December 3rd - Joseph Conrad’s 160th birthday
Joseph Conrad – Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski was a Polish- born English writer regarded as one of the greatest novelists to write in the English language.
He was born on 3 Dec. 1857, so exactly 160 years ago, in Berdichev, Ukraine, the region had been part of the Kingdom of Poland. He was the only child of Polish aristocratic parents: Count Apollo Korzeniowski - a writer, translator, political activist and his wife Ewa Bobrowska. Joseph was raised and educated primarily in Poland.
In 1874, seventeen-year-old Conrad left Poland to start a merchant- marine career. After four years in France and on French ships he joined the British merchant marine. He worked on a variety of ships as a crew member until eventually achieving captain’s rank. During the 19 years from the time that Conrad had left Cracow in 1874 he spent over 8 years at sea. In 1886 he was granted British citizenship.
In 1894, aged 36, Conrad reluctantly gave up the sea, partly because of poor health, partly due to unavailability of ships, and partly because he had become so fascinated with writing that he had decided on a literary career. His first novel, ‘ Almayer’s Folly’, set on the east coast of Borneo, was published in 1895. Its appearance marked his first use of the pen name ‘ Joseph Conrad’.
In the first and longest period, from the 1890s to World War I, Conrad writes most of his great novels, including ‘ The Nigger of the Narcissus’ (1897), ‘ Heart of Darkness’ (1899), ‘ Lord Jim’ (1900), ‘ Nostromo’ (1904), ‘The Secret Agent’ ( 1907), and ‘ Under Western Eyes’ ( 1911). The second phase, spanning the war and following the popular success of ‘ Chance’ ( 1913) is marked by the advent of Conrad’s fame as a great writer. In the third and final phase, from the end of the World War I to Conrad’s death ( 1924), he at last finds an uneasy peace.
Although Conrad did not speak English fluently until his twenties, he was a master prose stylist who brought a non- English sensibility into English literature. He wrote stories and novels, many with a nautical setting that depict trials of the human spirit in the midst of an impassive, inscrutable universe.
Conrad is considered an early modernist. His narrative style and anti-heroic characters have influenced many authors, including: T.S. Eliot, Scott Fitzgerald, W. Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, A. G. Orwell, G. Greene, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and many others. Many films have been adapted from, or inspired by Conrad’s works as for example ‘ Apocalypse Now’ by F. F. Coppola
Conrad created novels and short stories which reflected aspects of a European – dominated world- including imperialism and colonialism- profoundly exploring the human psyche. So a reader experiences Conrad’s concerns with the complex individual, and how sympathy and imagination can blur clear judgement which is essential to life.
J. Conrad died on 3 August 1924 at his house in Bishopsbourne, Kent, England, probably of a heart attack. He was interred at Canterbury Cemetery, under his original Polish name as ‘ Joseph Teador Conrad Korzeniowski’.