Joseph Conrad and the Orient (Editor. East European Monographs – Columbia University Press, 2012) is the first major study that deeply explores Conrad’s perception and construction of the Orient in Conrad’s Malay fiction. While it entertains a sustained dialogue with past and recent studies of Conrad’s handling of colonial cross-cultural encounters, imperial ideology and race politics, this collection of original essays extends the debates on these key issues. It provides the most thematically diverse and theoretically sophisticated analyses of Conrad’s deep engagement with the Orient. All the chapters combine close textual readings with elaborate theoretical approaches drawing on Mikhail Bakthin, Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, Georges Bataille and Emmanuel Levinas among others. Their overall aim is to highlight the extent to which Conrad’s aesthetic and ideological relation to the East is enmeshed in British imperial politics and commercial interests in Southeast Asia.

The twelve essays included in this volume are written by eminent and emerging Conrad scholars from various corners of the world: the U.S.A., Canada, Australia, Singapore, South Africa, India, France and Turkey. The questions they address are wide-ranging. They consist of empire, colonial trade, intercultural relationships, multilingualism, gender politics, colonial desires, hybridity and race politics, Conrad’s relation to Asian religions and philosophies, his negotiation of Orientalist and Occidentalist discourses, and the issues of otherness, ethics and alterity. Wide ranging are also the volume’s critical approaches. The essays adopt a variety of critical and methodological perspectives – socio-political, anthropological, philosophical, postcolonial, poststructuralist, historical, and linguistic – in order to illuminate the richness, complexity and multi-dimensional character of Conrad’s work. Overall, these compelling approaches enlighten Conrad’s deep engagement with the East, not only as a crucial source of fictional material, but also as a polyphonic discursive space, a cultural and racial Other, an ideological construct, and a site of Western struggle for global commercial hegemony and native anti-colonial resistance.

Taken collectively, these engaging essays maintain a constant dialogue with each other and synergistically contribute to illuminating Conrad’s perception of the East and things Oriental. Individually, each article is focused on understudied or overlooked concerns which it sharply brings into relief and interprets in the light of Conrad’s complex aesthetic, ideological and geopolitical perception of the East.

Amar Acheraïou & Nursel Içoz (Ed.), Joseph Conrad and the Orient (East European Monographs – Columbia University Press, 2012)