Heart of Darkness is a short and vividly brutal account of colonial enterprise that has as much in common with the jaded Evelyn Waugh of Black Mischief as it does with any of Conrad's direct contemporaries in the late nineteenth century. It is accompanied in this volume by the tales with which it has been published since 1902, the autobiographical short story "Youth," and the less personal but more substantial tale of an old man's fall from fortune, "The End of the Tether." Though these stories differ considerably in style and content from his later novels, much of his reputation rests upon the words contained in this volume.
Joseph Conrad (originally Józef Teodor Konrad Nalecz Korzeniowski) was born in the Ukraine in 1857 and grew up under Tsarist autocracy. His parents, ardent Polish patriots, died when he was a child, following their exile for anti-Russian activities, and he came under the protection of his tradition-conscious uncle, Thaddeus Bobrowski, who watched over him for the next twenty-five years.
In 1874 Bobrowski conceded to his nephew's passionate desire to go to sea, and Conrad travelled to Marseilles, where he served in French merchant vessels before joining a British ship in 1878 as an apprentice.
In 1886 he obtained British nationality and his Master's certificate in the British Merchant Service. Eight years later he left the sea to devote himself to writing, publishing his first novel, Almayer's Folly, in 1895. The following year he married Jessie George and eventually settled in Kent, where he produced within fifteen years such modern classics as Youth, Heart of Darkness, Lord Jim, Typhoon, Nostromo, The Secret Agent and Under Western Eyes.
He continued to write until his death in 1924. Today Conrad is generally regarded as one of the greatest writers of fiction in English - his third language.