Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Conrad, Joseph

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Working name of Polish-born writer Jozef Teodor Konrad Nallecz Korzeniowski (1857-1924), a merchant seaman 1874-1893 before settling in the UK and becoming one of that country's finest writers. Apart from The Inheritors (1901), written with and mostly by Ford Madox Ford, about a race of "Dimensionists" who have superior powers and seek to replace humankind, JC wrote no overt works of fantasy or Supernatural Fiction. Yet many of his stories have inspired the fantastic in others.

JC's early peak as a writer was with "Heart of Darkness" (1899 Blackwood's; in Youth: A Narrative, and Two Other Stories coll 1902), which is also the work of his that comes closest to the overtly supernatural. The story can be read on many levels. The voyage by Marlow, the narrator, along the Congo into darkest Africa is a Quest, both physically and psychologically, but more potent is the effect of Africa upon Kurtz, the object of Marlow's journey, who has succumbed to the power of the continent and taken on the aspect of a God. Native Magic plays a minor role in the story, yet becomes a convenient route to making this a Rationalized Fantasy rather than a confrontation with the horrors of Reality. This balance between fantasy and reality is a feature of many of JC's stories, and identifies those closest to the fantasy medium.

Guilt that creates Illusions and phantoms is evident in "The Lagoon" (1897 Cornhill Magazine) and "Karain" (1897 Blackwood's Magazine). Illusions take other forms in "The Secret Sharer" (1910 Harper's Magazine), one of JC's best stories, and in The Shadow-Line (1917), where the fear and tension of a young captain's first command create supernatural manifestations in his mind. In "The Brute" (1906 Daily Chronicle), the crew of a doomed ship believe it is diabolic and is seeking to kill them. All these are paradigms of the fantasy of Perception. JC also wrote several tales of pure Horror.

The stories mentioned above can be found in Tales of Unrest (coll 1898), 'Twixt Land and Sea (coll 1912) and Within the Tides (coll 1915). Also of interest is Heart of Darkness and Other Tales (coll 1990) ed Cedric Watts.

"Heart of Darkness" features at the core of the Technofantasy novel Flicker (1991) by Theodore Roszak. According to Flicker, a movie version of the novella was to have been co-directed by Orson Welles (1915-1985); the project foundered not merely through lack of funds but because of the quasi-occult activities of Welles's directing colleague. [MA]

Jozef Teodor Konrad Nallecz Korzeniowski


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.