Short Tales of Joseph Conrad

V.S. Naipaul: Travelogues, Truth, and the New Novel

In his essay "Conrad's Darkness and Mine," V.S. Naipaul uses Joseph Conrad's short stories and novels as a basis for articulating his own views on narrative construction and the decline of the novel form. Naipaul states that Conrad was "the first modern writer I was introduced to" and the influence of Conrad is clear in many of Naipaul's works (Occasions 162). In "Conrad's Darkness and Mine," Naipaul alternately criticizes and praises Conrad's stylistic choices, and utilizes the latter selections to inform the construction of his ideal narrative. Naipaul's later works, in particular his travelogues, adhere to this ideal model and reflect what Naipaul points to as the best aspects of Conrad's narratives. Naipaul's earlier travelogues however, reflect much of what Naipaul derides in Conrad's short stories and novels. "Conrad's Darkness and Mine" serves not only as Naipaul's guide to readers as to how to evaluate his own works, but also an explanation, and perhaps apology, for the weaknesses of his early works. The essay also leads the reader to an alternative to the novel form whose decline Naipaul so carefully articulates: the travelogue.

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