Joseph Conrad Biography

Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski on December 3, 1857, in the Polish Ukraine.

When Conrad was quite young, his father was exiled to Siberia on suspicion of plotting against the Russian government. After the death of the boy’s mother, Conrad’s father sent him to his mother’s brother in Kraków to be educated, and Conrad never again saw his father. He traveled to Marseilles when he was seventeen and spent the next twenty years as a sailor. He signed on to an English ship in 1878, and eight years later he became a British subject. In his twenties, after joining the English fleet, Conrad anglicized his Slavic name and learned English. In 1889, he began his first novel, Almayer’s Folly, and began actively searching for a way to fulfill his boyhood dream of traveling to the Congo. He took command of a steamship in the Belgian Congo in 1890, and his experiences in the Congo came to provide the outline for his best-known novel, Heart of Darkness. Conrad’s time in Africa wreaked havoc on his health, however, and he returned to England to recover. He returned to sea twice before finishing Almayer’s Folly in 1894 and wrote several other books, including one about Marlow called Youth: A Narrative before beginning Heart of Darkness in 1898. Conrad was only moderately successful during his lifetime, although he moved in prominent literary circles and was friends with people like Henry James and Ford Madox Ford; with the latter he coauthored several works.

Conrad was writing at the very moment when the Victorian Age was disappearing and the modern era was emerging. Victorian moral codes still influenced the plots of novels, but such principles were no longer absolute. Novelists and poets were beginning to experiment with form. When Conrad died in 1924, the First World War had come and gone, and modernism dominated literature.

Joseph Conrad Study Guides

Joseph Conrad Quotes

The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.

Perhaps life is just that... a dream and a fear.

Facing it, always facing it, that's the way to get through. Face it.

They talk of a man betraying his country, his friends, his sweetheart. There must be a moral bond first. All a man can betray is his conscience.

He who wants to persuade should put his trust not in the right argument, but in the right word. The power of sound has always been greater than the power of sense.

I take it that what all men are really after is some form or perhaps only some formula of peace.

A caricature is putting the face of a joke on the body of a truth.

Joseph Conrad Novels

Almayer's Folly

Published 1895

An Outcast of the Islands

Published 1896

Heart of Darkness

Published 1899

Lord Jim

Published 1900

The Inheritors (with Ford Madox Ford)

Published 1901

Youth and Two Other Stories

Published 1902


Published 1903


Published 1904

The Secret Agent

Published 1907

Under Western Eyes

Published 1911


Published 1913


Published 1915

The Shadow Line

Published 1917

The Arrow of Gold

Published 1919

The Rescue

Published 1920

The Rover

Published 1923

Joseph Conrad Essay Collections

"Autocracy and War"

Published 1905

A Personal Record

Published 1912

The First News

Published 1918

The Shock of War

Published 1919

Notes on Life and Letters

Published 1921