Tales of an Eastern Port: The Singapore Novellas of Joseph Conrad

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Joseph Conrad, edited and with an introduction by Kevin Riordan

In the 1880s, Joseph Conrad had three stints in Singapore while working on ships around the region. Over the next thirty years, he would return to the colonial port city in his memory and his writing. Paired here for the first time are two Conrad novellas that start in Singapore: The End of the Tether and The Shadow-Line. First published in 1902 and 1917, these stories provide a fleeting portrait of the developing city itself, before Conrad’s characters set sail into “the shallow sea that foams and murmurs on the shore of a thousand islands”. Conrad’s Singapore is the site of arrivals and departures, his fiction tracing the tidelines of the surrounding archipelagos. 

But how do we read Conrad, and his complicated legacy, in the twenty-first century? In the introduction, Kevin Riordan makes the case that Conrad’s Southeast Asian stories reward both our historical and literary interests. The End of the Tether and The Shadow-Line have renewed relevance as part of global modernist and oceanic literature, and they recall one chapter in Singapore’s long history as a vital site of cultural exchange, as a place that harbours and inspires distinctive storytelling traditions.

Joseph Conrad (1857–1924) is one of the world’s great modern novelists. His most famous works include Heart of Darkness, Lord Jim, and Nostromo. Born in Berdychiv in present-day Ukraine to Polish parents and buried in England, Conrad is celebrated both for his prose style and for his astute documentation of global modernity.  

Kevin Riordan is an assistant professor in the School of Humanities at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. 

Publication Year: 2023
248pp / 229 x 152mm
3 b/w images
ISBN: 978-981-325-218-9