JOSEPH CONRAD (1857–1924) was born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski in Berdychiv, a town in the Polish Ukraine. He was introduced to the English language at the age of eight by his father, a poet and Polish patriot, who translated the works of Shakespeare and Victor Hugo. In 1861, when his father was arrested for his role in the Polish Insurrection, the whole family was sent into exile at Vologda, northern Russia. Both his parents later died from tuberculosis, and in 1869 Conrad went to live with his uncle, attending schools in Cracow and Switzerland. Bored by his formal education, hungry for the kind of adventures he had read about as a boy, he left for Marseilles in 1874, aged sixteen, to begin his career in the French and British merchant navies. In 1894 he settled in Britain to a life of writing, where he began work on several novels that would come to be recognised as masterpieces of the twentieth century: Heart of Darkness (1899), Lord Jim (1900), Nostromo (1904) and The Secret Agent (1907).
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