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Book Review: THE BRUTE by Joseph Conrad

Mr. Conrad’s name is inextricably linked to his most famous work, HEART OF DARKNESS. But he wrote a lot of other material, too. Recently I discovered one of his short stories, entitled THE BRUTE, and I loved it. This is one that you could argue doesn’t really belong on a site like this, as one could argue that there is nothing supernatural about the events of the story. You *could* argue that all that happens is coincidence. But then some can and do argue the same thing about Washington Irving’s THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW, but the Headless Horseman isn’t having any of that. Even if Irving intended for his readers to *not* believe in the Horseman, they—we—believed anyway. The same was true for me when reading THE BRUTE.

The titular “brute” of this story is a ship. But it’s a cursed ship, one that kills at least one crewman on each voyage. Some sailors believe in the curse and others don’t, but Conrad achieves a sense of omnipresent dread throughout the tale all the same. You get the impression that the ship is *alive* somehow, that it is aware, and sentient. Perhaps the creepiest thing about the ship, the real name of which is the dull-sounding APSE FAMILY, is that no explanation is given for *why* the ship is malevolent. It suffered and survived no tragedy. No curse was placed upon it by some necromancer. It reminds me of Christine the car in Stephen King’s novel in that respect. It simply *is* evil.

Or maybe it’s all a coincidence. Right? Just a coincidence? A *lot* of coincidences?

Look this one up. It’s worth a read.

TheCheezman • May 14, 2019


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