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MonkeyNotes-The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad
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BACKGROUND INFORMATION - BIOGRAPHY

Joseph Conrad was born on December 31, 1857 at Berdiczew in the Ukrainian province of Poland, which was then under Russian rule. His family belonged to the land-owning class. His father was a writer and a translator and had little aptitude in managing financial affairs. He was a fervent patriot and become a prominent personality in the Polish national movement. In 1862 he was banished for political reasons to Vologda in northern Russia, where his wife and his four-year old son accompanied him. His mother died while they lived in exile when Joseph was seven and his father died when he was eleven. His maternal uncle, Thaddeus Bobrowski, then looked after him until Joseph left Poland in 1874 and went to Marseilles to become a seaman.

At twenty-one, since he was liable to military service, he thought about obtaining another nationality in order to avoid entanglement with the Russian authorities. He tried to obtain British citizenship. In 1878 he joined the English ship "Mavis" and reached England two months later. He then passed various necessary examinations and served as an officer on various ships, voyaging to various parts of the world, particularly the Indian Ocean, and in and around the Malay Archipelago and the Gulf of Siam. Many of his best books and stories draw on his experiences and the people he met during these years. In 1886, he was given British citizenship and in 1888, he passed the Captain's examination. In 1890, he went on a trip through the Congo and kept a diary which he later used to write Heart of Darkness.


He also met Marguerita Poradowska, the wife of a distant cousin. She was a writer and a distinguished woman and became his friend and confidante. He often wrote to her about the progress of his writing. Conrad worked intermittently on his first novel, without realizing that writing was to become his career. He gradually met several distinguished writers like Henry James, Rudyard Kipling, Stephen Crane, and H.G. Wells. However, he took little interest in his British contemporaries.

In 1894 during a long period of inactivity, he completed Almayer's Folly, and began An Outcast of the Islands, which he completed in the following year. His efforts to write, produced one false start on a novel, The Rescue, and several completed short stories, later published under the title Tales of Unrest. His first major work Nigger of the "Narcissus" was published in 1897. He later supervised its appearance in French.

In 1896, he married Jessie George who helped him with housekeeping and typing of manuscripts. After an accident she remained paralyzed for life. He started Lord Jim as a short story, put it aside to write Heart of Darkness, but completed it as a full- length novel, published serially in Blackwood's Magazine beginning in October 1899. After Lord Jim he turned his energies and his fully developed skill to Nostromo, which resulted in a huge novel. Meanwhile, he completed Typhoon (1902), which was translated into French by Andre Gide. Romance appeared in 1903, The Mirror of the Sea, an autobiographical work in 1906, and The Secret Agent in 1907. He wrote The Secret Sharer in November 1909 and Under Western Eyes in 1911.

Almost throughout his career he had financial worries and had to finish his books quickly in order to provide for his family. The award for a civil pension list in 1910, the sale of manuscripts, and his best selling novel Chance improved his financial situation. Yet he suffered from gloom and depression for a long period. He had long periods of illness as well. In May 1924 he was offered knighthood which he declined. He died in Kent, England on August 3, 1924 from a heart attack.

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