18 May
First published in book form by J. W. Dent/London and Toronto; and by Doubleday/New York 1917 Soft cover, Penguin Books 1986/157 pages in total - the actual story begins on page 35 and ends on page 145 …. The remainder of pages are most informative. Autobiographical fiction

First published in book form by J. W. Dent/London and Toronto; and by Doubleday/New York 1917
Soft cover, Penguin Books 1986/157 pages in total – the actual story begins on page 35 and ends on page 145 …. The remainder of pages are most informative.
Autobiographical fiction

“The sparkle of the sea filled my eyes ….. The sails hung motionless and slack, the very folds of their sagging surfaces moved no more ….. For a long, long time I faced an empty world, steeped in an infinity of silence, through which the sunshine poured and flowed for some mysterious purpose.” *

I came to The Shadow Line by way of The House of Paper reviewed here. Joseph Conrad was know to me when, in High School, Lord Jim was required reading. And, even though my tattered paperback has followed me the world over since, I never read Lord Jim again.

Joseph Conrad pens this fictionalized autobiography, which, for the most part is going to be difficult if not impossible to describe. Were I able to tell you, however, you would have the sense of it in the same way that you experience a fly buzzing the ether unseen. Enthralled within the movement of words, with eyes not wanting to leave the page, you will hear the story – whispering from behind the shadow line of it’s exquisite prose.

Every page a gift.

This book is about a young captain who is hastily given his first command of a “ghost” ship. It‘s about a first mate who will lose his mind to madness as the malaria sickness spreads without medicine. This book is about a calm sea with not a sigh of a wind to move the ship. And, even though Conrad himself tells us this story is not about the supernatural, a curse and the first captain who died before Conrad took command, tells us otherwise.

Every page a memory.

The telling is told, not so much in the way it actually happened, but rather in the way that Conrad remembers it. When this book was written, in 1915, the world was in the throes of the Great War, and the agony emanated infused itself into this darkly told story.

“If the line between sanity and madness is a thin one, it is scarcely surprising that the distinction between a rational and a superstitious reading of the text should not be blatant.” **

Most excellent adventure.

* first paragraph (in-part) Chapter Five

** page 21 (in-part) Introduction by Jacques Berthoud



  1. chowmeyow May 19, 2015 at 8:59 p05 #

    I’ve been thinking that I need to give Conrad another chance, as I really didn’t care for Heart of Darkness either of the two times I read it. This sounds more to my liking. Have you read HoD? If so, would you say someone who disliked it would still have a chance at enjoying The Shadow Line?

  2. WORDMAN May 20, 2015 at 8:59 p05 #

    Good Day to you Emily. I’ve not read Heart of Darkness so I can’t speak to it. I can however, say this, to get inside The Shadow Line you will need to know Conrad. His stories are difficult to digest otherwise. Because it was a mainstay in The House of Paper, I had to know the connection. Quite interesting when that connection made itself apparent. For those not familiar with The House of Paper, the pleasure of Conrad’s writing style is joy enough.

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