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Typhoon, a novella by Joseph Conrad (book review and recommendation)

Published in 1902, Typhoon is a novella that, for all that we know, might have been based on a real life experience. Joseph Conrad used his own personal seaman experiences in many of his works, so why should this novella be an exception? At an rate, Typhoon can be classified as one of Conrad's a seaman's books. The novella itself focused on Captain MacWhirr's (notice the name) decision to sail through a typhoon as well the consequences of that decision. As in most (if not all) Conrad's stories, the dire circumstances serve as a tool to examine the psychological states of the characters. Conrad always digs deep and this novella is no exception. Captain MacWhirr makes for an interesting protagonist and the other characters are just as fascinating.  

I would describe Typhoon as another extraordinary novella from the pen of a man who wrote about the sea like no other. Beautiful writing combined with an intense and exciting story is more than enough to satisfy me as a reader, but Conrad doesn't stop at that. As I indicated in the opening paragraph, Typhoon is more than a novella about how men react under stress. It is more that a story about human bravery. Conrad knows how to complex even in shorter literary forms. Conrad's craftsmanship when it comes to creating memorable literary character is always exceptional.

In fact, what always amazes me about this writer, what continues to impress me,  is the incredibly detailed psychological portrayal of all Conrad's literary characters. Conrad is one of those writers who can paint a soul of man with a few clever hints. Conrad is a master when it comes to revealing the soul of his characters. This is probably the main reason why I can't get enough of his writing. Moreover, Conrad's writing, his novels, novellas and short stories  never feel repetitive, even when he explores similar themes.  Likewise, the characters Conrad's creates always feel unique and one of a kind. 

Perhaps another thing worth mentioning when it comes to Typhoon is there is a good amount of humour in this one. Perhaps you wouldn't expect it in a story about a bunch of man caught in dire circumstances, but humour is very present here. Naturally, it's a darker kind of humour. Conrad can be quite funny actually. Sometimes it is easy to miss, because he can be subtle about it, but Conrad does knows how to deliver a clever remark or an ironical observation. If you want to see how this writer does subtle irony and humour, this book is as good choice as any.

I won't talk much of the plot to avoid spoilers but I will say that the ending was brilliant. The whole novel was well paced, yet the ending seemed especially so. Moreover, the ending  made me reflect about the 'invisible wall' that divided the wives and the husbands of the old. Here we have loyal husbands who write long letters to wives they love. The wives in question seem to be perfectly alright with the fact they hardly ever see their husbands. One gets a feeling the wives don't even need their husbands for any purpose but that of a financial support. Perhaps we are creatures of habits? Maybe women were forced to adapt to this kind of lives, getting used to living without their 'seaman' husbands. Nevertheless, the wives (even the children) don't seem to be eager to see the mariners at all. The mariner husbands clearly idolize their wives and children who in turn care little for them. It was an interesting contrast between the sentiments of the two. It made me feel for the seaman, I tell you. 

It makes you wonder, doesn't it? We're taught that before feminism women used to be perceived as lesser beings but maybe it is also true that in those times women were also often idolized, seen as perfectly innocent creatures- and put first. It is clear in the way the seaman characters in this novella think of their wives and family. They never question their loyalty, even when their families show them little love. It was completely normal to expect from a man to risk his life and work hard for his family even when he would get nothing in return. You never see these men asking the question- What about me? It is understood that they must do whatever they can do support their families.Naturally, Typhoon is not a story about domestic relations, but it does  talks about them, perhaps even questions them, hence I felt like it is something worth mentioning.

I'm of the opinion that Typhoon is a classic that has stood the test of time quite well. To conclude, I would recommend this wonderful novella to everyone, especially to  lovers of sea stories, fans of Joseph Conrad or those who would like to read more of him. If you want to read an exciting story not only about how seamen reaction under pressure, but about their lives at home as well, all completed with clever social remarks and observations, this novella is a great choice. 


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