Sea HistoryConrad scholars have known for years that this study by master mariner and distinguished sea writer Alan Villiers was in the works but not finished. When Villiers died in 1982, it lay dormant for many years until his son Peter took up the task of finishing it. This elegantly designed and illustrated volume is the result of his efforts and will be of interest to Conrad scholars, maritime historians, and readers of sea literature alike. Everyone will enjoy the reproductions of Mark Meyers s paintings of the twelve ships that form the core of Conrad's sea experience. My concern about who was writing, father Alan or son Peter, disappeared as the difference in their styles emerged. Alan Villiers' distinctive style is both easygoing and full of vitality because he avoids sea jargon, explains only what he has to be explained, and captures the essence of ships, men and experience at sea with fresh memorable phrases. The context of deteriorating conditions in commercial sail or accepted practice in handling square rigged ships appears casually as needed, never in blocks that interrupt the narrative flow. (...) the blend of narrative and explanation is seamless because the simple but effective structure of the book tells the story of Conrad s involvement with the dozen ships during his twenty year sea career. The book's focus falls on Conrad the seaman (Konrad Korzeniowski) rather than Conrad the novelist, so both Alan and Peter Villiers adopt the strategy of dealing with this Polish identity throughout, bridging frequently to Joseph Conrad as the sea experience resurfaces in fictional form. Beyond Conrad's fans, anyone interested in understanding life at sea in the larger decades of commercial sail trade will appreciate the father insight and the son's unobtrusive but helpful additions.
Good Old BoatJoseph Conrad, the 19th-century novelist, was a master mariner whose life at sea was nearly as eventful as his novels. That is the premise of this exquisitely written biography of Conrad which breaks new ground because it was based on a hitherto unpublished study by the export sailor, Alan Villiers whose work was completed after his death by his son, Peter Villiers. Although the book mentions points of contact between Conrad s life at sea and his novels, the focus is firmly on Conrad as a sailor, rather than as a writer. One need not like Conrad s novels to enjoy the biography. Despite the books wealth of detail about 19th-century sailing, its very accessible. The book includes a glossary of sailing terms and is illustrated by color reproductions of paintings of ships on which Conrad sailed. As a scholarly book with color reproductions, it would be equally at home on a coffee table, on the shelf of a yacht or in the office of a Conrad scholar. The book, however, contains no charts, so paragraphs on navigational routes will require some readers to consult a globe. Conrad, after commanding a deep-water ship, took on a very different navigational task. In 1890 he steered a boat on familiarity. Conrad was appalled at the Belgians exploitation of Africans and this experience led Conrad to write the pessimistic, nightmarish novella Heart of Darkness. Any sailor with a genuine interest in the realities economic, navigational and experiential, of 19th-century merchant sailing will enjoy this book.
Wooden BoatThe author is the son of maritime historian Alan Villiers, and this volume completes a study of author Joseph Conrad's experience at sea that the elder Villiers left unfinished at the time of his death in 1982.
- Sheridan House, Incorporated
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- 7.90(w) x 10.20(h) x 0.60(d)
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