When "Lord Jim" first appeared in 1900, many took Joseph Conrad to task for couching an entire novel in the form of an extended conversation - a ripping good yarn, if you like (one critic in The Academy complained that the narrator 'was telling that after-dinner story to his companions for eleven solid hours'). Conrad defended his method, insisting that people really do talk for that long, and listen as well. In fact his chatty masterwork requires no defense - it offers up not only linguistic pleasures but a timeless exploration of morality. The eponymous Jim is a young, good-looking, genial, and naive water-clerk on the Patna, a cargo ship plying Asian waters. He is, we are told, 'the kind of fellow you would, on the strength of his looks, leave in charge of the deck'. He also harbors romantic fantasies of adventure and heroism - which are promptly scuttled one night when the ship collides with an obstacle and begins to sink. Acting on impulse, Jim jumps overboard and lands in a lifeboat, which happens to be bearing the unscrupulous captain and his cohorts away from the disaster. The Patna, however, manages to stay afloat. The foundering vessel is towed into port - and since the officers have strategically vanished, Jim is left to stand trial for abandoning the ship and its 800 passengers.
Axel Heyst, a dreamer and a restless drifter, believes he can avoid suffering by cutting himself off from others. Then he becomes involved in the operation of a coal company on a remote island in the Malay Archipelago, and when it fails he turns his back on humanity once more. But his life alters when he rescues a young English girl, Lena, from Zangiacomo's Ladies' Orchestra and the evil innkeeper Schomberg, taking her to his island retreat. The affair between Heyst and Lena begins with her release, but the relationship shifts as Lena struggles to save Heyst from detachment and isolation. Featuring arguably the most interesting hero created by Conrad, "Victory" is both a compelling tale of adventure and a perceptive study of the power of love.