Friday, April 14, 2017

Conrad as the Refinement & Sanctification of English Culture

Immediately upon putting down Mick Farren's Armegeddon Crazy and picking up Joseph Conrad's Nostromo one recognizes that English civilization is inferior unless refined and sanctified by the Polish mind.

It may be an unfair comparison: a self-declared modern decadent versus a recognized English literary genius. Nevertheless allow me to dwell on the point for a moment.

Farren and Conrad are both revolutionaries, but Farren belongs with the type of revolutionary for which Conrad's Old Giorgio is "full of scorn", about whom he would mutter "angrily" and of whom he would express "his contempt of the non-political nature" of his rebellion.

This is not a coincidence, nor is it unrelated to the broader question of the men's prose. Conrad's literary genius is an obvious product of his classical Polish education just as Farren's literary delinquency is an obvious product of what passed for education in England.

It would be far too charitable to the epoch that saw Conrad walk the Earth to suppose that it was merely more enlightened a time than Farren's. Conrad rose to prominence as an English writer surrounded by relative mediocrities. Here was a man so firm in his liberal education that to command the English language in the service of literature was completely natural.

Conrad likewise has a far healthier sense of the religious than Farren. One sees it already in the humorous contrast between Old Giorgio and his wife. Her supplication is authentic while Giorgio's skepticism is not militant, but tolerant and full of good humor as well as an understanding of the chasm dividing men, who are rational, from women who are attune to the Divine.

Anyone who had read the Gospels in the same cheerful lightheartedness with which Old Giorgio reads his wife knows that it is no coincidence that the women were the first to see the risen Christ while men were the first to doubt Him.

With these kind of republicans, one is content to take up the republican banner because it is a banner aimed against tyrants and mobs. Farren is not a republican, he has no banner, he is just drunk.

Indeed I cannot help but mirror Old Giorgio, "full of scorn for the populace, as your austere republican so often is," to likewise find myself full of scorn for Farren and his rock'n'roll groupies. Full of scorn for their vulgar revolution which threatened (and threatens) to overturn the peace for no reason.

It is all the more delightful to consider that a man like Conrad could master Farren's language and understand the world better than Farren could. Are there English writers superior to Conrad? Just to ask the question is to expose English literature and English civilization as a very shallow thing indeed. Can one find anything equivalent in Polish or Slavic culture as such? What Londoner has mastered the language of Sienkiewicz as Conrad has mastered the language of Shakespeare?

Set the greatest English writers next to Conrad and you can make a rock solid plausible argument that some of these Englishmen are better than a Polish immigrant writing in English - and what does that tell us about English literature and culture? That the best of them may indeed be better than a Polish immigrant for whom English was not only a second language, but a second culture even?

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