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Nostromo, a Tale of the Seaboard

Joseph Conrad

Book Overview: 

Señor Gould is a native Costaguanan of English descent who owns the silver-mining concession in Sulaco. He is tired of the political instability in Costaguana and its concomitant corruption, and puts his weight behind the Ribierist project, which he believes will finally bring stability to the country after years of misrule and tyranny by self-serving dictators. Instead, the silver mine and the wealth it has generated become a magnet for local warlords to fight over, plunging Costaguana into a new round of chaos. Among others, the revolutionary Montero invades Sulaco; Señor Gould, adamant that his silver should not become spoil for his enemies, entrusts it to Nostromo, the trusted "capataz de los cargadores" (head longshoreman).

Nostromo is an Italian expatriate who has risen to that position through his daring exploits. ("Nostromo" is Italian for "mate" or "boatswain".) He is so named by his employer, Captain Mitchell. "Nostromo's" real name is Giovanni Battista Fidanza — Fidanza meaning "trust" in archaic Italian.

Nostromo is a shameless self-publicist. He is believed by Señor Gould to be incorruptible, and for this reason is entrusted with hiding the silver from the revolutionaries. He accepts the mission not out of loyalty to Señor Gould, but rather because he sees an opportunity to increase his own fame.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .out of his house with his three pretty daughters, to make room for the foreign senora and their worships the Caballeros. All he asked Charles Gould (whom he took for a mysterious and official person) to do for him was to remind the supreme Government—El Gobierno supreme—of a pension (amounting to about a dollar a month) to which he believed himself entitled. It had been promised to him, he affirmed, straightening his bent back martially, "many years ago, for my valour in the wars with the wild Indios when a young man, senor."

The waterfall existed no longer. The tree-ferns that had luxuriated in its spray had died around the dried-up pool, and the high ravine was only a big trench half filled up with the refuse of excavations and tailings. The torrent, dammed up above, sent its water rushing along the open flumes of scooped tree trunks striding on trestle-legs to the turbines working the stamps on the lower plateau—the mesa grande of the San . . . Read More