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.