Biography of Joseph Conrad (1857-1924)

British Narrator of ruso-polaco origin, born in Berdichev (Polish city subject, then, to the Russian Empire, and currently belongs to Ukraine) on December 3, 1857, and died in Bishopsbourne (near Canterbury, in the British County of Kent) on August 3, 1924. Although his real name was Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski, it is universally known as Joseph Conrad, adaptation to the English of their anthroponimical and patronymic, he/she adopted when he/she received British citizenship. Author of an extensive and dazzling production narrative that, in General, addresses the problem of the loneliness of the individual abandoned in a world hostile and subjected to unexpected blows of fortune, is regarded as one of the leading figures of the narrative universal end of the 19th century and the beginning of the following century.


Born into an important family in the cultural and political field of the Poland of the 19th, was orphaned at an early age, so he/she was educated under the tutelage of his maternal uncle, Thaddeusz Bobrowski. It was the single stem of the marriage formed by Appolonius Nalecz Korzenowski - translator, romantic poet to the Polish of some works of Shakespeare (1564-1616) and fervent Patriot and Evelina Bobrowska - also a fighter for the independence of his people, although somewhat more conservative than her husband-. The father of the future writer, activist active in the independence struggle, was one of the members of the Committee who headed the Polish insurrection against Russian rule, so was arrested in 1861 - when the small Józef had only four years of age — and deported to Vologda, a barren region in the northeast of Russia. A year later, his wife and his son traveled there to meet him, and the whole family remained in Vologda until 1865, in the midst of deplorable living conditions that, surely, would influence later in the work of the writer, dominated by the vulnerability of the human and moral instability that seizes it in extreme situations.

Raised the punishment that was borne by Appolonius Nalecz Korzenowski, the entire family returned to Poland, where, result of hardships experienced during the exile, killed the mother of the future writer (1865), which had contracted a TB condition in the icy lands of Vologda. Orphan, therefore, the eight year-old mother, the small Jozef was in the care of his enlightened parent, who, to ensure their support, was devoted to intellectual work and began to translate to Polish some masterpieces of world literature - including those of the quoted English playwright and those of the French romantic Victorian Hugo (1802-1885). This constant dedication of his father to the translation Józef Konrad plunged into long periods of solitude, but also gave him the opportunity of early broaden their cultural horizons and acquire an education that would be crucial for the rest of his life; and so, received the first rudiments of his own father language English - which would then write all their work-, and became interested keenly by reading, with a special predilection for the works of some authors such as Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851), Charles Dickens (1812-1870) and William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863), English-speaking to read in Polish sometimes and sometimes in French, - the latter - language that already dominated to perfection at such a young age.

This fruitful coexistence between father and son was sudden and dramatically interrupted in 1869, when Appolonius Nalecz Korzenowski died, also of tuberculosis, leaving helpless to his twelve year old son. It was then that Thaddeusz Bobrowski, brother of his mother and lawyer by profession, gladly took the guardianship of his young nephew, who treated and educated as if it were your own child, always showing you an extreme affection, covering all their expenses and providing the best education that could pay. It was, indeed, his uncle who paid for the studies and the maintenance of Józef Konrad in Krakow and, shortly afterwards, in Switzerland; who ran the cost of particular preceptors who expanded the statement of the boy, and who even firmly support its initial project of entering University in Kraków (with the consequent economic disbursement which it would have been). But the young and restless Jozef, carried by his adventurous spirit, not corresponded to its fair measure to the generous guardian education efforts: just it was seventeen years of age when, driven by an irresistible seafaring vocation, he/she abandoned his studies and went to Marseille, where his uncle, far from leaving him to his fate, assigned him an annuity of two thousand francs and put you in contact with a French shipping company. It was as well as the future writer was, in 1874, its first naval voyage, as a mere passenger during this initial journey, although he/she managed to be admitted as an apprentice on his second voyage.

For nearly four years he/she was in the French Merchant Navy Satin sailor, where had the opportunity to live some romantic sea trips which would then supply abundant narrative material to his works. Thus, v. gr., in 1876 took part in a crossing Islands Westerners which, under the cover of commercial activity, hiding a murky business of illegal arms trafficking. The first officer of the crew working on this voyage, a Corsican citizen named Dominic Cervoni, left an indelible mark on his life and his work (which appeared reflected as the protagonist of his novel Nostromo). At the same time, your life experience enriched with many bizarre sets which, suitably ornate later by your imagination of writer - in view of its most authoritative biographers-, they developed also in a close to their bodies of fictional character: apparently, he/she lived dangerously in debt for a long time, he/she fell in love with women who did not correspond you (one of which dragged him to a failed attempt of suicide) and suffered several extremely serious wounds (caused by accidents at work and by romantic duels that could not have been verified by the scholars of his life and work).

In 1878, twenty-one years old of age, Józef Konrad was required for the fulfilment of military obligations. To evade them, he/she left the French merchant navy and joined an English ship which, after hitting port in Istanbul, returned to its starting point and landed the young man off the British coast of Lowestoft, where for the first time he/she stepped on the land of the nation that was to be bound for the rest of his life. At the service, then, of the British merchant fleet, it soon cooled those rudiments of English who had learned beside her father and starred again, in other many adventures worthy of his best novels. Them for their important reflection in his later literary production, include which lived on board the ship Palestine, whose crew joined in April 1881 to assist in the transportation of a huge shipment of coal to the far East. The colossal vessel, more than four hundred tons, was hit during navigation by winds that were on the verge of sinking it; shortly after, the impact of a steamship, it suffered in its keel which caused the panic of the crew and the abandonment of the ship by many sailors; and, to make matters worse, before arriving at its final destination on the Eastern Islands, he/she was declared aboard a terrifying originated in the load of coal fire, forcing the few sailors still sailing in the Palestine to urgently leave in lifeboats. One of them escaped the tragedy Józef Konrad, who, after more than thirteen hours adrift, finally touched down on an island in Sumatra. The memory of this eventful voyage would have you inspire, years later, the novel brief entitled Youth (youth, 1902).

Subjugated by this life of emotions and adventures, Józef Konrad formed part of the crews of the other two ships during 1882 and 1883, and at the end of that year decided that it was time to start to put in writing the memories of his experiences and reflections from them. However, still much missing to professionally engage in literary creation, so it continued sailing until, in 1886, Captain of height certificate, at the time calling - to be able to practice their profession in the nation that had welcomed him - British citizenship. Malay-sailed, from then on, all seas - but with recurrent presence in the archipelago and in a painful journey from Bangkok to Singapore took charge for the first time on a sailboat, name Otego, whose captain had died in the middle of crossing.

In the summer of 1889, newcomer to London after many months of navigation, Jozef took lodging in a room that gave to the Thames, and began to write that, six years later, would become his first published novel, Almayer's Folly (the madness of Almayer, 1895), focused on the experiences of a Dutch merchant who had known in Borneo. But before displaying its name for the first time on the shelves of bookstores London, he/she starred in other many exotic adventures, such as which led him in 1890 until the free State of Congo. Apparently, from his lonely and dreamy childhood in Poland it had housed the illusion of knowing those mysterious African Lands, in which finally, the thirty-three years of age, was able to spend four intense months, fascinated by a series of experiences and sensations that, years later, would have to be reflected in which perhaps is his most famous work, Heart of Darkness (the heart of darkness, 1902).

On his return to England in January 1891, he/she continued writing the novel started on the banks of the Thames, which interrupted whenever emerged you the possibility to enrol in a new voyage. However, in 1894, the news of the death of his uncle Thaddeusz plunged him into a deep regret that, after a long period of reflection led him to consider the need to abandon a way of life for which already lacked the vigor and enthusiasm of his youth years. Resolved, therefore, to try his luck as a professional writer, he/she sent the manuscript of Almayer's Folly to a Publisher immediately assumed its publication, that, in effect, put it in London bookstores in April, 1895, under the new - and, since then, final - form British from its name: Joseph Conrad. A few months later, excited by this happy beginning of his literary career, held his marital link with Jessie George - one seventeen years younger than the British young - marriage of the two children were born.

The following year, already decided to make a living as a writer, Joseph Conrad gave to press his second extensive narration, An Outcast of the Islands (a vagabond of the Islands, 1896), which soon were joined, in a fertile and whirlwind creative career, other excellent prose of fiction as The Nigger of the "Narcissus" (the black of the "Narcissus", 1897)Such of Unrest (tales of restlessness, 1898) - a collection of five stories that stand out for its ironic reflection of the society of his time, distinguished with a favorable mention of the Royal Academy-, Lord Jim (1900) - work adopted for the first time in which the story within the story technique, which was revealed to be a consummate master-, The Inheritors (the heirs1901) - written in collaboration with his friend Hueffer - and the aforementioned Heart of Darkness (the heart of darkness, 1902).

With the publication of these and other later books, Joseph Conrad managed to live the benefits of his pen until the end of his days, but without great luxury. Its last years of existence were embittered by the discreet reception of his new novels - amounting to nor, certainly, the quality of which had given to the printing stage initial-, a serious condition of drop that caused him severe headaches, and the illness of his wife, suffering from paralysis. Its last contact with the sea took place in 1923, year where he/she paid a visit to the United States of America; on his return to England, the first Minister of the British Government, James Ramsay MacDonald (1866-1937), offered him the title of Sir, honour he/she refused the lonely and disappointed adventurer who was still inside. Soon after, a primer for heart put an end to its existence.


From a purely linguistic point of view, the case of Joseph Conrad is a genuine rarity, since he/she managed to achieve a universal literary recognition expressed in what was his fourth language (rather than English, had learned Polish, Russian and French). Despite this, its clean and brilliant literary prose is an excellent model of adaptation of the exact word to the idea that you want to express. According to his own testimony, he/she always sought the way more beautiful to give to the phrase "form and sound", and reach your prose "a color and plasticity" which, at the time that underlined the literary aesthetic purpose, resaltasen the meaning of each word perfectly. In the preface to his early novel The Nigger of the 'Narcissus' (1897) had stated that the artist, in front of the usual attitude of the scientist, "appeals to our capacity for enjoyment, for the admiration; our intuition of the mystery that surrounds the life; to our sense of piety, beauty and pain; "the latent feeling of brotherhood with all creation and the subtle - but invincible - faith in the solidarity that the loneliness of countless hearts [...], that closely links humanity: the dead with the living and the living with the unborn". And was aware of that, to achieve this moving force of the poetic Word, it was necessary that "the magic light of suggestion could shine an instant the vulgar surface of words: of those old, very old words, worn used force, disfigured by centuries of careless manipulation".

Indeed, his novels and stories - especially those of its first stage - captivated critics and readers not only by the exoticism of the adventurous adventures, but also by its excellent narrative rhythm and the unusual beauty of his language. In this sense, the literary production of Conrad tribute to style and intent of two great predecessors: the Anglo-American Henry James (1843-1916) and the Frenchman Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880), both obsessed by reproducing in their pages the spiritual crisis of the society of their respective eras, with special interest in the complex and troubled psychic of his characters dimension, and exquisite care in the preparation of a literary discourse to reflect this inner human torment. Following in their wake, Conrad - who had read thoroughly both teacher - created a fictional universe inhabited by heroic beings that, in its radical individualism - anchored in the deep abyss of loneliness that surrounds them - face hard against unexpected swings in fortune, a Stoic and tenacious resistance that eventually allows them to conquer their own identity which had dissolved into its status as marginal beingssolitary and rootless. And although the most suitable environment to reflect this agonizing struggle between man and the hostile environment that surrounds you is - as you would expect from the own vital vicissitudes of the writer - the vast ocean, Conrad managed stand to a relative distancing from the narrated story, to create some atmospheres of vague ambiguity in which wins the objectivity of the narrator and any risk of falling into pathos derived from autobiographical memory disappears.

This does not preclude that the Narrator is, frequently, an old retired sailor - and, at the same time, transcript or alter ego of the own Conrad-which tells the facts from such search distancing, although savvy to refer all the ins and outs of adventure marine and, at the same time, sufficient experience to objectively present the constant struggle between good and evil that hold those agonizing characters in their desperate quest for Supreme ideal.

First stage (1895-1906)

The literary production of Joseph Conrad, developed along three distinct, stages consists of thirteen novels, twenty-eight short stories and two volumes of memoirs. In its first stage - without a doubt, more brilliance-, is obliged to point out the following titles: Almayer's Folly (the madness of Almayer, 1895), An Outcast of the Islands (a vagabond of the Islands, 1896), The Nigger of the "Narcissus" (the black of the "Narcissus", 1897) - a beautiful and unsettling approach to the scourge of racial discrimination, focusing on the figure of an enigmatic black sailor and the adventure of a ship hit by a storm in Cape Good hope-, Tales of Unrest (tales of restlessness, 1898), Lord Jim (1900) - on the regrets of a veteran sailor who cannot forget his cowardice during a shipwreck who lived in his youth-, Heart of Darkness (the heart of darkness, 1902), Youth (youth, 1902), Typhoon (Typhoon, 1903), Nostromo (1904), and The Mirror of the Sea (the mirror of the sea1906). In addition, published two books written in collaboration with Hueffer during this first phase of his literary career: the already mentioned The Inheritors (the heirs, 1901) and Romance (1903).

The black of the "Narcissus"(1897)

On Board of the "Narcissus" Queen a tense atmosphere caused by a black sailor who, after having fallen badly sick during the voyage, it does weigh on the entire crew the responsibility of their delicate situation. All sailors secretly hate him by using his illness as a means to moral blackmail; However, no one denies his help and protection, even at the risk of their lives. The dominant strain - ambiguously distributed between compassion toward the sick and the fear caused by threats - will only dissipate after the death of the black sailor, whose blackmail has gone so far as to push his companions to the mutiny.

Lord JIm(1900)

The danger of collapse that threatens the Patna, which has collided with the remains of a shipwreck, the young Jim abandons ship along with the captain of the same. This dishonorable attitude is harshly reproached in the course of the investigation responsible for clarifying the facts, at the end of which Jim tries to rebuild his life without being able to get rid of the bad conscience that constantly reminds his cowardly behavior. After numerous adventures in which seeks inner peace that remorse prevents him from reaching, the protagonist above to Patusan, an island in the Malay Archipelago which is generously hosted by the indigenous people. There, to the dessert, will have a chance to atone for the guilt that still tormenting him: betrayed by a white Bandit who using their trust, plunders the island, is offered as a scapegoat, and he/she was murdered under the vengeful fury of the natives of the place.

The heart of darkness(1902)

A commercial company dedicated to the transport of ivory instructs Marlowe that occupy the position of a captain of waterway that is dead, killed by Indians in the center of Africa. Marlowe moves to place the facts on a French freighter, and arriving in the area where work must be discovered, with horror, appalling conditions live the indigenous population, reduced to slavery by the operators of the ivory and convicted to perish of hunger and exhaustion. At shortly after his arrival, he/she began to have vague news of a mysterious Mr. Kurtz, of whose whereabouts nobody knows nothing from long ago, but are reminded that as a great character and a brave and meritorious worker, able to send more ivory than the meeting by all stations operating on their own. After embarking at a long fluvial journey on a tributary of the main river, Marlowe finally discovers Mr. Kurtz, whom the indigenous people of the remote virgin lands which is to worship as if it were a deity. But this divine tribute has not improved their living conditions; rather, Kurtz is now a man alienated, consumed by diseases, desperate in its solitude and horrified by the cruel rites and sacrifices held, in his honor, the Indians that have "God you". Marlowe, impressed by the lamentable state of Kurtz, convinces him to make you leave with him on his river barge; but during the return voyage Kurtz lost his life, after having made a hilarious speech where he/she tried to hide, with fine words, the darkness that nested in his heart.


Fidanza, an Italian known for his courage among dockworkers at the port of Costaguana, is known as Nostromo in this place, located in an imaginary South American Republic who lives threatened by a consistent revolutionary agitation. The latest moves of the revolutionaries are running to get valuable silver mine, effort getting to thwart Nostromo taking the precious metal to a nearby island. But upon returning the rebellion has been stifled, and in the midst of apparent calm, no one seems to rating his daring exploit, so Nostromo, injured in his pride, spread the word that the silver has sunk into the bottom of the sea. At the same time, his eventful love life nor receives the favors of the Fortune: in love with Gisella, looks instead joined his sister Linda in fulfillment of a promise made to the mother of both when this was on its deathbed. Jealousy torment Linda, knowing that Nostromo is in love with his sister. This is why, after you find out that he/she has been betrayed, convinces his father to give death to Nostromo, who, abandoned by all, decides to die without reveal to anyone the place where he/she has hidden the treasure.

Second stage (1907-1911)

Surprisingly, Conrad turned to the novel's political contents in full maturity of his literary career, when he/she had already is enshrined as a true specialist in the adventure genre, which enriched with his lucid and objective treatment of the fears and anxieties that nest in the interior of the human being. Its intention to denounce the despotism of the Tsarist Russia (and, at the same time, reject the revolutionary spirit, because in his opinion the revolutionary dogmas stifle individual freedom of man) was patent good in his two best works of this second phase of production: The Secret Agent (the secret agent, 1907) - inspired by the clandestine struggle of European anarchism - and Under Western Eyes (under the gaze of the West1911) - in which it gave readers a re-analysis of coexistence among human beings, now subject to constraints of an own morality than Conrad aspired to become universal.

To this period other titles under as A Set of Six (1908), The English Review (1909) - a new collaboration with Hueffer, the short novel The Secret Sharer (1910), the book of memories belong also Some Reminiscences (some souvenirs) - later republished under the title of A personnel Record-, and Twixt Land and Sea (1912).

The secret agent(1907)

Verloc, a spy infiltrating the underground anarchist movement which operates in London, receives the task of committing a terrorist attack that provoke the wrath of public opinion against anarchism and justify a police backlash against their militants and sympathizers. The secret agent resides in the London district of Soho, in company of Winnie, his wife, and Stevie, a younger brother of this to which the woman protects since childhood, while always behaves like a real irresponsible. When it comes to committing its ignoble terrorist action - planned against the symbolic Observatory of Greenwich-, Verloc is accompanied by Stevie, who stumbles over the explosive device in their hands on the way to the scene and, as a result of the violent outbreak, is completely shattered. Proceedings in the place of the incident, police found a single track to start his investigation: a piece of fabric from clothing of Stevie, which contained an address in Soho. When they reach their home with this test, Winnie identifies, horrified, his brother clothing, although it does not reveal any details of the plan drawn up by Verloc. In the background, he/she is convinced that this has intentionally caused the death of Stevie, so stabs him while he/she sleeps. Dam, then, panic, decide to flee England until they discover his murderous action, and part toward Europe in the company of Ossipon, an old comrade of Verloc that long ago had been in love with Winnie, and who has now agreed to accompany her because he/she is convinced that was Verloc who died in the explosion. But to discover the truth refuses to follow your hand, so Winnie, abandoned and desperate, commits suicide by throwing himself overboard from the ship which was going through the English channel.

Third stage (1912-1924)

Geographic exoticism and maritime adventure reappeared in the works of his third and final stage, which became apparent improvement of his exquisite literary style - which, however, failed to go back to the high peaks of poetic intensity reached by their first stories-, this last period of his production opened with the splendid novel (random Chance1912), which then followed other works of fiction of remarkable interest, such as the compilation of stories Whitin the Tides (1915), Victory (Victoria, 1915) - extensive narration set in the seas of the South-The Shadow Line (the line of shadow, 1917) - novel in which reflected their experiences as captain of the Otego – The Arrow of Gold (the Golden arrow1919) and The Rescue (Liberation, 1920).

This last stage belongs also its adaptation to the theatre's novel The Secret Agent (1907), first performed in 1922, as well as a series of works published posthumously, such as the unfinished novel Suspense (1925), the collection of reflections Last Essays (past trials, 1925) and the collection of short stories Tales of Hearsay (1926). More than half a century after his disappearance, have come to light other texts written by Conrad, which include his epistolario (Collected letters, 1986), their personal endorsements during his stay in Africa (Congo Diary, 1995), and his unpublished story Freya, the seven islands (1999).


CAMPO GOMEZ, Jesus of the. Forests, shipwrecks and treasures: Stevenson and Conrad to Theroux Goetzee (Oviedo: Universidad de Oviedo, Servicio de Publicaciones, 1996).