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The secretive reading of Conrad

Posted March. 30, 2022 07:58,   

Updated March. 30, 2022 07:58


The country of Dostoevsky is now at war. Perhaps it is only natural that one would think of the great writer at this point, for he was a nationalist in ideological terms, particularly with Poland. This was why British writer Joseph Conrad, born in Berdychiv of Ukraine, formerly Polish territory, loathed Dostoevsky.

Dostoevsky’s distrust towards the Polish people was close to hatred. He explicitly expressed his disdain for Poland and vehemently opposed against their relocation to Russia. He denounced that all they would do in Russia is to hate and betray them. He did not consider Russia’s history of tearing Polish territory apart along with Austria and Prussia.

His prejudice is reflected in his work as well. The Brothers Karamazov mercilessly ridicules Polish people. They are depicted as traitors and fraudsters. Grusenkara, a Polish Captain who betrayed a Russian woman, is described as a fraudster who comes back to her for money. He secretly plots with other Polish men to steal money away from Russians in card games. His description of Polish women is more disdainful. They are described as those who swiftly move on to the knees of Russian soldiers, like cats, after dancing with them.

Such descriptions are undoubtedly prejudiced, but they do not undermine the greatness of his work. Brothers Karamazov is known for its deep and powerful story of love, often described as the novel for scripture. Why, then, the irony? Perhaps it is because art can extract what is precious and genuine, even from those that are prejudiced or imperfect. Hence art, not artists, is great. Perhaps that is why Conrad hid and read Dostoevsky’s novels in secret, though denouncing and calling him a haunted and scowled face.