Today’s Tome: The Dawn Watch

July 26, 2024

Any book by or about Joseph Conrad enjoys a privileged position in my library. This one was bought on November 21, 2017, from a third party bookseller on Amazon for €19.21. A veritable steal for the thrilling read it offers.

The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a Global World by Harvard historian Maya Jasanoff is counted amongst my favorites. The book, Nº 2704 in my library, sits between a Penguin edition of Design as Art (Bruno Munari) and Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad (MT Anderson), another prized possession.

Maya Jasanoff combines history, travel, and biography to immerse the reader in Conrad’s world. She traces his travels to the source of his four best-known works: The Secret AgentLord Jim, Heart of Darkness, and Nostromo.

Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski was born in 1857 to Polish exiles in imperial Russia. He spent the first four decades of his life as an immigrant in London and a sailor aboard French and British ships. He started writing just before the turn of the nineteenth century with vivid descriptions of the increasingly interconnected imperial world.

Whereas Conrad used his own experiences to write fiction, Janasoff does the exact opposite and employs Conrad’s writings – plus historical records – to reconstruct his life. Although he became known as a British sea novelist, none of Conrad’s writings are set in the then-sprawling British empire. Likewise, his cast of characters are seldom contains British subjects. A citizen of a newly globalised world, Conrad adds his voice to the rising anti-imperialist sentiment of the time, though never publicly. He was remarkably dismissive of ideology, considering it a mere excuse for the seizure of power.

Book Details
  • The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a Global World by Maya Jasanoff
  • Penguin 2017
  • ISBN 978-1-5942-0581-1
  • 375 pp