Complete Works of Joseph Conrad

(Illustrated), Delphi Classics, 2011. 5861 pages [Kindle Edition, $2.62]

Frankly, all you may need of Conrad

By Peter Hulm

This publication assembles the novels as well as his major novellas such as Heart of Darkness and The Secret Sharer.

The illustrations don't add anything to your understanding, and I wish they gave the dates of publication for the works. But it is still a handy volume, with subsidiary links to chapters, which the 'Definitive Edition' (unexpurgated) does not have. Perhaps someone can explain what was expurgated in this edition (if anything). Otherwise they both seem very similar.

For those who want it, here's my take on Conrad:

Thanks in part to Francis Ford Coppola's somewhat ludicrous Apocalypse Now, Joseph Conrad's popular reputation today seems largely based on his short stories. But his novels are what the literary critics esteem most highly.

Grandiose in concept (all Conrad's stories are grandiose), they are literature's equivalent of the Hollywood blockbuster. Here's a chance to judge for yourself whether they are worth the price of admission.

The advantage of buying the collected works is that you can dip into and skip any of the novels as your mood takes you, knowing you can go back if you change your mind.

All the big ones are here Nostromo, Lord Jim, the newly appreciated Under Western Eyes as well as the more minor works and the throwawaybooks he wrote with Ford Madox Ford.

They are less enigmatic than his shorter works, most of which are here, including Heart of Darkness, the African inspiration for *Apocalypse*.

Conrad's shorter pieces assert the importance of their themes but with the years become more and more adept at hiding their message.

Coppola's bunch of madmen are, in fact, very close to Conrad's. Perhaps it is just that we are not yet ready to appreciate Conrad again. The Petraeus scandal could almost have been lifted from a Conrad work, in its astonishing picture of a flawed 'hero', his surroundings and the difficulty of drawing a comforting moral.

25 November 2012