Joseph Conrad's "The planter of Malata": Timing and the forgotten adventures of the silk plant "Arghan"

Lane, A. (2007) Joseph Conrad's "The planter of Malata": Timing and the forgotten adventures of the silk plant "Arghan". Textile: The Journal of Cloth & Culture, 5 3: 276-299. doi:10.2752/175183507X249468

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Author Lane, A.
Title Joseph Conrad's "The planter of Malata": Timing and the forgotten adventures of the silk plant "Arghan"
Journal name Textile: The Journal of Cloth & Culture   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1475-9756
Publication date 2007-12
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.2752/175183507X249468
Volume 5
Issue 3
Start page 276
End page 299
Total pages 24
Editor C. Harper
D. Ross
Place of publication Oxford, England
Publisher Berg Publishers
Collection year 2008
Language eng
Subject C1
430103 History - Pacific
751005 Communication across languages and cultures
210313 Pacific History (excl. New Zealand and Maori)
2001 Communication and Media Studies
200105 Organisational, Interpersonal and Intercultural Communication
2002 Cultural Studies
200599 Literary Studies not elsewhere classified
200507 Pacific Literature
Formatted abstract
Joseph Conrad's 1914 short story "The Planter of Malata," set partly in Sydney and partly on the fictional island of "Malata," is a tale of unrequited passion ending with suicide. The planter, Geoffrey Renouard, is at a crucial juncture in his enterprise on the Malata concession with something called silk plants. What are these plants that they should be the subject of scientific, mercantile, financial, and political interest? What is Renouard's fiber? Attention to the details of this fiction reveals that mulberry trees are not at all the most likely silk plant candidate.

Written in the last two months of 1913, the story connects with the contemporary great race to discover an industrially viable artificial silk, as well as new natural alternative fibers. And even more interesting is its prefiguring of a stock-market scam of the early 1920s. Given the dates, Conrad could not possibly have known about the events surrounding the Arghan Company, which collapsed in 1924 with the loss of its £100,000 capital. Yet, as in Conrad's 1913 story, the 1919-24 Arghan story involved a kind of silk plant, potentially a very marketable and valuable fiber, being grown under conditions of some secrecy on a concession of land granted by a colonial government.
Keyword Colonial botany
Pacific transfers
Joseph Conrad
Silk fibre
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code

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Created: Wed, 07 May 2008, 14:51:39 EST by Ms Catherine Squirrell on behalf of School of Communication and Arts