The Noble Conrad

Dalrymple’s newest edition of his Oh, To Be in England column in the Winter issue of City Journal focuses on the literary greatness and moral character of Joseph Conrad, a writer Dalrymple has long praised in many of his essays. For Dalrymple, it is Conrad’s recognition of the importance of seeing and describing the world accurately as well as his commitment to probity that is most admirable. They were qualities that bolstered Conrad against the temptations of colonalism and revolution:

…for him, very distant goals diluted probity and finally dissolved it utterly. The good that resulted from doing something with all one’s might had therefore to be tangible or immediate, and not so far removed that it entailed or permitted the doing of evil in the name of the eventual good that it would supposedly produce. The risks of distance are shown by the colonialists in “Heart of Darkness” and the revolutionaries in The Secret Agent (and other antirevolutionary books and stories)…

The principal truths for which both the revolutionaries and the colonialists have forgotten to ask are about themselves and about the limits of human possibility. On this matter, Conrad is both clear and, many would say, bleak.

Read the full piece here

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