Wednesday, April 20, 2016

To-morrow - Joseph Conrad

Captain Hagberd lives in a small plot of land where he has built a house. He has built another house next door where a blind man Carvil lives with his daughter Bessie as his tenants. Hagberd is a cranky old man, a sea farer who lived in London and who came to the town Colebrook to look for his lost son. His search for his son is a joke in town. His blind tenant and his unmarried daughter are the other stuff for gossip. Hagberd talks to Bessie about his son who he feels will return any day now - tomorrow most likely.
Penguin Classics, 51 p, Rs. 49

One day a young lad comes to his house. His cocky and inquiring manner upsets old Hagberd whose sanity is just on the verge of giving way and he goes inside. The young man tells Bessie that he is the son of Hagberd, the one who suffered Hagberd's lashings when he was young, and he had come to see his father. He tells her that nothing in the world can tie him down, not a house, not a woman. He asks her for something to eat, some money, kisses her passionately, tells her he won't forget her and leaves.

In that little story Conrad explores the hope that the old man is holding on to (that disease called hope, he says), the young man and his free life, Bessie's loss of opportunity after that momentary heaven that young Hagberd shows her when he kisses her, blind Corvil's sadistic control of his daughter and her own sadistic ways of getting back at him - the story keeps bursting at its seams with suggestions and possibilities. Fantastic writing.

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