- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (14 October 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0141007850
- ISBN-13: 978-0140172591
- ASIN: 0140172599
- Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 1.5 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
In Search of Conrad Paperback – 14 Oct 2000
Customers who bought this item also bought
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter mobile phone number.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Ease after warre, death after life, does greatly please.
Author, seaman, journalist, Arabist and war reporter Gavin Young died in January 2001, but his `voice' still rings loud and engaging in his books, delighting readers and convincing some of them - particularly with this book - that he was this century's Conrad himself. Likened to John Wayne in Texas, to Thesiger among the Marsh Arabs both men loved, described as the typical `muscular Christian' public schoolboy (although he was neither) Young stormed through a gloriously busy and hectic traveling life, befriending all he met and, with his total absence of any discernable racial intolerance or indeed any apparent awareness of its existence, valuing many.
Spurred back to the east, he explains, by the many Conrad works by Norman Sherry - in fact, originally Sherry was to accompany Young in the search - his tracking of Conrad through the Asian seas led him back to many coasts he had already traveled and described (Slow Boat to China, Slow Boats Home) He associates so closely, in a `respectful collaboration' with Conrad in his search, that the two voices can be confused in reading this book, and the sights that greet Young are little unchanged from those described in Conrad's works. "Trade boomed in every island commodity from pearls and sea slugs to copra, sandalwood and the famous macassar oil which Victorian gentlemen plastered on their hair, obliging their wives to protect the backs of their armchairs with white cloths called antimacassars." As did my grandmother and elderly Aunts too.
For those of us among his readers who are familiar with the east and the coastal waters and ports of this journey by sail and ship, wonderful mind-pictures are created with Young's descriptive prose, and memories of these places and of the peoples- tinged with recalled affection - flood back.
"With me', as Young explained, `travel was never a matter of chance - I ran away to it deliberately as boys once ran way to sea." In this gloriously readable work he reinforces this obvious love for both the travel and the sea by quoting Conrad, from Youth - " Wasn't that he best time when we were young at sea?"
When faced with imminent death - and he so very often was in his roving life, by tribesmen, African and pirate - he said his standard tactic in such situations was "When in danger, smile". His last press photograph, shortly before his death from a long illness, shows just such a smile.
Young's account is rich in detail and local atmosphere. His narrative moves leisurely, and his observations of the present merge gently with Conrad's world of the end of the 19th century. Young knows how to evoke the atmosphere of South East Asian cities - here, for example, the waiting-hall in Jakarta harbor: "I doubt if there was a square yard of empty floor-space. Standing, sitting, squatting, some lying full-length, propped against hillocks of bags, boxes and baskets of woven leaves, they chatted and laughed, ceaselessly offering each other small, thin cigarettes that filled the thick, humid air with sweet, clove-scented smoke." And every once in a while he shares some arcane but interesting facts with the reader: "Makassar [a town on the island of Celebes, Indonesia] profited greatly from Singapore's rise in importance as the halfway trading station between West and East. Trade boomed in every island commodity from pearls and sea slugs to copra, sandalwood and the famous macassar oil which Victorian gentlemen plastered on their hair, obliging their wives to protect the backs of their armchairs with white cloths called antimacassars."
Unfortunately, Penguin Books used the smallest font size I have ever encountered in a pocket book to squeeze the narrative on 300 pages. I found the reading extremely tiring.
The book will send me back to re-read "Almayer's Folly" and to give "Lord Jim" and Joseph Conrad's early stories a try. However, I'm hesitant to recommend "In Search of Conrad" to readers who have not read Conrad before, or who have not been to South East Asia. To a large extent, it is a book for readers who are already somewhat familiar with Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia; and for readers who share Gavin Young's interest in maritime things.
"In Search of Conrad" is part of the "Essential Asia" Series of Penguin Books and available from amazon.co.uk.
Look for similar items by category