Joseph Conrad was born in Berdichev, in the Ukraine, in a region that had once been a part of Poland but was then under Russian rule. His father Apollo Korzeniowski was an aristocrat without lands, a poet and translator of English and French literature. The family estates had been sequestrated in 1839 following an anti-Russian rebellion. As a boy the young Joseph read Polish and French versions of English novels with his father. When Apollo Korzeniowski became embroiled in political activities, he was sent to exile with his family to Volgoda, northern Russia, in 1861. After being wounded in a duel or of a self-inflicted gunshot in the chest, Conrad continued a career at the seas for 16 years in the British merchant navy.
He had been deeply in debt, but his uncle discharged his debts. This was a turning point in his life. Conrad rose through the ranks from common seaman to first mate, and by 1886 he obtained his master mariner's certificate, commanding his own ship, Otago. In the same year he was given British citizenship and he changed officially his name to Joseph Conrad. Witnessing the forces of the sea, Conrad developed a deterministic view of the world, which he expressed in a letter in 1897: 'What makes mankind tragic is not that they are the victims of nature, it is that they are conscious of it. To be part of the animal kingdom under the conditions of this earth is very well - but soon, as you know of your slavery, the pain, the anger, and the strife.
The tragedy begins. ' Conrad sailed to many parts of the world, including Australia, various ports of the Indian Ocean, Borneo, the Malay states, South America, and the South Pacific Island. In 1890 he sailed in Africa up the Congo River. The journey provided much material for his novel Heart of Darkness. However, the fabled East Indies particularly attracted Conrad and it became the setting of many of his stories. By 1894 Conrad's sea life was over.
During the long journeys he had started to write and Conrad decided to devote himself entirely to literature. At the age of 36 Conrad settled down in England. In his famous preface to THE NIGGER OF THE 'NARCISSUS' (1897) Conrad crystallized his often quoted goal as a writer: 'My task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you fell - it is, above all, to make you see. That - and no more, and it is everything.
' Among Conrad's most popular works are LORD JIM (1900) and HEART OF DARKNESS (1902). Conrad discouraged interpretation of his sea novels through evidence from his life, but several of his novels drew the material, events, and personalities from his own experiences in different parts of the world. While making his first voyages to the West Indies, Conrad met the Corsican Dominic Cervoni, who was later model for his characters filled with a thirst for adventure Although Conrad is known as a novelist, he tried his hand also as a playwright. His first one-act play was not success - the audience rejected it. But after finishing the text he learned the existence of the Censor of the Plays, which inspired his satirical essay about the obscure civil servant. Conrad was an Anglophile who regarded Britain as a land which respected individual liberties.
As a writer he accepted the verdict of a free and independent public, but associated this official figure of censorship to the atmosphere of the Far East and the 'mustiness of the Middle Ages', which shouldn't be part of the twentieth-century England. Conrad married in 1896 Jessie George, an Englishwoman, by whom he had two sons. He moved to Ashford, Kent and except trips to France, Italy, Poland, and to the United States in 1923, Conrad lived in his new home country. His first novel, ALMAYER'S FOLLY, appeared in 1895. The story depicted a derelict Dutchman, who traded on the jungle rivers of Borneo.
It was followed by AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS (1896), less assured in its use of English. The Nigger of the 'Narcissus' was a complex story of a storm off the Cape of Good Hope and of an enigmatic black sailor. Lord Jim was narrated by Charlie Marlow and told about the fall of an young sailor and his redemption. 'You have fallen terribly, my boy, fallen, perhaps, through your own self-confident dreams.
Get up and try again. No skulking, no evasion! Live this thing down, humbly and hopefully, in the light of day. ' Heart of Darkness was based to a four-month command of a Congo River steamboat, but in the novel the experience become analogous with a quest for inner truths - like in Henry Rider Haggard's novel She (1887). Conrad gave Marlow his boyhood dream about penetrating into the heart of the continent, but he also was knew about Henry Morton Stanley's journey up the Congo river in the mid-1870's. Stanley's revelation of the commercial possibilities of the region had resulted in the setting up of a trading venture.
The book was written in 1899 and published in 1902 in YOUTH: A NARRATIVE WITH TWO OTHER STORIES. Also the account of Commander R.H. Bacon, who travelled in Benin, described horrors: '... everywhere death, barbarity and blood, and smells that it hardly seems right for human beings to smell and yet live!' In Youth (1902) the title story recorded Conrad's experiences on the sailing-ship Palestine. NOSTROMO (1904) was an imaginative novel which again explored man's vulnerability and corruptibility. It includes one of Conrad's most suggestive symbols, the silver mine. In the story the Italian Nostromo ('our man') is destroyed for his appetite for adventure and glory but with his death the secret of the silver is lost forever. The English director David Lean planned to film the book, and he started to work with the screenplay with Christopher Hampton in the early 1986.
Steven Spielberg agreed to produce the movie for Warner Bros. 'I thought Conrad was a very good match for David's temperament,' Hampton later said, 'because he was very positive about individuals, but very pessimistic about the human race in general. ' Lean died in 1991 and the project was not realized. Last years of his life were shadowed by rheumatism. He refused an offer of knighthood in 1924 as he had earlier declined honorary degrees from five universities.
Conrad died of a heart attack on August 3, 1924 and was buried in Canterbury. Conrad's influence upon 20th-century literature was wide. Ernest Hemingway expressed special admiration for the author, and his impact is seen in among others in the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Arthur Koestler, T.S. Eliot, Marcel Proust, Andr'e Malraux, Louis-Ferdinand C'e line, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Graham Greene. Several of Conrad's stories have been filmed. The most famous adaptations are Alfred Hitchcock's The Sabotage (1936), based on THE SECRET AGENT (1097), Richard Brooks's Lord Jim (1964) and Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979), based on Heart of Darkness.
Conrad sold the American screen rights to his fiction in 1919. Next year he composed a screenplay entitled The Strange Man, based on the short story 'Gaspar Ruiz'. He did not like to work for the film business, and did not know about screenwriting's. The studio rejected his script.