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Joseph Conrad: A Biography Hardcover – April, 1991

6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

To his distinguished biogrpahies of Hemingway, Wyndham Lewis, D. H. Lawrence and others, Meyers now adds a study of the elusive author of Nostromo and Victor , and he comes up with all sorts of little-known or unpublished material. Meyers provides new insights into Conrad's troubled Polish childhood, his harsh 20 years as a seaman, his rash involvement in the Carlist wars, his marriage to a placid woman who was the perfect foil to his neurasthenic personality and his friendships with the likes of Madox Ford, Galsworthy, Stephen Crane and Henry James. In his role as passionate literary detective, Meyers finds real-life sources of lead characters in Heart of Darkness, Under Western Eyes and The Arrow of Gold (about the tempestuous American journalist, Jane Anderson, with whom Conrad had an affair). The author gives us a clear perspective on both the life (1857-1924) and achievements of a writer who, racked by gout, guilt and debt most of his life (his novels were more often praised than read), mastered a foreign language in middle age to become one of its greatest craftsmen. Photos.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

The prolific Meyers ( D.H. Lawrence, LJ 5/15/90) here offers the first major biography of Conrad since Frederick R. Karl's Joseph Conrad: The Three Lives ( LJ 12/1/78). Karl excels with the early years, Meyers with the later. Extensive research, both anecdotal and archival, has resulted in a wealth of new information on Conrad's seafaring career (including sample questions from the Master's exam), his marriage, his friendship with Ford--even on the real-life model for Kurtz. Possibly of most interest is extensive coverage of Conrad's affair with the wild and eccentric American journalist Jane Anderson, with an appendix dealing with Anderson's unusual life. Meyers always has an eye to how life experience colors the fiction, but not to the extent that the book will be accessible only to Conradians. This is highly recommended. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/90.
- Robert E. Brown, Onondaga Cty. P.L., Syracuse, N.Y.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 428 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (April 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684192306
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684192307
  • Product Dimensions: 1.6 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #869,502 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jeffrey Meyers is the author of Edgar Allen Poe: His Life and Legacy , Hemingway: Life into Art , Gary Cooper: An American Hero, Bogart, Edmund Wilson, and Joseph Conrad. He lives in California.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
I bought this book after reading Heart of Darkness, Victory, and the Secret Sharer. I wanted to know more about the man who wrote such haunting fiction. The beginning of this book gives an excellent and riveting account of Conrad's parents and their political exile. After Conrad's mother dies he remains with his father in severe and isolated conditions. A detailed account of Conrad's early life helped me to understand how he wrote what he did. Quite fascinating. Also, he did visit the Congo and had experiences there that give great insight into Heart of Darkness. Including marking people he met that are models for characters in the story. Plus he was a seaman, so we learn how he could write realistically on this subject. And we learn about Conrad's psyche, his strengths and weaknesses. I loved learning about his life, but this bio also goes into some detail about all of Conrad's novels. If you haven't read them you may become lost. If you have read all his works this bio will definitely increase your appreciation and add to your understanding of this great writer.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Peterson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 10, 2008
Format: Paperback
I happen to think that Joseph Conrad was one of the ten greatest authors writing in English in the 20th Century (although his first works were published in the 1890s). Among other things that strike me every time I read him, I marvel that English was not his native language. I finally got around to reading this now 17-year-old biography, and among the things I learned was that throughout Conrad's life, both writing and speaking English were quite difficult for him; he had to work at it. (The book also tells us that at the time, Conrad's decision to write in "an alien language was unique," although later Nabokov, Koestler, Dinesen, Beckett, and Ionesco achieved similar distinction writing in a foreign language.)

On balance, this is a serviceable biography, but not a distinguished one. According to the credits at the front of the book, the author, Jeffrey Meyers, had written seven biographies previously, and at times JOSEPH CONRAD, his eighth, shows signs of being the product of a biography hack. Occasionally, the narrative flow is mildly jerky or disjointed; the book is larded with a few too many quotations from other sources; and several fatuous remarks escaped the editor's blue pencil. The book conveys no sense of enthusiasm or passion on the part of the author, either for the subject or the craft of biography. In addition, Meyers is not shy about tooting his own horn about the "new" information he adds to our collective picture of Conrad (see the Preface), including, in particular, Conrad's affair during WWI with a femme fatale, Jane Anderson (who, in her own right, led a rather remarkable if not admirable life, going from a star-crossed childhood in Georgia and Arizona to paramour of noted literati and nobles in Britain to being charged by the U.S.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Jukes on December 31, 2011
Format: Paperback
This churned-out biography tries to sensationalize Conrad by speculating an affair with Jane Anderson and speculating Conrad's dislike of the sea and speculating, and speculating, and speculating ...

Don't waste your money. If you are interested in exploring Conrad's life, buy Najder's "Joseph Conrad: A Life," the work of someone who has spent a whole life on Conrad and cares about getting his facts straight.
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