Synopses & Reviews
Published to mark the 150th anniversary of his birth, The Several Lives of Joseph Conrad is a brilliant and highly readable biography of a literary figure of world-wide reputation.
Conrad' s impact has been so profound and far-reaching that, eighty years after his death, he remains an essential cultural reference point. Such phrases as heart of darkness and The horror The horror have entered the language, often cited without an awareness of their original contexts. His popular legacy extends to Latin American fiction, to the spy novel, to the terrorist and anarchist character, and to film. The writers he has influenced range from T. S. Eliot to William Faulkner to V. S. Naipaul and John Le Carre . For a writer of difficult fiction he has enjoyed a remarkably wide impact, yet as Marlow proclaims in Lord Jim of the figure whose story he tells, he was one of us, and so Conrad remains in fascinating ways.
Stape' s biography - an intimate portrait, including previously unpublished photographs - offers a Conrad for our times, a man with a deep sense of otherness, of multiple cultural identities and, writing in his third language, a working writer, whose novels and stories are a cornerstone of literary modernism and, indeed, of modernity itself.
"Joseph Conrad's lasting reputation has been built on his acclaimed books, Heart of Darkness, Lord Jim and The Secret Agent, but Stape, drawing on an encyclopedic knowledge of his subject, shows how Conrad's life can be sharply divided into three parts: his youth, dominated by the concerns of disenfranchised Polish relatives; his travels as a working seaman; and finally, his long career as a writer and family man. And while Stape, editor of The Oxford Companion to Joseph Conrad, admits to the difficulty of painting a portrait of a man who was inclined to bend the truth about his own life, he has done an exacting job tracking down the people and places Conrad encountered in his life. Unfortunately, this biography values detail over insight. We read about lunches with people who will never reappear in Conrad's life, but are left wanting over questions of literary import. For example, Conrad began writing about unhappy romantic affiliations long before he embarked on his uneventful if not impassioned marriage to Jessie George, but Stape barely touches upon previous romantic involvements that may have influenced Conrad's thinking. Readers are left with a great deal about Conrad's life, but little insight into how it shaped his work." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
The Several Lives of Joseph Conrad
is the first new biography in more than a decade of one of modern literatures most important writers--whose work remains widely read and acutely relevant eighty years after his death. In this authoritative, insightful book, we see Joseph Conrad as a man who consistently reinvented himself. Born in 1857 in Berdichev, Ukraine, he left home early and worked as a sailor out of Marseilles; traveled to the Far East and Africa with the British merchant navy; and, finally, in 1891, settled in England, beginning a precarious existence as an novelist and family man. Here is a Conrad for our moment: a man with a deep sense of otherness; a writer with multiple cultural identities who wrote in his third language and whose fiction became the cornerstone of literary Modernism.
With his exceptional knowledge and understanding of Conrad, and drawing on unpublished letters and documents, John Stape succeeds in casting an illuminating new light on the life of a willfully enigmatic man who remains one of the greatest writers of his, and our, time.
About the Author
John Stape is Research Fellow at St. Marys University College, London. He has taught in universities in Canada, France, and the Far East. He is the editor of The Cambridge Companion to Joseph Conrad, and co-editor of two volumes of The Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad. He divides his time between Vancouver and London.