By Joseph Conrad
One of Joseph Conrad’s “difficult” novels, “Nostromo” more than repays the effort it takes to read. It’s one of the first “Modernist” novels, written in the author’s third (!) language. Conrad’s native language was Polish. He became fluent in English only after becoming fluent in French.
On one level this is a gripping page-turner of a story about a fictitious South American country (actually a composite of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru). There is history, revolution, imperial domination, struggle between social classes, drama and suspense, a love triangle, and buried treasure. On a deeper level, this novel plumbs the depths of the human soul, exploring the best and the worst in us, in all our human complexity—our tragedies and our triumphs, faithfulness and faithlessness, betrayal and self-betrayal, love and hate in their many manifestations. It’s a novel of life without cynicism or illusion, written by a master of the art of fiction.