Lord Jim: Biography: Joseph Conrad

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Joseph Conrad, novelist and writer of short stories, was born of Polish descent in Russian-controlled Ukraine in 1857. His original name was Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski and he later changed this when he settled in England as an adult. By the age of 11, both of Conrad’s parents had died and a maternal uncle took over his care and sent him to school in Switzerland. In 1874, he decided to leave school and joined the French merchant navy. He continued to work on the sea and became a master mariner, and a British subject, in 1886. He settled in England in 1894 and began writing full time.
He wrote over 30 novels and stories throughout his writing career. His works are often characterized by their formal experimentations and are seen as epitomizing the transition from Victorian realism to modernism. He wrote in English, which was his third language, and his first novel was published in 1894. ‘Heart of Darkness’(1899), which is set in what was then the Belgian Congo, and Lord Jim (1900) were both originally published in Blackwood’s magazine and both works also share the same narrator, Marlow.
Lord Jim has a true story as a basis for its plot and draws on the tale of the Jeddah, which was a ship full of pilgrims thatwas abandoned at sea by its crew, as was the Patna. This is also a novel concerned with depicting the eponymous hero’s yearning for heroism and his wish to escape from his sense of shame. Christopher Hope, in his introduction to the 1999 edition, describes this novel as having a ‘literary ancestor in Madame Bovary’. He also points out that the novel looks forward to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925) as both texts have a flawed central hero who dreams of achieving greatness.
Of his other novels, Nostromo (1904) is considered to be one of his greatest in its exploration of corruption and weakness. The Secret Agent (1907) is set in London and is concerned with an imagined anarchist plot to blow up the Greenwich Observatory.
Conrad’s work has since been regarded as highly influential and it is often seen as impressionistic in its treatment of time and narration. As a mark of recognition, he was offered a knighthood in 1924, which he declined.  In August of that year he died of a heart attack and is buried in Canterbury, England.

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