Re: RARA-AVIS: Conrad/Hemingway

From: Etienne Borgers (
Date: 03 Mar 2000

I support Mark's point of view! Even if The Old Man... is pleasant to read, a nicely packaged moralistic tale, just tell me where it fits with the Hemingway everybody sanctified for short action plots and behaviourist style of writing?

I always had the impression that at the end Hem was regretting not having been someone like Steinbeck (in the writing department)... And my guess is that works like the Old Man is just an attempt to be.
  And I really think Steinbeck is better than Hemingway.

I'm obviously not "English educated" and I'm surprised to learn that Conrad is considered as a "classic" -as someone pointed out here- in the American lit classes
(secondary level I guess). I always saw him more like a "pioneer", not justly rewarded... than a mummified classic. I like Conrad a lot and I consider him as one of the fathers of the modern novel, not only by its style but also by his look on life, achievements and human condition. That's announcement of modern lit! My impression is that one can easily miss the point with that writer, and probably your teachers did (?) Do not forget he wrote some of his major pieces at he end of the XIXth century! He's also the real writer for what concerns "action" philosophy and behaviour... Hem is a mockery in that sector, trying to live artificially what he wrote about. Somebody here say he's superficial... and I agree. But Hem has a merit and influence: his trimming of style and phrases, are probably more influential than his "philosophy of action" he puts in the novels .

First time I red "Typhoon" that was my choice, not school's (in French translation first and later in the original text), I discovered a different voice with that writer even if the novel was not entirely satisfactory. And I went on with my further discoveries of Conrad, by my own. I suggest that some of you seeming to doubt about Conrad read (or re-read) 'Youth'; this short novella ( 50 pages or so) is a fantastic example of "holding back", nothing spectacular, even a traditional construction of the recit... but it's the unwritten that works on you. It was written before Heart of Darkness- this one is really intricate and I can understand it does not attract very young readers. But it's a major piece.

By its modernity Conrad was certainly influential on many writers of the 20th century, and is certainly also one of the missing links that could make something like Noir novels possible (I don't try to tell you,however, that he was at the origin of Noir- even if one of his major character's name was Marlow
-Youth and Darkness)

A last word about "..Darkness..". It's not Apocalypse Now (Coppola) that will render justice to Conrad- this is on my book as one of the most unjustified inflation of a mediocre film (some good shots here and there)of modern cinema. I'm even thinking that Coppola (with all his craftsmanship) is an inflated author- the Godfather things are just good for a general audience thinking its a kind of Italian version of 'Dallas'.

OK I stop here. Too long already.

E.Borgers Hard-Boiled Mysteries

--- Mark Sullivan <> wrote:
> PB asked Dave:
> "Interesting critical stance. How'd you feel about
> SEA?"
> I just finished saying some books are best short and
> tight. However, I
> would not use Old Man and the Sea as my example (if
> I were going to the
> classics, I'd probably choose Heart of Darkness). I
> always thought the
> reason this book was so popular among high school
> English teachers was
> because the symbolism was so overt, knocked you over
> the head, that no
> student could possibly miss it. As so often happens
> with the Oscars,
> Hemingway's late career award was probably more
> about honoring his
> entire career than for the particular work under
> question.

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