Thursday, June 14, 2007

Conrad and Trifles

To Edward Garnett
Monday [London]
[March 23, 1896]

Dear Garnett,

I am very glad you wrote to me the few lines I have just received. If you spoke as a friend I listened in the same manner,--listened and was only a little, a very little, dismayed. If one looks at life in its true aspect then everything loses much of its unpleasant importance and the atmosphere becomes cleared of what are only unimportant mists that drift past in imposing shapes. When once the truth is grasped that one's own personality is only a ridiculous and aimless masquerade of something hopelessly unknown, the attainment of serenity is not very far off. Then there remains nothing but the surrender to one's impulses, the fidelity to passing emotions which is perhaps a nearer approach to truth than any other philosophy of life. And why not? If we are "ever becoming--never being," then I would be a fool if I tried to become this thing rather than that; for I know I never will be anything. I would rather grasp the solid satisfaction of my wrong-headedness and shake my fist at the idiotic mystery of Heaven.

So much for trifles. As to that other kind of foolishness: my work,* there you have driven home the conviction and I shall write the sea-story--at once (12 months).** It will be on the lines indicated to you. I surrender to the infamous spirit which you have awakened within me and, as I want my abasement to be very complete, I am looking for a sensational title . . .

Good-bye my dear friend

* "The Sisters" which was to remain an unprinted fragment.

** It refers to "The Rescuer: a Tale of Narrow Waters". The title of the book when it was published in 1920 was The Rescue, a Romance of the Shallows.

-from Joseph Conrad: Life and Letters by G. Jean-Aubry (Garden City, New York: Doubleday Page & Co., 1927) Vol. 1, p. 185-186.

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