I want to use this author-meets-critic forum to think about what happens to postcolonial ethical commitments when they are worked through the genre of the adventure tale—those stories of brave white men on far-flung travels in search of mysteries. Warwick Anderson's The Collectors of Lost Souls risks this move, offering us a page-turning, globe-trotting romp sprinkled with explicit references to Joseph Conrad. Conrad's novels have long generated debate among postcolonial critics: does his work merely maintain racist colonial ideology? Or is it more liminal, tentatively bearing witness to the violence of colonialism and yet nonetheless symptomatic of the frame of empire? Literary critics have struggled to name Conrad's style, his romanticism tinged with irony and self-deprecation. Anderson's book—a work of thick, multisited research, energized with clever and sharp prose—is crafted through some of the same ethical ambiguities that mark Conrad's work. Critical of...

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