Joseph Conrad
Amy Foster
An Anarchist
An Outpost of Progress
Falk-A Reminiscence
Heart of Darkness
Il Conde
Karain: A Memory
Laughing Anne
Lord Jim
Prince Roman
The Secret Agent
The Secret Agent - Study Guide
The Brute
The Heart of Darkness
The Idiots
The Informer
The Inn of The Two Witches
The Lagoon
The Secret Sharer
The Shadow Line
The Tale
The Warrior's Soul
Under Western Eyes

"The horror! The horror!" (Heart of Darkness)

"He passes away under a cloud, inscrutable at heart, forgotten, unforgiven, and excessively romantic. Not in the wildest days of his boyish visions could he have seen the shape of such an extraordinary success!" (Lord Jim)

Joseph Conrad was born Josef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski, the only child of Polish parents in the Russian-controlled Ukraine. His father, Apollo Nalecz Korzeniowski was involved with the covert national Polish movement and was arrested by the Russian authorities in 1861 for patriotic conspiracy. Conrad and his mother, Evelina Bobrowska, were exiled with Apollo to Northern Russia and Evelina died during this period in 1865. By the time of Apollo's conditional parole in 1867 he was physically broken, dying two years later in Cracow. Conrad was left orphaned and the ward of his maternal uncle, Tadeusz Bobrowski.

Often the young Conrad spoke of a desire to go to sea, which was strange indeed given his life inland amongst a people whose work was predominantly agricultural. Pursuing this dream, he left for Marseilles in September 1874 to become a trainee seaman in the French merchant navy. He was a talented linguist, as he proved later in his novels, written in his third tongue of English, and fluent as he was in French, he was introduced to persons in the port. He gained his experience on two sailing ships before joining the Tremolino on smuggling voyages. Conrad often documented his life in his novels, and this time is described in The Arrow of Gold (1919) and to a lesser extent in The Mirror of the Sea (1906). In April 1878 Conrad joined the Mavis, his first English ship, possibly to avoid Russian national service (he would have been liable for it had he stayed with the French merchant navy). However, in that year he also attempted suicide by shooting himself in the chest. This did not leave him seriously injured but it inspired his uncle to clear his debts. Passing his third mate's examinations in London during 1880, he went on to serve as officer on ships travelling to numerous parts of the world. He became a British citizen in 1886 and gained his Master's certificate, was hospitalised in Singapore in 1887, and journeyed in and around the Malay Archipelago and the Gulf of Siam between that year and 1888. From this period of his life were derived much of his better known work: Youth (1902), Almayer's Folly (1895), The Nigger of the 'Narcissus' (1897), Lord Jim (1900) and The Shadow-Line (1917) among others. Perhaps his most famous work derives, however, from his experiences in the Belgian Congo in 1890. He had longed to travel there since as a child he placed his finger on it on a map, saying that one day he would go. Documented in Heart of Darkness (serialised in Blackwood's between 1899 and 1900), this experience was trying both physically and psychologically. However, it inspired him to begin his writing career - Almayer's Folly was begun at this time - and after only two more relatively pleasant years at sea (on the Torrens) he settled in England.

His first book was accepted and published in 1895; and he married Miss Jessie George in March 1896. Critics acclaimed his early works immediately, and Nostromo (1904) is accepted as one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century. He continued writing in various houses in Kent but lived in near poverty until the popular success of Chance (1913). Two notable works of this time were not sea based. The Secret Agent (1907) is a brilliant study of the workings of terrorism and concerns the lives and minds of the metropolis's outsiders. Under Western Eyes (1911) is also distinctly land-locked. Conrad himself continued to travel occasionally in Poland and France and had two sons, though his happier later years are not so distinguished in literary terms. He was offered a knighthood in America in 1924, which he declined shortly before his death in August of that year. His writing is known for its dense and almost poetic prose, the use of hauntingly dark metaphors and his ambiguous characters that rarely wholly represent either good or evil. Certain African writers, notably Chinua Achebe, have taken exception to Conrad's portrayal of the "savages" in Heart of Darkness, and his representations of women are few and far between. In spite of the criticisms levelled against him, he remains extremely readable and his visions of the vulgar depths which humanity can trawl are unsurpassed.

The Secret Agent Various notes and informaiton on Joseph Conrad's novel "The secret agent".
The Joseph Conrad Foundation (USA) Includes the concept, conferences, books reviews, links, etc.
The Joseph Conrad Society (UK) Includes special announcements, conferences, latest monographies, Conrad's publications. A resource site including a brief biography, a message board, term paper helper, and further links.

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