Victory (novel)

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Victory: An Island Tale
First UK edition
Author Joseph Conrad
Language English
Subject adventure in the South Seas
Genre psychological novel
Publisher Methuen (UK)
Doubleday Page & Co (US)
Publication date
Media type Print (hardcover)

Victory (also published as Victory: An Island Tale) is a psychological novel by Joseph Conrad first published in 1915,[1] through which Conrad achieved "popular success."[2] The New York Times, however, called it "an uneven book" and "more open to criticism than most of Mr. Conrad's best work."[3]

The novel's "most striking formal characteristic is its shifting narrative and temporal perspective"[4] with the first section from the viewpoint of a sailor, the second from omniscient perspective of Axel Heyst, the third from an interior perspective from Heyst, and the final section.[5]

It has been adapted into film a number of times.


Through a business misadventure, the European Axel Heyst ends up living on an island in what is now Indonesia, with his Chinese assistant, Wang. Heyst visits a nearby island when a female band is playing at a hotel owned by Mr. Schomberg. Schomberg attempts to force himself sexually on one of the band members, Alma, later called Lena. She flees with Heyst back to his island and they become lovers. Schomberg seeks revenge by attempting to frame Heyst for the "murder" of a man who had died of natural causes and later by sending three desperadoes (Pedro, Martin Ricardo and Mr. Jones) to Heyst's island with a lie about treasure hidden on the island. The three die (Wang kills one) but Lena dies as well and Heyst is overcome with grief and commits suicide.

Reception, critique and impact[edit]

In Notes on My Books: Easyread Edition, Conrad wrote of his "mixed feelings" about the initial reception of the book which had been published while Europe had been engaged in fighting the great war.[6] The initial reception of the work had considered it "a melodramatic, rather Victorian novel, representing Conrad's artistic decline." [7] However, later critiques have described it as "a highly complex allegorical work whose psychological landscape and narrative structure lay the groundwork for the modern novel."[8]

The character of Heyst has been compared to Shakespeare's Hamlet[9] with the story itself drawing heavily on The Tempest[7][10] and the ending of the work like "an Elizabethan stageplay where the stage is clogged with corpses"[9] Allen Simmons states that the character of Lena was shaped by Therese from the 1894 French novel Le Lys rouge[10] ('The Red Lily'), by Anatole France.

Adam Gillon and Raymond Brebach have proposed that Vladimir Nabokov's rejection of Conrad's "souvenir-shop style, and bottled ships and shell necklaces of romanticist cliches" resulted in Conrad's Victory being "one of the principal sources of inspiration" for Lolita through what they call "typical Nabakovian reversal."[11]


The novel has been adapted to film multiple times including a 1919 silent version directed by Maurice Tourneur featuring Jack Holt, Seena Owen, Lon Chaney, Sr., and Wallace Beery; the 1930 William Wellman directed Dangerous Paradise, starring Nancy Carroll, Richard Arlen and Warner Oland; the 1940 version, directed by John Cromwell, featuring Fredric March, Betty Field, and Sir Cedric Hardwicke; and a 1995 version directed by Mark Peploe, with Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Irène Jacob, and Rufus Sewell. British dramatist Harold Pinter prepared a screenplay for a film, never made, from which the BBC broadcast a radio adaptation in 2015.[12] The 1987 German film, Des Teufels Paradies, starring Jürgen Prochnow, Suzanna Hamilton and Sam Waterston, is also based on Conrad's novel.


  1. ^ Curle, Richard (October 1915). "Mr. Joseph Conrad and "Victory."". Fortnightly Review: 670–678. 
  2. ^ YARDLEY, JONATHAN (9 May 2005), "Joseph Conrad's Dark 'Victory'", The Washington Post, retrieved 10 April 2007 
  3. ^ New York Times 28 March 1915
  4. ^ A Joseph Conrad companion By Leonard Orr, Theodore Billy p. 233
  5. ^ A Joseph Conrad companion By Leonard Orr, Theodore Billy p. 233-4
  6. ^ Notes on My Books: Easyread Edition By Joseph Conrad p. 107
  7. ^ a b Joseph Conrad—comparative essays By Adam Gillon, Raymond Brebach
  8. ^ A Joseph Conrad companion By Leonard Orr, Theodore Billy p 231
  9. ^ a b New York Times Review
  10. ^ a b Joseph Conrad in Context By Allan Simmons
  11. ^ Joseph Conrad—comparative essays By Adam Gillon, Raymond Brebach pp 21 -30
  12. ^

External links[edit]