Joseph Conrad's impact has been so profound and far-reaching that, eighty years after his death, he remains an essential cultural reference point. Such phrases as 'heart of darkness' and 'The horror! The horror!' have entered the language, often cited without an awareness of their original contexts. His popular legacy extends to Latin American fiction, to the spy novel, to the terrorist and anarchist character, and to film. The writers he has influenced range from T. S. Eliot to William Faulkner to V. S. Naipaul and John Le Carre. For a writer of 'difficult' fiction he has enjoyed a remarkably wide impact, yet as Marlow proclaims in "Lord Jim" of the figure whose story he tells, 'he was one of us' and so Conrad remains in fascinating ways.
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US Kirkus Review »
The complexities of emigration and cultural adaptation, as well as the corrosive effects of an embattled career, are precisely traced in Conrad scholar Stape's rigorously compressed biography.The various stages in the peripatetic life of J-zef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski (1857 - 1924) included his birth in Poland, upbringing there and in Russia, successful tenures as a world-traveling captain in the British Merchant Navy and residence in England, where he became a master of narrative art since renowned as one of the avatars of literary modernism. The strength of Stape's meticulous chronicle is the clarity with which it illuminates this unhappy genius's vanity, financial irresponsibility, hypochondria and enervating family life. (Wife Jessie was plagued by recurring grave health problems, and eldest son Borys was a profligate, weak-willed underachiever.) Stape writes convincingly of Conrad's relationships with contemporary artists, celebrities and miscellaneous influential persons. Some, notably his encouraging editor Edward Garnett, were cherished friends; others, including novelists John Galsworthy and Conrad's sometime collaborator Ford Madox Ford, were resources to be exploited. We learn a good deal about the provenance of such masterpieces as Lord Jim, Nostromo, Heart of Darkness and The Nigger of the "Narcissus." But Stape's decision to eschew analysis of these works misses opportunities to support his eloquent summary assertion that "Conrad speaks for an awareness of fragmentation so quintessentially modern that his voice remains powerful and authoritative." Indeed it does, but the real proof of Conrad's importance resides in the complex structures and layered ambiguities of his portrayals of adventurers and exiles adrift in unfamiliar worlds - not in a sedulous accounting of their author's often frantic efforts to keep his foundering career and reputation afloat.Informative and absorbing, but it's not the whole story. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - John Stape
John Stape, Research Fellow in St Mary's University College, Strawberry Hill, London, has taught in universities in Canada, France, and the Far East. He has edited Notes on Life and Letters and A Personal Record for The Cambridge Edition of Joseph Conrad and has co-edited Volumes 7 and 9 of The Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad. The editor of The Cambridge Companion to Joseph Conrad, he is Contributing Editor of The Conradian: The Journal of the Joseph Conrad Society (UK). He has also written on E. M. Forster, Virginia Woolf, Thomas Hardy, William Golding, and Angus Wilson.