Conrad and History (Oxford English Monographs)

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Mock Interview - Modern Languages - Jesus College, Oxford.

Stock Image. Save for Later. His first novel, Almayer's Folly , set on the east coast of Borneo , was published in 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.

She had thought Conrad's foreignness a positive merit. While Conrad had only limited personal acquaintance with the peoples of Maritime Southeast Asia , the region looms large in his early work.


According to Najder, Conrad, the exile and wanderer, was aware of a difficulty that he confessed more than once: the lack of a common cultural background with his Anglophone readers meant he could not compete with English-language authors writing about the English-speaking world. At the same time, the choice of a non-English colonial setting freed him from an embarrassing division of loyalty: Almayer's Folly , and later " An Outpost of Progress " , set in a Congo exploited by King Leopold II of Belgium and Heart of Darkness , likewise set in the Congo , contain bitter reflections on colonialism.

The Malay states came theoretically under the suzerainty of the Dutch government; Conrad did not write about the area's British dependencies, which he never visited. He "was apparently intrigued by The prolific and destructive richness of tropical nature and the dreariness of human life within it accorded well with the pessimistic mood of his early works.

Almayer's Folly , together with its successor, An Outcast of the Islands , laid the foundation for Conrad's reputation as a romantic teller of exotic tales—a misunderstanding of his purpose that was to frustrate him for the rest of his career. Financial success long eluded Conrad, who often requested advances from magazine and book publishers, and loans from acquaintances such as John Galsworthy.

Though his talent was early on recognised by English intellectuals, popular success eluded him until the publication of Chance , which is often considered one of his weaker novels. Edward Said describes three phases to Conrad's literary career. The second phase, spanning the war and following the popular success of Chance , is marked by the advent of Conrad's public persona as "great writer".

Conrad and History (Oxford English Monographs)

In the third and final phase, from the end of World War I to Conrad's death , he at last finds an uneasy peace; it is, as C. McCarthy writes, as though "the War has allowed Conrad's psyche to purge itself of terror and anxiety. Conrad was a reserved man, wary of showing emotion. He scorned sentimentality; his manner of portraying emotion in his books was full of restraint, scepticism and irony. In short [ Conrad suffered throughout life from ill health, physical and mental. A newspaper review of a Conrad biography suggested that the book could have been subtitled Thirty Years of Debt, Gout, Depression and Angst.

He also complained of swollen hands "which made writing difficult".

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Taking his uncle Tadeusz Bobrowski's advice, he convalesced at a spa in Switzerland. In one letter he remarked that every novel he had written had cost him a tooth.

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  6. In his letters he often described symptoms of depression; "the evidence", writes Najder, "is so strong that it is nearly impossible to doubt it. In March , at the end of his Marseilles period, year-old Conrad attempted suicide, by shooting himself in the chest with a revolver.

    Joseph Conrad and the Anthropological Dilemma: Bewildered Traveller

    Little is known about any intimate relationships that Conrad might have had prior to his marriage, confirming a popular image of the author as an isolated bachelor who preferred the company of close male friends. One of these would be described in his story "A Smile of Fortune", which contains autobiographical elements e. The narrator, a young captain, flirts ambiguously and surreptitiously with Alice Jacobus, daughter of a local merchant living in a house surrounded by a magnificent rose garden. Research has confirmed that in Port Louis at the time there was a year-old Alice Shaw, whose father, a shipping agent, owned the only rose garden in town.

    More is known about Conrad's other, more open flirtation. An old friend, Captain Gabriel Renouf of the French merchant marine, introduced him to the family of his brother-in-law. Renouf's eldest sister was the wife of Louis Edward Schmidt, a senior official in the colony; with them lived two other sisters and two brothers. Though the island had been taken over in by Britain, many of the inhabitants were descendants of the original French colonists, and Conrad's excellent French and perfect manners opened all local salons to him.

    He became a frequent guest at the Schmidts', where he often met the Misses Renouf.

    Conrad and History - Richard Niland - Oxford University Press

    A couple of days before leaving Port Louis, Conrad asked one of the Renouf brothers for the hand of his year-old sister Eugenie. She was already, however, engaged to marry her pharmacist cousin. After the rebuff, Conrad did not pay a farewell visit but sent a polite letter to Gabriel Renouf, saying he would never return to Mauritius and adding that on the day of the wedding his thoughts would be with them. The elder, Borys, proved a disappointment in scholarship and integrity. To his friends, she was an inexplicable choice of wife, and the subject of some rather disparaging and unkind remarks.

    However, according to other biographers such as Frederick Karl , Jessie provided what Conrad needed, namely a "straightforward, devoted, quite competent" companion. The couple rented a long series of successive homes, occasionally in France, sometimes briefly in London, but mostly in the English countryside, sometimes from friends—to be close to friends, to enjoy the peace of the countryside, but above all because it was more affordable.

    As the city lay only a few miles from the Russian border, there was a risk of being stranded in a battle zone. With wife Jessie and younger son John ill, Conrad decided to take refuge in the mountain resort town of Zakopane. Conrad aroused interest among the Poles as a famous writer and an exotic compatriot from abroad. He charmed new acquaintances, especially women. Conrad, who was noted by his Polish acquaintances to still be fluent in his native tongue, participated in their impassioned political discussions.

    After many travails and vicissitudes, at the beginning of November Conrad managed to bring his family back to England.

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    On his return, he was determined to work on swaying British opinion in favour of restoring Poland's sovereignty. Jessie Conrad would later write in her memoirs: "I understood my husband so much better after those months in Poland. So many characteristics that had been strange and unfathomable to me before, took, as it were, their right proportions.

    I understood that his temperament was that of his countrymen. Conrad [writes Najder] was passionately concerned with politics.