By Agnes S. K. Yeow (auth.)
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Additional info for Conrad’s Eastern Vision: A Vain and Floating Appearance
I propose that echoes of the hikayat reverberate subtly in Marlow’s ‘history’/chronicle of Jim and constitute yet another voice in the heteroglossia of Conrad’s fictional world. Most significantly, the hikayat is a narrative that is the culmination of centuries of cross-cultural encounters and interaction between the Malay Archipelago and the rest of the early modern globalized world. Farish Noor describes a wellknown example, the Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa or ‘Kedah Annals’ thus: ‘Like many other Hikayats, the Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa is a highly eclectic piece of writing.
The ‘band of phantoms who retreat, fade, and dissolve – are made pallid and indistinct by the sunlight of [a] brilliant and sombre day’ (CL 1: 153). It can be argued that Conrad’s creation of a fictional new world serves, along with other versions, to fill in the void left by the destruction of the old. For Conrad, the writer’s vocation is precisely ‘[t]o snatch in a moment of courage, from the remorseless rush of time, a passing phase of life’ (NB 20). Indeed, in the late nineteenth century, much of the precolonial world order had disappeared or was in the process of rapid decay and transformation.
Lennox Mills writes that the ease with which the Malay States came under British control after 1874 is due to the image that the colonizers had created for themselves in the eyes of the natives: ‘Half the battle had already been won; the British had established what may be described as a moral predominance over the Malays’ (Mills, 2003: 218). Conrad’s fictional surplus allows us to see what history tends to overlook: the irony of European progress, prestige, and ‘moral predominance’ in the midst of ‘primitive’ peoples.
Conrad’s Eastern Vision: A Vain and Floating Appearance by Agnes S. K. Yeow (auth.)