This might sound contrived, or at one remove from the action, but it works very well. And it had to be this way. You couldn't see things continuously, in real time, through Marlow's eyes as he would have to have been aboard the Patna during Jim's worst moment, making him complicit in Jim's actions, thereby destroying the novel. Sometimes we get Marlow's account of direct encounters with Jim, but Marlow gleans most of the details of Jim's key actions from other, very colourful, sources - like the accursed pirate/baron Gentleman Brown, or the awful senior officers of the Patna. Overall, the novel builds up into a great and exciting adventure tale, and goes deeper into the human psyche than most novels, certainly more than any adventure novel I've read. One observation of Marlow is that Jim cannot cure himself of the mental troubles cause by his inappropriate action on the Patna, but Marlow makes the point that it's not a question of seeking a cure, but of living with the situation. Just one example of the deep and subtle wisdom found throughout this novel, one of the truly great novel in English literature. Read it and see how Jim lives with the consequences of his soul destroying lack of heroism.