Friday, October 7, 2011

Captain that we are

  my classmates

The profound silence returned, and when I looked over my shoulder Ransome - the intelli-gent, serene Ransome - had vanished from my side. The intense loneliness of the sea acted like poison on my brain .. But in the end I went below, thinking I would be alone with the greatness of my trouble for a little while ..

The unfailing Ransome lighted the binnacle lamps and glided, all shadowy, up to me. "Will you go down and try to eat something, sir?" he suggested. His low voice startled me. I had been standing looking out over the rail, saying nothing, feeling nothing, not even the weariness of my limbs, overcome by the evil spell. 
His equable voice sounded mournful somehow .. He waited a bit, and then added: "It's the first time that it looks as if we were to have some rain." I noticed then the broad shadow of the horizon extinguishing the low stars completely, while those over-head, when I looked up, seemed to shine down on us through a veil of smoke.

Conrad wrote a little novel of testing. I ran into it again because I'm fortunate to have good readers, and to have grown up with such people. We grew up, with someone near us wishing to know someone near him, who knew that story; and now, when I can do what I want, it is what I want.

That is Bassani's story. Conrad, through language, placed the ship's mate on or above the level of his master. What is the effect of this genteel subversion, compounded as it is by candidest intimacy? The same as Melville's - to portray the instability of rôles at sea. Captain-cy is fungible with such tested mates. 

Joseph Conrad
The Shadow-Line
op. cit.

Giorgio Bassani
Behind the Door
op. cit.

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