Joseph Conrad was one of the greatest novelists of his generation, who wrote in English language even though he did not speak the language fluently. He is appreciated for his storytelling abilities and the depiction of breathtaking adventures at sea. Even though he was granted British citizenship, he considered himself to be Polish and often wrote on Polish themes. His short stories and novels, often set in a nautical environment, depicted the trials of the human spirit in the midst of an indifferent universe. His works unveil a strain of romanticism and he is widely regarded as the precursor of modernist literature. Some of his best works include ‘Almayer's Folly’, ‘The Nigger of the 'Narcissus', ‘Heart of Darkness’, ‘The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale’, ‘The Secret Sharer’, ‘Chance’ and ‘Victory’. He served in the merchant navy during his youth but his keen interest and passion for writing led him to quit this job and pursue a career in writing. He was also an established short story writer and published his stories in various prestigious newspapers.
Childhood & Early Life
Joseph Conrad was born to Apollo Korzeniowski, a writer and political activist and Ewa Bobrowska in in Berdichev, Podolia.
Due to his father’s farming business and his political activism, the family would often move from one place to another and in 1861, the family shifted to Warsaw, the capital of Poland.
In Warsaw, his father joined the resistance movement against the Russian Empire. As a result of this, the family was exiled to Vologda, Russia after which they were sent to Chernihiv in northeast Ukraine.
He was mostly home schooled by his father, who introduced him to the world of English literature, especially Victor Hugo’s works. He applied for British citizenship and received the same on August 19, 1886.
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In 1874, he joined the merchant navy and spent four years on French ships, after which he joined the British merchant marine, and worked there for the next fifteen years. Although he served in the merchant navy for a period of nineteen years, he spent only about nine to ten years in the sea.
In 1894, he quit the merchant navy in order to pursue a career in writing and the following year, his first novel ‘Almayer's Folly’ was published.
In 1896, his second novel titled ‘An Outcast of the Islands’ was published. The story of this novel was inspired from his real life experience on the steamer ‘Vidar’.
In 1896, he finished writing his short story about his experiences in Congo, titled ‘An Outpost of Progress’. It was published the following year in the ‘Cosmopolis’ magazine.
In 1897, his novel ‘The Nigger of the 'Narcissus': A Tale of the Sea’ was published. It is considered as one of his best works belonging to the early phase of his career.
In 1899, ‘Heart of Darkness’ was published. This novel was presented in a narrative style and was originally published in three parts by ‘Blackwood’s Magazine’.
In 1900, his novel about the abandonment of a ship titled ‘Lord Jim’ was published. This novel has been adapted into two films with the same title.
In 1904, his book ‘Nostromo’, a novel set in the mysterious South American republic of Costaguana, was published by Harper & Bros.
Through his 1905 essay titled ‘Autocracy and War’, he made one of the most powerful political statements and claimed that Poland is a victim of German and Russian imperialism. Published in 1907, ‘The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale’, is one of his best political novels set in London.
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In 1910, his short story titled ‘The Secret Sharer’ was published by the Harpers magazine.
In 1913, one of his most successful novels ‘Chance’ was published. This novel was unusual at that time as the story revolved around a female protagonist.
In 1915, he achieved popular success with the publication of his novel, ‘Victory’.
His novel ‘Heart of Darkness’ is considered to be one of the ‘hundred best novels in English of the 20th century’. This novel was also an inspiration behind the 1979 motion picture ‘Apocalypse Now’.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1891, he was admitted in the hospital after he suffered from gout, severe pain in his right arm and malaria.
In 1896, he married Jessie George and the couple went on to have two children, Borys and George.
In 1912, his autobiographical book ‘A Personal Record: Some Reminiscences and Some Reminiscences’ was published.
He died at the age of 66 in Bishopsbourne, England - heart attack is believed to be the cause for his death.
In 1926, a posthumous publication titled ‘Last Essays’, a collection of his essays along with an introduction by Richard Curle, was published by J.M Dent & Sons.
This acclaimed Polish writer was afraid of dentists.