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Amy Foster

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Overview

"Amy Foster" is a short story by Joseph Conrad written in 1901, first published in the Illustrated London News (December 1901), and collected in Typhoon and Other Stories (1903).

"It is difficult to read 'Amy Foster' without thinking that Conrad must have feared dying a similar death, inconsolable, alone, talking away in a language no one could understand".

A poor emigrant from Central Europe sailing from Hamburg to America is shipwrecked off the coast of England. The residents of nearby villages, at first ...

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Amy Foster

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Overview

"Amy Foster" is a short story by Joseph Conrad written in 1901, first published in the Illustrated London News (December 1901), and collected in Typhoon and Other Stories (1903).

"It is difficult to read 'Amy Foster' without thinking that Conrad must have feared dying a similar death, inconsolable, alone, talking away in a language no one could understand".

A poor emigrant from Central Europe sailing from Hamburg to America is shipwrecked off the coast of England. The residents of nearby villages, at first unaware of the sinking, and hence of the possibility of survivors, regard him as a dangerous tramp and madman. He speaks no English; his strange foreign language frightens them, and they offer him no assistance.

Eventually "Yanko Goorall" (as rendered in English spelling) is given shelter and employment by an eccentric old local, Mr. Swaffer. Yanko learns a little English. He explains that his given name Yanko means "little John" and that he was a mountaineer (a resident of a mountain area - a Goorall), hence his surname. The story's narrator reveals that Yanko hailed from the ‪Carpathian Mountains‬.

Yanko falls in love with Amy Foster, a servant girl who has shown him some kindness. To the community's disapproval, they marry. The couple live in a cottage given to Yanko by Swaffer for having saved his granddaughter's life. Yanko and Amy have a son whom Amy calls Johnny (after Little John). Amy, a simple woman, is troubled by Yanko's behavior, particularly his trying to teach their son to pray with him in his "disturbing" language.

Several months later Yanko falls severely ill and, suffering from a fever, begins raving in his native language. Amy, frightened, takes their child and flees for her life. Next morning Yanko dies of heart failure. It transpires that he had simply been asking in his native language for water.

Yanko Goorall shares similarities with Conrad himself. Like Yanko, Conrad is a Pole living in England, far from his native land; the pivotal scene of Amy being scared by the fevered Yanko is based on an incident during Conrad's 1896 honeymoon in France when, in a fevered delirium, he reverted to his native Polish, frightening his wife Jessie.

According to Zdzisław Najder, "Amy Foster" was inspired partly by an anecdote in Ford Madox Ford's The Cinque Ports (1900), wherein a shipwrecked sailor from a German merchant ship, unable to communicate in English, and driven away by the local country people, finally found shelter in a pigsty.

"Amy Foster" is believed to reflect Conrad's own social alienation in English society. Edward Said has remarked that "It is difficult to read 'Amy Foster' without thinking that Conrad must have feared dying a similar death, inconsolable, alone, talking away in a language no one could understand".

In 1997 "Amy Foster" was made into the film, Swept from the Sea.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781492905165
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
  • Publication date: 10/5/2013
  • Pages: 52
  • Product dimensions: 5.06 (w) x 7.81 (h) x 0.11 (d)

Meet the Author

Joseph Conrad
Most readers know Joseph Conrad for creating Marlow's harrowing journey through the African Congo in Heart of Darkness. Conrad was adept at capturing the physical and cultural experiences he gleaned from 15 years at sea, but he also wrote political thrillers, essays, and plays based on his own short stories. His best works tend to be brief, but pack in a remarkable perspicacity about humanity's deepest faults.

Biography

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. He once described himself as being concerned "with the ideal value of things, events and people" in the Preface to The Nigger of the Narcissus he defined his task as "by the power of the written word ... before all, to make you see."

Author biography courtesy of Penguin Group (USA).

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    1. Also Known As:
      Jósef Teodor Konrad Walecz Korzeniowski (real name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 3, 1857
    2. Place of Birth:
      Berdiczew, Podolia, Russia
    1. Date of Death:
      August 3, 1924
    2. Place of Death:
      Bishopsbourne, Kent, England

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