We spend our lives trying to discover in fact what we are by design.” (Ortega y Gasset said it.) Joseph Conrad spent half a lifetime trying to avoid what he was by design and the remaining half being equivocal about the design he had in fact discovered.

Within the last four years, two full-scale studies of Conrad have been published: Frederick Karl’s Joseph Conrad: The Three Lives (1979) and Zdzisiaw Najder’s Joseph Conrad: A Chronicle (1983).1 It is difficult to believe that we are not now in possession of all the guidelines we need for any further assessment of this puzzling man and writer, a prophetic example of our century’s many artist-expatriates.

Zdzisiaw Najder, himself Polish (and an English exile...

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