Offering a freshly-researched text based on Conrad's original documents, this edition presents a classic of early modernist fiction in a version that recovers the writer's preferred wordings, punctuation and narrative structure. The text is supported by a rich context of ancillary documents and annotation, including introduction, appendices and notes.
Joseph Conrad (born; Berdichev, Imperial Russia, 3 December 1857 - 3 August 1924, Bishopsbourne, Kent, England) was a Polish author who wrote in English after settling in England. He was granted British nationality in 1886, but always considered himself a Pole. Conrad is regarded as one of the greatest novelists in English, though he did not speak the language fluently until he was in his twenties (and always with a marked accent). He wrote stories and novels, often with a nautical setting, that depict trials of the human spirit in the midst of an indifferent universe. He was a master prose stylist who brought a distinctly non-English tragic sensibility into English literature.
Joseph Conrad was born on 3 December 1857 in Berdichev, in Podolia, a part of modern Ukraine that had belonged to the Kingdom of Poland before the 1793 Second Partition of Poland. He was the only child of Apollo Korzeniowski and his wife Ewa Bobrowska. The father was a writer, translator, political activist and would-be revolutionary. Conrad, who would actually be known to his family as "Konrad" rather than "Józef", was christened Józef Teodor Konrad after his maternal grandfather Józef, his paternal grandfather Teodor, and the heroes (both named "Konrad") of two poems by Adam Mickiewicz, Dziady and Konrad Wallenrod.
Though the vast majority of the area's inhabitants were Ukrainians, the land was almost completely owned by the Polish szlachta (nobility) that Conrad's parents belonged to. Polish literature, particularly patriotic literature, was held in high esteem by the area's Polish population.
Because of the father's attempts at farming and his political activism, the family moved repeatedly. In May 1861 they moved to Warsaw, where Apollo joined the resistance against the Russian Empire. This led to his imprisonment in Pavilion X (Ten) of the Warsaw Citadel. Conrad would write: " In the courtyard of this Citadel - characteristically for our nation - my childhood memories begin." On 9 May 1862 Apollo and his family were exiled to Vologda, 500 kilometres north of Moscow and known for its bad climate. In January 1863 Apollo's sentence was commuted, and the family was sent to Chernihiv in northeast Ukraine, where conditions were much better. However, on 18 April 1865 Ewa died of tuberculosis.
In 1894, aged 36, Conrad reluctantly gave up the sea, partly because of poor health and partly because he had become so fascinated with writing that he had decided on a literary career. His first novel, Almayer's Folly, set on the east coast of Borneo, was published in 1895. Its appearance marked his first use of the pen name "Joseph Conrad"; "Konrad" was, of course, the third of his Polish given names, but his use of it - in the anglicised version, "Conrad" - may also have been an homage to the Polish Romantic poet Adam Mickiewicz's patriotic narrative poem, Konrad Wallenrod.
Edward Garnett, a young publisher's reader and literary critic who would play one of the chief supporting roles in Conrad's literary career, had - like Unwin's first reader of Almayer's Folly, Wilfrid Hugh Chesson - been impressed by the manuscript, but Garnett had been "uncertain whether the English was good enough for publication." Garnett had shown the novel to his wife, Constance Garnett, later a well-known translator of Russian literature. She had thought Conrad's foreignness a positive merit.