Joseph Conrad (born
Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski
) was a Polish-born English novelist who today is most famous for Heart of Darkness, his fictionalized account of Colonial Africa.
Conrad left his native Poland in his middle teens to avoid conscription into the Russian Army. He joined the French Merchant Marine and briefly employed himself as a wartime gunrunner. He then began to work aboard British ships, learning English from his shipmates. He was made a Master Mariner, and served more than sixteen years before an event inspired him to try his hand at writing.
He was hired to take a steamship into Africa, and according to Conrad, the experience of seeing firsthand the horrors of colonial rule left him a changed man.
Joseph Conrad settled in England in 1894, the year before he published his first novel. He was deeply interested in a small number of writers both in French and English whose work he studied carefully. This was useful when, because a need to come to terms with his experience, lead him to write Heart of Darkness, in 1899, which was followed by other fictionalized explorations of his life.
He has been lauded as one of the most powerful, insightful, and disturbing novelists in the English canon despite coming to English later in life, which allowed him to combine it with the sensibilities of French, Russian, and Polish literature.