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Today in History: December 3, 1857, Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski—later known as Joseph Conrad—is born in Poland.
In 1878, when Conrad was 21, he traveled to England as a deck hand on a British freighter. He learned English during six voyages on a small British trade boat and spent 16 years with the British merchant navy. He had numerous adventures around the world, became a British subject in 1886, and got his first command in 1888. The following year, he commanded a Congo River steamboat for four months, which set the stage for his well-known story Heart of Darkness (1902).
Joseph Conrad is regarded as one of the great novelists in English, though he did not speak the language fluently until he was in his twenties (and always with a marked Polish accent). He wrote stories and novels, often with a nautical setting, that depict trials of the human spirit in the midst of an indifferent universe.
Writing in the heyday of the British Empire, Conrad drew on his native Poland’s national experiences and on his personal experiences in the French and British merchant navies, to create short stories and novels that reflect aspects of a European-dominated world, while also plumbing the depths of the human soul.