This will be a short review as if I tried to write a longer one I might end up writing a 3000-word essay… So perhaps it is best to keep it brief.
Victory is Joseph Conrad in top form. For all my grumblings, I can now accept that Chance was just Conrad learning how to write a novel about a relationship between a man and a woman. Victory is the result of this process… And it is incredible.
Axel Heyst is a man who has been brought up on his father’s teaching (which looks like a combination of Schopenhauer and the ancient Stoics) not to get too attached to anything in this world. But one day, he pities the plight of an orchestra girl who is mistreated by his employers. Little does he know that through his helping her brings both of them happiness – it will also be their undoing.
This is another heartbreaking book ( I know, I need to start reading some cheerier stuff) – speaking both of love and loyalty as well as greed and betrayal. The lonely setting on a Malaysian island provides an Eden-like background for a tale that frequently alludes to Milton’s Paradise Lost, Dickens, and Dostoyevski.
It’s a masterpiece.
“Heyst in his fine detachment had lost the habit of asserting himself. I don’t mean the courage of self-assertion, either moral or physical, but the mere way of it, the trick of the thing, the readiness of mind and the turn of the hand that come without reflection and lead the man to excellence in life, in art, in crime, in virtue, and for the matter of that, even in love. Thinking is the great enemy of perfection.”
Also, is it me or does the frequently highlighted emaciated figure of Mr. Jones of the “extremely thin face …” vaguely remind one of Julius Caesar’s statement about Cassius in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar “I want the men around me to be fat, healthy-looking men who sleep at night. That Cassius over there has a lean and hungry look. He thinks too much. Men like him are dangerous”?