Russia and Russians in Joseph Conrad’s Literary World

Svetlana Koroleva

Abstract


The image of Russia in Joseph Conrad’s literary works has been discussed in both Russian and Western literary studies. The correlation between the image of Russia and the writer’s aesthetic position, the relations between the Russian and Western worlds, the Russian national character and the place of Russia in human civilisation are reflected in Conrad’s famous novels The Secret Agent and Under Western Eyes: however, The Warrior’s Soul and The Heart of Darkness have not been studied so closely from this point of view. Using the methods of imagology and receptive aesthetics, the author argues that the image of Russia in Conrad’s literary world is a complicated phenomenon, with features of social and political aggression and tendencies to self-destruction caused by an oppressive political system. The retaliatory open social aggression, its organised forms, its impulsiveness, and cruelty make such traits of the Russian national character as passion, cynicism, love for abstract ideas, and lack of principles come to the fore. Other features typical of Conrad’s Russian characters are intrinsically connected with the boundless territories of Russia. They are indefinite in everything: empathy, sensibility, and irresponsibility. The quality of “openness” in the Russian space and character gives Conrad’s Russia an open, unknown, non-oppressive future. Conrad depicts Russia as part of contemporary European, or universal, civilisation, which is, at its core, aggressive and dark. Life penetrates Conrad’s Russia, as well as his European world, through individuals who, under any circumstances, choose humanity, compassion, and self-sacrifice.


Keywords


Joseph Conrad; image of Russia; Russian national character; literary world; British myth of Russia

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15826/qr.2017.4.261

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