Almayer’s Folly, Joseph Conrad’s first novel, is a tale of personal tragedy as well as a broader meditation on the evils of colonialism. Set in the lush jungle of Borneo in the late 1800s, it tells of the Dutch merchant Kaspar Almayer, whose dreams of riches for his beloved daughter, Nina, collapse under the weight of his own greed and prejudice. Nadine Gordimer writes in her Introduction, “Conrad’s writing is lifelong questioning . . . What was ‘Almayer’s Folly’? The pretentious house never lived in? His obsession with gold? His obsessive love for his daughter, whose progenitors, the Malay race, he despised? All three?” Conrad established in Almayer’s Folly the themes of betrayal, isolation, and colonialism that he would explore throughout the rest of his life and work.
About the Author
Joseph Conrad [born Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski] (1857-1924), was a Polish born mariner and writer who, after a turbulent youth, moved first to France and then Britain. He spent most of his twenties and thirties working on various ships, from wealthy three-masters to rusty steamers, voyaging around the world and rising in rank until he attained a master's certificate in 1886. The same year Conrad took British nationality. His marine career came finally to an end in 1894 due to increasing importance of steam sail, for which Conrad's qualifications were not satisfactory.He then began his literary career, for he was drafting stories in his spare time even when working at sea. After a slow start, the major success came between 1897 and 1911 with publications of short stories and novels such as 'Youth' (1898), Lord Jim (1899), Heart of Darkness (1899), Typhoon (1902), Nostromo (1904), The Secret Agent (1907), 'The Secret Sharer' (1910) and Under Western Eyes (1911).Conrad's works were influenced by his sea voyages and adventures, and his novels often revolve around the significance of imperial enterprises and the moral dilemmas they inflict. The echoes of his Polish upbringing in a difficult political time may be traced in the underlining sense of isolation, embattled honour, and political disillusionment prevailing many of his works.Because of the exotic settings and adventurous plots of Conrad's works on one hand, and the moral complexity of his characters on the other, many of his works became an inspiration for stage and film adaptations.
Nadine Gordimer (1923 2014) was born in South Africa. She received numerous international prizes for her writing, including the Modern Language Association Award, the Bennett Award, and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1991. She was given honorary degrees by Yale, Harvard, and other universities and was honored by the French government with the decoration Commandeur de l Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
“The human heart as recorded in Mr. Conrad’s pages is the human heart of an immense number of men in all ages and in all climes.” —Ford Madox Ford