Although not as well known as his earlier novels “Lord Jim” and “Nostromo,” “The Arrow of Gold” was critically acclaimed when it first appeared in 1919 and is still considered to be among the best of Conrad’s later works.
Reflecting Conrad’s genius for narrative that focuses on the quest for inner truths, “The Arrow of Gold” is an exploration of the dangerous appetites of men and of human vulnerability, as well as a profound meditation on the emotional boundaries between people. Boasting a cast of extraordinary and eccentric personalities, including the heroine Doña Rita, this is a story of adventure on the high seas, of the revelation of love, of the crushing weight of loss, and of freedom found in the recklessness of sincerity.
During the Carlist war of the early 1870s, a young sailor, the unnamed protagonist, joins the champions of Don Carlos de Bourbon, pretender to the throne of Spain. The Carlists use the eager youth’s intense attraction to the sea to persuade him to run perilous enterprises for their cause, ventures he later learns have been financed by the beautiful mistress and heiress of a rich man’s fortune. He falls in love with her despite the fact that she is unable to return his love fully. In the end he is left alone with his first love, the sea, his brief time with the mysterious Doña Rita marking a tumultuous awakening to a life of passion, the desolation that hides in its shadow, and the possibility of rebirth in its wake.
Joseph Conrad was born Theodor Jozef Konrad Korzeniowski in 1857 in the Ukraine. After 20 years at sea he retired to England, where he devoted himself to writing and published his first novel at the age of 38. In addition to “Lord Jim” (1900) and “Nostromo” (1904), his works include the novel “The Secret Agent” (1907) and the novella “Heart of Darkness” (1902). He died in 1924.
Originally published on April 1, 2004