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Joseph Conrad

Heart of Darkness

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In relation to its brevity, this may be one of the most influential books of literary fiction ever written. In the guise of an adventure tale it tells about a journey to the darkness inside the human soul. A journey that ends with two words, spoken by a dying man — words that out of pity will not be told to the woman he had left behind, but that will go on to haunt the reader’s mind.

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About the Author

Joseph Conrad was born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski on December 3rd, 1857, in the town of Berdyczów, Poland (then under Russian occupation, and now the Ukrainian town Berdychiv), into an impoverished family of Polish aristocracy. His father Apollo Korzeniowski was a poet, playwright, translator of French and English literature, and political activist. Because of his involvement in the January Uprising against the Russian Empire in 1863, the family was deported. Conrad’s mother died 1865, his father 1869, leaving him orphaned at the age of 11. After living a few years in Kraków with his uncle, but at the age of 16, to avoid conscription into the Russian army he traveled to Marseille to become a seaman.

For 20 years he led an adventurous life that took him to all corners of the globe, and that later provided the material for his narrative work, most of which is based upon his actual experiences. From 1878 on Conrad served in the British merchant navy, in 1886 gaining both his Master Mariner’s certificate and British citizenship, and changing his name to “Joseph Conrad.” In 1894 he gave up seafaring, to begin his career as a writer; in 1896 he married an English woman named Jessie George, with whom he was to have two sons.

While he is now considered one of the most influential writers in the forefront of modern fiction, if not one of the greatest novelists in the English language of all times, and while he was recognized inside a small literary elite, it was only after the publication of his novel Chance in 1913 that Conrad finally achieved huge public critical acclaim and commercial success. Enjoying wealth and status, Conrad kept on writing until his death from a heart attack on August 3rd, 1924.

Joseph Conrad has written 18 novels and a large number of short stories and essays; among the writers he has influenced are Ernest Hemingway, D.H. Lawrence, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Graham Greene, Malcolm Lowry, William S. Burroughs, Joseph Heller, V.S. Naipaul, Italo Calvino, Hunter S. Thompson, and J.M. Coetzee — a list impressive not only for the illustriousness of its members, but also for their diversity.

Heart of Darkness is considered Joseph Conrad’s most influential work, and Kurtz’s last words, after more than a century, still have lost nothing of their power to haunt the reader’s mind.

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