Heart of Darkness: Biography: Conrad, Joseph

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Joseph Conrad was born Josef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski in 1857 in the Ukraine, a part of Poland controlled by Russia.  Though he was born into an upper-class family, his early life was marred by tragedy.  His father was arrested and exiled for political reasons, forcing the family to leave its home.  His mother died of tuberculosis in 1865, and his father died in 1869.  Orphaned at age eleven, Conrad was placed in the care of his uncle.  Despite these issues, he  received a formal education and spoke several languages.  Some scholars see the fact that he published in a language other than his native tongue as evidence of his great intellect.  Early in his professional life he joined the French Merchant Navy, where he sailed the West Indies.  When he was no longer permitted to sail with the French fleet, he spent sixteen years sailing with the British, eventually becoming a British subject in 1886.  Conrad sailed to the Congo in 1890, where he fell ill and returned to Europe.  Conrad was generally appalled by what he saw there.  In 1923 he was offered knighthood, but declined the honor.  He died in 1924, and is buried in Canterbury Cemetery. 
While Heart of Darkness, published in 1899, is Conrad's best-known work, he wrote a number of other novels.  His first novel, Almayer's Folly, was published in 1895; it is the story of a man who dreams of fame and success but who ultimately achieves neither.  Nigger of the "Narcissus" (1897) details the events and personal relationships aboard the Narcissus, a ship making a winter voyage from Bombay to London.  Lord Jim, a novel also involving Marlow, tells the tale of a sailor who is disgraced but manages to redeem himself.  It was published in 1900.  Nostromo, published in 1904, is considered by some to be Conrad's masterwork.  It is a novel about politics and revolution in a South American town.  The Secret Agent (1907) is a dark, humorous tale involving espionage and terrorism in London.  Although Chance, published in 1914, came late in his career, it is Conrad's first bestseller.  The novel also involves Marlow and offers the story of a woman's desire to obtain contentment and dignity. 

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