The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a Global World - Maya Jasanoff

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Early in The Dawn Watch (Penguin Press, $30), Maya Jasanoff‘s multi-faceted and beautifully written biography of Joseph Conrad, the award-winning historian throws out the arresting proposition that “history is like therapy for the present: it makes it talk about its parents.” Heart of Darkness alone would qualify Conrad as one parent of the globalized 21st century, and Jasanoff views his life and writing through his main themes —nationalism, imperialism, capitalism, and immigration. Conrad, born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski, was bound in the currents of history from the start. His parents were Polish nationalists fighting to free their homeland from Russia. They were sent to Ukraine for their efforts and both had died by the time Conrad was eleven. Virtually stateless and already distrustful of nationalism, Conrad went to sea. He loved sailing, and his many sea tales celebrate its special culture of “craft.” But he hated the crass steamship era that followed, and “instead of going into steam,” Jasanoff says, he “became a writer.” He wrote about his experiences as an exile and an immigrant, and Jasanoff brilliantly traces the genesis of his fiction, documenting the 1880s attacks on Britain by Fenian freedom fighters (who “wrote the script for modern terrorism”) that Conrad transformed into The Secret Agent; parallels Conrad’s outrage—indeed, his horror—at King Leopold’s Congo Free State with his depiction of it in Heart of Darkness (written in just seven weeks); and tracks the shift from British to American world dominance that Conrad captured in his most ambitious, and most prescient novel, Nostromo. “A tale of progress and its discontents,” the novel offered happy endings only to a steamship captain, a financier, and a railroad entrepreneur: “globalism’s three fates,” as Jasanoff memorably puts it.

The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a Global World Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594205811
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Penguin Press - November 7th, 2017

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