Last year marked the hundredth anniversary of the publication of Joseph Conrad’s Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard. Although not among his best-known works, it is in many ways his most remarkable. Indeed, it could be said to be the most significant, the most fully fleshed-out of his three “political” novels, which also include The Secret Agent and Under Western Eyes. Nostromo is “about” imperialism and its impact upon a small, fictitious, but vividly rendered South American republic called Costaguana. In spite of the left-wing vaporings of the late Martin Seymour-Smith, which disfigure the introduction to my Penguin edition, it is by no means an anti-imperialist tract. If it has a point of view at all on the interaction between foreign capital and backward Third World countries, it is that in the end the latter are undeserving of the former and that the forces of modernization outside of the orbit of...


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