Joseph Conrad

Learn more about Joseph Conrad

Jump to: navigation, search
Image:Herb Nalecz.jpg
Nałęcz coat-of-arms. In 1923, the year before his death, Conrad, who possessed this hereditary Polish coat-of-arms, declined a British knighthood.
Image:Conradwarsaw.jpg
Building at Nowy Świat 47 (47 New World Street), Warsaw, Poland, where Conrad lived in 1861 with his father, the Polish poet, translator and underground activist, Apollo Nałęcz Korzeniowski.

Joseph Conrad (born Teodor Józef Konrad Korzeniowski, 3 December, 18573 August, 1924) was a Polish-born British novelist. Some of his works have been labelled romantic, although Conrad's romanticism is tempered with irony and a fine sense of man's capacity for self-deception.

Many critics regard Conrad as a forerunner of modernism. A dust-jacket review, by Kingsley Amis, of Nostromo (1904) declared that the book "placed him in the front rank of world literature."

Conrad's narrativistic style and existential, anti-heroic characters have influenced many writers, including Ernest Hemingway, DH Lawrence, Graham Greene, Joseph Heller and Jerzy Kosiński, as well as inspiring such films as Apocalypse Now (which was drawn from Conrad's Heart of Darkness).

Contents

[edit] Youth

Conrad was born Teodor Józef Konrad Korzeniowski  in Berdyczów (now Berdychiv, Ukraine), into a highly-patriotic landowning Polish family bearing the Nałęcz coat-of-arms. Conrad's father was a writer best known for patriotic tragedies, and a translator of Shakespeare and Victor Hugo from English and French. He encouraged his son to read widely in Polish and French. In 1861 he was arrested by the Russian authorities in Warsaw for helping organise what would become the January Uprising of 1863-64 against Tsarist Russia and was exiled to Vologda. Conrad's mother died there prematurely of tuberculosis in 1865, and his father died four years later in Kraków, leaving Conrad orphaned at the age of eleven.

Young Conrad was placed in the care of his maternal uncle, Tadeusz Bobrowski, in Kraków—a more cautious figure than his parents. Bobrowski nevertheless allowed Conrad to travel to Marseille and begin a career as a seaman at the age of 16. This came after Conrad was rejected for Austro-Hungarian citizenship, leaving him liable for 25-year conscription into the Russian Army.

[edit] Voyages

Conrad lived an adventurous life, becoming involved in gunrunning and political conspiracy, which he later fictionalized in his novel The Arrow of Gold, and apparently had a disastrous love affair, which plunged him into despair. His voyage down the coast of Venezuela would provide material for Nostromo. The first mate of his vessel became the character model for the hero.

In 1878, after a failed suicide attempt, Conrad took service on his first British ship bound for Constantinople, before its return to Lowestoft, his first landing in Britain. He did not become fluent in English until the age of 21, and in 1886 gained both his Master Mariner's certificate and British citizenship, officially changing his name to "Joseph Conrad." He later lived in London and near Canterbury, Kent.

Conrad was to serve a total of sixteen years in the British merchant marine, with passages to the Far East, where his ship caught fire off Sumatra and he spent more than twelve hours in a lifeboat. The experience provided material for his short story, Youth. In 1883 he joined the Narcissus in Bombay, a yoyage that inspired his 1897 novel The Nigger of the Narcissus. Sailing the southeast Asian archipelago would also furnish memories recast in Lord Jim and An Outcast of the Islands.

A childhood ambition to visit central Africa was realised in 1889, when Conrad contrived to reach the Congo Free State. He became captain of a Congo steamboat, and the atrocities he witnessesed and his experiences there not only informed his most acclaimed and ambiguous work, Heart of Darkness, but served to crystalise his vision of human nature — and his beliefs about himself. These were in some measure affected by the emotional trauma and lifelong illness he contracted there. During his stay, he became acquainted with Roger Casement, whose 1904 Congo Report detailed the abuses suffered by the indigenous population.

The description of Conrad's protagonist Marlow's journey upriver closely follows Conrad's own, and he appears to have experienced a disturbing insight into the nature of evil. Conrad's experience of loneliness at sea, of corruption and of the pitilessness of nature converged to form a coherent, if bleak, vision of the world. Isolation, self-deception and the remorseless working out of the consequences of character flaws are threads to be found running through much of his work. Conrad's own sense of loneliness throughout his exile's life would find memorable expression in the 1901 short story, "Amy Foster."

Notwithstanding the undoubted sufferings that Conrad endured on many of his voyages, he contrived to put up at the best lodgings at many of his destinations. Hotels across the Far East still lay claim to him as an honoured guest, often naming the rooms he stayed in after him: in the case of Singapore's Raffles Hotel, the wrong suite has been named in his honour, apparently for marketing reasons. His visits to Bangkok are also lodged in that city's collective memory, and are recorded in the official history of the Oriental Hotel, along with that of a less well-behaved guest, Somerset Maugham, who pilloried the hotel in a short story in revenge for attempts to eject him.

Conrad is also reported to have stayed at Hong Kong's Peninsula Hotel. Later literary admirers, notably Graham Greene, followed closely in his footsteps, sometimes requesting the same room. No Caribbean resort is yet known to have claimed Conrad's patronage, although he is believed to have stayed at a Fort-de-France pension upon arrival in Martinique on his first voyage, in 1875, when he travelled as a passenger on the Mont Blanc.

[edit] Emotional development

A further insight into Conrad's emotional life is provided by an episode which inspired one of his strangest and least known stories, "A Smile of Fortune." In September 1888 he put into Mauritius, as captain of the sailing barque Otago. His story likewise recounts the arrival of an unnamed English seacaptain in a sailing vessel, come for sugar. He encounters “the old French families, descendants of the old colonists; all noble, all impoverished, and living a narrow domestic life in dull, dignified decay. . . . The girls are almost always pretty, ignorant of the world, kind and agreeable and generally bilingual. The emptiness of their existence passes belief.”

The tale describes Jacobus, an affable gentleman chandler beset by hidden shame. Extramarital passion for the bareback rider of a visiting circus had resulted in a child and scandal. For eighteen years this daughter, Alice, has been confined to Jacobus’s house, seeing no one but a governess. When Conrad’s captain is invited to the house of Jacobus, he is irresistibly drawn to the wild, beautiful Alice. "For quite a time she did not stir, staring straight before her as if watching the vision of some pageant passing through the garden in the deep, rich glow of light and the splendour of flowers."

The suffering of Alice Jacobus was true enough. A copy of the Dictionary of Mauritian Biography unearthed by the scholar Zdzisław Najder reveals that her character was a fictionalised version of seventeen-year-old Alice Shaw, whose father was a shipping agent and owned the only rose garden in the town. While it is evident that Conrad too fell in love while in Mauritius, it was not with Alice. His proposal to young Eugénie Renouf was declined, the lady being already engaged. Conrad left broken-hearted, vowing never to return.

Something of his feelings is considered to permeate the recollections of the captain. "I was seduced by the moody expression of her face, by her obstinate silences, her rare, scornful words; by the perpetual pout of her closed lips, the black depths of her fixed gaze turned slowly upon me as if in contemptuous provocation."

[edit] Novelist

In 1894, aged 36, Conrad left the sea to become an English-language author. His first novel, Almayer's Folly, set on the east coast of Borneo, was published in 1895. With its successor, An Outcast of the Islands, it laid the foundations of a reputation as a romantic teller of exotic tales, a misunderstanding of his purpose that was to frustrate Conrad for the rest of his career.

In 1896 he married a 22 year-old Englishwoman, Jessie George, by whom he had two sons, Borys and John. Financial success evaded him, although a Civil List pension of £100 per annum stabilised his affairs, and collectors began to purchase his manuscripts. Conrad's health remained poor for the remainder of his life, although he continued to work relentlessly. In 1923, the year before his death, Conrad, who possessed a hereditary Polish coat-of-arms, declined the offer of a British knighthood (which is not hereditary).

Joseph Conrad died 3 August, 1924, of a heart attack, and was interred at Canterbury Cemetery, Canterbury, England, under the name of Korzeniowski.

Of his novels, Lord Jim and Nostromo continue to be widely read, as set texts and for pleasure. The Secret Agent and Under Western Eyes are also considered to be among his finest books. Arguably the most influential work remains Heart of Darkness, to which many have been introduced by Francis Ford Coppola's film, Apocalypse Now, inspired by Conrad's novella and set during the Vietnam War. Of the principal actors, Marlon Brando was the only one not to trouble to read Heart of Darkness<ref>BBC film critic Mark Kermode. Oct 2006</ref>. The themes of Heart of Darkness, and the depiction of a journey into the darkness of the human psyche, still resonate with modern readers.

[edit] Style

Conrad, an emotional man subject to fits of depression, self-doubt and pessimism, disciplined his romantic temperament with an unsparing moral judgment.

As an artist, he famously aspired, in his preface to The Nigger of the Narcissus (1897), "by the power of the written word to make you hear, to make you feel... before all, to make you see. That — and no more, and it is everything. If I succeed, you shall find there according to your deserts: encouragement, consolation, fear, charm — all you demand — and, perhaps, also that glimpse of truth for which you have forgotten to ask."

Writing in what to the visual arts was the age of Impressionism, Conrad showed himself in many of his works a prose poet of the highest order: thus, for instance, in the evocative Patna and courtroom scenes of Lord Jim; in the "melancholy-mad elephant" and gunboat scenes of Heart of Darkness; in the doubled protagonists of The Secret Sharer; and in the verbal and conceptual resonances of Nostromo and The Nigger of the 'Narcissus'.

The singularity of the universe depicted in Conrad's novels, especially compared to those of near-contemporaries like John Galsworthy, is such as to open him to criticism similar to that later applied to Graham Greene.<ref>Regions of the Mind: the Exoticism of Greeneland; Andrew Purssell, University of London. http://www.dur.ac.uk/postgraduate.english/AndrewPurssellArticle.htm</ref> But where "Greeneland" has been characterised as a recurring and recognisable atmosphere independent of setting, Conrad is at pains to create a sense of place, be it aboard ship or in a remote village. Often he chose to have his characters play out their destinies in isolated or confined circumstances.

In the view of Evelyn Waugh and Kingsley Amis, it was not until the first volumes of Anthony Powell's sequence, A Dance to the Music of Time, were published in the 1950s, that an English novelist achieved the same command of atmosphere and precision of language with consistency, a view supported by present-day critics like A. N. Wilson. This is the more remarkable, given that English was Conrad's third language. Powell acknowleged his debt to Conrad.

Conrad's third language remained inescapably under the influence of his first two — Polish and French. This provided an exotic foundation, making his English seem unusual even when it was grammatically correct. It was perhaps from Polish and French prose styles that he adopted a fondness for triple parallelism, especially in his early works ("all that mysterious life of the wilderness that stirs in the forest, in the jungles, in the hearts of wild men"), as well as for rhetorical abstraction ("It was the stillness of an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable intention").

T.E. Lawrence, one of many men of letters whom Conrad befriended, offered some perceptive observations about Conrad's writing:

He's absolutely the most haunting thing in prose that ever was: I wish I knew how every paragraph he writes (... they are all paragraphs: he seldom writes a single sentence...) goes on sounding in waves, like the note of a tenor bell, after it stops. It's not built in the rhythm of ordinary prose, but on something existing only in his head, and as he can never say what it is he wants to say, all his things end in a kind of hunger, a suggestion of something he can't say or do or think.... He's as much a giant of the subjective as Kipling is of the objective.

In Conrad's time, literary critics, while usually commenting favorably on his works, often remarked that his exotic style, complex narration, profound themes and pessimistic ideas put many readers off. Yet as Conrad's ideas were borne out by 20th-century events, in due course he came to be admired for beliefs that seemed to accord with subsequent times more closely than with his own.

Conrad's was, indeed, a starkly lucid view of the human condition — a vision similar to that which had been offered in two micro-stories by his ten-years-older Polish compatriot, Bolesław Prus (whose work Conrad admired): "Mold of the Earth" (1884) and "Shades" (1885). Conrad wrote:

Faith is a myth and beliefs shift like mists on the shore; thoughts vanish; words, once pronounced, die; and the memory of yesterday is as shadowy as the hope of to-morrow....
In this world — as I have known it — we are made to suffer without the shadow of a reason, of a cause or of guilt....
There is no morality, no knowledge and no hope; there is only the consciousness of ourselves which drives us about a world that... is always but a vain and floating appearance....
A moment, a twinkling of an eye and nothing remains — but a clot of mud, of cold mud, of dead mud cast into black space, rolling around an extinguished sun. Nothing. Neither thought, nor sound, nor soul. Nothing.

[edit] Novels and novellas

1895   Almayer's Folly
1896 An Outcast of the Islands
1897 The Nigger of the 'Narcissus'
1899 Heart of Darkness
1900 Lord Jim
1901 The Inheritors (with Ford Madox Ford)
1902 Typhoon (begun 1899)
1903 Romance (with Ford Madox Ford)
1904 Nostromo
1907 The Secret Agent
1911 Under Western Eyes
1912 Freya of the Seven Isles
1913 Chance
1915 Victory
1917 The Shadow Line
1919 The Arrow of Gold
1920 The Rescue
1923 The Nature of a Crime (with Ford Madox Ford)
The Rover
1925 Suspense (unfinished, published posthumously)

[edit] Short stories

  • "The Idiots" (Conrad's first short story; written during his honeymoon, published in Savo 1896 and collected in Tales of Unrest, 1898).
  • "The Black Mate" (written, according to Conrad, in 1886; published 1908; posthumously collected in Tales of Hearsay, 1925).
  • "The Lagoon" (composed 1896; published in Cornhill Magazine 1897; collected in Tales of Unrest, 1898).
  • "An Outpost of Progress" (written 1896 and named in 1906 by Conrad himself, long after the publication of Lord Jim and Heart of Darkness, as his 'best story'; published in Cosmopolis 1897 and collected in Tales of Unrest 1898; often compared to Heart of Darkness, with which it has numerous thematic affinities).
  • "The Return" (written circa early 1897; never published in magazine form; collected in Tales of Unrest, 1898; Conrad, presaging the sentiments of most readers, once remarked, "I hate it").
  • "Karain: A Memory" (written February–April 1897; published Nov. 1897 in Blackwood's and collected in Tales of Unrest, 1898).
  • "Youth" (written in 1898; collected in Youth, a Narrative and Two Other Stories, 1902)
  • "Falk" (novella/story, written in early 1901; collected only in Typhoon and Other Stories, 1903).
  • "Amy Foster" (composed in 1901; published the Illustrated London News, Dec. 1901 and collected in Typhoon and Other Stories, 1903).
  • "To-morrow" (written early 1902; serialized in Pall Mall Magazine, 1902 and collected in Typhoon and Other Stories, 1903).
  • "The End of the Tether" (written in 1902; collected in Youth, a Narrative and Two Other Stories, 1902)
  • "Gaspar Ruiz" (written after "Nostromo" in 1904–05; published in Strand Magazine in 1906 and collected in A Set of Six, 1908 UK/1915 US. This story was the only piece of Conrad's fiction ever adapted by the author for cinema, as Gaspar the Strong Man, 1920).
  • "An Anarchist" (written in late 1905; serialized in Harper's in 1906; collected in A Set of Six, 1908 UK/1915 US.)
  • "The Informer" (written before January 1906; published in December 1906 in Harper's and collected in A Set of Six, 1908 UK/1915 US.)
  • "The Brute" (written in early 1906; published in The Daily Chronicle in December 1906; collected in A Set of Six, 1908 UK/1915 US.)
  • "The Duel" (aka "The Point of Honor": serialized in the UK in Pall Mall Magazine in early 1908 and in the US periodical Forum later that year; collected in A Set of Six in 1908 and published by Garden City Publishing in 1924. Joseph Fouché makes a cameo appearance)
  • "Il Conde" (i.e., 'Conte' [count]: appeared in Cassell's [UK] 1908 and Hampton's [US] in 1909; collected in A Set of Six, 1908 UK/1915 US.)
  • "The Secret Sharer" (written December 1909; published in Harper's and collected in Twixt Land and Sea 1912)
  • "Prince Roman" (written 1910, published in 1911 in the Oxford and Cambridge Review; based upon the story of Prince Roman Sanguszko of Poland 1800–1881)
  • "A Smile of Fortune" (a long story, almost a novella, written in mid-1910; published in London Magazine in Feb. 1911; collected in Twixt Land and Sea 1912)
  • "Freya of the Seven Isles" (another near-novella, written late 1910–early 1911; published in Metropolitan Magazine and London Magazine in early 1912 and July 1912, respectively; collected in Twixt Land and Sea 1912)
  • "The Partner" (written in 1911; published in Within the Tides, 1915)
  • "The Inn of the Two Witches" (written in 1913; published in Within the Tides, 1915)
  • "Because of the Dollars" (written in 1914; published in Within the Tides, 1915)
  • "The Planter of Malata" (written in 1914; published in Within the Tides, 1915)
  • "The Warrior's Soul" (written late 1915–early 1916; published in Land and Water, in March 1917; collected in Tales of Hearsay, 1925)
  • "The Tale" (Conrad's only story about World War I; written 1916 and first published 1917 in Strand Magazine)

[edit] Memoirs and Essays

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

<references />

[edit] References

  • Zdzisław Najder, Joseph Conrad: a Chronicle, new edition, Camden House, 2007.
  • Zdzisław Najder, Conrad under Familial Eyes, Cambridge University Press, 1984, ISBN 052125082X.
  • J.H. Stape, editor, The Cambridge Companion to Joseph Conrad, Cambridge University Press, 2006.
  • Jeffrey Meyers, Joseph Conrad: a Biography, New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1991.

[edit] External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
Wikisource has original works written by or about:

bs:Joseph Conrad bg:Джоузеф Конрад ca:Joseph Conrad cs:Joseph Conrad da:Joseph Conrad de:Joseph Conrad es:Joseph Conrad fa:جوزف کنراد fr:Joseph Conrad ga:Joseph Conrad gl:Joseph Conrad hr:Joseph Conrad io:Joseph Conrad it:Joseph Conrad he:ג'וזף קונרד lv:Džozefs Konrads nl:Joseph Conrad ja:ジョゼフ・コンラッド no:Joseph Conrad oc:Joseph Conrad pl:Joseph Conrad pt:Joseph Conrad ru:Конрад, Джозеф sk:Joseph Conrad sr:Џозеф Конрад sh:Joseph Conrad fi:Joseph Conrad sv:Joseph Conrad th:โจเซฟ คอนราด tr:Joseph Conrad zh:约瑟夫·康拉德

Joseph Conrad

Views
Personal tools
what is world wizzy?
  • World Wizzy is a static snapshot taken of Wikipedia in early 2007. It cannot be edited and is online for historic & educational purposes only.