By Agnes S. K. Yeow (auth.)
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Extra resources for Conrad’s Eastern Vision: A Vain and Floating Appearance
The ‘facts’ of this space did not exactly correspond to those of the invaders. Nevertheless, the British believed they could explore and conquer this space through translation. The first step was evidently to learn local languages. The knowledge of the languages and dialects was necessary to issue command, collect taxes, maintain law and order, and create other forms of knowledge about the people they were ruling, especially to classify, categorise and bound the vast social world that was Malaya so that it could be controlled.
It can be argued that the driving force behind this ebb and flow of political fortunes is trade. From ancient times, among the many myths circulating in the West about the Far East was that of the ‘Golden Khersonese’, or the Malay peninsula. This is attributed to early Greek and Byzantine Ptolemaic geographers who had imagined the region to be a fabulous treasure trove of gold4 deposits, even though in reality, the mineral which would eventually attract global attention and generate much wealth from as far back as the fifth century AD, was tin.
Indeed, in the late nineteenth century, much of the precolonial world order had disappeared or was in the process of rapid decay and transformation. In the course of colonial history and the numerous attempts to narrativize the Malay world, Conrad’s ‘own particular East’ (NB 91), the compelling version belonging to the ‘region of art’ (CL 7: 457), has proved itself a strident and deliberately ambiguous voice in a polyphony of voices. This book is dedicated to unravelling the strong dialogic relation between history and fiction in Conrad’s Eastern tales.