Conrad and the Study of Politics

3 posts

Bronze Age Pervert

Conrad's book Nostromo is in my opinion the best thing ever written on politics in Latin America. He based the fictional Costaguana mainly off his experiences in Venezuela, and since his time very little has changed. The general patterns--the small, enterprising European elite, the indolent traditional land-owners, the rapacious, corrupt officials scheming revolution and riling up the countryside bandits, city rabble, and refuse that accumulates in the ports, the downtrodden natives, the great "man of the people" that rises--all of these characters keep existing and they form a drama that keeps repeating almost the same way in every generation.

Kaplan takes a slightly different approach, trying to show in general that literature is often more useful for studying politics than journalism or political science, with which I agree, and which may be especially true in our time when no one wants to talk about uncomfortable truths except maybe in fiction or figuratively. He also extends Conrad's insights to the Third World in general. It's generally an interesting article,

Cadavre Exquis

Good topic.

I'm reading Under Western Eyes at the moment. I hope to make and in-depth post or thread on this book once I finish it, but this passage recently caught my eye:

She refers here to the English and Russian nations. What is this 'bargain with fate' that the English nation supposedly made? Was it the restoration and eventual decline in power and influence of the monarch following the political upheavals of the 17th century? Something more recent? More importantly, why is it a bargain ?

Any thoughts are welcome.

That's a prophetic book in many ways. I have no time now to look for relevant passages, but there are many examples about the russian revolution. The excerpt you mention didn't caught my eye when I read it. You might be reading too much into what might just be a poetic reflection on the overcivilized nature of englishmen in contrast with the fiery russian character.