JOSEPH CONRAD (British, ex. Polish) (1857 – 1924)
One of the century’s greatest novelists Teodor Jozef Konrad Korzeniowski was the son of a Polish landowner exiled for conspiricy against Poland’s Russian rulers.
Joseph joined the English merchant navy and only started learning English when he was 21. His first novel was published 17 years later. Many of his books deal with life at sea, but he is more than a writer of adventure stories. Hardship and the isolation of command bring to the surface the stressess and the strains we all feel. Conrad’s heroes face normal human problems but in accute forms and in great loneliness. His knowledge of many countries and his Polish experience give great force to his tales of politics and colonialism. ‘Nostromo’ is about revolution and civil war in South America and the effect of invested capital in an underdeveloped country ‘The Secret Agent’ concerns anarchist plotters in London. ‘Heart of Darkness’ (from Youth and other stories) discribes exploitation and megalomania in the Congo. Technically these are complex books with great prose and sudden shifts of viewpoints. His best works probe our feelings about order and disorder, tyranny and rebellion. They are disturbingly prophetic of what has come in our day.
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CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS (Italian) (1451 – 1506)
Born as Cristoforo Colombo in Genoa, Italy, little is known of his early life, but he undoubtedly went to sea at a young age. Believing he would reach the East by sailing West, Columbus searched for a patron to finance his voyages.
At first he offered to make a voyage of discovery for John II of Portugal, but the King turned it down. Columbus next turned to Castile, where after eight years of discouraging delays and negotiations Queen Isabella agreed to support ‘the enterprise of the Indies’. The contract made by the Queen with Columbus named him Admiral Viceroy and Governor of the lands he should discover and a handsome percentage of the venture’s profit.
The King and Queen of Spain met his requests in 1492. His three ships, the ‘Santa Maria’, the ‘Niña’ and the ‘Pinta’ manned by experienced crew under competent officers sailed from Palas on August 3. They sighted land (San Salvador) on October 12. He explored the Caribbean Islands before returning to Spain.
During the second voyage which was filled with misadventures, Columbus founded the first European city in the New world.
On the 3rd voyage (1498-1500) he discovered the mainland of South America. The Spaniards settlers, who were brought to Espanola by Columbus at the end of 1493, disappointed in their hopes of quick wealth, blamed Columbus for their misfortune and rose in revolt. To appease them the sovereign had Columbus arrested and brought back to Spain in chains. Although Isabel ordered his release he never again held the post he had in the New World. He was replaced as governor because of his poor administration.
His final voyage (1502-1504) was in deliberate opposition to Royal orders. His voyages opened the way for European colonization. Subsequent exploitation and colonization irreversibly changed the course of world history.
Columbus ended his days unhappy in Spain as Cristóbal Colón.
In retro: Now that Christopher Columbus has done the unpardonable, -it was, as we may speak from hindsight, we are left with many dilemmas of which I shall only touch upon the question of migrant workers. Look around the globe, whether in Malaysia, Great Britain or in the USA the migrant workers are the target. The locals find them as threat and vilify them in the Press and even use violence against them. The empires bilked the colonies with impunity when they could and bled the subjects of their dignity,cultural artifacts and job opportunities. They were brought over in droves to the West to do the dirty jobs that their own peoples would not do. Now that recession is all over, and consequently job opportunities shrink rapidly the West in particular have become hardened, so much so they refuse to do the right thing. Had not Columbus led an unending flow of people from Europe or Asia in his wake life could have been different for great many. What is the use of selling your soul to aliens for a handful of dollars a green monster that cannot decide its own worth? ( As I write the authorities are trying to fix the troubled banks and yet dollar seems to be untroubled. With such a pressure on the banks and economic downturn this isn’t what you expect. Recently it has even appreciated against euro, yen etc.,)
Tailpiece: You discovered the New World. It was totally unnecessary but the harm has been done. We forgive you. Yet we do have a question. Cristofo Colombo, you ought to have stayed at home. Why couldn’t you, like every one else stay home and take up some honest job?
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