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Almayer's Folly, published in 1895 by T. Fisher Unwin, is Joseph Conrad's first novel. Set in the late 19th century, it centres on the life of the Dutch trader Kaspar Almayer in the Borneo jungle and his relationship to his mixed heritage daughter Nina.
Almayer’s Folly is about a poor businessman who dreams of finding a hidden gold mine and becoming very wealthy. He is a white European, married to a native Malayan; they have one daughter named Nina. He fails to find the goldmine, and comes home saddened. Previously, he had heard that the British were to conquer the Pantai River, and he had built a large, lavish house near where he resided at the time, in order to welcome the invaders. However, the conquest never took place, and the house remained unfinished. Some passing Dutch seamen had called the house “Almayer’s Folly”. Now, Almayer continually goes out for long trips, but eventually he stops doing so and stays home with his hopeless daydreams of riches and splendor. His native wife loathes him for this.
One day, a Malayan prince, Dain Maroola, comes to see Almayer about trading, and while there he falls in love with Nina. Mrs. Almayer keeps arranging meetings between Nina and Dain. She wants them to marry so her daughter could stay native, because she is highly distrustful of the white men and their ways. Dain leaves but vows to return to help Almayer find the gold mine. When he does return, he goes straight to Lakamba, a Malayan rajah, and tells him that he found the gold mine and that some Dutchmen had captured his ship. The rajah tells him to kill Almayer before the Dutch arrive because he is not needed to find the gold now. The following morning, an unidentifiable native corpse is found floating in the river, wearing an ankle bracelet very similar to Dain’s. Almayer is distraught because Dain is his only chance to find the mine. The corpse is actually that of his slave, who had died when his canoe overturned. Mrs. Almayer suggests that Dain put his anklet and ring on the body.
Mrs. Almayer plans to smuggle Dain away from the Dutch so he will not be arrested. She sneaks Nina away from her father, who is drinking with the Dutch. When Almayer awakes from his drunken stupor, a native slave girl tells him where Nina has gone, and Almayer tracks her to Dain’s hiding place. Nina refuses to go back to avoid the slurs of the white society. During all this arguing, the slave girl informs the Dutch of Dain’s whereabouts. Almayer said that he could never forgive Nina but would help them escape by taking them to the mouth of the river, where a canoe will take them from the clutches of the Dutch. After they escape, Almayer erases the lover’s footprints, and returns to his house. Mrs. Almayer runs away to the rajah for protection, taking all Dain’s dowry with her. All alone, Almayer breaks all his furniture in his home office, piles it in the center of the room, and sets fire to it, burning the entire house to the ground along with it. He spends the rest of his days in “[His] Folly”, where he smokes opium to forget his daughter. He eventually dies there.
As Conrad's earliest novel, Almayer's Folly is often seen by critics as inferior to the author's later work because of its repetitive and at times awkward language. However, recent critics have paid more attention to Conrad's depiction of Nina as a self-determined female non-European character along with Aissa from Joseph Conrad's second novel, An Outcast of the Islands.
- A French-Belgian adaptation was made in 2011 directed by Chantal Akerman, with filming started in November 2010. It was later released on September the next year.
- A Malaysian film adaption of the novel is produced under the title Hanyut, written and directed by U-Wei Haji Saari and starring Peter O'Brien as Kasper Almayer. The film was planned to be released after production finished in 2012, but it had to be postponed due to lack of funding for marketing and local distribution until it is eventually slated for screening on 24 November 2016.
- Watt, Ian. Conrad in the Nineteenth Century.
- Yvonne Bezrucka (2018) "Food for Dreams and an Appetite for Nations: Opium and Darwinian Metaphors in Victorian Literature", 'RSV', 44, 31-53
- Harry Sewlall, "Postcolonial/Postmodern Spatiality in Almayer's Folly and An OUtcast of the Islands. Conradianna; Spring 2006; 38, 1. pp. 79–93
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