BEFORE BECOMING A LEADING modernist writer, Joseph Conrad, was
first a sailor whose travels to exotic lands around the world were
later mirrored in his explorations into human nature in his novels.
Nostromo, published just over a century ago, takes place in the
small fictional South American port and mining town of Sulaco,
Costaguana. Sen~or Gould, who owns a silver mine in Sulaco, has had
enough of the corruption in his native country. However, his
efforts to bring stability to the country result in his mine
becoming a pawn in the hands of the warlords and revolutionaries.
Gould entrusts his silver to Nostromo, a longshoreman whom he
believes to be upstanding and moral. In Conrad's novels, though, no
one is incorruptible, and rot and decay are rampant inside and out.
Dramatic in its storytelling and spectacular in its description of
the subtropical landscape, Nostromo exposes the reality of a
lawless society and the resulting moral corruption on every page
through Conrad's impeccable style.
In the time of Spanish rule, and for many years afterwards, the
town of Sulaco--the luxuriant beauty of the orange gardens bears
witness to its antiquity--had never been commercially anything more
important than a coasting port with a fairly large local trade in
ox-hides and indigo. The clumsy deep-sea galleons of the conquerors
that, needing a brisk gale to move at all, would lie becalmed,
where your modern ship built on clipper lines forges ahead by the
mere flapping of her sails, had been barred out of Sulaco by the
prevailing calms of its vast gulf. Some harbours of the earth are
made difficult of access by the treachery of sunken rocks and the
tempests of their shores. Sulaco had found an inviolable sanctuary
from the temptations of a trading world in the solemn hush of the
deep Golfo Placido as if within an enormous semi-circular and
unroofed temple open to the ocean, with its walls of lofty
mountains hung with the mourning draperies of cloud.