The Unfathomability of Conrad’s Shallow Waters in “Freya of the Seven Isles”

Grażyna Maria Teresa Branny


The article is a comparative and intertextual study of two texts which are both grounded in the mythological motif of the Nordic goddess Freya, i.e. Joseph Conrad’s 1912 short story entitled Freya of the Seven Isles and Leszek Prorok’s 1977 play entitled Freja – zimna bogini miłości. As both authors exploit Freya’s ambiguity as a goddess of love, fertility, death, war and revenge (also of conjugal love and promiscuity), they shed light on each other’s nuances of meaning. It is Prorok’s deliberate use of Conradian motifs (e.g. Freya, elopement, Wagnerian music, the colonial Seven Isles) in his play about the Nazi Lebensborn programme that exposes the full implications of this hitherto underrated story. This leads us to draw novel conclusions about the nature of the “illness” of Prorok’s Freya (and the reasons for her unexpected death) as well as the role of colonial ideology in Conrad’s story. Moreover, by means of a critical reading of Sylvère Monod’s derisive article on “Freya of the Seven Isles” – together with an evocation of Faulkner’s denegative style in his Absalom, Absalom! – the article disproves the allegations levelled by the French critic against Conrad’s text (a lack of foreshadowing, an inconsistency of mood, bdelygmia, etc.), revealing instead its complex epistemological implications relating to the modernist intricacy of denegative stylistics, of which Conrad – and not Faulkner – appears to have been the real precursor.

Słowa kluczowe: Joseph Conrad, Leszek Prorok, William Faulkner, mythological Freya, ambivalence, intertextuality

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