Joseph Conrad (1857–1924) was a crucial figure in the transition to Modernism, valued for his reflections on the nature of storytelling and his portrayal of European imperialism. Though his parents were both Polish, he was born in the Ukraine and given the name Józef Theodor Konrad Korzeniowski. When he was about 5, his parents were exiled to a remote village in northern Russia, where both of them would die. Conrad went to sea at the age of 16, visiting the West Indies and Venezuela while serving in the French merchant marine. He sought work on British
ships in 1878 and became an English subject in 1886. The most important journey of his career came in 1890, when he sailed to the coast of Africa and steamed up the Congo River. This journey would become the basis for his most famous and influential work, Heart of Darkness (1899), which would later serve as the basis for the film Apocalypse Now. Closely associated with other major figures, including Henry James and Ford Madox Ford, Conrad would also publish several other important works of fiction, including Almayer’s Folly (1895); Lord Jim (1900); Nostromo (1904); The Secret Agent (1907), now celebrated as one of the first novels to take up the issue of urban terrorism; and Under Western Eyes (1911).
[Courtesy: Professor Timothy Spurgin]