Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Friday, December 9, 2011

"Amy Foster" by Joseph Conrad

"Amy Foster" by Joseph Conrad (1901, 15 pages)

"Amy Foster" is the third short story by Joseph Conrad (1857 to 1924-there is some back ground information in my prior posts on Conrad)  I have read in the last few months.   I have also posted on two of his shorter novels, The Heart of Darkness and The Secret Agent.   Both of the prior stories I posted on "The Secret Sharer" and  "The Lagoon" are partially about men who are in foreign to them countries because of sea voyages.   Conrad was himself a seamen for many years.  

As in Secret Agent, a mentally challenged adult plays a central part in "Amy Foster".  I do know if this is a frequent thing in the work of Conrad or not but I thought it was very interesting to find it in two back to back reads.

The story line also felt like it might be expressing something of Conrad's feelings about spending his life among people who did not speak the language of his native land, Poland.  (Conrad grew up speaking Polish, then learned French, then English and went on to become one of the greatest of English prose stylists.)

As the story opens, Janko Goral a Polish national on his way to move to America, is shipped wrecked right of the coast of England.   He makes it to the shore.   When the local people find him he can speak only Polish which no one understands so they take him for a mad man raving on in some sort of pure gibberish.   He is put into jail by the local residents who also whip him and throw rocks at him in an effort to make him speak English.   We also meet a local girl, Amy Foster, who clearly seems mentally challenged.  

Janko, who is renamed by the locals, Yanko Gooral, gets a job working for a well off local.   He saves his employer's daughter from drowning and is given his own cottage as a reward.     He and Amy meet and they fall in love and Marry.  (The descriptions of Amy are really very interesting).   I do not want to tell more of the plot.

"Amy Foster" is about xenophobia, loneliness, fear of anyone different from you.   I felt somehow Conrad was relating to his own experiences as a stranger in a strange land as I read this story.   Readers of the short stories of Hardy will relate well to "Amy Foster".  

It was included in Typhoon and  Other Stories (1903)

You can down load this and much of Conrad's other work in Kindle and other formats from Manybooks.

On Conrad, I think I will read a few more of  his short stories before reading another novel.     I hope to read four Conrad novels in 2012.  

I know many book bloggers have expressed dislike of Conrad.   Some simply do not like his prose style and others think he is a racist.    The first question is sort of a matter of personal taste.   The second question seems to me to rest on a misunderstanding of the narrative method of Conrad and might represent a rush to judgement against what some see as a hard to read writer.  

Please share your experience with Conrad with us.

Mel u


Prashant C. Trikannad said...

I've only read LORD JIM though I'm quite familiar with Conrad's works. He goes places in most of his works. Thanks for the Manybooks link.

HKatz said...

Sounds interesting. Though you've shared little of the description of Amy Foster and how the plot unfolds, I find myself wanting to know what happens. Thank you for tackling these difficult writers; whether or not a writer is fashionable or popular matters much less than other qualities.

Mel u said...

Prashant C. Trikannad Manybooks is my first place to look for public domain books now-thanks as always for your comment and visit

HKatz-Amy Foster to me is a very interesting story-I try not to give away too much of the plots of the works I right about-thanks very much for your comment and visit