Joseph Conrad, 1857 - 1924

portrait of Joseph Conrad

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Born: 3 December 1857, Berdychiv, Russian Empire (now Ukraine)
Died: 3 August 1924, Bishopsbourne, England

Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski was born to impoverished but patriotic Polish parents in what is now Ukraine. His father was a playwright and translator but was involved in the January Uprising of 1864, and the family was exiled to Vologda, 300 miles north of Moscow where both parents died of tuberculosis, leaving their son orphaned at eleven. He lived with a maternal uncle at Kracow for a time, but when Conrad's application for Austro-Hungarian citizenship was declined, he left for Marseille to avoid conscription into the Tsar's army. He embarked on a series of voyages as a seaman, first out of Marseille and from 1878 on English ships, adding English to his French and Polish. Three years later he was a second mate and in 1886 he had his Master Mariner's certificate and British citizenship, changing his name to Joseph Conrad. When he retired from the merchant marine in 1894 he had sixteen years of experience, experience which gave him stories to tell. He actually sailed on the ship "Narcissus", and his time as captain of a Congo River steamboat gave him the material for Heart of Darkness. It wasn't until 1914, with the publication of Chance, a book now little regarded, that his finances were reasonably comfortable and he established a home ‘Oswalds’ at Bishopsbourne, Canterbury. His work had gotten generally-favorable reviews and was much discussed, he declined a knighthood in 1924. He died at Oswalds following a heart attack.

Biography from Wikipedia and Literature Online

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