Conrad's Place in Literary History
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In his major phase, he was 'ahead of his times' in ideas and techniques; and this was because he was more intelligently and perceptively of his times than most writers then were. In his vigilant response to nineteenth-century preoccupations, he anticipated - often critically - many twentieth-century preoccupations. He was a versatile intermediary between the Romantic and Victorian traditions and the innovations of Modernism. He is Romantic in his interest in questing individualism and in his keen responsiveness to the beauty, power and immensity of the natural environment. He is Victorian in his registration of the burdens of thought in an age when science offered bleak vistas; Victorian, too, in his responsiveness to the magnitude of the imperial saga, and in his related understanding of the importance of an ethic of work and duty among its varied participants. Yet his sense of individualism can modulate into the Modernist's intuition of solipsism; and Modernistic, also, are his sense of the absurdity of moral beings in a non-
Conrad's place in literary history moral universe, his profound scepticism about the value of modern industrial society and its acquisitive imperialisms, and his view of humans as myopic participants in destructive processes. Albert Guerard once remarked that Nostrorno's view of history 'is skeptical and disillusioned, which for us today must mean true'. Furthermore, the Modernist's sense of the duplicity, deceptiveness and inadequacy of language is voiced repeatedly by Conrad: 'Words, as is well known, are the great foes of reality'; 'the old, old words, worn thin, defaced'.