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Joseph Conrad

Joseph Conrad belongs somewhere between the late Victorians and the early English modernists. His most famous volumes were published round the turn of the century, but his style and narrative technique put him in a category more alongside the upcoming modernist writers of the 20th century.

Forfatteren Joseph Conrad. Foto.
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Joseph Conrad was born in the Ukraine to Polish parents in exile. His full name was Teodor Jozef Konrad Korzienowski which he later changed to Joseph Conrad. He was ready for university studies when he changed his mind and followed his dream of going to sea. He ended up in the British navy and remained at sea for twenty years. This career provided him with material and experience to become one of the most acclaimed maritime writers in world literature. “Lord Jim”; “The Nigger of the Narcissus”, “Victory”, and “Within the Tides” are all examples of how he could combine his literary skills and his first-hand knowledge of life at sea. Another of Conrad’s famous novels is “Heart of Darkness” which was later adapted by Francis Ford Coppola as the framework of his epic and spectacular film about the Vietnam War – “Apocalypse. Now!” In both the film and the book we follow an agent on a mission up a river to seek out the mysterious Colonel Kurtz. The quest gradually becomes an obsession and in a metaphorical way the river leads the protagonists into the dark and inhospitable jungle with an unknown destination. It is a notable illustration of how a film can complement a book without trying to copy it.

Joseph Conrad’s unique narrative style puts him in the avant-garde of European literature of the early 20th century. To avoid any personal identification with his characters he developed an indirect method of telling a story through a distant narrator. He would, for example, create a story within a story, or let the narrator be someone who just relates the plot from the outside like an objective observer. A brilliant example is how Marlow, on his voyage up the river in “Heart of Darkness” initially seems quite indifferent and uninterested in his quest and just reports the line of incidents from a bystander’s position.

CC BY-SAWritten by: Jan-Louis Nagel.
Last revised date 05/22/2018

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Literary period: The Victorian Era

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