Listening to Lord Jim on audio CD on my way home from Baltimore last night, I noticed a passage about swimming that’s worth making a note of for the thalassologically inclined. The speaker is Marlow’s friend Stein, a German butterfly-collector & Indonesian traveler whose past includes marriage into a family of local nobility on Celebes (Sulawesi), the deaths of his best friend, wife, and daughter, and then a second life as an wandering ent0mologist. It’s Stein who places Jim in Patusan.
The excerpt comes from the end of Chapter 20.
Yes! Very funny this terrible thing is. A man that is born falls into a dream like a man who falls into the sea. If he tries to climb out into the air as inexperienced people endeavour to do, he drowns — nicht wah? …No! I tell you! The way is to the destructive element submit yourself, and with the exertions of your hands and feet in the water make the deep, deep sea keep you up. So if you ask me — how to be?
Again, a little bit later
And yet it is true — it is true. In the destructive element immerse.
The chapter ends with a turn away from this (German, idealist, philosophical) fantasy
Sleep well. And to-morrow we must do something practical — practical…
Stein, however, doesn’t head toward bed at this point, but instead returns “back to his butterflies,” his own obsession.
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