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Joseph Conrad

Joseph Conrad

Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) developed an elaborate, beautiful English prose style and probed many of the deep questions of modern fiction in his short stories and novels. His work was in turn adventurous and darkly pessimistic, interested in the traditional virtues of steadfastness and courage while also concerned with the epistemological lacunae that define modern existence and perception. Conard was born in Ukraine to a Polish nobleman in 1857; his father had been imprisoned by the Russians for his nationalist political activities and was deported to Siberia. His mother died of tuberculosis two years later, leaving an 11 years old orphan. At the age of 17, Conard joined the British Merchant Navy and was involved in many adventures, smugglings, and conspiracies. In 1878 he started serving on a British ship, taught himself English, became the ship’s captain and received British citizenship in 1886. At the age of 36, he stopped his journeys at sea and settled down in England with the intention of becoming a writer. He married and became a father. His most famous work is Heart of Darkness (1899), which was adapted for the cinema by Francis Ford Coppola in 1979, in the film Apocalypse Now. In recent years, Conrad’s work has been at times attacked for its racism and at times lauded for its portrayal of imperialism and colonialism. He remains one of the most complex figures of modernism, capable of spinning entertaining yarns of life at sea that turn out to be an exploration of unexpected philosophical depths. He bequeathed to modernism the sense that life must have an ultimate meaning, but one that can never be made fully explicit.

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