Joseph Conrad: Exile and English Writer
Hugh Epstein will discuss the life of Conrad in relationship to his literature. Conrad was a Ukrainian Pole, born into the gentry in 1857, in Berdichev near Kiev, in the Russian Empire. As a small boy he was sent with his parents into exile by the Russians and his mother died shortly afterwards when he was 7. Thereafter he lived with his father, a noted literary figure and political idealist, who died when he was 11. Conrad left his landlocked homeland when he was 17, became a cabin boy on French ships, transferred to English ships when 20, serving on 18 ships in a worldwide sea-going career that continued until the age of 35. He lodged at various addresses in London and began to write fiction in English, his third language. Although he suffered greatly with writer’s block, he went on to write 14 novels and 29 short stories in his lifetime, of which the most famous is ‘Heart of Darkness’. He was called a remarkable stylist of English prose, but always retained a thick Polish accent. He lived as a ‘Kentish gentleman’ whilst travelling through intense imaginative world-wide scenes in his writing. He suffered a mental breakdown in 1910 after completing ‘Under Western Eyes’, whose scenes took him back to Russia and the lives of political idealists. Orwell thought him England’s most outstanding political novelist of the twentieth century, and he made an indelible impression on Bertrand Russell. Polish, Ukrainian, English, seaman, novelist, man of letters – the various lives of Joseph Conrad continue to offer psychological conundrums that mark him as peculiarly modern.
Mary Twyman will offer psychoanalytic ways of thinking about Conrad’s life and work.
No prior knowledge of Conrad’s literature is necessary to enjoy what promises to be a stimulating evening.
Hugh Epstein is the secretary of the Joseph Conrad Society. He has written widely about Conrad and other nineteenth and twentieth century literature, and teaches in adult education in London.