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by Joseph Conrad

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Joseph Conrad’s foresight and his ability to distill human adventure from complex historical circumstances were so keen that his greatest novel, Nostromo—though more than a century old—says as much about Latin America as any recent account of that region’s turbulent political life.


Joseph Conrad’s foresight and his ability to distill human adventure from complex historical circumstances were so keen that his greatest novel, Nostromo—though more than a century old—says as much about Latin America as any recent account of that region’s turbulent political life.
Conrad’s story is set in the fictional Costaguana, a South American republic with a troubled history of tyranny and revolution. When wealthy businessman Charles Gould decides to use his valuable silver mine to support the current dictator in hopes of achieving stability, he instead sets off a new round of chaos and warfare. Fearful that his silver will fall into the hands of invading revolutionaries, Gould entrusts Nostromo—a man of the people considered by all to be incorruptible—with the task of escaping with and hiding a boatload of ingots from the mine. Nostromo’s heroic actions save his city from revolution, but the fate of the silver becomes his dark secret, one that will destroy him.
Insistently dramatic in its storytelling, spectacular in its re-creation of the subtropical landscape, this picture of an insurrectionary society and the opportunities it provides for moral corruption gleams on every page with its author’s impeccable intelligence.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The intro and chronology help make this easy for the beginning student to try out Joseph Conrad."—Mary Morzinski, Berry College

"I had always thought that there were books you read to entertain yourself and classic books to educate you, but with Nostromo I realized a book could be both."—Billy Ivory, Nottingham Evening Post

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Everyman's Library
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt

In the time of Spanish rule, and for many years afterwards, the town of Sulaco--the luxuriant beauty of the orange gardens bears witness to its antiquity--had never been commercially anything more important than a coasting port with a fairly large local trade in ox-hides and indigo. The clumsy deep-sea galleons of the conquerors that, needing a brisk gale to move at all, would lie becalmed, where your modern ship built on clipper lines forges ahead by the mere flapping of her sails, had been barred out of Sulaco by the prevailing calms of its vast gulf. Some harbours of the earth are made difficult of access by the treachery of sunken rocks and the tempests of their shores. Sulaco had found an inviolable sanctuary from the temptations of a trading world in the solemn hush of the deep Golfo Placido as if within an enormous semi-circular and unroofed temple open to the ocean, with its walls of lofty mountains hung with the mourning draperies of cloud.

On one side of this broad curve in the straight seaboard of the Republic of Costaguana, the last spur of the coast range forms an insignificant cape whose name is Punta Mala. From the middle of the gulf the point of the land itself is not visible at all; but the shoulder of a steep hill at the back can be made out faintly like a shadow on the sky.

On the other side, what seems to be an isolated patch of blue mist floats lightly on the glare of the horizon. This is the peninsula of Azuera, a wild chaos of sharp rocks and stony levels cut about by vertical ravines. It lies far out to sea like a rough head of stone stretched from a green-clad coast at the end of a slender neck of sand covered with thickets of thorny scrub. Utterly waterless, for the rainfall runs off at once on all sides into the sea, it has not soil enough--it is said--to grow a single blade of grass, as if it were blighted by a curse. The poor, associating by an obscure instinct of consolation the ideas of evil and wealth, will tell you that it is deadly because of its forbidden treasures. The common folk of the neighborhood, peons of the estancias, vaqueros of the seaboard plains, tame Indians coming miles to market with a bundle of sugar-cane or a basket of maize worth about three-pence, are well aware that heaps of shining gold lie in the gloom of the deep precipices cleaving the stony levels of Azuera. Tradition has it that many adventurers of olden time had perished in the search. The story goes also that within men's memory two wandering sailors--Americanos, perhaps, but gringos of some sort for certain--talked over a gambling, good-for-nothing mozo, and the three stole a donkey to carry for them a bundle of dry sticks, a water-skin, and provisions enough to last a few days. Thus accompanied, and with revolvers at their belts, they had started to chop their way with machetes through the thorny scrub on the neck of the peninsula.

On the second evening an upright spiral of smoke (it could only have been from their camp-fire) was seen for the first time within memory of man standing up faintly upon the sky above a razor-backed ridge on the stony head. The crew of a coasting schooner, lying becalmed three miles off the shore, stared at it with amazement till dark. A Negro fisherman, living in a lonely hut in a little bay near by, had seen the start and was on the lookout for some sign. He called to his wife just as the sun was about to set. They had watched the strange portent with envy, incredulity, and awe.

Meet the Author

Tony Tanner is Fellow of King's College, Cambridge, and author of Adultery in the Novel, The Reign of Wonder, Venice Desired (forthcoming) and Studies of James, Bellow, Pynchon and Jane Austen.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
December 3, 1857
Date of Death:
August 3, 1924
Place of Birth:
Berdiczew, Podolia, Russia
Place of Death:
Bishopsbourne, Kent, England
Tutored in Switzerland. Self-taught in classical literature. Attended maritime school in Marseilles, France

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Nostromo 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Livingstone More than 1 year ago
I really struggled to get through this book. I mean really, really struggled. Whereas I can usually get through a book this size in about 10 days, it took a month and was highly unenjoyable for the first half. Now I really didn't like Heart of Darkness to begin with, but this story is completely written differently. In that book as well as Lord Jim, Conrad uses Marlow as a narrator who tells a progressive, linear story. I hear that Nostromo is written in a way similar to Ulysses, In Search of Lost Time, and To The Lighthouse in that it is not a flowing, chronological story--but a sting of scenes that appear in an order that has no rhyme or reason. It's supposed to be part of the "fun" for the reader to piece together, but I found it difficult when the author digresses to something that happened who knows when in relation to the main plot. The characters were also hard to form a picture of as Conrad refers to each one with several different names. Nostromo is also known as Capataz de Cargodores and Gran Battista--none of which are his actual name! And the way the author uses words from French, Italian and Spanish is also confusing, but the B&N Classics edition is good at providing footnotes. All of this notwithstanding, the basic plot is a good one. It has a moral and a powerful tone. Among the redeeming qualities, it compares the incorruptible, pristine silver to the "incorruptible" Nostromo (who barely appears in the novel until the latter half). At the end of the novel (a few pages from the finish), there is an exchange between said main character that did bring tears to my eyes and a sympathy to a seemingly incorruptible man. The message of the book is timeless, and that's why I suspect this is hailed as one of the best of all time--though I considered it a tough read. Conrad considered it something, but not what he was hoping for. I agree, but I'm glad I read it. Conrad was rushed by his publisher and even had to have Ford Maddox Ford help him with the manuscript (thanks for an informative introduction Barnes and Noble). If one wishes to try their hand at reading this, I suggest not to get bogged down trying to keep track of all the characters or what's happening to whom--hang in there until Deccoud's letter to his sister (about halfway) and it will become much better.
Guest More than 1 year ago
NOSTROMO was a long book to get through - I had to stop a few times to look up a word in the dictionary, but it was a fascinating story that sparked me into critical thought. However, this is not a book for someone looking for a quick literary revelation, so to speak. Even as an advanced placement (AP) English student in the middle of my senior high school year, it took patience and concentration to get drawn into this book. But once that was done, the richness of the characters, the descriptive narratives, intricate symbolism, and enlightening themes drew me into the author's mind. And having finished NOSTROMO, it would almost be an understatement to say that Conrad must have been brilliant. If you absorb this book with all of its essential elements, it is absolutely incredible what lessons you can learn for your life just from the pages.
Atthebeach More than 1 year ago
Decided to read Nostromo when I read that F. Scott Fitzgerald said if he could have written any book, it would be Nostromo. High praise. I think if Fitzgerald had written it, it would have been at least 100 pages shorter. It is high literature. The writing is colorful and even elegiac at times. There pages and pages of description without any action. And chapters and chapters of dialogue without action. It takes a very long time to get into the plot or even know what it is. But I knew I was reading something great and kept going. The first half was very slow. The third quarter started to fill out the story. And the last quarter tells the whole of the story. By the end, I was very happy that I stayed with it. The characters, once totally revealed, the full story, once totally told, are grand. The ending is far beyond imagining. It takes some patience, but it is very worth the read.  
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I didn't finish the book. The characters were two-dimensional, the exposition difficult to follow, and the premise disappointing.
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Lays around boredly