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An Outcast of the Islands

Joseph Conrad

Book Overview: 

An Outcast of the Islands is the second novel by Joseph Conrad, inspired by Conrad's experience as mate of a steamer, the Vigar. The novel details the undoing of Peter Willems, a disreputable, immoral man who, on the run from a scandal in Makassar, finds refuge in a hidden native village, only to betray his benefactors over lust for the tribal chief's daughter. The story features Conrad's recurring character Tom Lingard, who also appears in Almayer's Folly and The Rescue, in addition to sharing other characters with those novels. (Summary by Wikipedia)

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .leap into the hurrying river, over the edge of the steep bank. There was also a pathway there and it seemed frequented. Willems landed, and following the capricious promise of the track soon found himself in a comparatively clear space, where the confused tracery of sunlight fell through the branches and the foliage overhead, and lay on the stream that shone in an easy curve like a bright sword-blade dropped amongst the long and feathery grass.

Further on, the path continued, narrowed again in the thick undergrowth. At the end of the first turning Willems saw a flash of white and colour, a gleam of gold like a sun-ray lost in shadow, and a vision of blackness darker than the deepest shade of the forest. He stopped, surprised, and fancied he had heard light footsteps—growing lighter—ceasing. He looked around. The grass on the bank of the stream trembled and a tremulous path of its shivering, silver-grey tops ran from the water to the beginning of the. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Born in Rotterdam to an impoverished family, Peter Willems escapes that life and travels to Malaysia where he jumps ship and begs asylum. In later years, when he had worked himself up to a position of trust and importance, one stupid act brings his life and world tumbling down around him. Willems...more

What makes a man evil, or good ? Family, maybe friends, the environment or your own nature ? This is what Joseph Conrad's novel, An Outcast of the Islands, tries to find out, Peter Willems , a Dutch born, poor boy, leaves his miserable, bleak home, to seek a better , more prosperous future, the S...more

I first read this book many years ago and remember liking it somewhat. This time, I read it on a long flight from Reykjavik, Iceland, to Los Angeles and loved it. Joseph Conrad is one of your better Eye-of-God writers, and in An Outcast of the Islands, he rises to his subject of colonialism in 19...more

It's a perennial mystery how one can enjoy a book when there are no likeable characters and the trajectory is relentlessly downward to tragedy. It can only be that Conrad is such a superb writer, with his ability to analyse and describe emotion and to reflect it in the setting. The raw misery of...more

If anybody is a role model for me in writing and I can read everything he wrote and everything written about him, it would be Joseph Conrad. He compels my utmost respect and huge admiration. We are talking about a Polish who was taught French first and he mastered, but then later English to learn...more

The plot is thick from the start. There is a lot going on. This early novel is not as simply told as his later ones. There are the natives in their homeland, there are the White traders and fortune seekers, and there are Arab Moslems. Willems, the central figure, is playing a selfish role and tak...more

Suprised to discover that this is a kind of prequel to Almayer's Folly. Almayer and several other characters from that novel play important parts. For me, the most interesting character is Lingard. Sometimes kind, often cruel: Perhaps he enjoys his power over men? Like Dickens, Conrad doesn't see...more

It is curious to think that Joseph Conrad and Rudyard Kipling were both writing at around the same time, as they outline a view of colonialism that is entirely different from one another. The only thing that they have in common is their condescending and racist attitude towards the nations that a...more

Abandoned after reading half of the book. The first few chapters were good, as was the writing. Then it seemed the author wanted to tell the story mainly through one character telling another character what had happened "off stage", which made for alot of info dumps and confused this reader. I th...more

Joseph Conrad’s second novel and my favourite amongst his early work – but that is partly a sentimental attachment: it was the first Conrad work I read. I have now read it for a third time, but as the three readings were over a period of almost 40 years I don’t think I can be accused of overdoing...more

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