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The Art of Darkness

Books | By Frances Wilson

The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a Global World By Maya Jasanoff

Every so often, a book arrives that is so awake to the state we’re in that reading it is like emerging from a coma. This is such a book. Maya Jasanoff teaches history at Harvard and, in The Dawn Watch, she applies her interest in empires, exiles and globalisation to the life and work of Joseph Conrad. In doing so, she catapults Conrad to the top rank of prophetic novelists. ‘I set out,’ writes Jasanoff, ‘to explore Conrad’s world with the compass of a historian, the chart of a biographer, and the navigational sextant of a fiction reader.’ She also sets out with the heart of a traveller, as she traces the journey down the Congolese river described by Conrad in Heart of Darkness. Jasanoff’s argument is this: the Polish exile, British seaman and great English novelist, whose tales are set on the decks of sinking ships, moored barques and crack clippers...

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