Joseph Conrad

Joseph Conrad books and biography

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A Personal Record

A Set Of Six

Almayer's Folly

Amy Foster


By Joseph Conrad
Short Stories

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By Joseph Conrad
Action , Adventure

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Gaspar Ruiz

Heart Of Darkness


By Joseph Conrad
Short Stories

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Joseph Conrad

Lord Jim

Nigger Of The Narcissus

Nostromo A Tale Of The Seaboard

Notes On Life And Letters

By Joseph Conrad
Letters , Correspondence

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Outcast Of The Islands

Some Reminiscences

Tales Of Unrest

By Joseph Conrad
Short Stories

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The Arrow Of Gold

The Inheritors

The Mirror Of The Sea

The Rescue

The Secret Agent

The Secret Sharer

The Shadow Line

The Tether


Twixt Land And Sea


Under Western Eyes


Within The Tides



Joseph Conrad

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Nałęcz coat-of-arms.  In 1923, the year before his death, Conrad, who possessed this hereditary Polish coat-of-arms, declined a British knighthood.
Nałęcz coat-of-arms. In 1923, the year before his death, Conrad, who possessed this hereditary Polish coat-of-arms, declined a British knighthood.
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.
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 Jzef Konrad Korzeniowski, 3 December 1857 – 3 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. The dust jacket review by Kingsley Amis of Nostromo declared that the book "places 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 based on Conrad's Heart of Darkness).


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Conrad was born Teodor Jzef Konrad Korzeniowski in Berdyczw (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 of tuberculosis in 1865, and his father died four years later in Krakw, leaving Conrad orphaned at the age of eleven.

Young Conrad was placed in the care of his maternal uncle, Tadeusz Bobrowski, in Krakw—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.


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 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 south-east 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. His experiences there not only infomed his most acclaimed and ambiguous work, Heart of Darkness but served to crystalise his own vision of human nature - and beliefs about himself. These were in some measure affected by the emotional trauma and lifelong illness he contracted there. His 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.

Notwithstanding the undoubted sufferings endured on many of his travels Conrad contrived to put up at the best lodgings in many of the destinations visited. 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 Raffles Hotel in Singapore the wrong suite has been named in his honour, reportedly for marketing reasons. His visits to Bangkok are also lodged in the collective memory of the Oriental Hotel there, and are recorded in the official history 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.[1]. Later literary admirers, notably Graham Greene followed closely in Conrad's footsteps, sometimes requesting the same room.

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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 Eugnie Renouf was declined, the lady being already engaged. Conrad left broken-hearted, vowing never to return.

Something of his feelings are considered to permeate the recollections of the captain[2] . “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”.


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. Its successor, An Outcast fo the Islands, 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 matters, 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 novels. Arguably the most influential work remains Heart of Darkness, to which many have been introduced by Francis Ford Coppola's film, Apocalypse Now, set during the Vietnam War and inspired by Conrad's novella. Of the principal actors, Marlon Brando was the only one not to trouble to read Heart of Darkness[3]. The themes of Heart of Darkness, and the depiction of a journey into the darkness of the human psyche, still resonate with modern readers.


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.[4] 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. What is undeniable is that he often chose to have his characters play out their destinies in isolated or confined circumstances.

In the view of some writers, notably 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.

Novels and novellas

Conrad monument, Gdynia, on Poland's Baltic Sea coast.
Conrad monument, Gdynia, on Poland's Baltic Sea coast.
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)

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 Fouch 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 WWI; written 1916 and first published 1917 in Strand Magazine)

Memoirs and Essays

  • The Mirror of the Sea (collection of autobiographical essays first published in various magazines 1904-6 ), 1906
  • A Personal Record (also published as Some Reminiscences), 1912
  • Notes on Life and Letters, 1921
  • Last Essays, 1926

See also

  • Joseph Conrad's Works: A Chronological List.
  • ORP Conrad - a WWII Polish Navy cruiser named after Joseph Conrad.
  • T. Scovel, A Time to Speak: a Psycholinguistic Inquiry into the Critical Period for Human speech, Cambridge, MA, Newbury House, 1988.
  • List of atheists.


  1. ^ The Wholly Trinity by Julian Allason, Financial Times How To Spend It magazine, June 2005
  2. ^ Conrad's Smile of Fortune by Julian Allason: Financial Times magazine, June 2001
  3. ^ BBC film critic Mark Kermode. Oct 2006
  4. ^ Regions of the Mind: the Exoticism of Greeneland; Andrew Purssell, University of London.


  • Zdzisław Najder, Joseph Conrad: a Chronicle, new edition, Camden House, 2007.
  • J.H. Stape, editor, The Cambridge Companion to Joseph Conrad, Cambridge University Press, 2006.

This article might use material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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