We all know that Joseph Conrad was a great novelist–perhaps the best of his time. However, he also was a great political thinker; and I particularly appreciate his insights on the theory of violent revolutions.
For instance, in his novel Under Western Eyes, Conrad uncovers the crude and embarrassing reality of violent revolutions:
“A violent revolution falls into the hands of narrow-minded fanatics and of tyrannical hypocrites at first. Afterwards comes the turn of all the pretentious intellectual failures of the time. Such are the chiefs and the leaders. You will notice that I have left out the mere rogues. The scrupulous and the just, the noble, humane and devoted natures; the unselfish and the intelligent may begin a movement–but it passes away from them. They are not the leaders of a revolution. They are its victims: the victims of disgust, of disenchantment–often of remorse. Hopes grotesquely betrayed, ideals caricatured–that is the definition of revolutionary success.”
In my opinion, Conrad’s words describe the uncanny relationship between revolutionary idealism and revolutionary reality–between men of ideas and men of actions.
Also, they remind me a lot of Roberto Bolaño’s acceptance speech for the Romulo Gallegos Prize. In his speech, Bolaño concludes that all of his works are a sort of “love or farewell letter” to his generation–a generation he believes was betrayed by its chiefs and leaders, much the same way Conrad describes in many of his books.
At the end, we may suggest that both Bolaño’s generation and Conrad’s characters end up sharing a common sentiment–remorse.