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The Nigger of the Narcissus

The Nigger of the Narcissus by Joseph Conrad
By: (1857-1924)

This is the story of a voyage of a merchant sailing ship from Bombay to England, set in the very late 19th century. “It was a bad winter off the Cape that year.” From Wikepedia: “The novel is seen as an allegory about isolation and solidarity, the ship’s company serving as a microcosm of a social group.” As to the title, one can only ask, “What WERE you thinking?” (Introduction by Tom Crawford)

Note from the reader: The preface (all but the first three minutes of Section 0) have nothing to do with the sea, the Narcissus, or seamen. Most listeners will want to begin with Chapter 1, and listen to the preface last, if at all.

First Page:

Produced by David Widger

THE NIGGER of THE NARCISSUS

A TALE OF THE FORECASTLE

BY JOSEPH CONRAD

COPYRIGHT, 1897, 1914,

BY DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY

TO EDWARD GARNETT THIS TALE ABOUT MY FRIENDS OF THE SEA

TO MY READERS IN AMERICA

From that evening when James Wait joined the ship late for the muster of the crew to the moment when he left us in the open sea, shrouded in sailcloth, through the open port, I had much to do with him. He was in my watch. A negro in a British forecastle is a lonely being. He has no chums. Yet James Wait, afraid of death and making her his accomplice was an impostor of some character mastering our compassion, scornful of our sentimentalism, triumphing over our suspicions.

But in the book he is nothing; he is merely the centre of the ship's collective psychology and the pivot of the action. Yet he, who in the family circle and amongst my friends is familiarly referred to as the Nigger, remains very precious to me. For the book written round him is not the sort of thing that can be attempted more than once in a life time... Continue reading book >>


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