Jozef Teodor Konrad Nalecz Korzeniowski was born at Berdichev in the Polish Ukraine in 1857. He came from an aristocratic family and his father, a landowner and a man of letters, was a rebel who was exiled in Northern Russia for supporting Polish independence. Conrad and his mother followed him, but his mother died after only three years. His father sent him back to an uncle, and Conrad was never to see him again because he also died shortly afterwards.
After his studies in Craw he left Poland to follow his passional desire to go to sea, and in 1874, at the age of 17, reached Marseilles to begin a career as a ship’s officer. Disappointments and frustrations soon led him to attempt suicide: the bullet just missed his heart and went out of his back without doing and serious damage. The event haunted him with a sense of guilt and remorse that is often recognisable in the caharacters of his books.
In 1878 Conrad joined a British ship, and it was on that ship that he first learned the English language and his strong link with British began. His career as a sailor was long and successful, and in 1886 he obtained British natinality. It was also in the same year that he made his first attempts at writing. In this period he travelled mainly to the East, and his eastern voyages provided him with a splendid background for some of his finest early works, like Almayer’s Folly (that he began in 1889) and The Nigger of the Narcissus. “The mysterrious East faced me, perfumed, silent like Death, dark like a grave”. Then he sailed the Pacific for about two years, agian gathering material for future books.
In 1880 Conrad worked for a Belgian company in Congo, on a Congo River steamer, and the journals and notes that he wrote became the basis for Heart of Darkness, one of his most famous works. He really liked his life as a sailor and also the duties which it imposed upon him. However, in 1894 he left the sea, finding that writing demanded his complete attention, and made England his home.
1897 saw the publication of The Nigger of the Narcissus: Lord Jim was publiched in 1900 and Heart of Darkness in 1902. Other major works came out one after another: Youth (1902), Typhoon (1903), Nostromo (1904), The Secret Agent (1907), Under Western Eyes (1910).
This great master of narrative also produced twenty-eight short stories, many of which are superb pieces of fiction like The Secret Shaker, The Lagoon, Freya of the Seven Isles, and The Duel, just to mention the best known.
Now internationally famous, Conrad visited the United States to great acclaim (1923); a year later he died of a heart attack