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January 15, 1958 - Image 17

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Michigan Daily, 1958-01-15
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I

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JOSEPH CONRAD: DISCOV-
ERY IN DESIGN. By Robert
F. Haugh. Oklahoma City,
1957: University of Okla-
homa Press. 172 pp. $3.75.
By R. C. GREGORY
OSEPH CONRAD was born as
long ago as 1857; he died so re-
cently as 1924. Conrad vas a su-
preme artist, with few peers among
novelists of this or any other
century. He was not "a writer of
adventure stories with a differ-
ence, but still a writer of adven-
ture stories, .a later Stevenson,"
a piece of nonsense .which ap-
peared in theLondon Times Liter-
ary Supplement editorial observ-
ing the centennial of Conrad's'
birth. Nor is it true that Conrad
is "the great exotic of English fic-
tion."7
1924: Virginia Woolf had pub-
lished Jacob's Room two years'
earlier, and Mrs. Dalloway was to1
appear in 1925. Henry James, Con-
rad's friend and master, had died
in 1916. E. M. Forster's A Passage
to India came out in 1924; Andre
Gide's autobiographical If it die...
was published that year, followed-
by The Counterfeiters in 1925.
Marcel Proust died in 1922, leav-'
ing the manuscript of almost half
of Remembrance of Things Past
-The Captive (1924), The Sweet'
Cheat Gone and The Past Recap-j
tured (both 1926) - unpublished.
. H. LAWRENCE was mid-car-
eer in many ways; his England,
My England was published the
year Conrad died. James Joyce's
Work in Progress had terminated1
in l'sses in Paris in 1922 and re-
F t

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mained illegal in the United
States until 1933. F. Scott Fitz-
gerald had published This Side of
Paradise in 1920; Ernest Heming-
way' had published Three Stories
& Ten Poems and In Our Time, in
Paris, in 1923 and 1924. T. S.
Eliot's The Waste Land had ap-
peared in 1922; The Hollow Men
with its famous Conrad epigraph,
"Mistah Kurtz-he dead," from,
Heart of Darkness, was published
in 1925.
The epithet exotic simply will
not apply to Conrad with any
meaning: how is Nostromo - its
eastern seaboard setting notwith-
standing-more exotic than Ulys-
ses, or Heart of Darkness more
exotic =than The Hollow Men?
What sensible standard makes A
Passage to India at one level, a
study in good-and-evil, but Vic-,
tory only an adventure story? The
answer quite 'clearly is that Con-
rad is not so much exotic as
unique. And for all its customary
breadth and generosity, there can
be something insular about the
English literary mind.v
UNABLE to forget 'His Polish
origins, his career as a sailor in
the British Merchant Navy, the
characteristic settings of his stor-
ies-.Far Eastern islands and the
seas between them, South Ameri-
ca, and the oceans of the world .."
the English mind, with obvious
exceptions, cannot understand
that genius may sometimes take
the place of a university educa-
tion, a literary tradition and the
leisure of a few hundreds a year,
that Conrud's use of the language
is magnificent -in direct propor-
tion to the degree that he made of
it what he could, given his cos-
mopolitan education and rich ex-.
perience. What other novelist in
the language was more broadly or
deeply schooled in the ways of
the world? Or who more capable
of having and storing experience
from which to weave the fabric of
a vision of man-in-the-world? And
surely no other novelist, except
James, ever revealed more of his
artistic intentions than Conrad in
his stunning prefaces.
Conrad's language, experience,
vision, in short, all of him, is-
simply Conradian--not English,
or Polish, or French or maritime.
Conrad as a novelist was simply
greater than the visible parts of
him would seem to make possible
and he chose to write his books in

MANY OTHER
BARGAI NS

Sam's..Store
122 E. Washington
Sam Benjamin, 27Lit.,
Owner
IS vi

the English language. This is'
quite different from calling Con-
rad an English novelist. Unique
he may be, but not exotic. If he
were an exotic, so also were Mel-
ville and Whitman and Twain.
And, in this century, what of
Faulkner? Is YoknApatawpha
County as a scene for novels less
exotic than Malaya? Surely no one
would call Faulkner an English
novelist. Conrad is always Con-
rad: that is, indeed, enough.
"HIS WORK, as he once ex-.
plained, is not to edify, to
console, to improve, or to encour-
age, but simply to get upon paper
some shadow of his own eager
sense of the wonder and prodigali-
ty of life as men live it in the
world, and of its unfathomable
romance and mystery." The suc-
cint brilliance of Mencken writ-
ing about books he loved is not
easily set aside.
Bertrand Russell wrote of Coin-
rad, in an elegy of moving beauty,
"What interested him was the
individual human soul faced with
the indifference of nature, and
often with the hostility of man,
and subject to inner struggles
with passions both good and bad,
that led toward destruction." This
concern of Conrad's, apparent

enough to* anyone who has read
him, is as centrally human as any,
aspect of the novel as a literary
form.
Professor Haugh has read Con-
rad very- carefully; his "intention
is' to explore designs in Conrad,
and through that exploration to
make discovery of his meanings."
Prof. Haugh begins his considera-
tion with The Nigger of Narcissus
of 1897 and ends with The Shadow
Line of 1917; between fall Youth,
Typhoon, Heart of Darkness, Lord
Jim, The Secret Sharer, Under
Western Eyes, and Nostromo-a
great body of work by any defini-
tion.
T HE METHOD employed by Pro-
fessor Haugh is one of critical
summary with comment and ex-
position as required, the com-
ment and exposition linking the
twelve works together through-
out the book. If the method is a
bit pedagogical, it nonetheless has
the great and usable merit of lay-
ing open before the reader what
is an exceedingly rich and com-
plex group of novels. Generally
speaking, no one would quarrel
with Professor Haugh's critical re-
marks, although why "more than
affection even is -called upon to
See JOSEPH, page 14 -

(C6ntinued from Page 8
out of the lines of a play and the
performance and its actors, it is'
too often satisfied.
LOOK BACK IN ANGER bless-
edly does not follow this pat-
tern. Jimmy Porter is definitely
not average and not ordinary. The
trouble with "the guy we all know"
is just that; we all know what he
has to say, and listening to him
say it over again detracts just that
much time from discovering some-"
thing we don't know about people
by meeting a guy we don't know.
Jimmy Porter is not so unfamiliar
that he is unrecognizable, but he
has one characteristic that differ-
entiates him from the lowest com-
mon denominator; he is intrinsi-
cally interesting. He is a man with
some ideas. This does not prevent
the play from being realistic. It is
created very much within the tra-
ditions of realis, but John Os-
borne stands among the ranks of
* the rare few who have grasped the
idea - that reality has an essence
which is very extraordinary, that
it, is refined and pure at its core
and that the deepest truth of
reality often lies in fantasy.
One of the devices employed by
Mr. Osborn'e is arriving at this
'"essence of reality" by means of
the almost exclusive use of mono-
logue. The play is very much a
didactic one and, while it does not
appear that the Bard stands in
serious danger of being superseded,
these monologues often have a
Shakespearean quality which af-
fects the total construct of the
play, serving some. of the same
functions, dramatically, as Shake-
speare's soliloquies. The language,
which ranges from the rude and
crude to the utterly fantastic, is
often reminiscent of Shakespeare's
diction. Alison and- Jimmy, for
example, have a game of bears and
squirrels that they play and, in
. the moment of their greatest des-
peration, when they have put aside
this game, Alison commiserates:
"Poor bear"
and continues at length about a
lonely bear wandering through the
forest. The concept and diction
are strongly reminiscent of the
"Poor bare forked animal" speech
in King Lear.
These are the embellishments
and riches of the play, but there
is, too, a very meaningful and
even painful reality. Its essence
lies in the question being put by
at least twenty critics, "What are
they angry about?" At this point
it becomes necessary to take up
the albatrosses tossed in the way
by various critics.
MOST of the English critics are
. agreed that it is chiefly a mat-
- ter of class conflict. Jimmy is
angry that, just because of the
class structure, his opportunities
are limited. He is angry with Ali-
son for being from the upper class.
If this is theliteralmessage of the
play, it can have very little direct
bearing on Contemporary America.
Judging from the actual text of
. the play, this is not precisely the
case. Colonel Redfern, Alison's
fathier, is angry _too.'There 'is a I
sort of class distinction created by
the mmeories of different genera-.
tions. These memories become, in
themselves, an additional barrier,
and this is international. or just
as Jimmy, as- envisioned, by Ali-
So alone and helpless"-
So Colonel Redfern at his daugh-
ter's wedding is described by Port-
er himself as being:
("Unable to belieVe that he'd
left his riding whip at home."
They have each had their single
great momients and they are over;.
Colonel Rdfern's -lays in -India

play, particularly by A r t h u r
Schlesinger Jr. in the New Re-
public is that Jimmy Porter is
angry with women, in general;
angry with himself for being mar-
ried. He is, but ever so latently, a
homosexual. To view the, play in
this way is to commit as grave a
critical sin as it is to call Othello
a play about miscegenation or The
Merchant of Venice a play about
antisemitism. To call Jimmy Port-
er a latent homosexual is to miss
the point that Jimmy Porter is
effete, but his effeteness is the:
disease of his age. This entire
facet of the problem is neatly
summarised in Jimmy's own-
words:
"There are no causes."
This is not only Jimmy Porter's
problem, it was the problem of
the "lost generation" and now of
the bop generation. It is largely
the problem of the realists. At a
loss for a cause, a raison d'etre,
Jimmy Porter and those authors
who wrife about him make their
raison d'etre the search - for a
cause. Unable to believe in the
dignity of this generation, its re-
presentatives settle upon degrada-
tion as the zenith or nadir of
existence. This is Jimmy's solu-
tion and justification for final
depravity and absolute degrada-
tion.



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