By Jacques Darras
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Additional info for Joseph Conrad and the West: Signs of Empire
It is only in keeping with the vestal-like figure ofJim, 8 guardian of one of the symbolic hearths, that the narration should have the task ofkeeping alive the sacred flame, of seeing to it that the infiniteness of the universe is preserved and that no power is allowed to dominate its vast space. Thus the tale, like a window opening on the ocean, lets in the invigorating sea air which is essential to the life of the narrator and of the story: till suddenly at a bend it was as if a great hand far away had lifted a heavy curtain, had flung open an immense portal.
Marlow, BEWARE! This 'literature' is a piece of colonial propaganda which has been spared miraculously, far from the real world. We must not follow the example of Marlow who reads the book out of context. This, apparently, is the only means he has of finding a moment of respite'- a moment of selfish and outmoded happiness. We cannot forget that the manual is both useless and absurd and treats only of the sea when Marlow has to deal with an uncharted river. This is the first problem. Secondly, the name of the author, 'a man Tower, Towson-some such name' is another indication of the book's absurdity.
The quest is a ritual which covers a symbolic territory. Certainly, the succession of forests, clearings, and castles which reoccur constantly, creates an imaginary setting which reflects fairly accurately the real world of feudal Christianity,3 but it is less a question of topography than of Joseph Conrad and the West general categories. In the thirteenth century, the Bible was still the foremost authority when it came to geography. Jerusalem, the forbidden and coveted city, reigns at the centre of the world.
Joseph Conrad and the West: Signs of Empire by Jacques Darras