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Joseph Conrad

Joseph Conrad is widely recognized as one of the greatest writers of the early twentieth century. Robert Hampson traces Conrad’s life from his childhood in a Russian penal colony, through his early manhood in Marseille and his years in the British Merchant Navy, to his career as a novelist. This critical biography describes how these experiences inspired Conrad’s work, from his early Malay novels to his best-known work, Heart of Darkness. Hampson also discusses Conrad’s important relations with other writers, in particular Ford Madox Ford, as well as his late-life political engagements and his relationships with women. Featuring new interpretations of all of Conrad’s major works, this is an original interpretation of Conrad’s life of writing.

224 pages | 40 halftones | 5 x 7 3/4

Critical Lives

Biography and Letters

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"A testament to the interest and passion Conrad continues to generate among readers."

Washington Examiner

“Designed for the student and the general reader, Hampson’s short biography of Conrad opens with a survey of the shifting literary reputation of the novelist, who has been widely acknowledged as a master stylist and innovator in the emerging twentieth-century modern novel. . . . The general reader will find Hampson’s engaging account an encouragement to read the novels of a man who saw his power as designed to make his reader to hear, feel, and ‘above all to make you see.’”

Morning Star

"The most distilled of Conrad’s biographies, it creates its own distinctive image of this constant searcher after le mot juste."

Times Literary Supplement

“In this compact, almost pocket-sized, and very affordable work, the author, who needs no introduction, has, by some mysterious alchemy, distilled all the salient features of Conrad's extraordinary life and output into a scholarly yet very readable narrative. . . . This book, which is emphatically not ‘Conrad-lite’ but powerful ‘Essence of Conrad,’ can be unreservedly recommended as the critical biography of Conrad for students, teachers, and non-specialist readers, and even the most experienced and—dare I say—jaded Conradians will find refreshing new insights. It should be on the bookshelves of anyone interested in Conrad, the writer and the man.”

Helen Chambers | Last Post

"A well-done literary biography of Conrad. . . . This book will be particularly useful to students and instructors who are looking for a way into Conrad’s works, but because of the various unique insights Hampson provides concerning Conrad’s life and works, the book has value for Conrad scholars as well. Highly recommended."


"An original interpretation of Conrad's life of writing."

English Association Newsletter

"By carefully constructing a lucid and compelling account of the author, Hampson's Joseph Conrad meets the need for an authoritative, accessible, and concise guide to Conrad's life and work."

James Ward | Joseph Conrad Today

"A well-written, encyclopedic overview of the surprising ‘splash’ in English letters made by a Polish seaman and immigrant a century ago, bringing the reader up to speed not only on the diverse views taken of his oeuvre by British and American schools of interpretation but also of recent discoveries that cast an unexpected light on matters long thought settled."

Patrick Madigan | Heythrop Journal

"Insightful, judicious, and elegant, Joseph Conrad marvelously distills a lifetime of learning by one of the world’s leading Conrad scholars. Hampson guides us sure-footedly through Conrad’s fascinating life—as a Polish immigrant, a professional sailor, and a belatedly successful writer—while deftly examining the critical themes of all his works. Conrad remains a complicated and controversial figure, and Hampson’s Conrad—as an introduction for students, a reference for scholars, or a meditation for general readers—delivers the best short guide to his life available."

Maya Jasanoff, Coolidge Professor of History at Harvard University, author of "The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a Global World"

"Concise, lucid, balanced, precise, and reliable, the book interweaves skillfully the analyses of the literary works and the unfolding of Conrad’s life. What results is a clear, proficient, and moving account of a complex and exemplary genius."

Cedric Watts, emeritus professor of English at the University of Sussex, author of "Joseph Conrad: A Literary Life"

"A superlative achievement! I cannot recommend this highly enough."

Jana Giles, Endowed Professor of English, University of Louisiana at Monroe

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