Academic journal article Joseph Conrad Today

Zwischen Ost Und West: Joseph Conrad Im Europäischen Gespräch

Academic journal article Joseph Conrad Today

Zwischen Ost Und West: Joseph Conrad Im Europäischen Gespräch

Article excerpt

Zwischen Ost und West: Joseph Conrad im europäischen Gespräch Elmar Schenkel and Hans-Christian Trepte, eds. Leipzig: Leipziger Universitätsforlag, 2010. 285 pp.

Reading this wide-ranging collection is to be forcibly reminded of two significant aspects of Conrad's life and work that are more closely linked than we sometimes tend to think. The first aspect-that of Conrad's origin and Polish background-is well suggested by the title of Ludmilla Voitkovska's essay, "What is Polish Ukraine?" The second aspect-that of Conrad's reception in Eastern and Central Europe in particular-is enticingly signalled by the German phrase "Zwischen den Gezeiten" (Between the Tides), the title of Zdenëk Beran's essay about the Czech reception of the author.

Highlighting both of these aspects in their informative Introduction, the volume's editors, Elmar Schenkel and HansChristian Trepte, reflect on the complexity of Conrad's name and on the various challenges and problems associated with the change from the original Polish to the later English version. As they rightly point out, there is a sense in which the name given on the tombstone in the cemetery in Canterbury, "Joseph Teador Conrad Korzeniowski" (color photograph on p. 13), indicates not just the combination of the two versions but also a tension between them. One original, and attractive, feature of the Introduction is the editors' decision to present it as a dialogue in which they identify and present elements of Conrad's life and work that are further explored in the following essays. Two of these are also written by the editors: while Trepte writes interestingly of Conrad's short story "Amy Foster," Schenkel conducts an illuminating discussion of Conrad as reader-focusing on the books he read over the course of his period as a sailor.

Good observations are made inn all of the nineteen chapters comprising the collection. One reasons why Ludmilla Voitkovska's essay is one of the most original in the volume is that, by asking the question presented above, she is able to complicate, and thus improve, the reader's knowledge of the complexities of nationhood, home, and belonging that delineate the unstable situation into which Conrad was bom and the difficult conditions under which his family lived. Until the beginning of the twentieth century, she argues, Poles tended to consider Ukrainians to be the same people as Poles, and their different language was regarded as one of the dialects of Polish. …

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