Heart of darkness

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Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) was a Polish-born author who wrote in English. He became famous for the novels and short stories that he wrote about the sea.

Conrad left Poland at the age of 16 and arrived in England at the age of 20, unable to speak English. During the next 16 years he worked his way up from deckhand to captain in the British Merchant Navy and so mastered his adopted language and was able to write some of its greatest novels.

Conrad used experiences of his life in many of his works. From his voyages in the Indian Ocean and Malay Archipelago came some of his best-known novels. He began with his novel Almayer's Folly (1895) set in Borneo. Heart of Darkness is based on his voyage up the Congo River, and he uses memories of his early voyages in the Caribbean.

The people of Conrad's day infuriated him by thinking of him as merely a writer of sea stories.

But Conrad knew his work really dealt with universal problems. He used the concentrated little world of a ship to treat the general problems that obsessed him: How can society endure against all the destructive forces of the individual ego and the modern world and mostly, the clash between capitalism and revolution in colonized areas of the world. Conrad also wrote two absorbing novels about revolutionaries in Europe.

Conrad was not particularly interested in character for its own sake. He was most interested in men who were actively pursuing their aims in life like the captain of the Narcissus novel, who triumphs over weakness and evil. More often, Conrad's heroes yield to the powers of weakness and evil in them than in others. But Conrad was not exactly a pessimist. He affirmed the value of the...