Tag: Joseph Conrad

Loaded by Christos Tsiolkas

Posted January 25, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 42 Comments

Loaded by Christos TsiolkasTitle: Loaded (Goodreads)
Author: Christos Tsiolkas
Published: Vintage, 1995
Pages: 151
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Ari feels very much alone in the world, a Greek immigrant, unemployed and struggling with his sexuality. That is to say he has a same sex attraction but his friends and family would never approve of that. In Christos Tsiolkas’ normally overlooked Loaded we follow Ari through his struggles as an outsider in this autobiographical novel.

Christos Tsiolkas is a critically acclaimed author with books like Barracuda and my personal favourite The Slap. It is a shame that his debut novel Loaded just doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Was this published at the wrong time? I remember the nineties as a time where homosexuality was thought of as disgusting; granted I was still in high school in a small backwards country town but I couldn’t imagine what it would be like for someone that actually was struggling with their sexuality.

What little I know about Tsiolkas, I’ve come to the conclusion that Loaded was a reflection of his own struggles living in Melbourne with a traditional Greek family that expects so much from you. They went through all the effort to move to Australia in the hopes for a better life; the least you can do is make the most of it. Do well in school, get a good job, marry and have kids. What if this isn’t part of your plan? How would your parents react to this news?

I had to read this book for university, right after studying Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness so I’ve naturally made some connections between the two. Marlowe and Ari are very similar in the sense they both are outsiders, though one deals with this during colonial times and the other is a post-colonial take. Without going too much into the parody of Heart of Darkness, because my mind has really made some interesting connections (some are probably a stretch). The different ways the two protagonists (Heart of Darkness and Loaded) are portrayed as loners in a world that doesn’t feel like home were done in interesting ways.

The whole sense of belonging is a huge part in Loaded; even the way Christos Tsiolkas talks about Melbourne is done as a parody. In Tsiolkas’s Melbourne people are divided into different cliques, much like a diverse multi-cultural city, but there is also are separation into the north, south, east and west. This is interesting to see the separation of power, wealth, religion and culture; sure this normally happens in a normal city, each suburb seems to be stereotyped as a good or bad neighbourhood. In Loaded the division is more extreme, highlighting all these groups of people and showing the reader just how much Ari doesn’t fit in anywhere he goes.

Read More

My Upcoming Reading List

Posted November 22, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in What are you Reading / 12 Comments

the sign of fourNext week I start a university course called Literature and Politics. I’m actually nervous and excited about starting this. I’ve been doing an English Literature course part time but work has been pretty full on so I’ve moved to online university. This will mean things will be a lot more flexible and should hopefully give me the time to manage both work and study without them interfering. What I wanted to share with you; the entire point of this post was my awesome reading list for the summer thanks to this course.

  • Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  • Loaded by Christos Tsiolkas
  • Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
  • The Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

How awesome it this list? So many great books that I’ve read or excited to read. A reading list like this really does wonders to your nerves.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Posted May 8, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic / 0 Comments

Heart of Darkness by Joseph ConradTitle: Heart of Darkness (Goodreads)
Author: Joseph Conrad
Published: Oxford World's Classics, 1899
Pages: 225
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Heart of Darkness tells the tale of Charlie Marlow’s journey on an ivory transporter down an unknown river in the Congo. What he sees horrifies and perplexes him, calling into question the very basis of civilisation and human nature. The story follows this commercial agent and the object of his obsession, the notorious ivory-procurement agent Mr Kurtz. This novella has become an important piece in the western canon for its range of themes and scholarly values.

I remember reading this book a few years back and while I thought it was an interesting book, I never really grasped it completely (and I’m not sure if I ever will) but for comparison to what I know now and then, check out my review here. To begin with we need to gain an understanding of Joseph Conrad’s life because there are a lot of life experiences in this book. Born Josef Teodor Konrad Walecz Korzeniowski in Russian-ruled Poland in 1857; this part of Poland is now part of Ukraine. Both parents were political activists and as a result of their participation in the Polish independence movement they were exiled to Northern Russia in 1863. At sixteen he dropped out of school to work on a French merchant ship, sailing the West Indies as an apprentice. Later he joined a British ship where he served as a merchant for ten years, during this time he gained the rank of captain and became a naturalized British citizen. During a trip in 1890 sailing through the Belgian Congo and Congo River he got really sick and had to retire from sailing and focused his energy on writing. This means Joseph Conrad must have grown up speaking Polish and Russian, learning French at some point and then English. Although he often struggled to write in his adopted language, he is now considered one of the greatest prose stylists in English literature.

There are many themes explored in this book, so much so that I think I would need to keep reading this book again and again to discover them. Though major themes include slavery (the effect the British had on Africa) as well the author’s problems with Colonialism and Imperialism. There are a few other themes I would much prefer exploring. First of all, the idea of alienation; both Conrad and Marlow are both outsiders. The entire novel questions what alienation and loneliness can do to a person over an extended period of time, especially since they are in hostile environments. Even the doctor warns Marlow prior to his departure of changes to his personality that may be produced by a long stay in another country.  Prolonged solitude seems to have damaging effects on the sailors, which leads me into another major theme; insanity. In the case of Kurtz, the loneliness lead to literal madness, while others like Marlow’s predecessor, Captain Fresleven was described as a gentle soul that transformed into a violent one.

There are other themes I really would love to talk about but for the sake of keeping this review a decent length I will just highlight them. Heart of Darkness also looks at the way Belgium is exploiting the Congo, order verse disorder, duty verse responsibility, doubt verse ambiguity, race verse racism and finally violence and cruelty. All these, plus many more, are reasons why this book has been studied. It is a very difficult book to explore, I found myself rereading passages trying to get more out of it. I know at one point near the start of reading this I thought I would never get enough meaning out of this book but eventually it opened up to me.

There are a lot of symbols within the book as well, beginning with the title and the setting; Heart of Darkness deep in the heart of the Congo, the centre of the deep dark Africa. Even the fact that the entire story is told in the late afternoon as the sun sets is a motif of Africa. There are a lot more in this novel but I want to quickly talk about the movie adaptation Apocalypse Now. Sure there are some similarities but not enough to really consider the movie to be based on this novella. There are more similarities with Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner in the way the book starts out, also with Bram Stokers’ Dracula with the suspension between life and death. So how are they the similar, since one is set in the Congo and the other during the Vietnam War? The very basic answer would be that both look at the deterioration of humanity as a result of conflict, one via imperialism and one by war.

I would love to talk about the narrative and how there are two narrators, Marlow and someone anonymous. And how all the scenes on the Nellie are obviously an introductory and critique to the story that it doesn’t go away after the intro. Marlow’s narrative is often interrupted by this unnamed narrator as they listen to the story as a way for Conrad to tell the reader to notice different themes. There are also the proses in the book, poetic and while difficult, you can get swept away and not really notice just what Conrad is trying to do. So many things I want to talk about but I have to cut this review short.

Heart of Darkness is a really complex book but if you take the time to break it apart and explore the text critically, you’ll find there is so much to appreciate. It’s like a fine meal, it can be enjoyed without any thought, but if you take the time to see how each element complements each other you end up enjoying the novella a whole lot more. It all comes together with a sense of satisfaction that while you might not know everything Joseph Conrad was trying to say, you know enough for the book to have real value.

Monthly Review – April 2013

Posted April 30, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

As we draw April to a close I have to admit that while I’ve almost caught up on all my book reviews for this blog, I’m feeling like I’m in a reading slump. It’s a new feeling for me that is causing frustration; I recently started a new job which has been mentally draining me so I hope that is the only reason behind this slump. But rather than focus on my frustration, let’s talk about the positives. You might have noticed I’ve been posting a book review up practically every day, this was because I got so far behind in reviews I would read a book and want to talk about it but waited two months for it to go live. While a book review every second day was a great idea I managed to get too far behind and now that I’m almost fully up to date I can go back to what I wanted to do with this blog. While reviews are important part of this blog and my reading journey I want to leave some room for some bookish related posts that aren’t reviews. Maybe some guest posts, my lovely wife has done some great ones in the past and a huge thanks to Mish and Toby for their posts as well. I want to generate some interesting posts that aren’t just reviews; so with any luck this will happen soon (I have an interesting one about satire planned).

As for this month; the book club focused on Japanese literature and read Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami which I really enjoyed and you can read my review here. I know many people are Murakami fans but to be honest, the only other novel I’ve read of his was 1Q84 and I didn’t enjoy it. I’m looking forward to what the book club does next month when we read The Strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde for our supernatural theme. If you haven’t gotten involved with this book club and are interested in exploring literature with us, then you can do so over on Goodreads.

My reading this month was rather unproductive, I did manage to read ten novels but most of them were in the first half of the month and I think many of them were under 200 pages. My highlights included Burial Rites by Hannah Kent, The Son by Philipp Meyer, Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf and of course this month book pick for book club. But the book that stood out the most was The Reader by Bernhard Schlink, which I remember enjoying the movie but only remembered what happened as I read through this novel. I think I got sucked into this world that I didn’t want to leave, sadly that only lasted for a day then the book was over;the ups and downs of reading. What was your month of reading like? What were the highlights?

My Monthly Reading

Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie

Posted February 8, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 0 Comments

Joseph Anton by Salman RushdieTitle: Joseph Anton (Goodreads)
Author: Salman Rushdie
Published: Jonathan Cape, 2012
Pages: 633
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

On February 14 1989, Salman Rushdie got a call asking how he felt about being sentenced to death. The call was from a journalist who told him that the Ayatollah Khomeini has put a fatwa on him. His novel The Satanic Verses was accused of being “against Islam, the Prophet, and the Quran.” This is a memoir of the 10 years he went into hiding and was under police protection because of this fatwa.

When they asked Rushdie to pick an alias the first thing he did was think of the writers he respected, in this case Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekhov. This is a memoir of complete honesty about the effect his novel The Satanic Verses had on his life. I found Rushdie to be very honest about the whole situation, from the bonds formed, the struggles, the fears and the idea of freedom of speech.

One thing that really stood out to me was the use of a third person narrator; a rarity in a memoir but it seemed to really work. It was like Salman Rushdie was telling a story of someone else. I’m not sure if Rushdie was trying to look at the situation from another perspective or if he felt like the situation changed who he was, but it really worked.

I remember The Satanic Verses and I know I had to research Islam to understand the book, but I never thought of it as a religious insult; I always viewed the book as one man’s struggle to make sense of his religion in a culture completely different. The importance of this book and its literary achievements really was out shadowed by the controversy. In Joseph Anton, Rushdie really does try to look at the entire situation in a unique way.

Salman Rushdie’s healing process is displayed on the page for everyone to see, but you can still see the bitterness and animosity in his narrative. This is what I found made this book so great; the author never held back and never tried to hide his emotions. It would have been a scary time of his life and I’m glad to understand what he went through a lot more than I expected.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Posted July 6, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic / 0 Comments

Heart of Darkness by Joseph ConradTitle: Heart of Darkness (Goodreads)
Author: Joseph Conrad
Published: Penguin, 1899
Pages: 200
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

When you think of books required to consider yourself ‘well read’, one book that is often in that list is Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. I’ve been told that watching Apocalypse Now doesn’t count; however if you have read the book and seen the movie, fun can be found spotting the similarities. Heart of Darkness is a difficult book to read but if you stick with it, there is a certain elegance in the novel, as well as the fact that it’s heavily symbolic.

One of the more interesting aspects of this novel is the narrative style. It’s not narrated by the protagonist Marlow but an unnamed listener of his stories. Almost like the narrator is the reader, standing there listening to Marlow tell his tales. This is happening while the boat is anchored on the River Thames near London, though his tales are of him captaining a steamship in Africa.

The blend of feeling like a shipmate listening to the tales, and the fact that Marlow struggles to talk about the torments, makes this an excellent representation of the duality of human nature. While it was a fantastic book, the writing style did make it difficult to enjoy this book as much as I wanted.