Saturday, March 11, 2006

Lord Jim, after 21 chapters

This is a novel that I started reading about 4 years ago. I had to put it down after a while because reading it was too taxing on the mind. It's also very hard to read on the subway while I'm holing on to dear life with one hand on the steel bar, and a 2.5lb book on the other.

Recently, I became ill with a very nasty cold, and Lord Jim was brought back to my consciousness. This may have been the only blessing that came out of this nasty cold - mind, it has lasted 2 weeks.

As I was reading it, I was reminded of why I love Conrad's writing so much. It's so poetically written, with so many delicious layers as those of a Napoleon pastry cake. One of my favourite chapters - not moments or scenes - is of Jim standing in front of the glass doors of Marlowe's hotel room. Beyond the glass doors is a veranda, and beyond that the oncoming dusk. At this moment, Jim is contemplating his failures, and what might become of him from now on. The sense of guilt, foolishness and helplessness was so grand that even the purplish sky was bloating in response to the pressures.

Dusk fell; I lit a candle with the greatest economy of movement and as much prudence as though it were an illegal proceeding. There is no doubt that he had a very hard time of it [...] He was rooted to the spot, but convulsive shudders ran down his back; his shoulders would heave as it seemed. The massive shadows, cast all one way from the straight flame of the candle, seemed possessed of gloomy consciousness; the immobility of the furniture had to my furtive eye and air of attention. I was becoming fanciful in the midst of my industrious scribbling. [...] Those who have kept vigil by a sick-bed have heard such faint sounds in the stillness of the night watches, sounds wrung from a racked boy, from a weary soul. He pushed the glass door with such force that all the panes rang: he stepped out, and I held my breath, straining my ears without knowing what else I expected to hear. [...] A feeble burst of many voices mingled with the tinkle of silver and glass floated up from the dining-room below; through the open door the outer edge of the light from my candle fell on his back faintly; beyond all was black; he stood on the brink of a vast obscruity, like a lonely figure by the shore of a sombre and hopeless ocean.

One of my favourite reading moments. I read as if my mind were suspended in the black sky, watching this man's turmoil roar silently into the night. Jim has become a friend to me. I celebrate his successes, and I salvage his moments of folly with imaginative hope for an imagined "imaginative" man.

1 comment:

Magda said...

I love Conrad and Lord Jim is one of my favourites :)