Joseph Conrad Quotes (136 Quotes)


    And perhaps in this is the whole difference; perhaps all the wisdom, and all truth, and all sincerity, are just compressed into that inappreciable moment of time in which we step over the threshold of the invisible.

    I saw him open his mouth wide. . . as though he had wanted to swallow all the air, all the earth, all the men before him.


    Besides holding our hearts together through long periods of separation, it had the effect of making us tolerant of each other's yarns--and even convictions.

    In some inland post feel the savagery, the utter savagery, had closed round him--all that mysterious life of the wilderness that stirs in the forest, in the jungles, in the hearts of wild men. There's no initiation either into such mysteries. He has to live in the midst of the incomprehensible, which is detestable. And it has a fascination, too, which goes to work upon him. The fascination of the abomination--you know.



    Beyond the fence the forest stood up spectrally in the moonlight, and through the dim stir, through the faint sounds of that lamentable courtyard, the silence of the land went home to one's very heart - its mystery, its greatness, the amazing reality of its concealed life.



    But his soul was mad. Being alone in the wilderness, it had looked within itself and, by heavens I tell you, it had gone mad.

    It made you feel very small, very lost, and yet it was not altogether depressing, that feeling. After all, if you were small, the grimy beetle crawled on - which was just what you wanted it to do.

    But the snags were thick, the water was treacherous and shallow, the boiler seemed indeed to have a sulky devil in it, and thus neither that fireman nor I had any time to peer into our creepy thoughts.

    Often far away there I thought of these two, guarding the door of Darkness, knitting black wool as for a warm pall, one introducing, introducing continuously to the unknown, the other scrutinizing the cheery and foolish faces with unconcerned old eyes. Ave! Old knitter of black wool. Morituri te salutant. Not many of those she looked at ever saw her again--not half, by a long way.

    By heavens! there is something after all in the world allowing one man to steal a horse while another must not look at a halter. Steal a horse straight out. Very well. He has done it. Perhaps he can ride. But there is a way of looking at a halter that would provoke the most charitable of saints into a kick.

    Perhaps on some quiet night the tremor of far-off drums, sinking, swelling, a tremor vast, faint; a sound weird, appealing, suggestive and wild - and perhaps with as profound a meaning as the sound of bells in a Christian country.

    Do you see the story? Do you see anything? It seems to me I am trying to tell you a dream--making a vain attempt, because no relation of a dream can convey the dream-sensation, that commingling of absurdity, surprise, and bewilderment in a tremor of struggling revolt, that notion of being captured by the incredible which is the very essence of dreams...

    Pop, would go one of the six-inch guns; a small flame would dart and vanish, a little white smoke would disappear, a tiny projectile would give a feeble screech - and nothing happend. Nothing could happen. There was a touch of insanity in the proceeding, a sense of lugubrious drollery in the sight; and it was not dissipated by somebody on board assuring me earnestly there was a camp of natives - he called them enemies! hidden out of sight somewhere.

    Everything belonged to him--but that was a trifle. The thing to know was what he belonged to, how many powers of darkness claimed him for their own.

    The earth for us is a place to live in, where we must put up with sights, with sounds, with smells, too, by Jove! - breathe dead hippo, so as to speak, and not be contaminated. And there, don't you see? your strength comes in, the faith in your ability for the digging of unostentatious holes to bury the stuff in - your power of devotion, not to yourself, but to an obscure, back-breaking business.

    For a time I would feel I belonged still to a world of straightforward facts; but the feeling would not last long. Something would turn up to scare it away.

    The edge of a colossal jungle, so dark-green as to be almost black, fringed with white surf, ran straight, like a ruled line, far, far, away along blue sea whose glitter was blurred by a creeping mist.



    He struggled with himself, too. I saw it -- I heard it. I saw the inconceivable mystery of a soul that knew no restraint, no faith, and no fear, yet struggling blindly with itself.

    The moon had spread over everything a thin layer of silver - over the rank grass, over the mud, upon the wall of matted vegetation standing higher than the wall of a temple, over the great river I could see through a sombre gap glittering, glittering, as it flowed broadly by without a murmur. All this was great, expectant, mute, while the man jabbered about himself.

    He was there below me, and, upon my word, to look at him was as edifying as seeing a dog in a parody of breeches and a featherhat, walking on his hind legs.

    The sight of it made the earth seem unearthly. They were accustomed to look upon the shackled form of a conquered monster, but there-- there you could look at a thing monstrous, beautiful, and free.

    His very existence was improbable, inexplicable, and altogether bewildering. He was an insoluble problem. It was inconceivable how he had existed, how he had succeeded in getting so far, how he had managed to remain -- why he did not instantly disappear.


    Hunters for gold or pursuers of fame, they all had gone out on that stream, bearing the sword, and often the torch, messengers of the might within the land, bearers of a spark from the sacred fire.

    We couldn't understand because we were too far... and could not remember because we were traveling in the night of first ages, those ages that had gone, leaving hardly a sign... and no memories.


    I couldn't have felt more of lonely desolation somehow, had I been robbed of a belief or had missed my destiny in life...


    An appeal to me in this fiendish row - is there? Very well; I hear; I admit, but I have a voice too, and for good or evil mine is the speech that cannot be silenced.

    I let him run on, this papier-maché Mephistopheles, and it seemed to me that if I tried I could poke my forefinger through him, and would find nothing inside but a little loose dirt, maybe.


    He remembered that she was pretty, and, more, that she had a special grace in the intimacy of life. She had the secret of individuality which excites--and escapes.

    They talk of a man betraying his country, his friends, his sweetheart. There must be a moral bond first. All a man can betray is his conscience.

    Nations it may be have fashioned their Governments, but the Governments have paid them back in the same coin.

    An artist is a man of action, whether he creates a personality, invents an expedient, or finds the issue of a complicated situation.

    The sea - this truth must be confessed - has no generosity. No display of manly qualities - courage, hardihood, endurance, faithfulness - has ever been known to touch its irresponsible consciousness of power.

    It's queer how out of touch with the truth women are. They live in a world of their own, and there has never been anything like it, and never can be. It is too beautiful altogether, and if they were to set it up it would go to pieces before the first sunset.

    In the film, I am very much present. Gabrielle has something in common with Madame Bovary - every portrait of a woman from that period resembles Madame Bovary - the first nonromantic heroine.

    It occurred to me that my speech or my silence, indeed any action of mine, would be a mere futility.

    It is not Justice the servant of men, but accident, hazard, Fortune--the ally of patient Time--that holds an even and scrupulous balance.

    He who wants to persuade should put his trust not in the right argument, but in the right word. The power of sound has always been greater than the power of sense.

    As in political so in literary action a man wins friends for himself mostly by the passion of his prejudices and the consistent narrowness of his outlook.

    But the truth was that he died from solitude, the enemy known but to few on this earth, and whom only the simplest of us are fit to withstand.

    How does one kill fear, I wonder? How do you shoot a specter through the heart, slash off its spectral head, take it by its spectral throat?


    More Joseph Conrad Quotations (Based on Topics)


    Man - Life - Mind - World - Emotions - Friendship - Woman - Truth - Dreams - Sense & Perception - Mystery - Faces - Actions - Love - Enemy - Fear - Belief & Faith - Art - Sincerity - View All Joseph Conrad Quotations

    More Joseph Conrad Quotations (By Book Titles)


    - Heart of Darkness

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