Archive for July, 2015
The Big Chill 1983 Comedy / Drama Movies Full Movie
Rolling Stones – You Can’t Always Get What You Want (The David Frost Show 1969)
Procol Harum ‘A Whiter Shade Of Pale’ 1967
A Whiter Shade Of Pale – Procol Harum
Spencer Davis Group – “Gimme Some Lovin” (1966)
Percy Sledge – When a Man Loves a Woman (1966)
Percy Sledge & Michael Bolton – When A Man Loves A Woman
The band – The Weight (Take a load off Annie/Fanny)
ARETHA FRANKLIN – NATURAL WOMAN – 1977
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A Summer Story (1988) full movie
A Summer Story
|A Summer Story|
|Directed by||Piers Haggard|
|Produced by||Danton Rissner|
|Written by||John Galsworthy
|Music by||Georges Delerue|
|Edited by||Ralph Sheldon|
A Summer Story is a British drama film released in 1988. Directed by Piers Haggard, with a script written by Penelope Mortimer, it stars James Wilby, Imogen Stubbs, and Susannah York. In 1902, a young gentleman visiting a rural area has an intense love affair with a village girl. Twenty years later, he is passing that way again. The film is based on the John Galsworthy story The Apple Tree.
In the summer of 1902 Frank Ashton, an educated young man from London, is on a walking holiday in Devon with a friend. When he falls and twists his ankle, Ashton is helped at a nearby farmhouse and stays there for a few days to recover, while his friend goes on. Ashton quickly falls for the village girl who looks after him, Megan David, and she falls in love with him, to the great distress of her cousin Joe Narracombe, who wants her for himself. Ashton and Megan spend a night together, and after that he takes the train to a seaside town to cash a cheque at a bank, promising to return the next morning and take Megan away with him and marry her.
On arrival in the town, Ashton finds a branch of his bank, but it will not cash his cheque, insisting on first contacting his branch in London. While he is delayed, Ashton meets an old school friend, staying at a local hotel with his three sisters, of whom the oldest is Stella Halliday. Thanks to the bank’s delays, he misses the train he needed to catch to make his rendezvous with Megan. During the day that follows, he spends more time with his friend and his sisters, and while Stella flirts with him he begins to have second thoughts about marrying Megan.
Megan then travels to the seaside town looking for Ashton, carrying her luggage for running away. He sees her on the beach and follows her into the town, but when she turns and catches a glimpse of him, he hides.
Twenty years later, Ashton is married to Stella and they are motoring through Devon. They have no children. Ashton visits the farm where he seduced Megan and is recognized. He learns that Megan was heart-broken about losing him and also that she died soon after giving birth to a son, who she named “Francis”, or Frank. He is taken to see Megan’s grave, which is at the spot where he had arranged to meet her. She had asked to be buried there, to wait for his return. In motoring away with Stella, Ashton passes his son, young Frank, who gives him a friendly wave.
- A Summer Story at bfi.org.uk
Apocalypse Now 1979 FULL MOVIE HD — Videos
Theatrical release poster by Bob Peak
|Directed by||Francis Coppola|
|Produced by||Francis Coppola|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Box office||$150 million|
Apocalypse Now is a 1979 American epic adventure war film set during the Vietnam War. Produced and directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen, and Robert Duvall, the film follows the central character, U.S. Army special operations officer Captain Benjamin L. Willard (Sheen), of MACV-SOG, on a secret mission to assassinate the renegade and presumed insane U.S. Army Special Forces ColonelWalter E. Kurtz (Brando).
The screenplay by John Milius and Coppola updates the setting of Joseph Conrad‘s novella Heart of Darkness to that of the Vietnam War era. It also draws from Michael Herr‘s Dispatches, the film version of Conrad’sLord Jim which shares the same character of Marlow with Heart of Darkness, and Werner Herzog‘s Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972).
The film has been noted for the problems encountered while making it. These problems were chronicled in the documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, which recounted the stories of Brando arriving on the set overweight and completely unprepared; costly sets being destroyed by severe weather; and its lead actor (Sheen) suffering a near fatal heart attack while on location. Problems continued after production as the release was postponed several times while Coppola edited thousands of feet of footage.
Apocalypse Now was released to wide acclaim. Many critics now regard it as one of the greatest films ever made. It was honored with the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture and the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama. The film was also ranked #14 in the Sight and Sound greatest films poll. In 2000, Apocalypse Now was deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” and was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress .
In 1970, during the Vietnam War, U.S. Army Captain and special operations veteran Benjamin L. Willard (Martin Sheen) is offered an assignment to follow the Nung River into the remote jungle, and find rogue Special Forces Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando). Kurtz apparently went insane and now commands his own Montagnard troops inside neutral Cambodia as a demi-god. Willard is told his objective is to infiltrate the Colonel’s team and to terminate the Colonel’s command “…with extreme prejudice“.
Ambivalent about the mission, Willard joins a Navy PBR commanded by “Chief” (Albert Hall) and crewmen Lance (Sam Bottoms), “Chef” (Frederic Forrest) and “Mr. Clean” (Laurence Fishburne) to head upriver. They rendezvous with brazen Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore (Robert Duvall), a commander of an attack helicopter squadron, to discuss going up the Nung river. Kilgore initially scoffs at them, but befriends Lance, both being keen surfers, and agrees to escort them through the Viet Cong-held coastal mouth of the river due to the surfing conditions there. At dawn the helicopter raid commences. Amid the attack Kilgore calls in a napalm sortie on the local cadres and the rivermouth is taken. Willard gathers his men to the PBR, transported via helicopter, and begins the journey upriver.
Tension arises between Chief and Willard as Willard believes himself to be in command of the PBR, while Chief prioritizes other objectives over Willard’s secret mission. Slowly making their way upriver, Willard reveals part of his mission to the Chief to assuage the Chief’s concerns about why his mission should take precedence. As night falls, the PBR reaches the chaos of the last US outpost on the Nùng river, the Do Long bridge. Seeking some intel on what’s upriver, Willard and Lance proceed through the base seeking information. Finding no info, and disgusted, Willard orders the Chief to continue upriver as an unseen enemy launches a strike on the bridge.
The next day, Willard learns from the dispatch that another Special Operations Group (SOG) operative, Captain Colby (Scott Glenn), who was sent on an earlier mission identical to Willard’s, is now listed as missing in action. Meanwhile, as the rest of the crew read letters from home, Lance pops open a purple smoke grenade for fun. This catches the attention of an unseen enemy in the trees and the boat is fired upon, killing Mr. Clean. Later, in a separate attack, Chief is killed.
Eventually the PBR arrives at Kurtz’s outpost and the remaining crew members are met by an American freelance photographer (Dennis Hopper), who manically praises Kurtz’s genius. As they wander through the compound they come across Colby, who stands nearly catatonic along with other US servicemen, now serving in Kurtz’s renegade army. After returning to the PBR, Willard later takes Lance with him to the village, leaving Chef behind with orders to call an airstrike on the village if they do not return.
In the camp, Willard is subdued, bound and brought before Kurtz (Marlon Brando) in the darkened temple. Tortured and imprisoned, Willard screams helplessly as Kurtz drops Chef’s severed head into his lap, meaning there will be no airstrike. After several days, Willard is released and given the freedom of the compound. Kurtz lectures him on his theories of war, humanity and civilization while praising the ruthlessness and dedication of the Viet Cong. Kurtz discusses his family and asks that Willard tell his son “the truth” about him in the event of his “death”.
That night, as the villagers ceremonially slaughter a water buffalo, Willard stealthily enters Kurtz’s chamber as Kurtz is making a tape recording, and attacks him with a machete. Lying mortally wounded on the ground, Kurtz, with his dying breath, whispers “…The horror… the horror…”. The villagers are now abuzz about something amiss in Kurtz’s quarters, and seeing Willard departing the rooms with bloody machete in hand, they bow down and allow Willard to take Lance by the hand and lead him to the boat. The two of them ride away as Kurtz’s final words echo eerily as the world fades to black.
- Martin Sheen as Captain Benjamin L. Willard, a veteran U.S. Army special operations officer who has been serving in Vietnam for three years. The soldier who escorts him at the start of the film recites that Willard is from 505th Battalion, of the elite 173rd Airborne Brigade, assigned to MACV-SOG. It is later stated in the briefing scene that he worked intelligence/counterintelligence for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, carrying out secret operations and assassinations. Both scenes also establish he workedCOMSEC. An attempt to re-integrate into home-front society had apparently failed prior to the time at which the film is set (in 1970), and so he returns to the war-torn jungles of Vietnam, where he seems to feel more at home.
- Marlon Brando as Colonel Walter E. Kurtz, a highly decorated U.S. Army Special Forces officer with the 5th Special Forces Group who goes rogue. He runs his own military unit out of Cambodia and is feared by the US military as much as the North Vietnamese and Vietcong.
- Robert Duvall as Lieutenant Colonel William “Bill” Kilgore, 1st Battalion, 9th Air Cavalry Regiment commander and surfing fanatic. Kilgore is a strong-willed leader who loves his men but has methods that appear out-of-tune with the setting of the war. His character is a composite of several characters including Colonel John B. Stockton, General James F. Hollingsworth (featured in The General Goes Zapping Charlie Cong by Nicholas Tomalin), and George Patton IV, also a West Point officer whom Robert Duvall knew.
- Frederic Forrest as Engineman 3rd Class Jay “Chef” Hicks, a tightly wound former chef from New Orleans who is horrified by his surroundings.
- Albert Hall as Chief Quartermaster George Phillips. The chief runs a tight ship and frequently clashes with Willard over authority. Has a father-son relationship with Clean.
- Sam Bottoms as Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class Lance B. Johnson, a former professional surfer from California. He is known to drop acid. He becomes entranced by the Montagnard tribe, even participating in the sacrifice ritual.
- Laurence Fishburne (credited as Larry Fishburne) as Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class Tyrone “Mr. Clean” Miller, the seventeen-year-old cocky South Bronx-born crewmember.
- Dennis Hopper as an American photojournalist, a manic disciple of Kurtz who greets Willard. According to the DVD commentary of Redux, the character is based on Sean Flynn, a famed news correspondent who disappeared in Cambodia in 1970. His dialogue follows that of the Russian “harlequin” in Conrad’s story.
- G. D. Spradlin as Lieutenant General Corman, military intelligence (G-2) an authoritarian officer who fears Kurtz and wants him removed. The character is named after filmmaker Roger Corman.
- Jerry Ziesmer as a mysterious man (who is coincidentally addressed by General Corman as ‘Jerry’; document visible on the Blu-ray version mentions a C.I.A. agent named R.E. Moore) in civilian attire who sits in on Willard’s initial briefing. His only line in the film is the famous “Terminate with extreme prejudice“. Ziesmer also served as the film’s assistant director.
- Harrison Ford as Colonel G. Lucas, aide to Corman and a general information specialist who gives Willard his orders. The character’s name is a reference to George Lucas, who was involved in the script’s early development with Milius and was the original director intended to direct the film. Ford also portrayed Han Solo in Lucas’ space opera Star Wars, and prior to that had appeared in Lucas’ American Graffiti (1973, produced by Coppola and Gary Kurtz) and Coppola’s The Conversation (1974).
- Scott Glenn as Captain Richard M. Colby, previously assigned Willard’s current mission before he defected to Kurtz’s private army and sent a message to his wife, intercepted by the army, telling her to sell everything they owned, including their children.
- Bill Graham as Agent (announcer and in charge of the Playmates’ show)
- Cynthia Wood (Playmate of the Year)
- Linda (Beatty) Carpenter (August 1976 Playmate) as Playmate “Miss August”
- Colleen Camp as Playmate “Miss May”
- R. Lee Ermey as Helicopter Pilot
- Francis Ford Coppola (cameo) as a TV news director filming beach combat; he shouts “Don’t look at the camera, keep on fighting!” Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro plays the cameraman by Coppola’s side.
- Charlie Sheen (uncredited) as Extra
Several actors who were, or later became, prominent stars have minor roles in the film including Harrison Ford, G. D. Spradlin, Scott Glenn, R. Lee Ermey, and Laurence Fishburne. Fishburne was only fourteen years old when shooting began in March 1976, and he lied about his age in order to get cast in his role. Apocalypse Now took so long to finish that Fishburne was seventeen (the same age as his character) by the time of its release.
Although inspired by Joseph Conrad‘s Heart of Darkness, the film deviates extensively from its source material. The novella, based on Conrad’s experience as a steamboat captain in Africa, is set in the Congo Free State during the 19th century. Kurtz and Marlow (who is named Willard in the movie) work for a Belgian trading company that brutally exploits its native African workers.
When Marlow arrives at Kurtz’s outpost, he discovers that Kurtz has gone insane and is lording over a small tribe as a god. The novella ends with Kurtz dying on the trip back and the narrator musing about the darkness of the human psyche: “the heart of an immense darkness”.
In the novella, Marlow is the pilot of a river boat sent to collect ivory from Kurtz’s outpost, only gradually becoming infatuated with Kurtz. In fact, when he discovers Kurtz in terrible health, Marlow makes an effort to bring him home safely. In the movie, Willard is an assassin dispatched to kill Kurtz. Nevertheless, the depiction of Kurtz as a god-like leader of a tribe of natives and his malarial fever, Kurtz’s written exclamation “Exterminate the brutes!” (which appears in the film as “Drop the bomb. Exterminate them All!”) and his last words “The horror! The horror!” are taken from Conrad’s novella.
Coppola argues that many episodes in the film—the spear and arrow attack on the boat, for example—respect the spirit of the novella and in particular its critique of the concepts of civilization and progress. Other episodes adapted by Coppola, the Playboy Playmates’ (Sirens) exit, the lost souls, “take me home” attempting to reach the boat and Kurtz’s tribe of (white-faced) natives parting the canoes (gates of Hell) for Willard, (with Chef and Lance) to enter the camp are likened to Virgil and “The Inferno” (Divine Comedy) by Dante. While Coppola replaced European colonialism with American interventionism, the message of Conrad’s book is still clear.
Coppola’s interpretation of the Kurtz character is often speculated to have been modeled after Tony Poe, a highly decorated Vietnam-era paramilitary officer from the CIA’s Special Activities Division. Poe’s actions in Vietnam and in the ‘Secret War’ in neighbouring Laos, in particular his highly unorthodox and often savage methods of waging war, show many similarities to those of the fictional Kurtz; for example, Poe was known to drop severed heads into enemy-controlled villages as a form of psychological warfare and use human ears to record the number of enemies his indigenous troops had killed. He would send these ears back to his superiors as proof of the efficacy of his operations deep inside Laos. Coppola denies that Poe was a primary influence and says the character was loosely based on Special Forces Colonel Robert B. Rheault, whose 1969 arrest over the murder of suspected double agent Thai Khac Chuyen in Nha Trang generated substantial contemporary news coverage.
Use of T. S. Eliot’s poetry
In the film, shortly before Colonel Kurtz dies, he recites part of T. S. Eliot‘s poem “The Hollow Men“. The poem is preceded in printed editions by the epigraph “Mistah Kurtz – he dead”, a quotation from Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.
Two books seen opened on Kurtz’s desk in the film are From Ritual to Romance by Jessie Weston and The Golden Bough by Sir James Frazer, the two books that Eliot cited as the chief sources and inspiration for his poem “The Waste Land“. Eliot’s original epigraph for “The Waste Land” was this passage from Heart of Darkness, which ends with Kurtz’s final words:
Did he live his life again in every detail of desire, temptation, and surrender during that supreme moment of complete knowledge? He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision, – he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath –“The horror! The horror!”
When Willard is first introduced to Dennis Hopper’s character, the photojournalist describes his own worth in relation to that of Kurtz with: “I should have been a pair of ragged claws/Scuttling across the floors of silent seas”, from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock“.
While working as an assistant for Francis Ford Coppola on The Rain People, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg encouraged their friend and filmmaker John Milius to write a Vietnam War film. Milius had wanted to volunteer for the war, and was disappointed when he was rejected for having asthma. Milius came up with the idea for adapting the plot of Joseph Conrad‘s Heart of Darkness to the Vietnam War setting. He had read the novel when he was a teenager and was reminded about it by one of his college lecturers who had mentioned the several unsuccessful attempts to adapt it into a movie.[note 1]
Coppola gave Milius $15,000 to write the screenplay with the promise of an additional $10,000 if it were green-lit. Milius claims that he wrote the screenplay in 1969 and originally called it The Psychedelic Soldier. He wanted to use Conrad’s novel as “a sort of allegory. It would have been too simple to have followed the book completely”.
Milius based the character of Willard and some of Kurtz’s on a friend of his, Fred Rexer. Rexer claimed to have experienced, first-hand, the scene related by Brando’s character wherein the arms of villagers are hacked off by the Viet Cong. Kurtz was based onRobert B. Rheault, head of special forces in Vietnam. Scholars have never found any evidence to corroborate Rexer’s claim, nor any similar Viet Cong behavior, and consider it an urban legend.
At one point, Coppola told Milius, “Write every scene you ever wanted to go into that movie”, and he wrote ten drafts, amounting to over a thousand pages. Milius changed the film’s title to Apocalypse Now after being inspired by a button badge popular withhippies during the 1960s that said “Nirvana Now”. He was also influenced by an article written by Michael Herr titled, “The Battle for Khe Sanh”, which referred to drugs, rock ‘n’ roll, and people calling airstrikes down on themselves. He was also inspired by such films as Dr Strangelove.
Milius says the classic line “Charlie don’t surf” was inspired by a comment Ariel Sharon made during the Six Day War, when he went skin diving after capturing enemy territory and announced “We’re eating their fish”. He says the line “I love the smell of Napalm in the morning” just came to him.
Milius had no desire to direct the film himself and felt that Lucas was the right person for the job. Lucas worked with Milius for four years developing the film, alongside his work on other films, including his script for Star Wars. He approached Apocalypse Now as a black comedy, and intended to shoot the film after making THX 1138, with principal photography to start in 1971. Lucas’ friend and producer Gary Kurtz traveled to the Philippines, scouting suitable locations. They intended to shoot the film in both the rice fields between Stockton and Sacramento, California and on-location in Vietnam, on a $2 million budget, cinéma vérité style, using 16 mm cameras, and real soldiers, while the war was still going on. However, due to the studios’ safety concerns and Lucas’ involvement with American Graffiti and Star Wars, Lucas decided to shelve the project for the time being.
Coppola was drawn to Milius’ script, which he described as “a comedy and a terrifying psychological horror story”. In the spring of 1974, Coppola discussed with friends and co-producers Fred Roos and Gray Frederickson the idea of producing the film. He asked Lucas and then Milius to direct Apocalypse Now, but both men were involved with other projects; in Lucas’ case, he got the go-ahead to make Star Wars, and declined the offer to direct Apocalypse Now. Coppola was determined to make the film and pressed ahead himself. He envisioned the film as a definitive statement on the nature of modern war, the difference between good and evil, and the impact of American society on the rest of the world. The director said that he wanted to take the audience “through an unprecedented experience of war and have them react as much as those who had gone through the war”.
In 1975, while promoting The Godfather Part II in Australia, Coppola and his producers scouted possible locations for Apocalypse Now in Cairns in northern Queensland, that had jungle resembling Vietnam. He decided to make his film in the Philippines for its access to American equipment and cheap labor. Production coordinator Fred Roos had already made two low-budget films there for Monte Hellman, and had friends and contacts in the country. Coppola spent the last few months of 1975 revising Milius’ script and negotiating with United Artists to secure financing for the production. According to Frederickson, the budget was estimated between $12–14 million. Coppola’s American Zoetrope assembled $8 million from distributors outside the United States and $7.5 million from United Artists who assumed that the film would star Marlon Brando, Steve McQueen, and Gene Hackman. Frederickson went to the Philippines and had dinner with President Ferdinand Marcos to formalize support for the production and to allow them to use some of the country’s military equipment.
Steve McQueen was Coppola’s first choice to play Willard, but the actor did not accept because he did not want to leave America for 17 weeks. Al Pacino was also offered the role but he too did not want to be away for that long a period of time and was afraid of falling ill in the jungle as he had done in the Dominican Republic during the shooting of The Godfather Part II. Jack Nicholson, Robert Redford, and James Caan were approached to play either Kurtz or Willard.
Coppola and Roos had been impressed by Martin Sheen‘s screen test for Michael in The Godfather and he became their top choice to play Willard, but the actor had already accepted another project and Harvey Keitel was cast in the role based on his work in Martin Scorsese‘s Mean Streets. Principal photography began three weeks later. Within a few days, Coppola was unhappy with Harvey Keitel’s take on Willard, saying that the actor “found it difficult to play him as a passive onlooker”. After viewing early footage, the director took a plane back to Los Angeles and replaced Keitel with Martin Sheen. By early 1976, Coppola had persuaded Marlon Brando to play Kurtz for an enormous fee of $3.5 million for a month’s work on location in September 1976. Dennis Hopper was cast as a kind of Green Beret sidekick for Kurtz and when Coppola heard him talking nonstop on location, he remembered putting “the cameras and the Montagnard shirt on him, and we shot the scene where he greets them on the boat”.James Caan was the first choice to play colonel Lucas. Caan wanted too much money for what was considered a minor part in the movie. Harrison Ford was eventually cast as Colonel Lucas.
On March 1, 1976, Coppola and his family flew to Manila and rented a large house there for the five-month shoot. Sound and photographic equipment had been coming in from California since late 1975.
Typhoon Olga wrecked the sets at Iba and on May 26, 1976, production was closed down. Dean Tavoularis remembers that it “started raining harder and harder until finally it was literally white outside, and all the trees were bent at forty-five degrees”. One part of the crew was stranded in a hotel and the others were in small houses that were immobilized by the storm. The Playboy Playmate set had been destroyed, ruining a month’s shooting that had been scheduled. Most of the cast and crew went back to the United States for six to eight weeks. Tavoularis and his team stayed on to scout new locations and rebuild the Playmate set in a different place. Also, the production had bodyguards watching constantly at night and one day the entire payroll was stolen. According to Coppola’s wife, Eleanor, the film was six weeks behind schedule and $2 million over budget.
Coppola flew back to the U.S. in June 1976. He read a book about Genghis Khan to get a better handle on the character of Kurtz. After filming commenced, Marlon Brando arrived in Manila very overweight and began working with Coppola to rewrite the ending. The director downplayed Brando’s weight by dressing him in black, photographing only his face, and having another, taller actor double for him in an attempt to portray Kurtz as an almost mythical character.
After Christmas 1976, Coppola viewed a rough assembly of the footage but still needed to improvise an ending. He returned to the Philippines in early 1977 and resumed filming. On March 5, 1977, Sheen had a heart attack and struggled for a quarter of a mile to reach help. He was back on the set on April 19. A major sequence in a French plantation cost hundreds of thousands of dollars but was cut from the final film. Rumors began to circulate that Apocalypse Now had several endings but Richard Beggs, who worked on the sound elements, said, “There were never five endings, but just the one, even if there were differently edited versions”. These rumors came from Coppola departing frequently from the original screenplay. Coppola admitted that he had no ending because Brando was too fat to play the scenes as written in the original script. With the help of Dennis Jakob, Coppola decided that the ending could be “the classic myth of the murderer who gets up the river, kills the king, and then himself becomes the king — it’s the Fisher King, from The Golden Bough“.
A water buffalo was slaughtered with a machete for the climactic scene. The scene was inspired by a ritual performed by a local Ifugao tribe which Coppola had witnessed along with his wife (who filmed the ritual later shown in the documentary Hearts of Darkness) and film crew. Although this was an American production subject to American animal cruelty laws, scenes like this filmed in the Philippines were not policed or monitored and the American Humane Association gave the film an “unacceptable” rating. Principal photography ended on May 21, 1977.
Japanese composer Isao Tomita was scheduled to provide an original score, with Coppola desiring the film’s soundtrack to sound like Tomita’s electronic adaptation of The Planets by Gustav Holst. Tomita went as far as to accompany the film crew in the Philippines, but label contracts ultimately prevented his involvement. In the summer of 1977, Coppola told Walter Murch that he had four months to assemble the sound. Murch realized that the script had been narrated but Coppola abandoned the idea during filming.Murch thought that there was a way to assemble the film without narration but it would take ten months and decided to give it another try. He put it back in, recording it all himself. By September, Coppola told his wife that he felt “there is only about a 20% chance [I] can pull the film off”. He convinced United Artists executives to delay the premiere from May to October 1978. Author Michael Herr received a call from Zoetrope in January 1978 and was asked to work on the film’s narration based on his well-received book about Vietnam, Dispatches. Herr said that the narration already written was “totally useless” and spent a year writing various narrations with Coppola giving him very definite guidelines.
Murch had problems trying to make a stereo soundtrack for Apocalypse Now because sound libraries had no stereo recordings of weapons. The sound material brought back from the Philippines was inadequate, because the small location crew lacked the time and resources to record jungle sounds and ambient noises. Murch and his crew fabricated the mood of the jungle on the soundtrack. Apocalypse Now had novel sound techniques for a movie, as Murch insisted on recording the most up-to-date gunfire and employed the Dolby Stereo 70 mm Six Track system for the 70mm release. This used two channels of sound from behind the audience as well as three channels of sound from behind the movie screen. The 35mm release used the new Dolby Stereo optical stereo system, that has a single surround channel and three screen channels.
In May 1978, Coppola postponed the opening until spring of 1979 and screened a “work in progress” for 900 people in April 1979 that was not well received. That same year, he was invited to screen Apocalypse Now at the Cannes Film Festival. United Artists were not keen on showing an unfinished version in front of so many members of the press but Coppola remembered that The Conversation won the Palme d’Or and agreed, less than a month prior to the start of the festival, to screen Apocalypse Now at Cannes. The week prior to Cannes, Coppola arranged three sneak previews of slightly different versions. He allowed critics to attend the screenings and believed that they would honor the embargo placed on reviews. On May 14, Rona Barrett reviewed the film on television and called it “a disappointing failure”. At Cannes, Zoetrope technicians worked during the night before the screening to install additional speakers on the theater walls, to achieve Murch’s 5.1 soundtrack. On August 15, 1979 Apocalypse Now was released in the U.S. in 15 theaters equipped to play the first Dolby Stereo 70mm film with stereo surround sound.
Alternate and varied ending
At the time of its release, discussion and rumors circulated about the supposed various endings for Apocalypse Now. Coppola stated the original ending was written in haste, where Kurtz convinced Willard to join forces and together they repelled the air strike on the compound. Coppola said he never fully agreed with the Kurtz and Willard dying in fatalistic explosive intensity, preferring to end the film in a more encouraging manner.
When Coppola originally organized the ending, he considered two significantly different ends to the movie. One involved Willard leading Lance by the hand as everyone in Kurtz’s base throws down their weapons, and ends with images of Willard’s Swift boat slowly pulling away from Kurtz’s compound, this final scene superimposed over the face of a stone idol, which then fades into black. The other option showed an air strike being called and the base being blown to bits in a spectacular display, consequently killing everyone left within it.
The original 1979 70mm exclusive theatrical release ended with Willard’s boat, the stone statue, then fade to black with no credits, save for ‘”Copyright 1979 Omni Zoetrope”‘ right after the film ends. This mirrors the lack of any opening titles and supposedly stems from Coppola’s original intention to “tour” the film as one would a play: the credits would have appeared on printed programs provided before the screening began.
There have been, to date, many variations of the end credit sequence, beginning with the 35mm general release version, where Coppola elected to show the credits superimposed over shots of Kurtz’s base exploding. Rental prints circulated with this ending, and can be found in the hands of a few collectors. Some versions of this had the subtitle “A United Artists release”, while others had “An Omni Zoetrope release”. The network television version of the credits ended with “…from MGM/UA Entertainment Company” (the film made its network debut shortly after the merger of MGM and UA). One variation of the end credits can be seen on both YouTube and as a supplement on the current Lionsgate Blu-ray.
Later when Coppola heard that audiences interpreted this as an air strike called by Willard, Coppola pulled the film from its 35 mm run, and put credits on a black screen. (However, prints with the “air strike” footage continued to circulate to “repertory” theaters well into the 1980s.) In the DVD commentary, Coppola explains that the images of explosions had not been intended to be part of the story; they were intended to be seen as completely separate from the film. He had added the explosions to the credits as a graphic background to the credits.
Coppola explained he had captured the now-iconic footage during demolition of the sets (set destruction and removal was required by the Philippine government). Coppola filmed the demolition with multiple cameras fitted with different film stocks and lenses to capture the explosions at different speeds. He wanted to do something with the dramatic footage and decided to add them to the credits.
Apocalypse Now Redux
In 2001, Coppola released Apocalypse Now Redux in cinemas and subsequently on DVD. This is an extended version that restores 49 minutes of scenes cut from the original film. Coppola has continued to circulate the original version as well: the two versions are packaged together in the Complete Dossier DVD, released on August 15, 2006 and in the Blu-ray edition released on October 19, 2010.
The longest section of added footage in the Redux version is a chapter involving the de Marais family’s rubber plantation, a holdover from the colonization of French Indochina, featuring Coppola’s two sons Gian-Carlo and Roman as children of the family. These scenes were removed from the 1979 cut, which premiered at Cannes. In behind-the-scenes footage in Hearts of Darkness, Coppola expresses his anger, on the set, at the technical aspects of the shot scenes, the result of tight allocation of resources. At the time of the Redux version, it was possible to digitally enhance the footage to accomplish Coppola’s vision. In the scenes, the French family patriarchs argue about the positive side of colonialism in Indochina and denounce the betrayal of the military men in the First Indochina War. Hubert de Marais argues that French politicians sacrificed entire battalions at Điện Biên Phủ, and tells Willard that the US created the Viet Cong (as the Viet Minh) to fend off Japanese invaders.
Other added material includes extra combat footage before Willard meets Kilgore, a humorous scene in which Willard’s team steals Kilgore’s surfboard (which sheds some light on the hunt for the mangoes), a follow-up scene to the dance of the Playboy Playmates, in which Willard’s team finds the Playmates awaiting evacuation after their helicopter has run out of fuel (trading two barrels of fuel for two hours with the Bunnies), and a scene of Kurtz reading from a Time magazine article about the war, surrounded by Cambodian children.
A deleted scene titled “Monkey Sampan” shows Willard and the PBR crew suspiciously eyeing an approaching sampan juxtaposed to Montagnard villagers joyfully singing “Light My Fire” by The Doors. As the sampan gets closer, Willard realizes there are monkeys on it and no helmsman. Finally, just as the two boats pass, the wind turns the sail and exposes a naked dead civilian tied to the sail boom. His body is mutilated and looks as though the man had been whipped. The singing stops. It is assumed the man was tortured by the Viet Cong. As they pass on by, Chief notes out loud, “That’s comin’ from where we’re going, Captain.” The boat then slowly passes the giant tail of a shot down B-52 bomber as the noise of engines way up in the sky is heard. Coppola said that he made up for cutting this scene by having the PBR pass under an airplane tail in the final cut.
A three-hour version of Apocalypse Now was screened as a “work in progress” at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival and met with prolonged applause. At the subsequent press conference, Coppola criticized the media for attacking him and the production during their problems filming in the Philippines and famously uttered, “We had access to too much money, too much equipment, and little by little we went insane”, and “My film is not about Vietnam, it is Vietnam”. The filmmaker upset newspaper critic Rex Reed who reportedly stormed out of the conference. Apocalypse Now won the Palme d’Or for best film along with Volker Schlöndorff‘s The Tin Drum – a decision that was reportedly greeted with “some boos and jeers from the audience”.
Apocalypse Now performed well at the box office when it opened in August 1979. The film initially opened in one theater in New York City, Toronto, and Hollywood, grossing USD $322,489 in the first five days. It ran exclusively in these three locations for four weeks before opening in an additional 12 theaters on October 3, 1979 and then several hundred the following week. The film grossed over $78 million domestically with a worldwide total of approximately $150 million.
The film was re-released on August 28, 1987 in six cities to capitalize on the success of Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, and other Vietnam War movies. New 70mm prints were shown in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, St. Louis, and Cincinnati — cities where the film did financially well in 1979. The film was given the same kind of release as the exclusive engagement in 1979 with no logo or credits and audiences were given a printed program.
Upon its release, Apocalypse Now received near-universal critical acclaim. In his original review, Roger Ebert wrote, “Apocalypse Now achieves greatness not by analyzing our ‘experience in Vietnam’, but by re-creating, in characters and images, something of that experience”. In his review for the Los Angeles Times, Charles Champlin wrote, “as a noble use of the medium and as a tireless expression of national anguish, it towers over everything that has been attempted by an American filmmaker in a very long time”.
Ebert added Coppola’s film to his list of The Great Movies, stating: “Apocalypse Now is the best Vietnam film, one of the greatest of all films, because it pushes beyond the others, into the dark places of the soul. It is not about war so much as about how war reveals truths we would be happy never to discover”.
Various commentators have debated whether Apocalypse Now is an anti-war or pro-war film. Some commentators’ evidence of the film’s anti-war message include the purposeless brutality of the war, the absence of military leadership, and the imagery of machinery destroying nature. Advocates of the film’s pro-war stance, however, view these same elements as a glorification of war and the assertion of American supremacy. According to Frank Tomasulo, “the U.S. foisting its culture on Vietnam,” including the destruction of a village so that soldiers could surf, affirms the film’s pro-war message. Additionally, a Marine named Anthony Swofford recounted how his platoon watched Apocalypse Now before being sent to Iraq in 1990 in order to get excited for war. According to Coppola, the film may be considered anti-war, but is even more anti-lie: “…the fact that a culture can lie about what’s really going on in warfare, that people are being brutalized, tortured, maimed, and killed, and somehow present this as moral is what horrifies me, and perpetuates the possibility of war”.
In May 2011, a newly restored digital print of Apocalypse Now was released in UK cinemas, distributed by Optimum Releasing. Total Film magazine gave the film a five-star review, stating: “This is the original cut rather than the 2001 ‘Redux’ (be gone, jarring French plantation interlude!), digitally restored to such heights you can, indeed, get a nose full of the napalm.”
Rotten Tomatoes ranked the film 99% “Certified Fresh” with an average rating of 8.9/10, and the stated consensus that “Francis Ford Coppola’s haunting, hallucinatory Vietnam war epic is cinema at its most audacious and visionary”.
Today, the movie is widely regarded by many as a masterpiece of the New Hollywood era, and is frequently cited as one of the greatest films of all time. Roger Ebert considered it to be the finest film on the Vietnam war and included it on his list for the 2002 Sight and Sound poll for the greatest movie of all time. It is on the American Film Institute‘s 100 Years…100 Movies list at number 28, but it dropped two spots to number 30 on their 10th anniversary list. Kilgore’s quote, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning,” written by Milius, was number 12 on the AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movie Quotes list and was also voted the greatest movie speech of all time in a 2004 poll. It is listed at number 7 on Empire ’s 2008 list of the 500 greatest movies of all time. Entertainment Weekly ranked Apocalypse Now as having one of the “10 Best Surfing Scenes” in cinema.
In 1981, shortly after introduction of martial law in Poland, a British-Polish photographer Chris Niedenthal took an iconic photo presenting a SKOT APC in front of Moscow Cinema (Kino Moskwa) with the film’s poster behind it.
In 2002, Sight and Sound magazine polled several critics to name the best film of the last 25 years and Apocalypse Now was named number one. It was also listed as the second best war film by viewers on Channel 4‘s 100 Greatest War Films and was the second rated war movie of all time based on the Movifone list (after Schindler’s List) and the IMDb War movie list (after The Longest Day). It is ranked number 1 on Channel 4‘s 50 Films to See Before You Die. In a 2004 poll of UK film fans, Blockbuster listed Kilgore’s eulogy to napalm as the best movie speech. The helicopter attack scene with the Ride of the Valkyries soundtrack was chosen as the most memorable film scene ever by Empiremagazine (although the same track was used earlier in 1915 to similar effect in the score written to accompany the silent film The Birth of a Nation). This scene is recalled in one of the last acts of the 2012 video game Far Cry 3 as the song is played while the character shoots from a helicopter.
In August 2009, the head of the German Financial Regulator told the Bundestag Finance Committee that the failure of the “terrible” Depfa Bank, which was completely supervised by its Irish equivalent, lead to the collapse of its German parent which forced Berlin to bail it out at a cost of €102 billion. The committee was told that the alternative was a run on German banks and the eventual collapse of the European finance system and “You would have woken up on Monday morning in the film Apocalypse Now”
In 2011, actor Charlie Sheen, son of Martin Sheen, started playing clips from the film on his live tour and played the film in its entirety during post-show parties. One of Charlie Sheen’s films, the 1993 comedy Hot Shots! Part Deux, includes a brief scene in which Charlie is riding a boat up a river in Iraq while on a rescue mission and passes Martin, as Captain Willard, going the other way. As they pass, each man shouts to the other “I loved you in Wall Street!”, referring to the 1987 film that had featured both of them. Additionally, the promotional material for Hot Shots! Part Deux included a mockumentary that aired on HBO titled Hearts of Hot Shots! Part Deux—A Filmmaker’s Apology, in parody of the 1991 documentaryHearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, about the making of Apocalypse Now.
Awards and honors
- American Film Institute lists
- AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies – #28
- AFI’s 100 Years…100 Heroes and Villains:
- Colonel Walter E. Kurtz – Nominated Villain
- AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs:
- “The End” – Nominated
- AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movie Quotes:
- “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.” – #12
- AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – #30
- AFI’s 10 Top 10 – Nominated Epic film
The film was also ranked #7 on Empire’s 500 Greatest Movies of all time.
Home video release aspect ratio issues
The first home video releases of Apocalypse Now were pan-and-scan versions of the original 35 mm Technovision anamorphic 2.35:1 print, and the closing credits, white on black background, were presented in compressed 1.33:1 full-frame format to allow all credit information to be seen on standard televisions. The first letterboxed appearance, on Laserdisc on December 29, 1991, cropped the film to a 2:1 aspect ratio (conforming to the Univisium spec created by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro), and included a small degree of pan-and-scan processing at the insistence of Coppola and Storaro. The end credits, from a videotape source rather than a film print, were still crushed for 1.33:1 and zoomed to fit the anamorphic video frame. All DVD releases have maintained this aspect ratio in anamorphic widescreen, but present the film without the end credits, which were treated as a separate feature. The Blu-ray releases of Apocalypse Now restore the film to a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, making it the first home video release to effectively display the film in its true aspect ratio; the theatrical release had an aspect ratio of 2.39:1.
As a DVD extra, the footage of the explosion of the Kurtz compound was featured without text credits but included commentary by Coppola, explaining the various endings based on how the film was screened.
On the cover of the Redux DVD, Willard is erroneously listed as “Lieutenant Willard”.
Apocalypse Now – The Complete Dossier DVD (Paramount Home Entertainment) (2006) Disc 2 extras include:
The Post Production of Apocalypse Now: Documentary (four featurettes covering the editing, music and sound of the film through Coppola and his team)
- “A Million Feet of Film: The Editing of Apocalypse Now” (18 minutes)
- “The Music of Apocalypse Now” (15 minutes)
- “Heard Any Good Movies Lately? The Sound Design of Apocalypse Now” (15 minutes)
- “The Final Mix” (3 minutes)
- Reflections in a Golden Eye
- Heart of Darkness – A 1993 adaption of the original novella, starring Tim Roth & John Malkovich
- Cinema of the United States
- Anthony Poshepny
- However, filmmaker Carroll Ballard claims that Apocalypse Now was his idea in 1967 before Milius had written his screenplay. Ballard had a deal with producer Joel Landon and they tried to get the rights to Conrad’s book but were unsuccessful. Lucas acquired the rights but failed to tell Ballard and Landon.
The Secret Agent (David Suchet, Patrick Malahide, Peter Capaldi, 1992)
The Secret Agent
First US edition cover
|Publisher||Methuen & Co|
|Media type||Print (hardcover)|
The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale is a novel by Joseph Conrad, published in 1907. The story is set in London in 1886 and deals with Mr. Verloc and his work as a spy for an unnamed country (presumably Russia).The Secret Agent is notable for being one of Conrad’s later political novels. In these later novels, Conrad has moved away from his former tales of seafaring.
The novel deals broadly with anarchism, espionage, and terrorism. It also deals with exploitation of the vulnerable, particularly in Verloc’s relationship with his brother-in-law Stevie, who has an intellectual disability.
The novel is set in London in 1886 and follows the life of Mr. Verloc, a secret agent. Verloc is also a businessman who owns a shop which sells pornographic material, contraceptives, and bric-a-brac. He lives with his wife Winnie, his mother-in-law, and his brother-in-law, Stevie. Stevie has a mental disability, possibly autism, which causes him to be very excitable; his sister, Verloc’s wife, attends to him, treating him more as a son than as a brother. Verloc’s friends are a group of anarchists of which Comrade Ossipon, Michaelis, and “The Professor” are the most prominent. Although largely ineffectual as terrorists, their actions are known to the police. The group produce anarchist literature in the form of pamphlets entitled F.P., an acronym for The Future of the Proletariat.
The novel begins in Verloc’s home, as he and his wife discuss the trivialities of everyday life, which introduces the reader to Verloc’s family. Soon after, Verloc leaves to meet Mr. Vladimir, the new First Secretary in the embassy of a foreign country. Although a member of an anarchist cell, Verloc is also secretly employed by the Embassy as an agent provocateur. Vladimir informs Verloc that from reviewing his service history he is far from an exemplary model of a secret agent and, to redeem himself, must carry out an operation – the destruction of Greenwich Observatory by a bomb explosion. Vladimir explains that Britain’s lax attitude to anarchism endangers his own country, and he reasons that an attack on ‘science’, which he claims is the current vogue amongst the public, will provide the necessary outrage for suppression. Verloc later meets with his friends, who discuss politics and law, and the notion of a communist revolution. Unbeknownst to the group, Stevie, Verloc’s brother-in-law, overhears the conversation, which greatly disturbs him.
The novel flashes forward to after the bombing has taken place. Comrade Ossipon meets The Professor, who discusses having given explosives to Verloc. The Professor then describes the nature of the bomb which he carries in his coat at all times: it allows him to press a button which will blow him up in twenty seconds, and those nearest to him. After The Professor leaves the meeting, he stumbles into Chief Inspector Heat. Heat is a policeman who is working on the case regarding a recent explosion at Greenwich, where one man was killed. Heat informs The Professor that he is not a suspect in the case, but that he is being monitored due to his terrorist inclinations and anarchist background. Knowing that Michaelis has recently moved to the countryside to write a book, the Chief Inspector informs the Assistant Commissioner that he has a contact, Verloc, who may be able to assist in the case. The Assistant Commissioner shares some of the same high society acquaintances with Michaelis and is chiefly motivated by finding the extent of Michaelis’s involvement in order to assess any possible embarrassment to his connections. He later speaks to his superior, Sir Ethelred, about his intentions to solve the case alone, rather than rely on the effort of Chief Inspector Heat.
The novel then flashes back to before the explosion, taking the perspective of Winnie Verloc and her mother. At home, Mrs. Verloc’s mother informs the family that she wishes to move out of the house. Mrs. Verloc’s mother and Stevie use a hansom which is driven by a man with a hook in the place of his hand. The journey greatly upsets Stevie, as the driver’s tales of hardship coupled with his menacing hook scare him to the point where Mrs. Verloc must calm him down. On Verloc’s return from a business trip to the continent, his wife tells him of the high regard that Stevie has for him and she implores her husband to spend more time with Stevie. Verloc eventually agrees to go for a walk with Stevie. After this walk, Mrs. Verloc notes that her husband’s relationship with her brother has improved. Verloc then tells his wife that he has taken Stevie to go and visit Michaelis, and that Stevie would stay with him in the countryside for a few days.
As Verloc is talking to his wife about the possibility of emigrating to the continent, he is paid a visit by the Assistant Commissioner. Shortly thereafter, Chief Inspector Heat arrives to speak with Verloc, without knowing that the Assistant Commissioner had left with Verloc earlier that evening. The Chief Inspector tells Mrs. Verloc that he had recovered an overcoat at the scene of the bombing which had the shop’s address written on a label. Mrs. Verloc confirms that it was Stevie’s overcoat, and that she had written the address. On Verloc’s return, he realises that his wife knows her brother has been killed by Verloc’s bomb, and confesses what truly happened. A stunned Mrs. Verloc, in her anguish, then fatally stabs her husband.
After the murder, Mrs. Verloc flees her home, where she chances upon Comrade Ossipon, and begs him to help her. Ossipon assists her while confessing romantic feelings but secretly with a view to possess Mr Verloc’s bank account savings. They plan to run away and he aids her in taking a boat to the continent. However, her instability and the revelation of Mr. Verloc’s murder increasingly worry him, and he abandons her, taking Mr Verloc’s savings with him. He later discovers in a newspaper that a woman had disappeared, leaving behind her a wedding ring, before drowning herself in the English Channel.
- Mr. Adolf Verloc: a secret agent who owns a shop in the Soho region of London. His primary characteristic, as described by Conrad, is indolence. He has been employed by an unnamed embassy to spy on revolutionary groups, which then orders him to instigate a terrorist act against the Greenwich Observatory. Their belief is that the resulting public outrage will force the English government to act more forcibly against emigre socialist and anarchist activists. He is part of an anarchist organisation that creates pamphlets under the heading The Future of the Proletariat. He is married to Winnie, and lives with his wife, his mother-in-law, and his brother-in-law, Stevie.
- Mrs. Winnie Verloc: Verloc’s wife. She cares deeply for her brother Stevie, who has the mental age of a young child. Of working class origins, her father was the owner of a pub. She is younger than her husband and married him not for love but to provide a home for her mother and brother. A loyal wife, she is deeply disturbed upon learning of the death of her brother due to her husband’s plotting, and kills him with a knife in the heart. She dies, presumably by drowning herself to avoid the gallows.
- Stevie: Winnie’s brother has the mental age of a young child and is very sensitive and is disturbed by notions of violence or hardship. His sister cares for him, and Stevie passes most of his time drawing numerous circles on pieces of paper. Verloc, exploiting both Stevie’s childlike simplicity and outrage at suffering, employs him to carry out the terrorist attack on the Greenwich Observatory. However, Stevie stumbles and the bomb explodes prematurely.
- Mrs. Verloc’s mother: Old and infirm, Mrs Verloc’s mother leaves the household to live in an almshouse, believing that two disabled people (herself and Stevie) are too much for Mr Verloc’s generosity. The widow of a publican, she spent most of her life working hard in her husband’s pub and believed Mr Verloc to be a gentleman because she thought he resembled patrons of business houses (pubs with higher prices, consequently frequented by higher classes).
- Chief Inspector Heat: a policeman who is dealing with the explosion at Greenwich. An astute and practical man who uses a clue found at the scene of the crime to trace events back to Verloc’s home. Although he informs his superior what he is planning to do with regards to the case, he is initially not aware that the Assistant Commissioner is acting without his knowledge. Heat knew Verloc before the bombing as Verloc had supplied information to Heat through the Embassy. Heat has contempt for anarchists who he regards as amateurs, as opposed to burglars who he regards as professionals.
- The Assistant Commissioner: of a higher rank than the Chief Inspector, he uses the knowledge gained from Heat to pursue matters personally, for reasons of his own. The Assistant Commissioner is married to a lady with influential connections. He informs his superior, Sir Ethelred, of his intentions, and tracks down Verloc before Heat can.
- Sir Ethelred: the Secretary of State (Home Secretary) to whom the Assistant Commissioner reports. At the time of the bombing he is busy trying to pass a bill regarding the nationalisation of fisheries through the House of Commons against great opposition. He is briefed by the Assistant Commissioner throughout the novel who he often admonishes to not go into detail.
- Mr. Vladimir: the First Secretary of an embassy of an unnamed country. Though his name might suggest that this is the Russian embassy, the name of the previous first secretary, Baron Stott-Wartenheim, is Germanic, as is that of Privy Councillor Wurmt, another official of this embassy. There is also the suggestion that Vladimir is not from Europe but Central Asia. Vladimir thinks that the English police are far too soft on émigré socialist and anarchists, which are a real problem in his home country. He orders Verloc to instigate a terrorist act, hoping that the resulting public outrage will force the English government to adopt repressive measures.
- Michaelis: a member of Verloc’s group, and another anarchist. The most philosophical member of the group, his theories resemble those of Peter Kropotkin while some of his other attributes resemble Mikhail Bakunin.
- Comrade Alexander Ossipon: an ex-medical student, anarchist and member of Verloc’s group. He survives on the savings of various women he seduces, mostly working class. He is influenced by the theories on degeneracy of Cesare Lombroso. After Mr Verloc’s murder he initially helps, but afterwards abandons Winnie leaving her penniless on a train. He is later disturbed when he reads of her suicide and wonders if he will be able to seduce a woman again.
- Karl Yundt: a member of Verloc’s group, commonly referred to as an “old terrorist”.
- The Professor: another anarchist, who specialises in explosives. The Professor carries a flask of explosives in his coat that can be detonated within twenty seconds of him squeezing an india rubber ball in his pocket. The police know this and keep their distance. The most nihilistic member of the anarchists, the Professor feels oppressed and disgusted by the rest of humanity and has particular contempt for the weak. He dreams of a world where the weak are freely exterminated so that the strong can thrive. He supplies to Mr Verloc the bomb that kills Stevie.
Background: Greenwich Bombing of 1894
Conrad’s character, Stevie, is based on the French anarchist, Martial Bourdin, who died gruesomely in Greenwich Park when the explosives he carried prematurely detonated. Bourdin’s motives remain a mystery as does his intended target, which may have been the Greenwich Observatory. In the 1920 Author’s Note to the novel, Conrad recalls a discussion with Ford Madox Ford about the bombing:
[…] we recalled the already old story of the attempt to blow up the Greenwich Observatory; a blood-stained inanity of so fatuous a kind that it was impossible to fathom its origin by any reasonable or even unreasonable process of thought. For perverse unreason has its own logical processes. But that outrage could not be laid hold of mentally in any sort of way, so that one remained faced by the fact of a man blown to bits for nothing even most remotely resembling an idea, anarchistic or other. As to the outer wall of the Observatory it did not show as much as the faintest crack. I pointed all this out to my friend who remained silent for a while and then remarked in his characteristically casual and omniscient manner: “Oh, that fellow was half an idiot. His sister committed suicide afterwards.” These were absolutely the only words that passed between us […].
Terrorism and anarchism
Terrorism and anarchism are intrinsic aspects of the novel, and are central to the plot. Verloc is employed by an agency which requires him to orchestrate terrorist activities, and several of the characters deal with terrorism in some way: Verloc’s friends are all interested in an anarchistic political revolution, and the police are investigating anarchist motives behind the bombing of Greenwich.
The novel was written at a time when terrorist activity was increasing. There had been numerous dynamite attacks in both Europe and the US, as well as several assassinations of heads of state. Conrad also drew upon two persons specifically: Mikhail Bakuninand Prince Peter Kropotkin. Conrad used these two men in his “portrayal of the novel’s anarchists”. However, according to Conrad’s Author’s Note, only one character was a true anarchist: Winnie Verloc. In The Secret Agent, she is “the only character who performs a serious act of violence against another”, despite the F.P.’s intentions of radical change, and The Professor’s inclination to keep a bomb on his person.
Critics have analysed the role of terrorism in the novel. Patrick Reilly calls the novel “a terrorist text as well as a text about terrorism” due to Conrad’s manipulation of chronology to allow the reader to comprehend the outcome of the bombing before the characters, thereby corrupting the traditional conception of time. The morality which is implicit in these acts of terrorism has also been explored: is Verloc evil because his negligence leads to the death of his brother-in-law? Although Winnie evidently thinks so, the issue is not clear, as Verloc attempted to carry out the act with no fatalities, and as simply as possible to retain his job, and care for his family.
The role of politics is paramount in the novel, as the main character, Verloc, works for a quasi-political organisation. The role of politics is seen in several places in the novel: in the revolutionary ideas of the F.P.; in the characters’ personal beliefs; and in Verloc’s own private life. Conrad’s depiction of anarchism has an “enduring political relevance”, although the focus is now largely concerned with the terrorist aspects that this entails. The discussions of the F.P. are expositions on the role of anarchism and its relation to contemporary life. The threat of these thoughts is evident, as Chief Inspector Heat knows F.P. members because of their anarchist views. Moreover, Michaelis’ actions are monitored by the police to such an extent that he must notify the police station that he is moving to the country.
The plot to destroy Greenwich is in itself anarchistic. Vladimir asserts that the bombing “must be purely destructive” and that the anarchists who will be implicated as the architects of the explosion “should make it clear that [they] are perfectly determined to make a clean sweep of the whole social creation.” However, the political form of anarchism is ultimately controlled in the novel: the only supposed politically motivated act is orchestrated by a secret government agency.
Some critics, such as Fredrick R. Karl, think that the main political phenomenon in this novel is the modern age, as symbolised by the teeming, pullulating foggy streets of London (most notably in the cab ride taken by Winnie and Stevie Verloc). This modern age distorts everything, including politics (Verloc is motivated by the need to keep his remunerative position, the Professor to some extent by pride), the family (symbolised by the Verloc household, in which all roles are distorted, with the husband being like a father to the wife, who is like a mother to her brother), even the human body (Michaelis and Verloc are hugely obese, while the Professor and Yundt are preternaturally thin). This extended metaphor, using London as a center of darkness much like Kurtz’s headquarters in Heart of Darkness, presents “a dark vision of moral and spiritual inertia” and a condemnation of those who, like Mrs Verloc, think it a mistake to think too deeply.
Literary significance and reception
Initially, the novel fared poorly in both the United Kingdom and the United States, selling only 3,076 copies between 1907 and 1914. The book fared slightly better in Britain, yet no more than 6,500 copies were pressed before 1914. Although sales increased after 1914, the novel never sold more than “modestly” throughout Conrad’s lifetime. The novel was released to favourable reviews, with most agreeing with the view of The Times Literary Supplement, that the novel “increase[d] Mr. Conrad’s reputation, already of the highest.” However, there were detractors, who largely disagreed with the novel’s “unpleasant characters and subject”. Country Life magazine called the story “indecent”, whilst also criticising Conrad’s “often dense and elliptical style”.
In modern times, The Secret Agent is considered to be one of Conrad’s finest novels. The Independent calls it “[o]ne of Conrad’s great city novels” whilst The New York Times insists that it is “the most brilliant novelistic study of terrorism”. It is considered to be a “prescient” view of the 20th century, foretelling the rise of terrorism, anarchism, and the augmentation of secret societies, such as MI5. The novel is on reading lists for both secondary school pupils and university undergraduates.
Influence on Ted Kaczynski
The Secret Agent is said to have influenced the Unabomber—Theodore Kaczynski. Kaczynski was a great fan of the novel and as an adolescent kept a copy at his bedside. He identified strongly with the character of “the Professor” and advised his family to readThe Secret Agent to understand the character with whom he felt such an affinity. David Foster, the literary attributionist who assisted the FBI, said that Kaczynski “seem[ed] to have felt that his family could not understand him without reading Conrad.”
Kaczynski’s idolisation of the character was due to the traits that they shared: disaffection, hostility toward the world, and being an aspiring anarchist. However, it did not stop at mere idolisation. Kaczynski used “The Professor” as a source of inspiration, and “fabricated sixteen exploding packages that detonated in various locations”. After his capture, Kaczynski revealed to FBI agents that he had read the novel a dozen times, and had sometimes used “Conrad” as an alias. It was discovered that Kaczynski had used various formulations of Conrad’s name – Conrad, Konrad, and Korzeniowski, Conrad’s original surname – to sign himself into several hotels in Sacramento. As in his youth, Kaczynski retained a copy of The Secret Agent, and kept it with him whilst living as a recluse in a hut in Montana.
- In 1923 Conrad adapted the novel as a three-act drama of the same title.
- The novel formed the basis for Alfred Hitchcock‘s 1936 film, Sabotage, though many changes to the plot and characters were made. (Another 1936 Hitchcock film, Secret Agent, was based on short stories by W. Somerset Maugham.)
- A television adaptation of The Secret Agent was made in 1992, a three part BBC miniseries, with David Suchet as Verloc, and Cheryl Campbell as his wife Winnie. Verloc was transformed into a much more sympathetic character for this work, in which he deeply grieved for Stevie’s death.
- A 1996 film The Secret Agent, more faithful to the original novel, starred Bob Hoskins, Patricia Arquette and Gérard Depardieu.
- On 23 May 2006 the Feldkirch Festival premiered an opera based on the novel. Simon Wills wrote the music and libretto and Peter Kajlinger sang the main character, Mr.Verloc.
- A play adaptation of the novel was produced in 2007 by Alexander Gelman, the Artistic Director of Organic Theater Company in Chicago, IL. The play’s premiere took place on 18 April 2008.
- In January 2008, the play was staged in Italian by the Teatro Stabile di Genova of Genoa, under the direction of Marco Sciaccaluga.
- The Center for Contemporary Opera in New York presented the world premiere of a new opera by Michael Dellaira (music) and J D McClatchy (libretto), at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College on 18 March 2011. Amy Burton sang Winnie, Scott Bearden sang Verloc. It had its European premiere at the Armel International Opera Festival on 14 October 2011 in Szeged, Hungary, where the opera was broadcast live on the Arte Channel, and named the festival’s “Laureat.” Adrienn Miksch sang Winnie, Nicolas Rigas sang Verloc. The same production was reprised on 18 April 2012 at L’Opéra-Théâtre d’Avignon in Avignon, France. All productions were directed by Sam Helfrich and conducted by Sara Jobin.
- The Capitol City Opera Company of Atlanta presented the world premiere of The Secret Agent, an opera in two acts with music by Curtis Bryant and libretto by Allen Reichman at the Conant Center for Performing Arts at Oglethorpe University on 15 March 2013. Directed by Michael Nutter, the production featured soprano Elizabeth Claxton in the role of Winnie, baritone Wade Thomas as Verloc and tenor Timothy Miller as Ossipon. In this operatic treatment, originally completed in 2007 under the title The Anarchist, Winnie, discovering that she has been abandoned on the train, sings a final aria “Fooled Again.” Bryant quotes one measure from Puccini’s Tosca before Winnie leaps into the path of an oncoming train, ending her life and the opera.
|Born||Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski
3 December 1857
Terekhove near Berdychiv, Kiev Governorate, Russian Empire
|Died||3 August 1924 (aged 66)
|Resting place||Canterbury Cemetery,Canterbury|
|Occupation||Novelist, short-story writer|
|Notable works||The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’(1897)
Heart of Darkness (1899)
Lord Jim (1900)
The Secret Agent (1907)
Under Western Eyes (1911)
Joseph Conrad (born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski; 3 December 1857 – 3 August 1924) is regarded as one of the greatest novelists in English. He was granted British nationality in 1886, but always considered himself a Pole.[note 1] Though he did not speak English fluently until he was in his twenties (and always with a marked accent), he was a master prose stylist who brought a distinctly non-English sensibility into English literature.[note 2] He wrote stories and novels, many with a nautical setting, that depict trials of the human spirit.
Joseph Conrad is considered an early modernist, though his works still contain elements of nineteenth-century realism. His narrative style and anti-heroic characters have influenced many authors, including T.S. Eliot,William Faulkner, Graham Greene, and more recently Salman Rushdie.[note 3] Many films have been adapted from, or inspired by, Conrad’s works.
Writing in the heyday of the British Empire, Conrad drew on his Polish heritage and on his experiences in the French and British merchant navies to create short stories and novels that reflect aspects of a European-dominated world, while profoundly exploring human psychology. Appreciated early on by literary critics, his fiction and nonfiction have since been seen as almost prophetic, in the light of subsequent national and international disasters of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Joseph Conrad was born on 3 December 1857 in Berdychiv, in a part of Ukraine that had belonged to the Kingdom of Poland before 1793 and was at the time of his birth under Russianrule. He was the only child of Apollo Korzeniowski and his wife Ewa Bobrowska. The father was a writer, translator, political activist, and would-be revolutionary. Conrad was christenedJózef Teodor Konrad after his maternal grandfather Józef, his paternal grandfather Teodor, and the heroes (both named “Konrad”) of two poems by Adam Mickiewicz, Dziady andKonrad Wallenrod. He was subsequently known to his family as “Konrad”, rather than “Józef”.
Though the vast majority of the surrounding area’s inhabitants were Ukrainians, and the great majority of Berdychiv’s residents were Jewish, almost all the countryside was owned by the Polish szlachta (nobility), to which Conrad’s family belonged as bearers of the Nałęcz coat-of-arms. Polish literature, particularly patriotic literature, was held in high esteem by the area’s Polish population.:1
The Korzeniowski family played a significant role in Polish attempts to regain independence. Conrad’s paternal grandfather served under Prince Józef Poniatowski during Napoleon’s Russian campaign and formed his own cavalry squadron during the November 1830 Uprising. Conrad’s fiercely patriotic father belonged to the “Red” political faction, whose goal was to re-establish the pre-partition boundaries of Poland, but which also advocated land reform and the abolition of serfdom. Conrad’s subsequent refusal to follow in Apollo’s footsteps, and his choice of exile over resistance, were a source of lifelong guilt for Conrad.[note 4]
Because of the father’s attempts at farming and his political activism, the family moved repeatedly. In May 1861 they moved to Warsaw, where Apollo joined the resistance against the Russian Empire. This led to his imprisonment in Pavilion X (Ten) of the Warsaw Citadel.[note 5] Conrad would write: “[I]n the courtyard of this Citadel – characteristically for our nation – my childhood memories begin.”:17–19 On 9 May 1862 Apollo and his family were exiled to Vologda, 500 kilometres (310 mi) north of Moscow and known for its bad climate.:19–20 In January 1863 Apollo’s sentence was commuted, and the family was sent to Chernihiv in northeast Ukraine, where conditions were much better. However, on 18 April 1865 Ewa died of tuberculosis.:19–25
Apollo did his best to home-school Conrad. The boy’s early reading introduced him to the two elements that later dominated his life: in Victor Hugo‘s Toilers of the Sea he encountered the sphere of activity to which he would devote his youth; Shakespeare brought him into the orbit of English literature. Most of all, though, he read Polish Romantic poetry. Half a century later he explained that “The Polishness in my works comes fromMickiewicz and Słowacki. My father read [Mickiewicz’s] Pan Tadeusz aloud to me and made me read it aloud…. I used to prefer [Mickiewicz’s] Konrad Wallenrod [and] Grażyna. Later I preferred Słowacki. You know why Słowacki?… [He is the soul of all Poland]”.:27
In December 1867, Apollo took his son to the Austrian-held part of Poland, which for two years had been enjoying considerable internal freedom and a degree of self-government. After sojourns in Lwów and several smaller localities, on 20 February 1869 they moved to Kraków (till 1596 the capital of Poland), likewise in Austrian Poland. A few months later, on 23 May 1869, Apollo Korzeniowski died, leaving Conrad orphaned at the age of eleven.:31–34 Like Conrad’s mother, Apollo had been gravely ill with tuberculosis.
The young Conrad was placed in the care of Ewa’s brother, Tadeusz Bobrowski. Conrad’s poor health and his unsatisfactory schoolwork caused his uncle constant problems and no end of financial outlays. Conrad was not a good student; despite tutoring, he excelled only in geography.:43 Since the boy’s illness was clearly of nervous origin, the physicians supposed that fresh air and physical work would harden him; his uncle hoped that well-defined duties and the rigors of work would teach him discipline. Since he showed little inclination to study, it was essential that he learn a trade; his uncle saw him as a sailor-cum-businessman who would combine maritime skills with commercial activities.:44–46 In fact, in the autumn of 1871, thirteen-year-old Conrad announced his intention to become a sailor. He later recalled that as a child he had read (apparently in French translation) Leopold McClintock‘s book about his 1857–59 expeditions in the Fox, in search of Sir John Franklin‘s lost ships Erebus and Terror.[note 6] He also recalled having read books by the American James Fenimore Cooper and the English Captain Frederick Marryat.:41–42 A playmate of his adolescence recalled that Conrad spun fantastic yarns, always set at sea, presented so realistically that listeners thought the action was happening before their eyes.
In August 1873 Bobrowski sent fifteen-year-old Conrad to Lwów to a cousin who ran a small boarding house for boys orphaned by the 1863 Uprising; group conversation there was in French. The owner’s daughter recalled:
He stayed with us ten months… Intellectually he was extremely advanced but [he] disliked school routine, which he found tiring and dull; he used to say… he… planned to become a great writer…. He disliked all restrictions. At home, at school, or in the living room he would sprawl unceremoniously. He… suffer[ed] from severe headaches and nervous attacks…:43–44
On 13 October 1874 Bobrowski sent the sixteen-year-old to Marseilles, France, for a planned career at sea.:44–46 Though Conrad had not completed secondary school, his accomplishments included fluency in French (with a correct accent), some knowledge of Latin, German and Greek, probably a good knowledge of history, some geography, and probably already an interest in physics. He was well read, particularly in Polish Romantic literature. He belonged to only the second generation in his family that had had to earn a living outside the family estates: he was a member of the second generation of the intelligentsia, a social class that was starting to play an important role in Central and Eastern Europe.:46–47 He had absorbed enough of the history, culture and literature of his native land to be able eventually to develop a distinctive world view and make unique contributions to the literature of his adoptive Britain.:1–5 It was tensions that originated in his childhood in Poland and grew in his adulthood abroad that would give rise to Conrad’s greatest literary achievements.:246–47 Najder, himself an emigrant from Poland, observes:
Living away from one’s natural environment – family, friends, social group, language – even if it results from a conscious decision, usually gives rise to… internal tensions, because it tends to make people less sure of themselves, more vulnerable, less certain of their… position and… value… The Polish szlachta and… intelligentsia were social strata in which reputation… was felt… very important… for a feeling of self-worth. Men strove… to find confirmation of their… self-regard… in the eyes of others… Such a psychological heritage forms both a spur to ambition and a source of constant stress, especially if [one has been inculcated with] the idea of [one]’s public duty…:47
Conrad was a Russian subject, having been born in the Russian part of what had once been the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. In December 1867, with the Russian government’s permission, his father Apollo had taken him to the Austrian part of the former Commonwealth, which enjoyed considerable internal freedom and a degree of self-government. After the father’s death, Conrad’s uncle Bobrowski had attempted to secure Austrian citizenship for him – to no avail, probably because Conrad had not received permission from Russian authorities to remain abroad permanently and had not been released from being a Russian subject. Conrad could not return to Ukraine, in the Russian Empire – he would have been liable to many years’ military service and, as the son of political exiles, to harassment.:41
In a letter of 9 August 1877, Conrad’s uncle Bobrowski broached two important subjects:[note 7] the desirability of Conrad’s naturalisation abroad (tantamount to release from being a Russian subject) and Conrad’s plans to join the British merchant marine. “[D]o you speak English?… I never wished you to become naturalized in France, mainly because of the compulsory military service… I thought, however, of your getting naturalized in Switzerland…” In his next letter, Bobrowski supported Conrad’s idea of seeking citizenship of the United States or of “one of the more important Southern Republics”.:57–58
Eventually Conrad would make his home in England. On 2 July 1886 he applied for British nationality, which was granted on 19 August 1886. Yet, in spite of having become a subject of Queen Victoria, Conrad had not ceased to be a subject of Tsar Alexander III. To achieve the latter, he had to make many visits to the Russian Embassy in London and politely reiterate his request. He would later recall the Embassy’s home at Belgrave Square in his novel The Secret Agent.:112 Finally, on 2 April 1889, the Russian Ministry of Home Affairs released “the son of a Polish man of letters, captain of the British merchant marine” from the status of Russian subject.:132
In 1874 Conrad left Poland to start a merchant-marine career. After nearly four years in France and on French ships, he joined the British merchant marine and for the next fifteen years served under the Red Ensign. He worked on a variety of ships as crew member (steward, apprentice, able-bodied seaman) and then as third, second and first mate, until eventually achieving captain’s rank. Of his 19-year merchant-marine career, only about half was spent actually at sea.
Most of Conrad’s stories and novels, and many of their characters, were drawn from his seafaring career and persons whom he had met or heard about. For his fictional characters he often borrowed the authentic names of actual persons. The historic trader William Charles Olmeijer, whom Conrad encountered on four short visits to Berau in Borneo, appears as “Almayer” (possibly a simple misspelling) in Conrad’s first novel, Almayer’s Folly. Other authentic names include those of Captain McWhirr (in Typhoon), Captain Beard and Mr. Mahon (Youth), Captain Lingard (Almayer’s Folly and elsewhere), and Captain Ellis (The Shadow Line). Conrad also preserves, in The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’, the authentic name of the Narcissus, a ship in which he sailed in 1884.
During a brief call in India in 1885–86, 28-year-old Conrad sent five letters to Joseph Spiridion,[note 8] a Pole eight years his senior whom he had befriended at Cardiff in June 1885 just before sailing for Singapore in the clipper ship Tilkhurst. These letters are Conrad’s first preserved texts in English. His English is generally correct but stiff to the point of artificiality; many fragments suggest that his thoughts ran along the lines of Polish syntax andphraseology. More importantly, the letters show a marked change in views from those implied in his earlier correspondence of 1881–83. He had departed from “hope for the future” and from the conceit of “sailing [ever] toward Poland”, and from his Panslavic ideas. He was left with a painful sense of the hopelessness of the Polish question and an acceptance of England as a possible refuge. While he often adjusted his statements to accord to some extent with the views of his addressees, the theme of hopelessness concerning the prospects for Polish independence often occurs authentically in his correspondence and works before 1914.:104–5
When Conrad left London on 25 October 1892 aboard the clipper ship Torrens, one of the passengers was William Henry Jacques, a consumptive Cambridge graduate who died less than a year later (19 September 1893) and was, according to Conrad’s A Personal Record, the first reader of the still-unfinished manuscript of his Almayer’s Folly. Jacques encouraged Conrad to continue writing the novel.:181
Conrad completed his last long-distance voyage as a seaman on 26 July 1893 when the Torrens docked at London and “J. Conrad Korzemowin” (per the certificate of discharge) debarked. When the Torrens had left Adelaide on 13 March 1893, the passengers had included two young Englishmen returning from Australia and New Zealand: 25-year-old lawyer and future novelist John Galsworthy; and Edward Lancelot Sanderson, who was going to help his father run a boys’ preparatory school at Elstree. They were probably the first Englishmen and non-sailors with whom Conrad struck up a friendship; he would remain in touch with both. The protagonist of one of Galsworthy’s first literary attempts, “The Doldrums” (1895–96), the first mate Armand, is obviously modeled on Conrad. At Cape Town, where the Torrens remained from 17 to 19 May, Galsworthy left the ship to look at the local mines. Sanderson continued his voyage and seems to have been the first to develop closer ties with Conrad.:182–3
In 1894, aged 36, Conrad reluctantly gave up the sea, partly because of poor health, partly due to unavailability of ships, and partly because he had become so fascinated with writing that he had decided on a literary career. His first novel, Almayer’s Folly, set on the east coast of Borneo, was published in 1895. Its appearance marked his first use of the pen name “Joseph Conrad”; “Konrad” was, of course, the third of his Polish given names, but his use of it – in the anglicised version, “Conrad” – may also have been an homage to the Polish Romantic poet Adam Mickiewicz‘s patriotic narrative poem, Konrad Wallenrod.
Edward Garnett, a young publisher’s reader and literary critic who would play one of the chief supporting roles in Conrad’s literary career, had – like Unwin’s first reader of Almayer’s Folly, Wilfrid Hugh Chesson – been impressed by the manuscript, but Garnett had been “uncertain whether the English was good enough for publication.” Garnett had shown the novel to his wife, Constance Garnett, later a well-known translator of Russian literature. She had thought Conrad’s foreignness a positive merit.:197
While Conrad had only limited personal acquaintance with the peoples of Maritime Southeast Asia, the region looms large in his early work. According to Najder, Conrad, the exile and wanderer, was aware of a difficulty that he confessed more than once: the lack of a common cultural background with his Anglophone readers meant he could not compete with English-language authors writing about the Anglosphere. At the same time, the choice of a non-English colonial setting freed him from an embarrassing division of loyalty:Almayer’s Folly, and later “An Outpost of Progress” (1897, set in a Congo exploited by King Leopold II of Belgium) and Heart of Darkness (1899, likewise set in the Congo), contain bitter reflections on colonialism. The Malay states came theoretically under the suzerainty of the Dutch government; Conrad did not write about the area’s British dependencies, which he never visited. He “was apparently intrigued by… struggles aimed at preserving national independence. The prolific and destructive richness of tropical nature and the dreariness of human life within it accorded well with the pessimistic mood of his early works.”:118–20 [note 9]
Almayer’s Folly, together with its successor, An Outcast of the Islands (1896), laid the foundation for Conrad’s reputation as a romantic teller of exotic tales – a misunderstanding of his purpose that was to frustrate him for the rest of his career.[note 10]
Almost all of Conrad’s writings were first published in newspapers and magazines: influential reviews like The Fortnightly Review and the North American Review; avant-garde publications like the Savoy, New Review, and The English Review; popular short-fiction magazines like The Saturday Evening Post and Harper’s Magazine; women’s journals like the Pictorial Review and Romance; mass-circulation dailies like the Daily Mail and the New York Herald; and illustrated newspapers like The Illustrated London News and theIllustrated Buffalo Express. He also wrote for The Outlook, an imperialist weekly magazine, between 1898 and 1906.[note 11]
Financial success long eluded Conrad, who often asked magazine and book publishers for advances, and acquaintances (notably John Galsworthy) for loans.[note 12] Eventually a government grant (“Civil List pension”) of £100 per annum, awarded on 9 August 1910, somewhat relieved his financial worries,:420 [note 13] and in time collectors began purchasing his manuscripts. Though his talent was early on recognised by the English intellectual elite, popular success eluded him until the 1913 publication of Chance – paradoxically, one of his weaker novels.
Edward Said describes three phases to Conrad’s literary career. In the first and longest, from the 1890s to World War I, Conrad writes most of his great novels, including The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’ (1897), Heart of Darkness (1899), Lord Jim (1900), Nostromo(1904), The Secret Agent (1907) and Under Western Eyes (1911). The second phase, spanning the war and following the popular success of Chance (1913), is marked by the advent of Conrad’s public persona as “great writer”. In the third and final phase, from the end of World War I to Conrad’s death (1924), he at last finds an uneasy peace; it is, as C. McCarthy writes, as though “the War has allowed Conrad’s psyche to purge itself of terror and anxiety.”
Temperament and health
Conrad was a reserved man, wary of showing emotion. He scorned sentimentality; his manner of portraying emotion in his books was full of restraint, scepticism and irony.:575 In the words of his uncle Bobrowski, as a young man Conrad was “extremely sensitive, conceited, reserved, and in addition excitable. In short […] all the defects of the Nałęcz family.”:65
Conrad suffered throughout life from ill health, physical and mental. A newspaper review of a Conrad biography suggested that the book could have been subtitled Thirty Years of Debt, Gout, Depression and Angst. In 1891 he was hospitalised for several months, suffering from gout, neuralgic pains in his right arm and recurrent attacks of malaria. He also complained of swollen hands “which made writing difficult”. Taking his uncle Tadeusz Bobrowski’s advice, he convalesced at a spa in Switzerland.:169–70 Conrad had a phobia of dentistry, neglecting his teeth till they had to be extracted. In one letter he remarked that every novel he had written had cost him a tooth.:258 Conrad’s physical afflictions were, if anything, less vexatious than his mental ones. In his letters he often described symptoms of depression; “the evidence,” writes Najder, “is so strong that it is nearly impossible to doubt it.”:167
In March 1878, at the end of his Marseilles period, 20-year-old Conrad attempted suicide, by shooting himself in the chest with a revolver. According to his uncle, who was summoned by a friend, Conrad had fallen into debt. Bobrowski described his subsequent “study” of his nephew in an extensive letter to Stefan Buszczyński, his own ideological opponent and a friend of Conrad’s late father Apollo.[note 14] To what extent the suicide attempt had been made in earnest, likely will never be known, but it is suggestive of a situational depression.:65–7
Romance and marriage
Little is known about any intimate relationships that Conrad might have had prior to his marriage, confirming a popular image of the author as an isolated bachelor who preferred the company of close male friends. However, in 1888 during a stop-over on Mauritius, Conrad developed a couple of romantic interests. One of these would be described in his 1910 story “A Smile of Fortune”, which contains autobiographical elements (e.g., one of the characters is the same Chief Mate Burns who appears in The Shadow Line). The narrator, a young captain, flirts ambiguously and surreptitiously with Alice Jacobus, daughter of a local merchant living in a house surrounded by a magnificent rose garden. Research has confirmed that in Port Louis at the time there was a 17-year-old Alice Shaw, whose father, a shipping agent, owned the only rose garden in town.:126–27
More is known about Conrad’s other, more open flirtation. An old friend, Captain Gabriel Renouf of the French merchant marine, introduced him to the family of his brother-in-law. Renouf’s eldest sister was the wife of Louis Edward Schmidt, a senior official in the colony; with them lived two other sisters and two brothers. Though the island had been taken over in 1810 by Britain, many of the inhabitants were descendants of the original French colonists, and Conrad’s excellent French and perfect manners opened all local salons to him. He became a frequent guest at the Schmidts’, where he often met the Misses Renouf. A couple of days before leaving Port Louis, Conrad asked one of the Renouf brothers for the hand of his 26-year-old sister Eugenie. She was already, however, engaged to marry her pharmacist cousin. After the rebuff, Conrad did not pay a farewell visit but sent a polite letter to Gabriel Renouf, saying he would never return to Mauritius and adding that on the day of the wedding his thoughts would be with them.
In March 1896 Conrad married an Englishwoman, Jessie George. The couple had two sons, Borys and John. The elder, Borys, proved a disappointment in scholarship and integrity. Jessie was an unsophisticated, working-class girl, sixteen years younger than Conrad. To his friends, she was an inexplicable choice of wife, and the subject of some rather disparaging and unkind remarks. (See Lady Ottoline Morrell’s opinion of Jessie in Impressions.) However, according to other biographers such as Frederick Karl, Jessie provided what Conrad needed, namely a “straightforward, devoted, quite competent” companion. Similarly, Jones remarks that, despite whatever difficulties the marriage endured, “there can be no doubt that the relationship sustained Conrad’s career as a writer”, which might have been a lot less successful without her.
The couple rented a long series of successive homes, occasionally in France, sometimes briefly in London, but mostly in the English countryside, sometimes from friends – to be close to friends, to enjoy the peace of the countryside, but above all because it was more affordable.[note 15] Except for several vacations in France and Italy, a 1914 vacation in his native Poland, and a 1923 visit to the United States, Conrad lived the rest of his life in England.
The 1914 vacation with his wife and sons in Poland, at the urging of Józef Retinger, coincided with the outbreak of World War I. On 28 July 1914, the day war broke out between Austro-Hungary and Serbia, Conrad and the Retingers arrived in Kraków (then in the Austro-Hungarian Empire), where Conrad visited childhood haunts. As the city lay only a few miles from the Russian border, there was a risk of getting stranded in a battle zone. With wife Jessie and younger son John ill, Conrad decided to take refuge in the mountain resort town of Zakopane. They left Kraków on 2 August. A few days after arrival in Zakopane, they moved to the Konstantynówka pension operated by Conrad’s cousin Aniela Zagórska; it had been frequented by celebrities including the statesman Józef Piłsudski and Conrad’s acquaintance, the young concert pianist Artur Rubinstein.:458–63
Zagórska introduced Conrad to Polish writers, intellectuals and artists who had also taken refuge in Zakopane, including novelist Stefan Żeromski and Tadeusz Nalepiński, a writer friend of anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski. Conrad roused interest among the Poles as a famous writer and an exotic compatriot from abroad. He charmed new acquaintances, especially women. However, the double Nobel laureate Maria Skłodowska-Curie‘s physician sister, Bronisława Dłuska, scolded him for having used his great talent for purposes other than bettering the future of his native land:463–64[note 16] But thirty-three-year-old Aniela Zagórska (daughter of the pension keeper), Conrad’s niece who would translate his works into Polish in 1923–39, idolised him, kept him company, and provided him with books. He particularly delighted in the stories and novels of the ten-years-older, recently deceased Bolesław Prus,:463 read everything by his fellow victim of Poland’s 1863 Uprising – “my beloved Prus” – that he could get his hands on, and pronounced him “better than Dickens” – a favourite English novelist of Conrad’s.[note 17]
Conrad, who was noted by his Polish acquaintances to be fluent in his native tongue, participated in their impassioned political discussions. He declared presciently, as Piłsudski had earlier in 1914 in Paris, that in the war, for Poland to regain independence, Russia must be beaten by the Central Powers (the Austro-Hungarian and German Empires), and the latter must in turn be beaten by France and Britain.:464
After many travails and vicissitudes, at the beginning of November 1914 Conrad managed to bring his family back to England. On his return, he was determined to work on swaying British opinion in favour of restoring Poland’s sovereignty.:464–68
Jessie Conrad would later write in her memoirs: “I understood my husband so much better after those months in Poland. So many characteristics that had been strange and unfathomable to me before, took, as it were, their right proportions. I understood that his temperament was that of his countrymen.”:466
Conrad [writes Najder] was passionately concerned with politics. [This] is confirmed by several of his works, starting with Almayer’s Folly. […] Nostromo revealed his concern with these matters more fully; it was, of course, a concern quite natural for someone from a country [Poland] where politics was a matter not only of everyday existence but also of life and death. Moreover, Conrad himself came from a social class that claimed exclusive responsibility for state affairs, and from a very politically active family. Norman Douglas sums it up: “Conrad was first and foremost a Pole and like many Poles a politician and moralist malgré lui [French: “in spite of himself”]. These are his fundamentals.” [What made] Conrad see political problems in terms of a continuous struggle between law and violence, anarchy and order, freedom and autocracy, material interests and the noble idealism of individuals […] was Conrad’s historical awareness. His Polish experience endowed him with the perception, exceptional in the Western European literature of his time, of how winding and constantly changing were the front lines in these struggles.
The most extensive and ambitious political statement that Conrad ever made was his 1905 essay, “Autocracy and War”, whose starting point was the Russo-Japanese War (he finished the article a month before the Battle of Tsushima Strait). The essay begins with a statement about Russia’s incurable weakness and ends with warnings against Prussia, the dangerous aggressor in a future European war. For Russia he predicted a violent outburst in the near future, but Russia’s lack of democratic traditions and the backwardness of her masses made it impossible for the revolution to have a salutary effect. Conrad regarded the formation of a representative government in Russia as unfeasible and foresaw a transition from autocracy to dictatorship. He saw western Europe as torn by antagonisms engendered by economic rivalry and commercial selfishness. In vain might a Russian revolution seek advice or help from a materialistic and egoistic western Europe that armed itself in preparation for wars far more brutal than those of the past.:351–54
Conrad’s “Autocracy and War”, Najder points out, showed a historical awareness “exceptional in the Western European literature of his time” – an awareness that Conrad had drawn from his membership in a very politically active family of a country that had for over a century been daily reminded of the consequences of neglecting the broad enlightened interests of the national polity.:352
Conrad’s distrust of democracy sprang from his doubts whether the propagation of democracy as an aim in itself could solve any problems. He thought that, in view of the weakness of human nature and of the “criminal” character of society, democracy offered boundless opportunities for demagogues and charlatans.:290
He accused social democrats of his time of acting to weaken “the national sentiment, the preservation of which [was his] concern” – of attempting to dissolve national identities in an impersonal melting-pot. “I look at the future from the depth of a very black past and I find that nothing is left for me except fidelity to a cause lost, to an idea without future.” It was Conrad’s hopeless fidelity to the memory of Poland that prevented him from believing in the idea of “international fraternity,” which he considered, under the circumstances, just a verbal exercise. He resented some socialists’ talk of freedom and world brotherhood while keeping silent about his own partitioned and oppressed Poland.:290
Before that, in the early 1880s, letters to Conrad from his uncle Tadeusz[note 18] show Conrad apparently having hoped for an improvement in Poland’s situation not through a liberation movement but by establishing an alliance with neighbouring Slavic nations. This had been accompanied by a faith in the Panslavic ideology – “surprising,” Najder writes, “in a man who was later to emphasize his hostility towards Russia, a conviction that… Poland’s [superior] civilization and… historic… traditions would [let] her play a leading role… in the Panslavic community, [and his] doubts about Poland’s chances of becoming a fully sovereign nation-state.”:88–89
Conrad’s alienation from partisan politics went together with an abiding sense of the thinking man’s burden imposed by his personality, as described in an 1894 letter of Conrad’s to a relative-by-marriage and fellow author, Marguerite Poradowska (née Gachet, and cousin of Vincent van Gogh‘s physician, Paul Gachet) of Brussels:
We must drag the chain and ball of our personality to the end. This is the price one pays for the infernal and divine privilege of thought; so in this life it is only the chosen who are convicts – a glorious band which understands and groans but which treads the earth amidst a multitude of phantoms with maniacal gestures and idiotic grimaces. Which would you rather be: idiot or convict?:195
In a 23 October 1922 letter to mathematician-philosopher Bertrand Russell, in response to the latter’s book, The Problem of China, which advocated socialist reforms and an oligarchy of sages who would reshape Chinese society, Conrad explained his own distrust of political panaceas:
I have never [found] in any man’s book or… talk anything… to stand up… against my deep-seated sense of fatality governing this man-inhabited world…. The only remedy for Chinamen and for the rest of us is [a] change of hearts, but looking at the history of the last 2000 years there is not much reason to expect [it], even if man has taken to flying – a great “uplift” no doubt but no great change….:548–9
On 3 August 1924, Conrad died at his house, Oswalds, in Bishopsbourne, Kent, England, probably of a heart attack. He was interred at Canterbury Cemetery, Canterbury, under a misspelled version of his original Polish name, as “Joseph Teador Conrad Korzeniowski”.:573 Inscribed on his gravestone are the lines from Edmund Spenser‘s The Faerie Queene which he had chosen as the epigraph to his last complete novel, The Rover:
Sleep after toyle, port after stormie seas,
Ease after warre, death after life, doth greatly please:574
Conrad’s modest funeral took place amid great crowds. His old friend Edward Garnett recalled bitterly:
To those who attended Conrad’s funeral in Canterbury during the Cricket Festival of 1924, and drove through the crowded streets festooned with flags, there was something symbolical in England’s hospitality and in the crowd’s ignorance of even the existence of this great writer. A few old friends, acquaintances and pressmen stood by his grave.:573
Twelve years later, Conrad’s wife Jessie died on 6 December 1936 and was interred with him.
Despite the opinions even of some who knew him personally, such as fellow novelist Henry James,:446–47 Conrad – even when he was only writing elegantly crafted letters to his uncle and acquaintances – was always at heart a writer who sailed, rather than a sailor who wrote. He used his sailor’s experiences as a backdrop for many of his works, but he also produced works of similar world view, without the nautical motifs. The failure of many critics in his time to appreciate this caused him much frustration.:377, 562
An October 1923 visitor to Oswalds, Conrad’s home at the time – Cyril Clemens, a cousin of Mark Twain – quoted Conrad as saying: “In everything I have written there is always one invariable intention, and that is to capture the reader’s attention.”:564
Conrad the artist famously aspired, in the words of his preface to The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’ (1897), “by the power of the written word to make you hear, to make you feel… before all, to make you see. That – and no more, and it is everything. If I succeed, you shall find there according to your deserts: encouragement, consolation, fear, charm – all you demand – and, perhaps, also that glimpse of truth for which you have forgotten to ask.”
Writing in what to the visual arts was the age of Impressionism, and what to music was the age of impressionist music, Conrad showed himself in many of his works a prose poet of the highest order: for instance, in the evocativePatna and courtroom scenes of Lord Jim; in the scenes of the “melancholy-mad elephant” and the “French gunboat firing into a continent”, in Heart of Darkness; in the doubled protagonists of The Secret Sharer; and in the verbal and conceptual resonances of Nostromo and The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’.
Conrad used his own memories as literary material so often that readers are tempted to treat his life and work as a single whole. His “view of the world“, or elements of it, are often described by citing at once both his private and public statements, passages from his letters, and citations from his books. Najder warns that this approach produces an incoherent and misleading picture. “An… uncritical linking of the two spheres, literature and private life, distorts each. Conrad used his own experiences as raw material, but the finished product should not be confused with the experiences themselves.”:576–77
Many of Conrad’s characters were inspired by actual persons he had met, including, in his first novel, Almayer’s Folly (completed 1894), William Charles Olmeijer, the spelling of whose name Conrad, probably inadvertently, altered to “Almayer.”:11, 40 The historic trader Olmeijer, whom Conrad encountered on his four short visits to Berau in Borneo, subsequently haunted Conrad’s imagination.:40–1 Conrad frequently borrowed the authentic names of actual individuals, e.g., Captain McWhirr[note 19] (Typhoon), Captain Beard and Mr. Mahon (“Youth“), Captain Lingard (Almayer’s Folly and elsewhere), Captain Ellis (The Shadow Line). “Conrad,” writes J. I. M. Stewart, “appears to have attached some mysterious significance to such links with actuality.”:11–12 Equally curious is “a great deal of namelessness in Conrad, requiring some minor virtuosity to maintain.”:244 We never learn the surname of the protagonist of Lord Jim.:95 Conrad also preserves, in The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’, the authentic name of the ship, the Narcissus, in which he sailed in 1884.:98–100
Apart from Conrad’s own experiences, a number of episodes in his fiction were suggested by past or contemporary publicly known events or literary works. The first half of the 1900 novel Lord Jim (the ‘Patna’ episode) was inspired by the real-life 1880 story of theSS Jeddah;:96–7 the second part, to some extent by the life of James Brooke, the first White Rajah of Sarawak. The 1901 short story “Amy Foster” was inspired partly by an anecdote in Ford Madox Ford‘s The Cinque Ports (1900), wherein a shipwrecked sailor from a German merchant ship, unable to communicate in English, and driven away by the local country people, finally found shelter in a pigsty.:312–13 [note 20] In Nostromo (completed 1904), the theft of a massive consignment of silver was suggested to Conrad by a story he had heard in the Gulf of Mexico and later read about in a “volume picked up outside a second-hand bookshop.”:128–29 [note 21] The Secret Agent (completed 1906) was inspired by the French anarchist Martial Bourdin‘s 1894 death while apparently attempting to blow up the Greenwich Observatory. Conrad’s story “The Secret Sharer” (completed 1909) was inspired by an 1880 incident when Sydney Smith, first mate of the Cutty Sark, had killed a seaman and fled from justice, aided by the ship’s captain.:235–6 The plot of Under Western Eyes (completed 1910) is kicked off by the assassination of a brutal Russian government minister, modelled after the real-life 1904 assassination of Russian Minister of the Interior Vyacheslav von Plehve.:199 The near-novella “Freya of the Seven Isles” (completed in March 1911) was inspired by a story told to Conrad by a Malaya old hand and fan of Conrad’s, Captain Carlos M. Marris.:405, 422–23
For the natural surroundings of the high seas, the Malay Archipelago and South America, which Conrad described so vividly, he could rely on his own observations. What his brief landfalls could not provide was a thorough understanding of exotic cultures. For this he resorted, like other writers, to literary sources. When writing his Malayan stories, he consulted Alfred Russel Wallace‘s The Malay Archipelago (1869), James Brooke‘s journals, and books with titles like Perak and the Malays, My Journal in Malayan Waters, and Life in the Forests of the Far East. When he set about writing his novel Nostromo, set in the fictitious South American country of Costaguana, he turned to The War between Peru and Chile; Edward Eastwick, Venezuela: or, Sketches of Life in a South American Republic(1868); and George Frederick Masterman, Seven Eventful Years in Paraguay (1869).:130 [note 22] As a result of relying on literary sources, in Lord Jim, as J. I. M. Stewart writes, Conrad’s “need to work to some extent from second-hand” led to “a certain thinness in Jim’s relations with the… peoples… of Patusan…”:118 This prompted Conrad at some points to alter the nature of Charles Marlow‘s narrative to “distanc[e] an uncertain command of the detail of Tuan Jim’s empire.”:119
In keeping with his scepticism:166:163 and melancholy,:16, 18 Conrad almost invariably gives lethal fates to the characters in his principal novels and stories. Almayer (Almayer’s Folly, 1894), abandoned by his beloved daughter, takes to opium, and dies;:42Peter Willems (An Outcast of the Islands, 1895) is killed by his jealous lover Aïssa;:48 the ineffectual “Nigger,” James Wait (The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’, 1897), dies aboard ship and is buried at sea;:68–9 Mr. Kurtz (Heart of Darkness, 1899) expires, uttering the enigmatic words, “The horror!”;:68–9 Tuan Jim (Lord Jim, 1900), having inadvertently precipitated a massacre of his adoptive community, deliberately walks to his death at the hands of the community’s leader;:97 in Conrad’s 1901 short story, “Amy Foster“, a Pole transplanted to England, Yanko Goorall (an English transliteration of the Polish Janko Góral, “Johnny Highlander”), falls ill and, suffering from a fever, raves in his native language, frightening his wife Amy, who flees; next morning Yanko dies of heart failure, and it transpires that he had simply been asking in Polish for water;[note 23] Captain Whalley (The End of the Tether, 1902), betrayed by failing eyesight and an unscrupulous partner, drowns himself;:91 Gian’ Battista Fidanza,[note 24] the eponymous respected Italian-immigrant Nostromo (Italian: “Our Man”) of the novel Nostromo (1904), illicitly obtains a treasure of silver mined in the South American country of “Costaguana” and is shot dead due to mistaken identity;:124–26 Mr. Verloc, The Secret Agent (1906) of divided loyalties, attempts a bombing, to be blamed on terrorists, that accidentally kills his mentally defective brother-in-law Stevie, and Verloc himself is killed by his distraught wife, who drowns herself by jumping overboard from a channel steamer;:166–68 in Chance(1913), Roderick Anthony, a sailing-ship captain, and benefactor and husband of Flora de Barral, becomes the target of a poisoning attempt by her jealous disgraced financier father who, when detected, swallows the poison himself and dies (some years later, Captain Anthony drowns at sea);:209–11 in Victory (1915), Lena is shot dead by Jones, who had meant to kill his accomplice Ricardo and later succeeds in doing so, then himself perishes along with another accomplice, after which Lena’s protector Axel Heyst sets fire to his bungalow and dies beside Lena’s body.:220
When a principal character of Conrad’s does escape with his life, he sometimes does not fare much better. In Under Western Eyes (1911), Razumov betrays a fellow University of St. Petersburg student, the revolutionist Victor Haldin, who has assassinated a savagely repressive Russian government minister. Haldin is tortured and hanged by the authorities. Later Razumov, sent as a government spy to Geneva, a center of anti-tsarist intrigue, meets the mother and sister of Haldin, who share Haldin’s liberal convictions. Razumov falls in love with the sister and confesses his betrayal of her brother; later he makes the same avowal to assembled revolutionists, and their professional executioner bursts his eardrums, making him deaf for life. Razumov staggers away, is knocked down by a streetcar, and finally returns as a cripple to Russia.:185–87
Conrad was keenly conscious of tragedy in the world and in his works. In 1898, at the start of his writing career, he had written to his Scottish writer-politician friend Cunninghame Graham: “What makes mankind tragic is not that they are the victims of nature, it is that they are conscious of it. [A]s soon as you know of your slavery the pain, the anger, the strife – the tragedy begins.” But in 1922, near the end of his life and career, when another Scottish friend, Richard Curle, sent Conrad proofs of two articles he had written about Conrad, the latter objected to being characterised as a gloomy and tragic writer. “That reputation… has deprived me of innumerable readers… I absolutely object to being called a tragedian.”:544–5
Conrad claimed that he “never kept a diary and never owned a notebook.” John Galsworthy, who knew him well, described this as “a statement which surprised no one who knew the resources of his memory and the brooding nature of his creative spirit.”Nevertheless, after Conrad’s death, Richard Curle published a heavily modified version of Conrad’s diaries describing his experiences in the Congo; in 1978 a more complete version was published as The Congo Diary and Other Uncollected Pieces.
Unlike many authors who make it a point not to discuss work in progress, Conrad often did discuss his current work and even showed it to select friends and fellow authors, such as Edward Garnett, and sometimes modified it in the light of their critiques and suggestions.
He also borrowed from other, Polish- and French-language authors, to an extent sometimes skirting plagiarism. When the Polish translation of his 1915 novel Victory appeared in 1931, readers noted striking similarities to Stefan Żeromski‘s kitschy novel, The History of a Sin (Dzieje grzechu, 1908), including their endings. Comparative-literature scholar Yves Hervouet has demonstrated in the text of Victory a whole mosaic of influences, borrowings, similarities and allusions. He further lists hundreds of concrete borrowings from other, mostly French authors in nearly all of Conrad’s works, from Almayer’s Folly (1895) to his unfinished Suspense. Conrad seems to have used eminent writers’ texts as raw material of the same kind as the content of his own memory. Materials borrowed from other authors often functioned as allusions. Moreover, he had a phenomenal memory for texts and remembered details, “but [writes Najder] it was not a memory strictly categorized according to sources, marshalled into homogeneous entities; it was, rather, an enormous receptacle of images and pieces from which he would draw.”:454–7
But [writes Najder] he can never be accused of outright plagiarism. Even when lifting sentences and scenes, Conrad changed their character, inserted them within novel structures. He did not imitate, but (as Hervouet says) “continued” his masters. He was right in saying: “I don’t resemble anybody.” Ian Watt put it succinctly: “In a sense, Conrad is the least derivative of writers; he wrote very little that could possibly be mistaken for the work of anyone else.”:457[note 25]
Conrad, like other artists, faced constraints arising from the need to propitiate his audience and confirm its own favourable self-regard. This may account for his describing the admirable crew of the Judea in his 1898 story “Youth” as “Liverpool hard cases”, whereas the crew of the Judea’s actual 1882 prototype, the Palestine, had included not a single Liverpudlian, and half the crew had been non-Britons;:94 and for Conrad’s turning the real-life 1880 criminally negligent British Captain J. L. Clark, of the SS Jeddah, in his 1900 novel Lord Jim, into the captain of the fictitious Patna – “a sort of renegade New South Wales German” so monstrous in physical appearance as to suggest “a trained baby elephant.”:98–103 Similarly, in his letters Conrad – during most of his literary career, struggling for sheer financial survival – often adjusted his views to the predilections of his correspondents.:105 And when he wished to criticise the conduct of European imperialism in what would later be termed the “Third World“, he turned his gaze upon the Dutchand Belgian colonies, not upon the British Empire.:119
The singularity of the universe depicted in Conrad’s novels, especially compared to those of near-contemporaries like his friend and frequent benefactor John Galsworthy, is such as to open him to criticism similar to that later applied to Graham Greene. But where “Greeneland” has been characterised as a recurring and recognisable atmosphere independent of setting, Conrad is at pains to create a sense of place, be it aboard ship or in a remote village; often he chose to have his characters play out their destinies in isolated or confined circumstances. In the view of Evelyn Waugh and Kingsley Amis, it was not until the first volumes of Anthony Powell‘s sequence, A Dance to the Music of Time, were published in the 1950s, that an English novelist achieved the same command of atmosphere and precision of language with consistency, a view supported by later critics like A. N. Wilson; Powell acknowledged his debt to Conrad. Leo Gurko, too, remarks, as “one of Conrad’s special qualities, his abnormal awareness of place, an awareness magnified to almost a new dimension in art, an ecological dimension defining the relationship between earth and man.”
T. E. Lawrence, one of many writers whom Conrad befriended, offered some perceptive observations about Conrad’s writing:
He’s absolutely the most haunting thing in prose that ever was: I wish I knew how every paragraph he writes (…they are all paragraphs: he seldom writes a single sentence…) goes on sounding in waves, like the note of a tenor bell, after it stops. It’s not built in the rhythm of ordinary prose, but on something existing only in his head, and as he can never say what it is he wants to say, all his things end in a kind of hunger, a suggestion of something he can’t say or do or think. So his books always look bigger than they are. He’s as much a giant of the subjective as Kipling is of the objective. Do they hate one another?:343
In Conrad’s time, literary critics, while usually commenting favourably on his works, often remarked that many readers were put off by his exotic style, complex narration, profound themes, and pessimistic ideas. Yet, as his ideas were borne out by ensuing 20th-century events, in due course he came to be admired for beliefs that seemed to accord more closely with subsequent times than with his own.
Conrad’s was a starkly lucid view of the human condition – a vision similar to that which had been offered in two micro-stories by his ten-years-older Polish compatriot, Bolesław Prus (whose work Conrad greatly admired):[note 26] “Mold of the Earth” (1884) and “Shades” (1885). Conrad wrote:
Faith is a myth and beliefs shift like mists on the shore; thoughts vanish; words, once pronounced, die; and the memory of yesterday is as shadowy as the hope of to-morrow….
In this world – as I have known it – we are made to suffer without the shadow of a reason, of a cause or of guilt….
There is no morality, no knowledge and no hope; there is only the consciousness of ourselves which drives us about a world that… is always but a vain and fleeting appearance….
A moment, a twinkling of an eye and nothing remains – but a clod of mud, of cold mud, of dead mud cast into black space, rolling around an extinguished sun. Nothing. Neither thought, nor sound, nor soul. Nothing.:166
It evolved itself (I am severely scientific) out of a chaos of scraps of iron and behold! – it knits. I am horrified at the horrible work and stand appalled. I feel it ought to embroider – but it goes on knitting. You come and say: “this is all right; it’s only a question of the right kind of oil. Let us use this – for instance – celestial oil and the machine shall embroider a most beautiful design in purple and gold.” Will it? Alas no. You cannot by any special lubrication make embroidery with a knitting machine. And the most withering thought is that the infamous thing has made itself; made itself without thought, without conscience, without foresight, without eyes, without heart. It is a tragic accident –and it has happened. You can’t interfere with it. The last drop of bitterness is in the suspicion that you can’t even smash it. In virtue of that truth one and immortal which lurks in the force that made it spring into existence it is what it is – and it is indestructible!
It knits us in and it knits us out. It has knitted time space, pain, death, corruption, despair and all the illusions – and nothing matters.:253
Conrad is the novelist of man in extreme situations. “Those who read me,” he wrote in the preface to A Personal Record, “know my conviction that the world, the temporal world, rests on a few very simple ideas; so simple that they must be as old as the hills. It rests, notably, among others, on the idea of Fidelity.”
For Conrad fidelity is the barrier man erects against nothingness, against corruption, against the evil that is all about him, insidious, waiting to engulf him, and that in some sense is within him unacknowledged. But what happens when fidelity is submerged, the barrier broken down, and the evil without is acknowledged by the evil within? At his greatest, that is Conrad’s theme.
What is the essence of Conrad’s art? It surely is not the plot, which he – like Shakespeare – often borrows from public sources and which could be duplicated by lesser authors; the plot serves merely as the vehicle for what the author has to say. A focus on plot leads to the absurdity of Charles and Mary Lamb‘s 1807 Tales from Shakespeare. Rather, Conrad’s essence is to be sought in his depiction of the world open to our senses, and in the world view that he has evolved in the course of experiencing that outer, and his own inner, world. An evocative part of that view is expressed in an August 1901 letter that Conrad wrote to the editor of The New York Times Saturday Book Review:
Egoism, which is the moving force of the world, and altruism, which is its morality, these two contradictory instincts, of which one is so plain and the other so mysterious, cannot serve us unless in the incomprehensible alliance of their irreconcilable antagonism.:315 [note 27]
Conrad spoke both his native Polish language and the French language fluently from childhood and only acquired English in his twenties. Why then did he choose to write his books in, effectively, his third language? He states in his preface to A Personal Record that writing in English was for him “natural”, and that the idea of his having made a deliberate choice between English and French, as some had suggested, was in error. He explained that, though he was familiar with French from childhood, “I would have been afraid to attempt expression in a language so perfectly ‘crystallized’.”:iv-x In a 1915 conversation with American sculptor Jo Davidson, as he posed for his bust, in response to Davidson’s question Conrad said: “Ah… to write French you have to know it. English is so plastic—if you haven’t got a word you need you can make it, but to write French you have to be an artist like Anatole France.” These statements, as so often happens in Conrad’s “autobiographical” writings, are subtly disingenuous. In 1897 Conrad was paid a visit by a fellow Pole, Wincenty Lutosławski, who was intent on imploring Conrad to write in Polish and “to win Conrad for Polish literature”. Lutosławski recalls that during their conversation Conrad explained why he did not write in Polish: “I value too much our beautiful Polish literature to introduce into it my worthless twaddle. But for Englishmen my capacities are just sufficient: they enable me to earn my living”. Perhaps revealingly, Conrad later wrote to Lutosławski to keep his visit a secret.
More to the point is Conrad’s remark in A Personal Record that English was “the speech of my secret choice, of my future, of long friendships, of the deepest affections, of hours of toil and hours of ease, and of solitary hours, too, of books read, of thoughts pursued, of remembered emotions—of my very dreams!”:252 In 1878 Conrad’s four-year experience in the French merchant marine had been cut short when the French discovered that he did not have a permit from the Imperial Russian consul to sail with the French.[note 28] This, and some typically disastrous Conradian investments, had left him destitute and had precipitated a suicide attempt. With the concurrence of his uncle Bobrowski, who had been summoned to Marseilles, Conrad decided to seek employment with the British merchant marine, which did not require Russia’s permission.:64–66 Thus began Conrad’s sixteen years’ seafarer’s acquaintance with the British and with the English language.
Had Conrad remained in the Francophone sphere or had he returned to Poland, the son of the Polish poet, playwright and translator Apollo Korzeniowski – from childhood exposed to Polish and foreign literature, and ambitious to himself become a writer:43–44 –might have ended writing in French or Polish instead of English. Certainly his mentor-uncle Tadeusz Bobrowski thought Conrad might write in Polish; in an 1881 letter he advised his 23-year-old nephew:
As, thank God, you do not forget your Polish… and your writing is not bad, I repeat what I have… written and said before – you would do well to write… for Wędrowiec [The Wanderer] in Warsaw. We have few travelers, and even fewer genuine correspondents: the words of an eyewitness would be of great interest and in time would bring you… money. It would be an exercise in your native tongue—that thread which binds you to your country and countrymen—and finally a tribute to the memory of your father who always wanted to and did serve his country by his pen.:86
Inescapably, Conrad’s third language, English, remained under the influence of his first two languages – Polish and French. This makes his English seem unusual. Najder observes:
[H]e was a man of three cultures: Polish, French, and English. Brought up in a Polish family and cultural environment… he learned French as a child, and at the age of less than seventeen went to France, to serve… four years in the French merchant marine. At school he must have learned German, but French remained the language he spoke with greatest fluency (and no foreign accent) until the end of his life. He was well versed in French history and literature, and French novelists were his artistic models. But he wrote all his books in English—the tongue he started to learn at the age of twenty. He was thus an English writer who grew up in other linguistic and cultural environments. His work can be seen as located in the borderland of auto-translation [emphasis added by Wikipedia].:IX
Inevitably for a trilingual Polish–French–English-speaker, Conrad’s writings occasionally show examples of “Franglais” and “Poglish” – of the inadvertent use of French or Polish vocabulary, grammar or syntax in his English compositions. In one instance, Najder uses “several slips in vocabulary, typical for Conrad (Gallicisms) and grammar (usually Polonisms)” as part of internal evidence against Conrad’s sometime literary collaborator Ford Madox Ford‘s claim to have written a certain instalment of Conrad’s novel Nostromo, for serialised publication in T. P.’s Weekly, on behalf of an ill Conrad.:341–42
The impracticality of working with a language which has long ceased to be one’s principal language of daily use is illustrated by Conrad’s 1921 attempt at translating into English the Polish columnist and comedy-writer Bruno Winawer‘s short play, The Book of Job. Najder writes:
[T]he [play’s] language is easy, colloquial, slightly individualized. Particularly Herup and a snobbish Jew, “Bolo” Bendziner, have their characteristic ways of speaking. Conrad, who had had little contact with everyday spoken Polish, simplified the dialogue, left out Herup’s scientific expressions, and missed many amusing nuances. The action in the original is quite clearly set in contemporary Warsaw, somewhere between elegant society and the demimonde; this specific cultural setting is lost in the translation. Conrad left out many accents of topical satire in the presentation of the dramatis personae and ignored not only the ungrammatical speech (which might have escaped him) of some characters but even the Jewishness of two of them, Bolo and Mosan.:538–39
As a practical matter, by the time Conrad set about writing fiction, he had little choice but to write in English.[note 29] Poles who accused Conrad of cultural apostasy because he wrote in English instead of Polish,:292–95, 463–64 missed the point – as do Anglophoneswho see, in Conrad’s default choice of English as his artistic medium, a testimonial to some sort of innate superiority of the English language.[note 30] According to Conrad’s close friend and literary assistant Richard Curle, the fact of Conrad writing in English was “obviously misleading” because Conrad “is no more completely English in his art than he is in his nationality”.:223 Moreover, Conrad “could never have written in any other language save the English language….for he would have been dumb in any other language but the English.”:227–28
Conrad always retained a strong emotional attachment to his native language. He asked his visiting Polish niece Karola Zagórska, “Will you forgive me that my sons don’t speak Polish?”:481 In June 1924, shortly before his death, he apparently expressed a desire that his son John marry a Polish girl and learn Polish, and toyed with the idea of returning for good to now independent Poland.:571
In 1975 the Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe published an essay, “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’“, which provoked controversy by calling Conrad a “thoroughgoing racist”. Achebe’s view was that Heart of Darkness cannot be considered a great work of art because it is “a novel which celebrates… dehumanisation, which depersonalises a portion of the human race.” Referring to Conrad as a “talented, tormented man”, Achebe notes that Conrad (via the protagonist, Charles Marlow) reduces and degrades Africans to “limbs”, “angles”, “glistening white eyeballs”, etc. while simultaneously (and fearfully) suspecting a common kinship between himself and these natives—leading Marlow to sneer the word “ugly.” Achebe also cited Conrad’s description of an encounter with an African: “A certain enormous buck nigger encountered in Haiti fixed my conception of blind, furious, unreasoning rage, as manifested in the human animal to the end of my days.” Achebe’s essay, a landmark in postcolonial discourse, provoked debate and the questions it raised have been addressed in most subsequent literary criticism of Conrad.
Achebe’s critics argue that he fails to distinguish Marlow‘s view from Conrad’s, which results in very clumsy interpretations of the novella. In their view, Conrad portrays Africans sympathetically and their plight tragically, and refers sarcastically to, and outright condemns, the supposedly noble aims of European colonists, thereby demonstrating his scepticism about the moral superiority of white men. This, indeed, is a central theme of the novel; Marlow’s experiences in Africa, expose the brutality of colonialism and its rationales. Ending a passage that describes the condition of chained, emaciated slaves, the novelist remarks: “After all, I also was a part of the great cause of these high and just proceedings.” Some observers assert that Conrad, whose native country had been conquered by imperial powers, empathised by default with other subjugated peoples. Jeffrey Meyers noted that Conrad, like his acquaintance Roger Casement, “was one of the first men to question the Western notion of progress, a dominant idea in Europe from the Renaissance to the Great War, to attack the hypocritical justification of colonialism and to reveal… the savage degradation of the white man in Africa.”:100–1
Conrad scholar Peter Firchow wrote that “nowhere in the novel does Conrad or any of his narrators, personified or otherwise, claim superiority on the part of Europeans on the grounds of alleged genetic or biological difference”. If Conrad or his novel is racist, it is only in a weak sense, since Heart of Darkness acknowledges racial distinctions “but does not suggest an essential superiority” of any group. Achebe’s reading of Heart of Darkness can be (and has been) challenged by a reading of Conrad’s other African story, “An Outpost of Progress“, which has an omniscient narrator, rather than the embodied narrator, Marlow. Some younger scholars, such as Masood Ashraf Raja, have also suggested that if we read Conrad beyond Heart of Darkness, especially his Malay novels, racism can be further complicated by foregrounding Conrad’s positive representation of Muslims.
An anchor-shaped monument to Conrad at Gdynia, on Poland’s Baltic Seacoast, features a quotation from him in Polish: “Nic tak nie nęci, nie rozczarowuje i nie zniewala, jak życie na morzu” (“[T]here is nothing more enticing, disenchanting, and enslaving than the life at sea” – Lord Jim, chapter 2, paragraph 1).
In Circular Quay, Sydney, Australia, a plaque in a “writers walk” commemorates Conrad’s visits to Australia between 1879 and 1892. The plaque notes that “Many of his works reflect his ‘affection for that young continent.'”
In San Francisco in 1979, a small triangular square at Columbus Avenue and Beach Street, near Fisherman’s Wharf, was dedicated as “Joseph Conrad Square” after Conrad. The square’s dedication was timed to coincide with release of Francis Ford Coppola‘s Heart of Darkness-inspired film, Apocalypse Now.
Notwithstanding the undoubted sufferings that Conrad endured on many of his voyages, sentimentality and canny marketing place him at the best lodgings in several of his destinations. Hotels across the Far East still lay claim to him as an honoured guest, with, however, no evidence to back their claims: Singapore’s Raffles Hotel continues to claim he stayed there though he lodged, in fact, at the Sailors’ Home nearby. His visit to Bangkok also remains in that city’s collective memory, and is recorded in the official history of The Oriental Hotel (where he never, in fact, stayed, lodging aboard his ship, the Otago) along with that of a less well-behaved guest, Somerset Maugham, who pilloried the hotel in a short story in revenge for attempts to eject him.
A plaque commemorating “Joseph Conrad–Korzeniowski” has been installed near Singapore’s Fullerton Hotel.
Conrad is also reported to have stayed at Hong Kong’s Peninsula Hotel—a port that, in fact, he never visited. Later literary admirers, notably Graham Greene, followed closely in his footsteps, sometimes requesting the same room and perpetuating myths that have no basis in fact. No Caribbean resort is yet known to have claimed Conrad’s patronage, although he is believed to have stayed at a Fort-de-Francepension upon arrival in Martinique on his first voyage, in 1875, when he travelled as a passenger on the Mont Blanc.
In April 2013, a monument to Conrad was unveiled in the Russian town of Vologda, where he and his parents lived in exile in 1862–63.
After the publication of Chance in 1913, Conrad was the subject of more discussion and praise than any other English writer of the time. He had a genius for companionship, and his circle of friends, which he had begun assembling even prior to his first publications, included authors and other leading lights in the arts, such as Henry James, Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham, John Galsworthy, Edward Garnett, Garnett’s wife Constance Garnett (translator of Russian literature), Stephen Crane, Hugh Walpole, George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, Arnold Bennett, Norman Douglas, Jacob Epstein, T. E. Lawrence, André Gide, Paul Valéry, Maurice Ravel, Valery Larbaud, Saint-John Perse, Edith Wharton,James Huneker, anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski, Józef Retinger (later a founder of the European Movement, which led to the European Union, and author of Conrad and His Contemporaries). Conrad encouraged and mentored younger writers. In the early 1900s he composed a short series of novels in collaboration with Ford Madox Ford.
In 1919 and 1922 Conrad’s growing renown and prestige among writers and critics in continental Europe fostered his hopes for a Nobel Prize in Literature. Interestingly, it was apparently the French and Swedes – not the English – who favoured Conrad’s candidacy.:512, 550 [note 31]
In April 1924 Conrad, who possessed a hereditary Polish status of nobility and coat-of-arms (Nałęcz), declined a (non-hereditary) British knighthood offered by Labour Party Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald.[note 32] [note 33] Conrad kept a distance from official structures — he never voted in British national elections — and seems to have been averse to public honours generally; he had already refused honorary degrees from Cambridge, Durham, Edinburgh, Liverpool, and Yale universities.:570
Of Conrad’s novels, Lord Jim (1900) and Nostromo (1904) are widely read as set texts and for pleasure. The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’ (1897), The Secret Agent (1907) and Under Western Eyes (1911) are also considered among his finest novels. Arguably his most influential work remains Heart of Darkness (1899), to which many have been introduced by Francis Ford Coppola‘s film, Apocalypse Now (1979), inspired by Conrad’s novel and set during the Vietnam War; the novel’s depiction of a journey into the darkness of the human psyche resonates with modern readers. Conrad’s short stories, other novels, and nonfiction writings also continue to find favour with many readers and filmmakers.
In the People’s Republic of Poland, translations of Conrad’s works were published – all except Under Western Eyes, banned by the censors due to its advocacy of fairness and neutrality. Under Western Eyes was published in Poland in the 1980s as an underground “bibuła“.
Joseph Conrad was an influence on many subsequent writers, including D. H. Lawrence, T.S. Eliot, Maria Dąbrowska, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Gerald Basil Edwards, Ernest Hemingway, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, André Malraux, George Orwell,:254 Graham Greene, Malcolm Lowry, William Golding, William S. Burroughs, Joseph Heller, Italo Calvino, Gabriel García Márquez, J. G. Ballard, Chinua Achebe, John le Carré, V. S. Naipaul, Philip Roth,Hunter S. Thompson, J. M. Coetzee, Stephen Donaldson, and Salman Rushdie.[note 34]
A striking portrait of Conrad, aged about 46, was drawn by the historian and poet Henry Newbolt, who met him about 1903:
One thing struck me at once—the extraordinary difference between his expression in profile and when looked at full face. [W]hile the profile was aquiline and commanding, in the front view the broad brow, wide-apart eyes and full lips produced the effect of an intellectual calm and even at times of a dreaming philosophy. Then [a]s we sat in our little half-circle round the fire, and talked on anything and everything, I saw a third Conrad emerge—an artistic self, sensitive and restless to the last degree. The more he talked the more quickly he consumed his cigarettes… And presently, when I asked him why he was leaving London after… only two days, he replied that… the crowd in the streets… terrified him. “Terrified? By that dull stream of obliterated faces?” He leaned forward with both hands raised and clenched. “Yes, terrified: I see their personalities all leaping out at me like tigers!” He acted the tiger well enough almost to terrify his hearers: but the moment after he was talking again wisely and soberly as if he were an average Englishman with not an irritable nerve in his body.:331
On 12 October 1912, American music critic James Huneker visited Conrad and later recalled being received by “a man of the world, neither sailor nor novelist, just a simple-mannered gentleman, whose welcome was sincere, whose glance was veiled, at times far-away, whose ways were French, Polish, anything but ‘literary,’ bluff or English.”:437
After respective separate visits to Conrad in August and September 1913, two British aristocrats, the socialite Lady Ottoline Morrell and the mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell – who were lovers at the time – recorded their impressions of the novelist. In her diary, Morrell wrote:
I found Conrad himself standing at the door of the house ready to receive me. How different from the [disparaging] picture Henry James had evoked [in conversation with Morrell], for Conrad’s appearance was really that of a Polish nobleman. His manner was perfect, almost too elaborate; so nervous and sympathetic that every fibre of him seemed electric… He talked English with a strong accent, as if he tasted his words in his mouth before pronouncing them; but he talked extremely well, though he had always the talk and manner of a foreigner… He was dressed very carefully in a blue double-breasted jacket. He talked… apparently with great freedom about his life – more ease and freedom indeed than an Englishman would have allowed himself. He spoke of the horrors of the Congo, from the moral and physical shock of which he said he had never recovered… [His wife Jessie] seemed a nice and good-looking fat creature, an excellent cook, as Henry James [had] said, and was indeed a good and reposeful mattress for this hypersensitive, nerve-wracked man, who did not ask from his wife high intelligence, only an assuagement of life’s vibrations…. He made me feel so natural and very much myself, that I was almost afraid of losing the thrill and wonder of being there, although I was vibrating with intense excitement inside; and even now, as I write this, I feel almost the same excitement, the same thrill of having been in the presence of one of the most remarkable men I have known. His eyes under their pent-house lids revealed the suffering and the intensity of his experiences; when he spoke of his work, there came over them a sort of misty, sensuous, dreamy look, but they seemed to hold deep down the ghosts of old adventures and experiences – once or twice there was something in them one almost suspected of being wicked…. But then I believe whatever strange wickedness would tempt this super-subtle Pole, he would be held in restraint by an equally delicate sense of honour…. In his talk he led me along many paths of his life, but I felt that he did not wish to explore the jungle of emotions that lay dense on either side, and that his apparent frankness had a great reserve. This may perhaps be characteristic of Poles as it is of the Irish.:447
A month later, Bertrand Russell visited Conrad at Capel House, and the same day on the train wrote down his impressions:
It was wonderful – I loved him & I think he liked me. He talked a great deal about his work & life & aims, & about other writers…. I got him on to Henry James… Then we went for a little walk, & somehow grew very intimate. I plucked up courage to tell him what I find in his work – the boring down into things to get to the very bottom below the apparent facts. He seemed to feel I had understood him; then I stopped & we just looked into each other’s eyes for some time, & then he said he had grown to wish he could live on the surface and write differently, that he had grown frightened. His eyes at the moment expressed the inward pain & terror that one feels him always fighting…. Then he talked a lot about Poland, & showed me an album of family photographs of the 60’s – spoke about how dream-like all that seems, & how he sometimes feels he ought not to have had any children, because they have no roots or traditions or relations.:448
Russell’s insights, so resonant with Morrell’s, reveal the profundity of Conrad’s existential loneliness. Russell’s Autobiography, published over half a century later in 1968, vividly confirms his original experience:
My first impression was one of surprise. He spoke English with a very strong foreign accent, and nothing in his demeanour in any way suggested the sea. He was an aristocratic Polish gentleman to his fingertips…. At our very first meeting, we talked with continually increasing intimacy. We seemed to sink through layer after layer of what was superficial, till gradually both reached the central fire. It was an experience unlike any other… I have known. We looked into each other’s eyes, half appalled and half intoxicated to find ourselves together in such a region. The emotion was as intense as passionate love, and at the same time all-embracing. I came away bewildered, and hardly able to find my way among ordinary affairs.:448–49
The two men’s subsequent friendship and correspondence lasted, with long intervals, to the end of Conrad’s life. In one letter, Conrad avowed his “deep admiring affection, which, if you were never to see me again and forget my existence tomorrow will be unalterably yours usque ad finem.”:449 Conrad in his correspondence often used the Latin expression meaning “to the very end”, which he seems to have adopted from his faithful guardian, mentor and benefactor, his maternal uncle Tadeusz Bobrowski.
Conrad looked with less optimism than Russell on the possibilities of scientific and philosophic knowledge.:449 In a 1913 letter to acquaintances who had invited Conrad to join their society, he reiterated his belief that it was impossible to understand the essence of either reality or life: both science and art penetrate no further than the outer shapes.:446
Najder describes Conrad as “[a]n alienated émigré… haunted by a sense of the unreality of other people – a feeling natural to someone living outside the established structures of family, social milieu, and country”.:576
Throughout almost his entire life Conrad was an outsider and felt himself to be one. An outsider in exile; an outsider during his visits to his family in… Ukraine; an outsider – because of his experiences and bereavement – in [Kraków] and Lwów; an outsider in Marseilles; an outsider, nationally and culturally, on British ships; an outsider as an English writer.:576
Conrad’s sense of loneliness throughout his exile’s life found memorable expression in the 1901 short story, “Amy Foster“.
In popular culture
- Konrad Korzeniowski, captain of the steamer Roi des Belges, is a character in Sergio Bonelli Editore‘s Lilith, issue No. 10, “Cuore di tenebre” (“Heart of Darkness”).
- The ship Nostromo in the film Alien (1979) takes its name from Conrad’s novel Nostromo. It has become a tradition to so name ships in that kind of setting.
- The game Spec Ops: The Line, like Apocalypse Now, is heavily inspired by Heart of Darkness; the primary antagonist is named for the author.
- Almayer’s Folly (1895)
- An Outcast of the Islands (1896)
- The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’ (1897)
- Heart of Darkness (1899)
- Lord Jim (1900)
- The Inheritors (with Ford Madox Ford) (1901)
- Typhoon (1902, begun 1899)
- The End of the Tether (written in 1902; collected in Youth, a Narrative and Two Other Stories, 1902)
- Romance (with Ford Madox Ford, 1903)
- Nostromo (1904)
- The Secret Agent (1907)
- Under Western Eyes (1911)
- Chance (1913)
- Victory (1915)
- The Shadow Line (1917)
- The Arrow of Gold (1919)
- The Rescue (1920)
- The Nature of a Crime (1923, with Ford Madox Ford)
- The Rover (1923)
- Suspense: A Napoleonic Novel (1925; unfinished, published posthumously)
- “The Black Mate”: written, according to Conrad, in 1886; may be counted as his opus double zero; published 1908; posthumously collected in Tales of Hearsay, 1925.
- “The Idiots“: Conrad’s truly first short story, which may be counted as his opus zero; written during his honeymoon (3.1896), published in The Savoy periodical, 1896, and collected in Tales of Unrest, 1898.
- “The Lagoon“: composed 1896; published in Cornhill Magazine, 1897; collected in Tales of Unrest, 1898: “It is the first short story I ever wrote.”
- “An Outpost of Progress“: written 1896; published in Cosmopolis, 1897, and collected in Tales of Unrest, 1898: “My next [second] effort in short-story writing”; it shows numerous thematic affinities with Heart of Darkness; in 1906, Conrad described it as his “best story”.
- “The Return”: completed early 1897, while writing “Karain”; never published in magazine form; collected in Tales of Unrest, 1898: “[A]ny kind word about ‘The Return’ (and there have been such words said at different times) awakens in me the liveliest gratitude, for I know how much the writing of that fantasy has cost me in sheer toil, in temper, and in disillusion.” Conrad, who suffered while writing this psychological chef-d’oeuvre of introspection, once remarked: “I hate it.”
- “Karain: A Memory”: written February–April 1897; published November 1897 in Blackwood’s Magazine and collected in Tales of Unrest, 1898: “my third short story in… order of time”.
- “Youth“: written 1898; collected in Youth, a Narrative, and Two Other Stories, 1902
- “Falk”: novella / story, written early 1901; collected only in Typhoon and Other Stories, 1903
- “Amy Foster“: composed 1901; published in the Illustrated London News, December 1901, and collected in Typhoon and Other Stories, 1903.
- “To-morrow”: written early 1902; serialised in The Pall Mall Magazine, 1902, and collected in Typhoon and Other Stories, 1903
- “Gaspar Ruiz”: written after Nostromo in 1904–5; published in The Strand Magazine, 1906, and collected in A Set of Six, 1908 (UK), 1915 (US). This story was the only piece of Conrad’s fiction ever adapted by the author for cinema, as Gaspar the Strong Man, 1920.
- “An Anarchist”: written late 1905; serialised in Harper’s Magazine, 1906; collected in A Set of Six, 1908 (UK), 1915 (US)
- “The Informer”: written before January 1906; published, December 1906, in Harper’s Magazine, and collected in A Set of Six, 1908 (UK), 1915 (US)
- “The Brute”: written early 1906; published in The Daily Chronicle, December 1906; collected in A Set of Six, 1908 (UK), 1915 (US)
- “The Duel: A Military Story”: serialised in the UK in The Pall Mall Magazine, early 1908, and later that year in the US as “The Point of Honor”, in the periodical Forum; collected in A Set of Six in 1908 and published by Garden City Publishing in 1924. Joseph Fouché makes a cameo appearance.
- “Il Conde” (i.e., “Conte” [count]): appeared in Cassell’s Magazine (UK), 1908, and Hampton ’s (US), 1909; collected in A Set of Six, 1908 (UK), 1915 (US)
- “The Secret Sharer“: written December 1909; published in Harper’s Magazine, 1910, and collected in Twixt Land and Sea, 1912
- “Prince Roman”: written 1910, published 1911 in The Oxford and Cambridge Review; posthumously collected in Tales of Hearsay, 1925; based on the story of Prince Roman Sanguszko of Poland (1800–81)
- “A Smile of Fortune”: a long story, almost a novella, written in mid-1910; published in London Magazine, February 1911; collected in Twixt Land and Sea, 1912
- “Freya of the Seven Isles”: a near-novella, written late 1910–early 1911; published in The Metropolitan Magazine and London Magazine, early 1912 and July 1912, respectively; collected in Twixt Land and Sea, 1912
- “The Partner”: written 1911; published in Within the Tides, 1915
- “The Inn of the Two Witches”: written 1913; published in Within the Tides, 1915
- “Because of the Dollars”: written 1914; published in Within the Tides, 1915
- “The Planter of Malata”: written 1914; published in Within the Tides, 1915
- “The Warrior’s Soul”: written late 1915–early 1916; published in Land and Water, March 1917; collected in Tales of Hearsay, 1925
- “The Tale”: Conrad’s only story about World War I; written 1916, first published 1917 in The Strand Magazine; posthumously collected in Tales of Hearsay, 1925
- “Autocracy and War” (1905)
- The Mirror of the Sea (collection of autobiographical essays first published in various magazines 1904–6), 1906
- A Personal Record (also published as Some Reminiscences), 1912
- The First News, 1918
- The Lesson of the Collision: A monograph upon the loss of the “Empress of Ireland“, 1919
- The Polish Question, 1919
- The Shock of War, 1919
- Notes on Life and Letters, 1921
- Notes on My Books, 1921
- Last Essays, edited by Richard Curle, 1926
- The Congo Diary and Other Uncollected Pieces, edited by Zdzisław Najder, 1978, ISBN 978-0-385-00771-9
A number of works in various genres and media have been based on, or inspired by, Conrad’s writings, including:
- Victory (1919), directed by Maurice Tourneur
- Lord Jim (1925), directed by Victor Fleming
- Niebezpieczny raj (Dangerous Paradise, 1930), a Polish adaptation of Victory
- Dangerous Paradise (1930), an adaptation of Victory directed by William Wellman
- Sabotage (1936), adapted from Conrad’s The Secret Agent, directed by Alfred Hitchcock
- Victory (1940), featuring Fredric March
- An Outcast of the Islands (1952), featuring Trevor Howard
- Lord Jim (1965), starring Peter O’Toole
- The Rover (1967), adaptation of the novel The Rover (1923), directed by Terence Young, featuring Anthony Quinn
- La ligne d’ombre(1973), a TV adaptation of The Shadow Line by Georges Franju
- Smuga cienia (The Shadow Line, 1976), a Polish-British adaptation of The Shadow Line, directed by Andrzej Wajda
- The Duellists (1977), an adaptation of The Duel by Ridley Scott
- Apocalypse Now (1979), by Francis Ford Coppola, adapted from Heart of Darkness
- Un reietto delle isole (1980), by Giorgio Moser, an Italian adaptation of An Outcast of the Islands, starring Maria Carta
- Victory (1995), adapted by director Mark Peploe from the novel
- The Secret Agent (1996), starring Bob Hoskins, Patricia Arquette and Gérard Depardieu
- Nostromo (1997), a BBC TV adaptation, co-produced with Italian and Spanish TV networks and WGBH Boston
- Swept from the Sea (1997), an adaptation of Amy Foster directed by Beeban Kidron
- Gabrielle (2005) directed by Patrice Chéreau. Adaptation of the short story “The Return” (1898), starring Isabelle Huppert and Pascal Greggory.
- Hanyut (2011), a Malaysian adaptation of Almayer’s Folly
- Almayer’s Folly (2011), directed by Chantal Akerman
- Heart of Darkness (2011), a chamber opera in one act by Tarik O’Regan, with an English-language libretto by artist Tom Phillips.
- Suite from Heart of Darkness (2013) for orchestra and narrator by Tarik O’Regan, extrapolated from the 2011 opera of the same name.
- Bolesław Prus
- King Leopold’s Ghost
- Alice Sarah Kinkead
- List of Poles
- List of covers of Time magazine (1920s) – 7 April 1923
- ORP Conrad – a World War II Polish Navy cruiser named after Joseph Conrad.
- Politics in fiction
Obama The Tyrant Races To Have The United Nations Security Council Pass The Traitorous Terrorist Treaty Before Congress Votes It Down — Congress and President Betray The United States Constitution –Just Walk Way From Both Political Parties — Never Again Fasicism — Videos
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UN ENDORSES IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL WITH 6 WORLD POWERS
The U.N. Security Council on Monday unanimously endorsed the landmark nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers and authorized a series of measures leading to the end of U.N. sanctions that have hurt Iran’s economy.
But the measure also provides a mechanism for U.N. sanctions to “snap back” in place if Iran fails to meet its obligations.
Both U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power and Iran’s U.N. Ambassador Gholamali Khoshroo called the agreement an important achievement for diplomacy, the Iranian promising to be “resolute in fulfilling its obligations” and the American pledging to be vigilant in ensuring they are carried out.
The resolution had been agreed to by the five veto-wielding council members, who along with Germany negotiated the nuclear deal with Iran. It was co-sponsored by all 15 members of the Security Council. The European Union’s foreign ministers endorsed the agreement later Monday in Brussels and pledged to implement it.
Under the agreement, Iran’s nuclear program will be curbed for a decade in exchange for potentially hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of relief from international sanctions. Many key penalties on the Iranian economy, such as those related to the energy and financial sectors, could be lifted by the end of the year.
Iran insists its nuclear program is purely peaceful, aimed at producing nuclear energy and medical isotopes, but the United States and its Western allies believe Tehran’s real goal is to build atomic weapons. U.S. President Barack Obama has stressed that all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon are cut off for the duration of the agreement and Iran will remove two-thirds of its installed centrifuges and get rid of 98 percent of its stockpile of uranium.
Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said “the world is now a safer place in the knowledge that Iran cannot now build a nuclear bomb.” But Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor told reporters immediately after the vote that the Security Council had “awarded a great prize to the most dangerous country in the world,” calling it “a very sad day” not only for Israel but the entire world.
The document specifies that seven resolutions related to U.N. sanctions will be terminated when Iran has completed a series of major steps to curb its nuclear program and the International Atomic Energy Agency has concluded that “all nuclear material in Iran remains in peaceful activities.”
All provisions of the U.N. resolution will terminate in 10 years, including the “snap back” provision on sanctions.
But last week the six major powers – the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany – and the European Union sent a letter, seen by The Associated Press, informing U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that they have agreed to extend the snap back mechanism for an additional five years. They asked Ban to send the letter to the Security Council.
Obama told reporters the vote will send a strong message of international support for the agreement as the best way to ensure “that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon.” He faces strong opposition in the Republican-controlled Congress and expressed hope that members will pay attention to the vote.
Power, the U.S. ambassador, said the nuclear deal doesn’t change the United States’ “profound concern about human rights violations committed by the Iranian government or about the instability Iran fuels beyond its nuclear program, from its support for terrorist proxies to repeated threats against Israel to its other destabilizing activities in the region.”
She urged Iran to release three “unjustly imprisoned” Americans and to determine the whereabouts of Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who vanished in Iran in 2007.
The message that diplomacy can work ran through many speeches from council members.
Iran’s Khoshroo stressed that only if commitments are fully honored “can diplomacy prevail over conflict and war in a world that is replete with violence, suffering and oppression.”
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the agreement “clearly demonstrates that where there’s a political will based on realism and respect for legitimate mutual interests of the international community, the most complex tasks can be resolved.”
“Today, the Security Council has confirmed the inalienable right of Iran to develop its peaceful nuclear program, including to enrich uranium, while ensuring the comprehensive control by the IAEA,” Churkin said.
Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution, includes the Treaty Clause, which empowers the President of the United States to propose and chiefly negotiate agreements, which must be confirmed by the Senate, between the United States and other countries, which become treaties between the United States and other countries after the advice and consent of a supermajority of the United States Senate.
Full text of the clause
One of three types of international accord
In the United States, the term “treaty” is used in a more restricted legal sense than in international law. U.S. law distinguishes what it calls treaties from congressional-executive agreements and sole-executive agreements. All three classes are considered treaties under international law; they are distinct only from the perspective of internal United States law. Distinctions among the three concern their method of ratification: by two-thirds of the Senate, by normal legislative process, or by the President alone, respectively. The Treaty Clause  empowers the President to make or enter into treaties with the “advice and consent” of two-thirds of theSenate. In contrast, normal legislation becomes law after approval by simple majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Throughout U.S. history, the President has also made international “agreements” through congressional-executive agreements (CEAs) that are ratified with only a majority from both houses of Congress, or sole-executive agreements made by the President alone. Though the Constitution does not expressly provide for any alternative to the Article II treaty procedure, Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution does distinguish between treaties (which states are forbidden to make) and agreements (which states may make with the consent of Congress). The Supreme Court of the United States has considered congressional-executive and sole-executive agreements to be valid, and they have been common throughout American history. Thomas Jefferson explained that the Article II treaty procedure is not necessary when there is no long-term commitment:
It is desirable, in many instances, to exchange mutual advantages by Legislative Acts rather than by treaty: because the former, though understood to be in consideration of each other, and therefore greatly respected, yet when they become too inconvenient, can be dropped at the will of either party: whereas stipulations by treaty are forever irrevocable but by joint consent….
A further distinction embodied in U.S. law is between self-executing treaties, which do not require additional legislative action, and non-self-executing treaties which do require the enactment of new laws. These various distinctions of procedure and terminology do not affect the binding status of accords under international law. Nevertheless, they do have major implications under U.S. domestic law. In Missouri v. Holland, the Supreme Court ruled that the power to make treaties under the U.S. Constitution is a power separate from the other enumerated powers of the federal government, and hence the federal government can use treaties to legislate in areas which would otherwise fall within the exclusive authority of the states. By contrast, a congressional-executive agreement can only cover matters which the Constitution explicitly places within the powers of Congress and the President. Likewise, a sole-executive agreement can only cover matters within the President’s authority or matters in which Congress has delegated authority to the President. For example, a treaty may prohibit states from imposing capital punishment on foreign nationals, but a congressional-executive agreement or sole-executive agreement cannot.
In general, arms control agreements are often ratified by the treaty mechanism. At the same time, trade agreements (such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and United States accession to the World Trade Organization) are generally voted on as a CEA, and such agreements typically include an explicit right to withdraw after giving sufficient written notice to the other parties. If an international commercial accord contains binding “treaty” commitments, then a two-thirds vote of the Senate may be required.
Between 1946 and 1999, the United States completed nearly 16,000 international agreements. Only 912 of those agreements were treaties, submitted to the Senate for approval as outlined in Article II of the United States Constitution. Since the Franklin Roosevelt presidency, only 6% of international accords have been completed as Article II treaties. Most of these executive agreements consist of congressional-executive agreements.
American law is that international accords become part of the body of U.S. federal law. Consequently, Congress can modify or repeal treaties by subsequent legislative action, even if this amounts to a violation of the treaty under international law. This was held, for instance, in the Head Money Cases. The most recent changes will be enforced by U.S. courts entirely independent of whether the international community still considers the old treaty obligations binding upon the U.S.
Additionally, an international accord that is inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution is void under domestic U.S. law, the same as any other federal law in conflict with the Constitution. This principle was most clearly established in the case of Reid v. Covert. The Supreme Court could rule an Article II treaty provision to be unconstitutional and void under domestic law, although it has not yet done so.
In Goldwater v. Carter, Congress challenged the constitutionality of then-president Jimmy Carter‘s unilateral termination of a defense treaty. The case went before the Supreme Court and was never heard; a majority of six Justices ruled that the case should be dismissed without hearing an oral argument, holding that “The issue at hand … was essentially a political question and could not be reviewed by the court, as Congress had not issued a formal opposition.” In his opinion, Justice Brennan dissented, “The issue of decision making authority must be resolved as a matter of constitutional law, not political discretion; accordingly, it falls within the competence of the courts”. Presently, there is no official ruling on whether the President has the power to break a treaty without the approval of Congress, and the courts also declined to interfere when President George W. Bush unilaterally withdrew the United States from the ABM Treaty in 2002, six months after giving the required notice of intent.
Scope of presidential powers
Presidents have regarded the Article II treaty process as necessary where an international accord would bind a future president. For example, Theodore Roosevelt explained:
The Constitution did not explicitly give me power to bring about the necessary agreement with Santo Domingo. But the Constitution did not forbid my doing what I did. I put the agreement into effect, and I continued its execution for two years before the Senate acted; and I would have continued it until the end of my term, if necessary, without any action by Congress. But it was far preferable that there should be action by Congress, so that we might be proceeding under a treaty which was the law of the land and not merely by a direction of the Chief Executive which would lapse when that particular executive left office. I therefore did my best to get the Senate to ratify what I had done.
A sole-executive agreement can only be negotiated and entered into through the president’s authority (1) in foreign policy, (2) as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, (3) from a prior act of Congress, or (4) from a prior treaty. Agreements beyond these competencies must have the approval of Congress (for congressional-executive agreements) or the Senate (for treaties).
In 1972, Congress passed legislation requiring the president to notify Congress of any executive agreements that are formed.
Although the nondelegation doctrine prevents Congress from delegating its legislative authority to the executive branch, Congress has allowed the executive to act as Congress’s “agent” in trade negotiations, such as by setting tariffs, and, in the case of Trade Promotion Authority, by solely authoring the implementing legislation for trade agreements. The constitutionality of this delegation was upheld by the Supreme Court in Field v. Clark (1892).
- Advice and consent
- Supremacy Clause
- Foreign policy of the United States
- List of United States treaties
- Jus tractatuum
HAMILTON’S WARNING AGAINST OBAMA AND THE IRAN DEAL – FEDERALIST NO. 75
“An ambitious man might make his own aggrandizement, by the aid of a foreign power, the price of his treachery to his constituents.” Thus did Alexander Hamilton warn the American people, in Federalist No. 75, against allowing the president to make treaties alone.
Hamilton, while a supporter of executive power, nevertheless argued for the Senate’s treaty role, because “it would be utterly unsafe and improper to intrust that power to an elective magistrate of four years’ duration.”
It would be unsafe, he said, because even the most virtuous individuals, with the best of intentions, would fall prey to the temptations that negotiations with foreign powers would certainly provide.
How much more so does his advice apply to a president of lesser virtue, such as Barack Obama, who intends to decrease the power of the United States as a matter of ideological conviction, and who seeks narcissistic satisfaction in the attention a deal with Iran would temporarily provide!
Hamilton also anticipated the greed allegedly displayed by Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, whose perambulations around the globe in service of the president’s dubious foreign policy agenda coincided with generous donations from foreign governments to her family’s personal foundation.
“An avaricious man might be tempted to betray the interests of the state to the acquisition of wealth,” Hamilton warns, prescribing the review powers of the Senate as the remedy.
And lest apologists for Obama argue that the nuclear deal with Iran is not actually a “treaty,” but merely an “executive agreement,” Hamilton leaves no doubt as to the scope of arrangements to which the Senate’s review power applies.
“The power of making treaties,” he says, concerns “CONTRACTS with foreign nations, which have the force of law, but derive it from the obligations of good faith” (original emphasis).
Congress should heed Hamilton’s warning before it is too late.
The President… shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur….
ARTICLE II, SECTION 2, CLAUSE 2
The Treaty Clause has a number of striking features. It gives the Senate, in James Madison’s terms, a “partial agency” in the President’s foreign-relations power. The clause requires a supermajority (two-thirds) of the Senate for approval of a treaty, but it gives the House of Representatives, representing the “people,” no role in the process.
Midway through the Constitutional Convention, a working draft had assigned the treaty-making power to the Senate, but the Framers, apparently considering the traditional role of a nation-state’s executive in making treaties, changed direction and gave the power to the President, but with the proviso of the Senate’s “Advice and Consent.” In a formal sense, then, treaty-making became a mixture of executive and legislative power. Most people of the time recognized the actual conduct of diplomacy as an executive function, but under Article VI treaties were, like statutes, part of the “supreme Law of the Land.” Thus, as Alexander Hamilton explained in The Federalist No. 75, the two branches were appropriately combined:
The qualities elsewhere detailed as indispensable in the management of foreign relations point out the executive as the most fit in those transactions; while the vast importance of the trust and the operation of treaties as laws plead strongly for the participation of the whole or a portion of the legislative body in the office of making them.
Another reason for involving both President and Senate was that the Framers thought American interests might be undermined by treaties entered into without proper reflection. The Framers believed that treaties should be strictly honored, both as a matter of the law of nations and as a practical matter, because the United States could not afford to give the great powers any cause for war. But this meant that the nation should be doubly cautious in accepting treaty obligations. As James Wilson said, “Neither the President nor the Senate, solely, can complete a treaty; they are checks upon each other, and are so balanced as to produce security to the people.”
The fear of disadvantageous treaties also underlay the Framers’ insistence on approval by a two-thirds majority of the Senate. In particular, the Framers worried that one region or interest within the nation, constituting a bare majority, would make a treaty advantageous to it but prejudicial to other parts of the country and to the national interest. An episode just a year before the start of the Convention had highlighted the problem. The United States desired a trade treaty with Spain, and sought free access to the Mississippi River through Spanish-controlled New Orleans. Spain offered favorable trade terms, but only if the United States would give up its demands on the Mississippi. The Northern states, which would have benefited most from the trade treaty and cared little about New Orleans, had a majority, but not a supermajority, in the Continental Congress. Under the Articles of Confederation, treaties required assent of a supermajority (nine out of thirteen) of the states, and the South was able to block the treaty. It was undoubtedly that experience that impelled the Framers to carry over the supermajority principle from the Articles of Confederation.
At the Convention, several prominent Framers argued unsuccessfully to have the House of Representatives included. But most delegates thought that the House had substantial disadvantages when it came to treaty-making. For example, as a large body, the House would have difficulty keeping secrets or acting quickly. The small states, wary of being disadvantaged, also preferred to keep the treaty-making power in the Senate, where they had proportionally greater power.
The ultimate purpose, then, of the Treaty Clause was to ensure that treaties would not be adopted unless most of the country stood to gain. True, treaties would be more difficult to adopt than statutes, but the Framers realized that an unwise statute could simply be repealed, but an unwise treaty remained a binding international commitment, which would not be so easy to unwind.
Other questions, however, remained. First, are the provisions of the clause exclusive—that is, does it provide the only way that the United States may enter into international obligations?
While the clause does not say, in so many words, that it is exclusive, its very purpose—not to have any treaty disadvantage one part of the nation—suggests that no other route was possible, whether it be the President acting alone, or the popularly elected House having a role. On the other hand, while the Treaty Clause was, in the original understanding, the exclusive way to make treaties, the Framers also apparently recognized a class of less-important international agreements, not rising to the level of “treaties,” which could be approved in some other way. Article I, Section 10, in describing restrictions upon the states, speaks of “Treat[ies]” and “Agreement[s]…with a foreign Power” as two distinct categories. Some scholars believe this shows that not all international agreements are treaties, and that these other agreements would not need to go through the procedures of the Treaty Clause. Instead, the President, in the exercise of his executive power, could conclude such agreements on his own. Still, this exception for lesser agreements would have to be limited to “agreements” of minor importance, or else it would provide too great an avenue for evasion of the protections the Framers placed in the Treaty Clause.
A second question is how the President and Senate should interact in their joint exercise of the treaty power. Many Framers apparently thought that the President would oversee the actual conduct of diplomacy, but that the Senate would be involved from the outset as a sort of executive council advising the President. This was likely a reason that the Framers thought the smaller Senate was more suited than the House to play a key role in treaty-making. In the first effort at treaty-making under the Constitution, President George Washington attempted to operate in just this fashion. He went to the Senate in person to discuss a proposed treaty before he began negotiations. What is less clear, however, is whether the Constitution actually requires this process, or whether it is only what the Framers assumed would happen. The Senate, of course, is constitutionally authorized to offer “advice” to the President at any stage of the treaty-making process, but the President is not directed (in so many words) as to when advice must be solicited. As we shall see, this uncertainty has led, in modern practice, to a very different procedure than some Framers envisioned. It seems clear, however, that the Framers expected that the Senate’s “advice and consent” would be a close review and not a mere formality, as they thought of it as an important check upon presidential power.
A third difficult question is whether the Treaty Clause implies a Senate power or role in treaty termination. Scholarly opinion is divided, and few Framers appear to have discussed the question directly. One view sees the power to make a treaty as distinct from the power of termination, with the latter being more akin to a power of implementation. Since the Constitution does not directly address the termination power, this view would give it to the President as part of the President’s executive powers to conduct foreign affairs and to execute the laws. When the termination question first arose in 1793, Washington and his Cabinet, which included Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, embraced this view. All of them thought Washington could, on his own authority, terminate the treaty with France if necessary to keep the United States neutral.
A second view holds that, as a matter of the general eighteenth-century understanding of the legal process, the power to take an action (such as passing a statute or making a treaty) implies the power to undo the action. This view would require the consent of the President and a supermajority of the Senate to undo a treaty. There is, however, not much historical evidence that many Framers actually held this view of treaty termination, and it is inconsistent with the common interpretation of the Appointments Clause (under which Senate approval is required to appoint but not to remove executive officers).
The third view is that the Congress as a whole has the power to terminate treaties, based on an analogy between treaties and federal laws. When the United States first terminated a treaty in 1798 under John Adams, this procedure was adopted, but there was little discussion of the constitutional ramifications.
Finally, there is a question of the limits of the treaty power. A treaty presumably cannot alter the constitutional structure of government, and the Supreme Court has said that executive agreements—and so apparently treaties—are subject to the limits of the Bill of Rights just as ordinary laws are. Reid v. Covert (1957). InGeofroy v. Riggs (1890), the Supreme Court also declared that the treaty power extends only to topics that are “properly the subject of negotiation with a foreign country.” However, at least in the modern world, one would think that few topics are so local that they could not, under some circumstances, be reached as part of the foreign-affairs interests of the nation. Some have argued that treaties are limited by the federalism interests of the states. The Supreme Court rejected a version of that argument in State of Missouri v. Holland (1920), holding that the subject matter of treaties is not limited to the enumerated powers of Congress. The revival of interest in federalism limits on Congress in such areas as state sovereign immunity, see Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida (1996), and the Tenth Amendment, see Printz v. United States (1997), raises the question whether these limits also apply to the treaty power, but the Court has not yet taken up these matters.
Turning to modern practice, the Framers’ vision of treaty-making has in some ways prevailed and in some ways been altered. First, it is not true—and has not been true since George Washington’s administration—that the Senate serves as an executive council to advise the President in all stages of treaty-making. Rather, the usual modern course is that the President negotiates and signs treaties independently and then presents the proposed treaty to the Senate for its approval or disapproval. Washington himself found personal consultation with the Senate to be so awkward and unproductive that he abandoned it, and subsequent Presidents have followed his example.
Moreover, the Senate frequently approves treaties with conditions and has done so since the Washington administration. If the President makes clear to foreign nations that his signature on a treaty is only a preliminary commitment subject to serious Senate scrutiny, and if the Senate takes seriously its constitutional role of reviewing treaties (rather than merely deferring to the President), the check that the Framers sought to create remains in place. By going beyond a simple “up-or-down” vote, the Senate retains some of its power of “advice”: the Senate not only disapproves the treaty proposed by the President but suggests how the President might craft a better treaty. As a practical matter, there is often much consultation between the executive and members of the Senate before treaties are crafted and signed. Thus modern practice captures the essence of the Framers’ vision that the Senate would have some form of a participatory role in treaty-making.
A more substantial departure from the Framers’ vision may arise from the practice of “executive agreements.” According to the Restatement of Foreign Relations Law of the United States, the President may validly conclude executive agreements that (1) cover matters that are solely within his executive power, or (2) are made pursuant to a treaty, or (3) are made pursuant to a legitimate act of Congress. Examples of important executive agreements include the Potsdam and Yalta agreements of World War II, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which regulated international trade for decades, and the numerous status-of-forces agreements the United States has concluded with foreign governments.
Where the President acts pursuant to a prior treaty, there seems little tension with the Framers’ vision, as Senate approval has, in effect, been secured in advance. Somewhat more troublesome is the modern practice of so-called congressional–executive agreements, by which some international agreements have been made by the President and approved (either in advance or after the fact) by a simple majority of both houses of Congress, rather than two-thirds of the Senate. Many of these agreements deal particularly with trade-related matters, which Congress has clear constitutional authority to regulate. Congressional–executive agreements, at least with respect to trade matters, are now well established, and recent court challenges have been unsuccessful. Made in the USA Foundation v. United States (2001). On the other hand, arguments for “complete interchangeability”—that is, claims that anything that can be done by treaty can be done by congressional–executive agreement—seem counter to the Framers’ intent. The Framers carefully considered the supermajority rule for treaties and adopted it in response to specific threats to the Union; finding a complete alternative to the Treaty Clause would in effect eliminate the supermajority rule and make important international agreements easier to adopt than the Framers wished.
The third type of executive agreement is one adopted by the President without explicit approval of either the Senate or the Congress as a whole. The Supreme Court and modern practice embrace the idea that the President may under some circumstances make these so-called sole executive agreements. United States v. Belmont (1937); United States v. Pink (1942). But the scope of this independent presidential power remains a serious question. The Pink and Belmont cases involved agreements relating to the recognition of a foreign government, a power closely tied to the President’s textual power to receive ambassadors (Article II, Section 3). The courts have consistently permitted the President to settle foreign claims by sole executive agreement, but at the same time have emphasized that the Congress has acquiesced in the practice. Dames & Moore v. Regan (1981);American Insurance Ass’n v. Garamendi (2003). Beyond this, the modern limits of the President’s ability to act independently in making international agreements have not been explored. With respect to treaty termination, modern practice allows the President to terminate treaties on his own. In recent times, President James Earl Carter terminated the U.S.–Taiwan Mutual Defense Treaty in 1977, and President George W. Bush terminated the ABM Treaty with Russia in 2001. The Senate objected sharply to President Carter’s actions, but the Supreme Court rebuffed the Senate in Goldwater v. Carter (1979). President Bush’s action was criticized in some academic quarters but received general acquiescence. In light of the consensus early in Washington’s administration, it is probably fair to say that presidential termination does not obviously depart from the original understanding, inasmuch as the Framers were much more concerned about checks upon entering into treaties than they were about checks upon terminating them.
- Michael D. Ramsey
- Professor of Law
- University of San Diego School of Law
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