Friday, 17 December 2010

The elusive essence of 'Conradian'

Over there on Faber Finds I've written a post on Joseph Conrad, whose marvellous A Personal Record (1912) Finds has made available between covers. I didn't mention Conrad's political disposition, which I usually never fail to point out in a writer, whether or not I care. (But Conrad was, of course, a pillar of reaction, with a bleak view of general humanity. Still, to his great credit he didn't - much - let that get in the way of his stories or deface his characters.)
I do say that there aren't any good film versions of his novels, and I daresay that remains the case: I never saw Mark Peploe's Victory despite wishing to, but then the whole venture was widely reckoned to be waterlogged from an early stage. Anyway, it's better, I think, that great novelists be undefiled by hopeless films; and Conrad's artful, atmospheric prose has often left admirers with cameras quite at sea over how to replicate that quality in images. Even one so gifted as Christopher Hampton, who has spent a fair bit of time engaged with this very difficulty, hasn't been able to crack it, as you may surmise from the trailer for his version of The Secret Agent (below).

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