Joseph Conrad was born Józef Teodor Konrad Nałęcz Korzeniowski
in Berdyczów, formerly in the Commonwealth of Poland, on
December 3, 1857. Polish born, he would become one of the greatest
novelists and prose stylists of English literature, an enormous
achievement considering that he mastered English as his fourth
language at the age of twenty.
Józef Teodor Konrad Nałęcz Korzeniowski
Joseph Conrad was born Józef Teodor Konrad Nałęcz Korzenio-wski in Berdyczów, formerly in the Commonwealth of Poland, on December 3, 1857. Polish born, he would become one of the great-est novelists and prose stylists of English literature, an enormous achievement considering that he mastered English as his fourthlanguage at the age of twenty.
His father, Apollo Korzeniowski, was a translator of English and French literature, and so Joseph, while still a boy, had significant exposure to English, French, and Polish literature.
In 1862, Joseph’s family was exiled to northern Russia as a result of his father’s political activities. In 1865, his mother Ewelina died of tuberculosis. In 1886, Apollo Korzeniowski was permitted to return from exile and, together with his son, settled in Lvov.The next year they moved to Cracow. In 1869, after Apollo’s death, Joseph’s maternal uncle, Tadeusz Bo-browski, took charge of the boy’s education and upbringing.In 1872, Joseph surprised his family by expressing his desire to go to sea. Despite the many attempts to dissuade him from his decision, he left Poland in 1874 for Marseilles, France where he began his career as a sailor. While working on ships, Korzeniowski made numerous voyages in and around Europe as well as to the Caribbean. In 1878, he joined the British merchant marine where he swiftly rose in rank.In 1886, he earned a Master Mariner certificate and became a naturalized British citizen. It was at this time that he officially changed his name to “Joseph Conrad”.
As a British mariner, he spent many years sailing all over the world. These experiences provided him with material for the exotic locations of many of his novels. Conrad traveled to Australia, to various islands in the Indian Ocean and in the South Pacific, to South America, and he even sailed up the Congo River in Africa. While sailing to Australia, he took his first command (1888), of the ship Otago. In 1894, at the age of 36, after twenty years at sea, Conrad finally left the sea behind and settled down in England. Two years later he married an Englishwoman by the name of Jessie George. The couple had two sons.
Conrad still occasionally traveled, but most of his time was spent writing his novels. His first, Almayer’s Folly, appeared in print in 1899. Lord Jim came in 1900 and Nostromo in 1904. Conrad continued to write until his death. His last novel, Suspense, published posthumously in 1925, remained unfinished.In 1923, the year before his death, Conrad, who possessed a hereditary Polish coat-of-arms, declined the offer of British knighthood which was not hereditary. Conrad died on August 3, 1924 and was interred at Canterbury Cemetery, Canterbury, England under the name of Korzeniowski.
Conrad is regarded as a forerunner of modernism. His narrative style and existential, anti-heroic charac-ters influenced many writers including Ernest Hemingway, D.H. Lawrence, Graham Greene, and Joseph Heller, as well as provided inspiration for the film Apocalypse Now (which drew from Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”).
To commemorate the 150th anniversary of Conrad’s birth, UNESCO and the Polish government respec-tively recognized and designated the year 2007 as “Conrad in the World” year.