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The last drop of bitterness is in the suspicion that you can't even smash it. In virtue of that truth one and immortal which lurks in the force that made it spring into existence it is what it is—and it is indestructible! It knits us in and it knits us out. It has knitted time space, pain, death, corruption, despair and all the illusions—and nothing matters. Faith is a myth and beliefs shift like mists on the shore; thoughts vanish; words, once pronounced, die; and the memory of yesterday is as shadowy as the hope of to-morrow In this world—as I have known it—we are made to suffer without the shadow of a reason, of a cause or of guilt There is no morality, no knowledge and no hope; there is only the consciousness of ourselves which drives us about a world that A moment, a twinkling of an eye and nothing remains—but a clod of mud, of cold mud, of dead mud cast into black space, rolling around an extinguished sun.

What will you do to keep the ship from foundering?

Neither thought, nor sound, nor soul. What [Conrad] really learned as a sailor was not something empirical—an assembly of "places and events"—but the vindication of a perspective he had developed in childhood, an impartial, unillusioned view of the world as a place of mystery and contingency, horror and splendor, where, as he put it in a letter to the London Times , the only indisputable truth is "our ignorance.

Even Henry James 's late period, that other harbinger of the modernist novel , had not yet begun when Conrad invented Marlow , and James's earlier experiments in perspective The Spoils of Poynton , What Maisie Knew don't go nearly as far as Lord Jim. Conrad spoke his native Polish and the French language fluently from childhood and only acquired English in his twenties.

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He chose, however, to write his fiction in his third language, English. He says in his preface to A Personal Record that writing in English was for him "natural", and that the idea of his having made a deliberate choice between English and French, as some had suggested, was in error. He explained that, though he had been familiar with French from childhood, "I would have been afraid to attempt expression in a language so perfectly 'crystallized'.

English is so plastic—if you haven't got a word you need you can make it, but to write French you have to be an artist like Anatole France. But for Englishmen my capacities are just sufficient: they enable me to earn my living". Conrad wrote in A Personal Record that English was "the speech of my secret choice, of my future, of long friendships, of the deepest affections, of hours of toil and hours of ease, and of solitary hours, too, of books read, of thoughts pursued, of remembered emotions—of my very dreams!

With the concurrence of his mentor-uncle Tadeusz Bobrowski , who had been summoned to Marseilles, Conrad decided to seek employment with the British merchant marine, which did not require Russia's permission. Had Conrad remained in the Francophone sphere or had he returned to Poland, the son of the Polish poet, playwright, and translator Apollo Korzeniowski —from childhood exposed to Polish and foreign literature, and ambitious to himself become a writer [15] : 43—44 —he might have ended writing in French or Polish instead of English.

Certainly his Uncle Tadeusz thought Conrad might write in Polish; in an letter he advised his year-old nephew:. As, thank God, you do not forget your Polish We have few travelers, and even fewer genuine correspondents: the words of an eyewitness would be of great interest and in time would bring you It would be an exercise in your native tongue—that thread which binds you to your country and countrymen—and finally a tribute to the memory of your father who always wanted to and did serve his country by his pen.

Short story Film -- The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad

In the opinion of some biographers, Conrad's third language, English, remained under the influence of his first two languages—Polish and French. This makes his English seem unusual. Najder writes that:. Brought up in a Polish family and cultural environment At school he must have learned German, but French remained the language he spoke with greatest fluency and no foreign accent until the end of his life.


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He was well versed in French history and literature, and French novelists were his artistic models. But he wrote all his books in English—the tongue he started to learn at the age of twenty. He was thus an English writer who grew up in other linguistic and cultural environments. His work can be seen as located in the borderland of auto-translation.

Inevitably for a trilingual Polish—French—English-speaker, Conrad's writings occasionally show linguistic spillover : " Franglais " or " Poglish "—the inadvertent use of French or Polish vocabulary, grammar, or syntax in his English writings. In one instance, Najder uses "several slips in vocabulary, typical for Conrad Gallicisms and grammar usually Polonisms " as part of internal evidence against Conrad's sometime literary collaborator Ford Madox Ford 's claim to have written a certain instalment of Conrad's novel Nostromo , for publication in T.

The impracticality of working with a language which has long ceased to be one's principal language of daily use is illustrated by Conrad's attempt at translating into English the Polish physicist, columnist, story-writer, and comedy-writer Bruno Winawer 's short play, The Book of Job. Najder writes:. Particularly Herup and a snobbish Jew, "Bolo" Bendziner, have their characteristic ways of speaking.

Conrad, who had had little contact with everyday spoken Polish, simplified the dialogue, left out Herup's scientific expressions, and missed many amusing nuances. The action in the original is quite clearly set in contemporary Warsaw, somewhere between elegant society and the demimonde; this specific cultural setting is lost in the translation. Conrad left out many accents of topical satire in the presentation of the dramatis personae and ignored not only the ungrammatical speech which might have escaped him of some characters but even the Jewishness of two of them, Bolo and Mosan.

As a practical matter, by the time Conrad set about writing fiction, he had little choice but to write in English. Conrad always retained a strong emotional attachment to his native language. Conrad bridled at being referred to as a Russian or "Slavonic" writer. The only Russian writer he admired was Ivan Turgenev. What I venture to say is that it would have been more just to charge me at most with Polonism.

Achebe's view was that Heart of Darkness cannot be considered a great work of art because it is "a novel which celebrates Achebe's critics argue that he fails to distinguish Marlow 's view from Conrad's, which results in very clumsy interpretations of the novella. Ending a passage that describes the condition of chained, emaciated slaves, the novelist remarks: "After all, I also was a part of the great cause of these high and just proceedings. Morel , who led international opposition to King Leopold II 's rule in the Congo, saw Conrad's Heart of Darkness as a condemnation of colonial brutality and referred to the novella as "the most powerful thing written on the subject.

Conrad scholar Peter Firchow writes that "nowhere in the novel does Conrad or any of his narrators, personified or otherwise, claim superiority on the part of Europeans on the grounds of alleged genetic or biological difference".

Joseph Conrad

If Conrad or his novel is racist, it is only in a weak sense, since Heart of Darkness acknowledges racial distinctions "but does not suggest an essential superiority" of any group. Some younger scholars, such as Masood Ashraf Raja , have also suggested that if we read Conrad beyond Heart of Darkness , especially his Malay novels, racism can be further complicated by foregrounding Conrad's positive representation of Muslims. In H. Conrad made English literature more mature and reflective because he called attention to the sheer horror of political realities overlooked by English citizens and politicians.

The case of Poland, his oppressed homeland, was one such issue. The colonial exploitation of Africans was another. His condemnation of imperialism and colonialism , combined with sympathy for its persecuted and suffering victims, was drawn from his Polish background, his own personal sufferings, and the experience of a persecuted people living under foreign occupation. Personal memories created in him a great sensitivity for human degradation and a sense of moral responsibility.


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  • Adam Hochschild makes a similar point:. What gave [Conrad] such a rare ability to see the arrogance and theft at the heart of imperialism? Much of it surely had to do with the fact that he himself, as a Pole, knew what it was like to live in conquered territory Conrad's poet father, Apollo Korzeniowski, was a Polish nationalist and an opponent of serfdom Conrad's experience in the Belgian-run Congo made him one of the fiercest critics of the "white man's mission.

    By accepting the job in the trading company, he joined, for once in his life, an organized, large-scale group activity on land It is not accidental that the Congo expedition remained an isolated event in Conrad's life. Until his death he remained a recluse in the social sense and never became involved with any institution or clearly defined group of people. In Circular Quay , Sydney, Australia, a plaque in a "writers walk" commemorates Conrad's visits to Australia between and The plaque notes that "Many of his works reflect his 'affection for that young continent.

    The square's dedication was timed to coincide with release of Francis Ford Coppola 's Heart of Darkness -inspired film, Apocalypse Now. Notwithstanding the undoubted sufferings that Conrad endured on many of his voyages, sentimentality and canny marketing place him at the best lodgings in several of his destinations. Hotels across the Far East still lay claim to him as an honoured guest, with, however, no evidence to back their claims: Singapore's Raffles Hotel continues to claim he stayed there though he lodged, in fact, at the Sailors' Home nearby.

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    His visit to Bangkok also remains in that city's collective memory, and is recorded in the official history of The Oriental Hotel where he never, in fact, stayed, lodging aboard his ship, the Otago along with that of a less well-behaved guest, Somerset Maugham , who pilloried the hotel in a short story in revenge for attempts to eject him. Conrad is also reported to have stayed at Hong Kong's Peninsula Hotel —at a port that, in fact, he never visited. Later literary admirers, notably Graham Greene , followed closely in his footsteps, sometimes requesting the same room and perpetuating myths that have no basis in fact.

    No Caribbean resort is yet known to have claimed Conrad's patronage, although he is believed to have stayed at a Fort-de-France pension upon arrival in Martinique on his first voyage, in , when he travelled as a passenger on the Mont Blanc. In April , a monument to Conrad was unveiled in the Russian town of Vologda , where he and his parents lived in exile in — The monument was removed, with unclear explanation, in June After the publication of Chance in , Conrad was the subject of more discussion and praise than any other English writer of the time.

    He had a genius for companionship, and his circle of friends, which he had begun assembling even prior to his first publications, included authors and other leading lights in the arts, such as Henry James , Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham , John Galsworthy , Edward Garnett , Garnett's wife Constance Garnett translator of Russian literature , Stephen Crane , Hugh Walpole , George Bernard Shaw , H. Conrad encouraged and mentored younger writers. In and Conrad's growing renown and prestige among writers and critics in continental Europe fostered his hopes for a Nobel Prize in Literature.

    It was apparently the French and Swedes—not the English—who favoured Conrad's candidacy. Conrad's narrative style and anti-heroic characters [4] have influenced many authors, including T. Coetzee , [79] and Salman Rushdie. A striking portrait of Conrad, aged about 46, was drawn by the historian and poet Henry Newbolt , who met him about One thing struck me at once—the extraordinary difference between his expression in profile and when looked at full face.

    Then [a]s we sat in our little half-circle round the fire, and talked on anything and everything, I saw a third Conrad emerge—an artistic self, sensitive and restless to the last degree. The more he talked the more quickly he consumed his cigarettes And presently, when I asked him why he was leaving London after By that dull stream of obliterated faces? On 12 October , American music critic James Huneker visited Conrad and later recalled being received by "a man of the world, neither sailor nor novelist, just a simple-mannered gentleman, whose welcome was sincere, whose glance was veiled, at times far-away, whose ways were French, Polish, anything but 'literary,' bluff or English.

    After respective separate visits to Conrad in August and September , two British aristocrats, the socialite Lady Ottoline Morrell and the mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell —who were lovers at the time—recorded their impressions of the novelist. In her diary, Morrell wrote:.

    A mile and a half below the Inner Station, Marlow and his men are confronted with

    I found Conrad himself standing at the door of the house ready to receive me His manner was perfect, almost too elaborate; so nervous and sympathetic that every fibre of him seemed electric He talked English with a strong accent, as if he tasted his words in his mouth before pronouncing them; but he talked extremely well, though he had always the talk and manner of a foreigner He was dressed very carefully in a blue double-breasted jacket. He talked He spoke of the horrors of the Congo , from the moral and physical shock of which he said he had never recovered He made me feel so natural and very much myself, that I was almost afraid of losing the thrill and wonder of being there, although I was vibrating with intense excitement inside His eyes under their pent-house lids revealed the suffering and the intensity of his experiences; when he spoke of his work, there came over them a sort of misty, sensuous, dreamy look, but they seemed to hold deep down the ghosts of old adventures and experiences—once or twice there was something in them one almost suspected of being wicked But then I believe whatever strange wickedness would tempt this super-subtle Pole, he would be held in restraint by an equally delicate sense of honour In his talk he led me along many paths of his life, but I felt that he did not wish to explore the jungle of emotions that lay dense on either side, and that his apparent frankness had a great reserve.

    A month later, Bertrand Russell visited Conrad at Capel House, and the same day on the train wrote down his impressions:.

    I plucked up courage to tell him what I find in his work—the boring down into things to get to the very bottom below the apparent facts. Russell's Autobiography , published over half a century later in , confirms his original experience:. My first impression was one of surprise. He spoke English with a very strong foreign accent, and nothing in his demeanour in any way suggested the sea.