The dawn watch : Joseph Conrad in a global world

by Maya Jasanoff

Paperback, 2017




New York : Penguin Press, 2017.


"A visionary exploration of the life and times of Joseph Conrad, his turbulent age of globalization and our own, from one of the most exciting young historians writing today. Migration, terrorism, the tensions between global capitalism and nationalism, and a communications revolution: these forces shaped Joseph Conrad's destiny at the dawn of the twentieth century. In this brilliant new interpretation of one of the great voices in modern literature, Maya Jasanoff reveals Conrad as a prophet of globalization. As an immigrant from Poland to England, and in travels from Malaya to Congo to the Caribbean, Conrad navigated an interconnected world, and captured it in a literary oeuvre of extraordinary depth. His life story delivers a history of globalization from the inside out, and reflects powerfully on the aspirations and challenges of the modern world. Joseph Conrad was born Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski in 1857, to Polish parents in the Russian Empire. At sixteen he left the landlocked heart of Europe to become a sailor, and for the next twenty years travelled the world's oceans before settling permanently in England as an author. He saw the surging, competitive "new imperialism" that planted a flag in almost every populated part of the globe. He got a close look, too, at the places "beyond the end of telegraph cables and mail-boat lines," and the hypocrisy of the west's most cherished ideals. In a compelling blend of history, biography, and travelogue, Maya Jasanoff follows Conrad's routes and the stories of his four greatest works -- The Secret Agent, Lord Jim, Heart of Darkness, and Nostromo. Genre-bending, intellectually thrilling, and deeply humane, The Dawn Watch embarks on a spell-binding expedition into the dark heart of Conrad's world--and through it to our own"-- "From one of America's most exciting historians, the astonishing life and times of Joseph Conrad, a visionary guide to the turbulent age of globalization Shakespeare and the Elizabethans, Goethe and the Romantics -- great artists can become tutelary spirits for their age. As Maya Jasanoff argues, Joseph Conrad did not merely embody the soul of his time, he anticipated our own. Through his journeys from Poland to France, England to Malaysia, Belgium to Congo, he witnessed a turning point in international history. He learned first-hand about immigration, terrorism, imperial oppression, the dangers of nationalism, and the promise and peril of rapid technological innovation. His life and work present an inside history of globalization and eerily reflect the hypocrisies of the West's most cherished ideals. Joseph Conrad was born Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski in 1857, in a region of Poland then controlled by Russia, Europe's most autocratic empire. By 1862, his father had been arrested for fomenting revolution and his family sentenced to exile, where a series of miserable forced relocations precipitated the illnesses that killed both of Conrad's parents before he was eleven. At sixteen, fleeing an orphan's sadness, he abandoned everything he knew to pursue the unlikely dream of becoming a sailor. From the deck of a ship, he saw the surging, competitive "new imperialism" that placed a flag on every populated part of the world by century's end. He got a close look, too, at the places "beyond the end of telegraph cables and mail-boat lines," as empires expanded their reach into the so-called dark places of the earth"--… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member BartGr.
The Dawn Watch is een vlot geschreven kennismaking met Joseph Conrad, deels biografie, deels studie van enkele van zijn belangrijkste werken. Vooral het stuk over Conrad’s verblijf in Congo vond ik interessant, net als de bespreking van de uit de hand gelopen plot van Nostromo.
Toch is dit boek
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niet helemaal mijn ding. De schrijfster benadert Conrad’s leven en werk vanuit een handvol moderne thema’s en concepten als terrorisme, globalisering, racisme en een doorgeslagen kapitalisme. Hoewel het aan de lezer wordt gelaten om conclusies te trekken, dat wel gelukkig, is het duidelijk waar ze naar op zoek is: de raakpunten tussen Conrad’s tijd en de onze en wat wij daaruit kunnen leren. Deze vorm van assimilatie van een schrijver uit een andere tijd spreekt mij niet aan. Eén van de redenen waarom oude schrijvers blijven boeien, is juist door wat in hun werk niet gelijkvormig is aan ons, in Conrad’s geval bijvoorbeeld het fascinerende venster dat hij biedt op het leven in het tijdperk van de zeilschepen. Het is daarom, naast zijn idiosyncratisch proza en zijn visie op
menselijk functioneren in extreme situaties, dat ik hem blijf lezen. Niet omdat hij een quasi-tijdgenoot zou zijn met nuttige lessen over een aantal van de hete hangijzers van onze tijd.
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LibraryThing member mnicol
Inspires one even to re-read Nostromo!
LibraryThing member nmele
I learned a lot from this well researched and better written sort-of biography of Joseph Conrad. Jasanoff places Conrad's life in the context of his times, from Russian suppression of Polish nationalist movements to the machinations around building the Panama Canal to World War I. Where she can,
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she offers the historical and biographical contexts for Conrad's best know works, such as Nostromo and Lord Jim. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I learned a great deal. Best of all, I am rereading Conrad with a new perspective.
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LibraryThing member kcshankd
I have been waiting to read this book for a long time. It is just tremendous. Conrad anticipated so much of our current world, 'The Horror!' indeed.

Jasanoff is a reliable narrator and tour guide through Conrad's world. I can't praise this work enough.
LibraryThing member waldhaus1
The author remarks that Virginia Wolfe referred to Conrad as a writer for boys and young men. While that is clearly an oversimplification it is certainy true that his books contain an element of travel and adventure quite appealing to young men. It was as an 18 year old that I really became
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fascinated with Conrad so I certainly fell into Virginia Wolfe’s insight.
Now older than Conrad at the time of his death I found this book a great way to become more deeply acquainted with him. I learnied many things I had never suspected.
The book is quite readable - whle I have become more fascinated with history as I have aged it is always great when the histories have the freshness of todays news.
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James Tait Black Memorial Prize (Shortlist — Biography — 2018)
Cundill History Prize (Finalist — 2018)
Massachusetts Book Award (Must-Read (Longlist) — Nonfiction — 2018)



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