I’ve never read Joseph Conrad. I consider it one of my greatest intellectual shames (and there are many). Theodore Dalrymple recently reminded (as Joseph Epstein and H.L. Mencken often do) that I need to start reading him soon.
Getting the words right was not, in Conrad’s estimation, the whole task of the writer. He was no artist for art’s own sake; his art was both to engage the reader’s attention and to make him see in more than the mere perceptual sense—to make him see “that glimpse of truth for which you have forgotten to ask.” Art, entertainment, and moral purpose were indivisible for Conrad.
Addendum: I pulled “Heart of Darkness” off my shelf and started it. I can now claim that I have read three pages of Conrad, and I can unequivocally confirm that Mr. Conrad was a man of exquisite perception. From the very first page:
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The Lawyer—the best of old fellows—had, because of his many years and many virtues, the only cushion on deck, and was lying on the only rug.