Typhoon

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Joseph Conrad is the Polish ex-patriot who wrote several classic books in his third language, English (Heart of Darkness, Youth, Lord Jim, etc.). I was reminded of him again when immersed in reading Pilgrimage, where Miriam extols the virtues of his short works, including Typhoon. I’m a fan of sea-frolicking tales, most notably Moby-Dick, and somewhat enjoyed this short tale of Captain MacWhirr’s measured and somewhat blockheaded tone in the face of a hurricane/typhoon in the China Seas. When the barometer drops to unheard of levels, MacWhirr calmly notes this and sends his first mate, Jukes, into a tizzy. There’s also the question of how to handle the cargo of “coolies,” Chinamen picked up for transport who are all now fighting over dollars in the hold in the midst of the storm. And Jukes is scandalized by flying under a Siamese flag that supplanted the British flag when they were underway. My favorite parts were the mention of Mrs. MacWhirr and how she got upset whenever she thought her husband was coming home, much preferring him to be at sea, earning money. She yawns when she turns the pages of his thick and boring letters revealing his harrowing tale. The ship makes it through, but I fell decidedly into Mrs. MacWhirr’s camp on level of entertainment gleaned.