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Joseph Conrad
Berdichev 3 Dec. 1857 - Bishopsbourne 3 July 1924 • Polish-English novelist, writing in English

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One of the world's great writers of fiction, Joseph Conrad was born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski in 1857 in Berdichev, near Kiev, in what was then Russian Poland (now Ukraine). In 1861, Conrad's family was forced to move to northern Russia when his father, a Polish patriot, was exiled for his activism against Russian rule. His mother and father both died of tuberculosis, in 1865 and 1869, respectively. In the care of his maternal uncle, Conrad was sent to school in Krakow and then Switzerland. Wanting to go to sea, he left in 1874 for Marseilles, where he joined the French merchant service.

In 1878, Conrad joined the British merchant navy; he sailed on many ships over the next sixteen years, starting as a deckhand and working his way up to captain. It was during this period that Conrad mastered the English language. Taking him all over the globe—Africa, Australia, India, Singapore, South America—his voyages
provided subject matter for his writing and helped him gain insight into what drives human behavior. Conrad published his first novel, Almayer's Folly, in 1895. Among Conrad's most acclaimed works are Lord Jim (1900), Heart of Darkness (1902), Nostromo (1904), The Secret Agent (1907), and Under Western Eyes (1911). Conrad maintained that his stories were not about life on the sea, but that human problems "stand out with a particular force and colouring" on board a ship. His writing is particularly concerned with whether individuals can act virtuously amid forces of chaos, destruction, and hypocrisy. Conrad's characters struggle with evil—in themselves and in others—but are rarely victorious.

Conrad's other major works include The Nigger of the Narcissus (1897), Youth (1902), Typhoon (1903), and Victory (1915). (from:

Moby Dick
Herman Melville, 1851
The Nantucket whaling ship, the Pequod, spirals the globe in search of Moby Dick, the mythical white whale of the Southern Oceans. Driven by the obsessive revenge of Captain Ahab, the crew and the outcast Ishmael find themselves caught up in a demonic pursuit, which leads inexorably to an apocalyptic climax.

The Confidence Man
Herman Melville, 1857
Male, female, deft, fraudulent, constantly shifting: which of the "masquerade" of passengers on the Mississippi steamboat Fidele is "the confidence man"?

Crime and Punishment
Fyodor M. Dostoyevsky, 1866
Raskolnikov, a destitute and desperate former student, commits a random murder without remorse or regret. But as he embarks on a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a suspicious police investigator, Raskolnikov finds the noose of his own guilt tightening around his neck.

Treasure Island
Robert Louis Stevenson, 1883
While going through the possessions of a deceased guest who owed them money, the mistress of the inn and her son find a treasure map that leads them to a pirate's fortune.

The Aspern Papers
Henry James, 1888
The tale of a literary historian determined to get his hands on some letters written by a great poet. Such is his drive, he is quite prepared to use trickery and deception to achieve his aims...

The Turn of the Screw
Henry James, 1898
A young governess is sent to a country house to take charge of two orphans. Unsettled by a sense of intense evil in the house, she soon becomes obsessed with the idea that something malevolent is stalking the children in her care.

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Robert Louis Stevenson, 1886
In seeking to discover his inner self, the brilliant Dr Jekyll discovers a monster.

Madame Bovary: Patterns of Provincial Life
Gustave Flaubert, 1857
Emma Bovary, a young country doctor' s wife, seeks escape from the boredom of her existence in love affairs and romantic yearnings, but is doomed to disillusionment.

[Boule de suif]
Guy de Maupassant, 1880


Heart of Darkness
Seaman Marlowe journeys deep into the heart of colonial Africa, where he encounters Kurtz, an idealist crazed and depraved by his power over the natives. The meeting prompts Marlowe to reflect on the darkness at the heart of all men.

Things Fall Apart
Chinua Achebe, 1958
Portrait of life in a Nigerian village before and after the coming of colonialism.

Storm and Echo
Frederic Prokosch, 1948
An American is born again in Africa's 'heart of darkness.'

The Heart of the Matter
Graham Greene, 1998
Scobie, a police officer in a West African colony, is a good and honest man. But when he falls in love, he is forced into a betrayal of everything that he has ever believed in, and his struggle to maintain the happiness of two women destroys him.

A Bend in the River
V.S. Naipaul, 1979
In an African country that has suffered revolution and civil war and that is headed by a man of almost insane energy and crudity, one restless, reflective, and isolated villager and his friends uneasily submit to the tide of events.

The Hidden Force
Louis Couperus, 1900
The decline and fall of the Dutchman Van Oudyck is caused by his inability to see further than his own Western rationalism: he is blind and deaf to the slumbering powers of the East Indian people and countryside.

A Passage to India
E.M. Forster, 1924
After a mysterious accident during their visit to the caves, Dr Assiz is accused of assaulting Adela Quested, a naive young Englishwoman. As he is brought to trial, the fragile structure of Anglo-Indian relations collapses and the racism inherent in colonialism is exposed in all its ugliness.

Forever a Stranger and Other Stories
Hella S. Haasse, 1948
In this collection of stories, the Dutch writer Hella Haasse deals with themes of alienation and estrangement. Born in the Dutch East Indies, Haasse calls up the images, people, and memories of her childhood.

Under the Volcano
Malcolm Lowry, 1947
Set in Mexico on the Day of the Dead, the story tells of a man in extremis, an alcoholic consul bursting with regret, longing, resentment and remorse, whose climactic moment rapidly approaches.

Lord of the Flies
William Golding, 1954
After surviving a plane crash, a group of boys set up a fragile community on a previously uninhabited island. As memories of home recede and the blood from frenzied pig-hunts arouses them, the boys' childish fear turns into something deeper and more primitive.

The Mosquito Coast
Paul Theroux, 1981
Allie Fox hates America and everything about the 20th century, so he decides to take his wife and two sons to live a better and simpler life in the Honduran jungle. However, when he starts to go mad, life for his family becomes much more frightening than ever before.

Blood Meridian
Cormac McCarthy, 1985
Recounting the adventures of a young man from Tennessee, "The Kid", who has drifted to Texas in the 1840s, this is an apocalyptic novel and mythic vision of a blood-red Early West.

An Outpost of Progress


Lord Jim
This is a classic story of one man's tragic failure and eventual redemption, told under the circumstances of high adventure at the margins of the known world.

The Secret Sharer
A captain saves a young stowaway and hides him in his cabin.
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