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By Robert Hampson (auth.)

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As Najder makes clear, Conrad faced the prospect of being declared bankrupt (Najder, 357). In this crisis, as a result of Rothenstein’s efforts, Conrad received a further sum of £200 from the Royal Literary Fund. By the end of 1907, Conrad’s fiftieth year, he was in poor health, and, although he had produced such major works as ‘Heart of Darkness’, Lord Jim and Nostromo, his books still failed to make significant sales (Najder, 383–4). At the same time, through his financial arrangement with Pinker, he was going deeper and deeper into debt.

22 Conrad recalls various aspects of his visit to Dongola: he remembers the Rajah coming on board to drink ‘bottle after bottle of soda-water’ and the ‘deck passengers’ with their ‘bundles and boxes’ discussing ‘Island affairs’ (PR, 75). But he makes no mention of slaves. He describes the deck passengers as ‘mostly wandering traders of good repute’ (PR, 75). Gene Moore picks up on the word ‘traders’ to question what wares they were trading, but the more important word is the qualifier ‘mostly’.

2 The link between ‘native risings’ and his memory of Karain is very precise and helps to explain what otherwise might seem a rather romantic self-description: as his story reveals, the narrator was involved in ‘the traffic in firearms and ammunition’ (TU, 7) to Karain, the son of ‘a woman who had many years ago ruled a small Bugis state’ (TU, 13) at the head of the Gulf of Boni. When he knew him, Karain was living in exile on a tiny portion of land, a bay that he and his men had conquered in ‘a conveniently isolated corner of Mindanao’ (TU, 7) – ‘conveniently isolated’ because it escapes the attention of the Spanish colonial authorities.

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