This is really slow reading-the first word of The picture of Dorian Gray! I choose the first sentence because I am not from Hegel land.
What am I reading? Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim. What is the first sentence of the book?
We begin with a quote from Novalis thus:
‘It is certain my Conviction gains infinitely
The moment another soul will believe in it.’
The first sentence then:
He was an inch, perhaps two, under six feet, powerfully built, and he advanced straight at you with a slight stoop of the shoulders, head forward, and a fixed from-under stare which made you think of a charging bull.
This slow reading is quite amazing! Is Conrad describing a man or an Exocet missile. Imagine such a being approaching you, getting closer and closer. You feel that this time out in the world it appears you may be assaulted for no reason by this crazy bull of a man, when he stops suddenly and enquires of you the time of day.
This is our first immediate encounter with our flawed hero, carrying the burden of one act of cowardice.
They called him Tuan Jim: as one might say-Lord Jim.
My reason for reading Conrad presently is in order to fully absorb Maya Jasanoff’s extraordinary text about issues of globalisation arising from at least three of his books- (‘The Dawn Watch Joseph Conrad in a Global World. William Collins 2017) These being ‘Nostromo’, ‘Lord Jim’ and, of course, ‘Heart of darkness.’ Maya’s thesis is that Conrad predicted the phenomenon of globalisation, terrorism and the colonial exploitation that has left enduring psychic destruction in its wake thus accurately navigating us to our present sea of dillemmas and discombobulations in the first quarter of the Twenty First Century CE.
Having just finished ‘Nostromo’ described as Conrad’s big book, I can vouch that it explores the issues of the poisonous creep of greed, the issues of exploitation, the mannerisms of the colonisers and the furious passionately bonkers politics of South America. Additionally, in the character of Nostromo himself we have a studied representation of a manly hero, a true free spirit shackled only by the obsession with his own honour. Very much in the way that, in the Illiad, Achilles takes the matter of his own warlike legend as a matter of simple fact. Either heroic short-lived warrior or long lived and contented family man dying slowly into his eighties-an equally simple choice.