The novel's "most striking formal characteristic is its shifting narrative and temporal perspective" with the first section from the viewpoint of a sailor, the second from omniscient perspective of Axel Heyst, the third from an interior perspective from Heyst, and the final section.
It has been adapted into film a number of times
Through a business misadventure, the European Axel Heyst ends up living on an island in what is now Indonesia, with a Chinese assistant Wang. Heyst visits a nearby island when a female band is playing at a hotel owned by Mr. Schomberg. Schomberg attempts to force himself sexually on one of the band members, Alma, later called Lena. She flees with Heyst back to his island and they become lovers. Schomberg seeks revenge by attempting to frame Heyst for the "murder" of a man who had died of natural causes and later by sending three desperadoes (Pedro, Martin Ricardo and Mr. Jones) to Heyst's island with a lie about treasure hidden on the island. The three die (Wang kills one) but Lena dies as well and Axel is overcome with grief and commits suicide.
In Notes on My Books: Easyread Edition, Conrad wrote of his "mixed feelings" about the initial reception of the book which had been published while Europe had been engaged in fighting the great war. The initial reception of the work had considered it "a melodramatic, rather Victorian novel, representing Conrad's artistic decline." However, later critiques have described it as "a highly complex allegorical work whose psychological landscape and narrative structure lay the groundwork for the modern novel."
The character of Heyst has been compared to Shakespeare's Hamlet with the story itself drawing heavily on The Tempestand the ending of the work like "an Elizabethan stageplay where the stage is clogged with corpses" Allen Simmons states that the character of Lena was shaped by Therese from the 1894 French novel Le Lys rouge ('The Red Lily'), by Anatole France.
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About the Author
Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) grew up amid political unrest in Russian-occupied Poland. After twenty years at sea with the French and British merchant navies, he settled in England in 1894. Over the next three decades he revolutionized the English novel with books such as Typhoon, Nostromo, The Secret Agent, and especially Heart of Darkness, his best-known and most influential work.
Date of Birth:December 3, 1857
Date of Death:August 3, 1924
Place of Birth:Berdiczew, Podolia, Russia
Place of Death:Bishopsbourne, Kent, England
Education:Tutored in Switzerland. Self-taught in classical literature. Attended maritime school in Marseilles, France