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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Monday, June 29, 2015

Nostromo - 100 years of solitude later

Started Conrad's 500-pager Nostromo last night - and unsurprisingly it begins in a typically Conradian lyrical and leisurely manner, as he spends a great deal of time describing for us the remote and nearly inaccessible (by land) harbor on the Latin American country of Costaguana (Costa Rico?), a highly unstable pseudo-republic where the political powers that be are with some regularity overthrown - and in one particular case the deposed president worked his way to safety in the coastal town, Sulaca?, which led to a good deal of rioting and destruction. The plot of the novel centers on the plans to build a railroad connection to advance the prospects of the European-owned Gould silver mine - which seems inevitably a doomed project, given the expense, the engineering difficulties, and the political instability. That's where the eponymous Nostromo comes in - he's an Italian of mysterious background who functions as something like an overseer and chief of staff, making things happen. He seems almost single-handedly to quell the political riots following most recent coup - he's like a sheriff-gunslinger in a typical American western, but he's also what back in grad school we would have called a "mediating figure," one who can relate to all of the varying factions in the diverse community: the local Indians and Spanish-speaking laborers, the Italian business owners, the European bankers and money men, the ship captain (Mitchell), the silver miner and his wife (the Goulds). Oddly, we don't know his real name, yet - Nostromo is a mispronunciation of his true name. Hard not to think of Garcia Marquez when reading Nostromo a century after its publication - the sense of a forlorn town with great but inaccessible resources, the victim of a power play among remote capitalist forces that care little or nothing about the native population.

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