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There is a phrase in Almayer's Folly by Joseph Conrad which seems to me an idiom, but I can't find it is. Here is an excerpt from the story with the phrase in question in bold:

Lingard, a rich merchant, has just asked the main character to marry his daughter, and he is evaluating the prospects of seizing the fortune of Lingard through this marriage.

The consideration, the indolent ease of life - for which he felt himself so well fitted - his ships, his warehouses, his merchandise (old Lingard would not live for ever), and, crowning all, in the far future gleamed above char, where, made king amongst men by old Lingard's money, he would pass the evening of his days in inexpressible splendour.

I think it is clear that 'gleamed above char' is expressing that what follows next in the paragraph is the most precious thing to him about that future, just as the contrast of a flash of bright light over charcoal.

Is this an idiom or did Conrad just make it up?

  • Maybe this question is more suitable for English Language & Usage? – Alberto Jun 20 '17 at 18:15
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    It might work on either site. Honestly, I suspect it's a typo in the source, as it seems extremely strange. – Nathan Tuggy Jun 20 '17 at 18:16
  • @NathanTuggy It's true. It's a typo. I just found here altheim.com/lit/almayer.html that the original says: and, crowning all, in the far future gleamed like a fairy palace the big mansion in Amsterdam, that earthly paradise of his dreams, where, made king amongst men by old Lingard's money, – Alberto Jun 20 '17 at 18:22
  • Conrad's actual sentence: "The consideration, the indolent ease of life—for which he felt himself so well fitted—his ships, his warehouses, his merchandise (old Lingard would not live for ever), and, crowning all, in the far future gleamed like a fairy palace the big mansion in Amsterdam, that earthly paradise of his dreams, where, made king amongst men by old Lingard’s money, he would pass the evening of his days in inexpressible splendour." Where "char" came from, only some incompetent OCR technician knows. – P. E. Dant Jun 20 '17 at 18:40
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it concerns a typo in a cheapo print edition of the work. – P. E. Dant Jun 20 '17 at 18:49
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There seems to be some discrepancy in texts.

Your original cited text

for which he felt himself so well fitted - his ships, his warehouses, his merchandise (old Lingard would not live for ever), and, crowning all, in the far future gleamed above char, where, made king amongst men by old Lingard's money, he would pass the evening of his days in inexpressible splendour.

Alternative text

for which he felt himself so well fitted—his ships, his warehouses, his merchandise (old Lingard would not live for ever), and, crowning all, in the far future gleamed like a fairy palace the big mansion in Amsterdam, that earthly paradise of his dreams, where, made king amongst men by old Lingard's money, he would pass the evening of his days in inexpressible splendour

which is identical to Transcribed from the 1915 T. Fisher Unwin Ltd. edition by David Price

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Just as it has been noted in the comments, it seems it is a very strange error in the edition I am reading. My edition is: Almayer's Folly & The Rover by Joseph Conrad, Wordsworth Classics, 2011, ISBN-13: 978-1840226645.
Based on this version and this, the original text would be:

The consideration, the indolent ease of life—for which he felt himself so well fitted—his ships, his warehouses, his merchandise (old Lingard would not live for ever), and, crowning all, in the far future gleamed like a fairy palace the big mansion in Amsterdam, that earthly paradise of his dreams, where, made king amongst men by old Lingard’s money, he would pass the evening of his days in inexpressible splendour.

Maybe he imagines that mansion in Amsterdam because his mother bewailed the lost glories of Amsterdam when he was young, as it is narrated before in the story.

And this doesn't contain any strange fake-looking idiom.

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    If you want to read useful and accurate versions of works in the public domain, visit Project Gutenberg (Almayer's Folly is here.) Cheap and shoddy editions of public domain works are a scam to take your money. If I were you, I'd return the thing to Amazon and demand a refund. If you want a real book in your hands, visit Powell's or A Libris and find an old print edition. – P. E. Dant Jun 20 '17 at 18:47
  • @P.E.Dant I actually purchased it at a book stand at a bus station. I don't mind if it has some errors, it will be very interesting to exercise my knowledge of English with an extra-hard Conrad... he is really hard to read even without errors! – Alberto Jun 21 '17 at 7:34
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    This isn't just an error. It's as if you bought a print of Davinci's Mona Lisa in which the lady's eyes are replaced by hockey pucks. Heaven knows what other elisions are in the book. – P. E. Dant Jun 21 '17 at 18:37

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