top of page

On the beauty of literature

Someone recently asked me (and I was totally surprised to be asked by that person: he was an author himself, a journalist, a commentator on literature):

What do you mean, beauty of literature?

Well. I guess we all read for different reasons. Some do it professionally. Others, to find out what happened. And others--to writhe in pleasure.

I am with the last cohort and this is what I mean:

We knew him in those unprotected days when we were content to hold in our hands our lives and our property. None of us, I believe, has any property now, and I hear that many, negligently, have lost their lives. But I am sure that the few who survive are not yet so dim-eyed as to miss in the befogged respectability of their newspapers the intelligence of various native risings in the Eastern Archipelago. Sunshine gleams between the lines of those short paragraphs—sunshine and the glitter of the sea. A strange name wakes up memories. The printed words scent the smoky atmosphere of the day faintly, with the subtle and penetrating perfume of land breezes breathing through the starlight of bygone nights. A signal fire gleams like a jewel on the high brow of a somber cliff. Great trees, the advance sentries of immense forests, stand watchful and over-steeping stretches of open water. A line of white surf thunders on an empty beach. The shallow water foams on the reefs. And green islets scattered through the calm of noonday lie upon the level of a polished sea, like a handful of emeralds on a buckler of steel.

Now, I don't like the story. It's romantic in the worst sense of the word. But that first paragraph--I have read it over and over.

Joseph Conrad, Karain, A memory

6 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page