The contemporary plot and characters of Secret Sharer are heavily inspired by the storyline of Joseph Conrad’s 1910 novella ‘The Secret Sharer’, as well as a number of autobiographical elements from the great Polish author’s life.
Born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski in 1857 into a household of Polish nobility, Conrad travelled extensively around Europe until he was orphaned at the age of eleven. He already knew by the age of thirteen that he yearned to become a sailor, and four years later, his wishes were realised.
As a merchant seaman in the French and subsequently British merchant navies, Conrad enjoyed a nautical career that lasted for the best part of two decades, before finally settling in Great Britain to start a second life as a writer. The manuscript for his first novel, ‘Almayer's Folly’, impressed publishers and, together with his second novel ‘An Outcast of the Islands’, helped set the foundations for Conrad’s reputation as a thought-provoking maritime storyteller.
Through his own unique narrative style, Conrad exquisitely interwove seafaring tales with contemplative commentaries on human nature. For instance, in ‘The Secret Sharer’, he explored themes of the self, conscience and loneliness through his relation of the tale of a young captain and his secret stowaway. This dexterous weaving of concepts is a famous trademark of Conrad’s style and can be found in many of his works.
Although Conrad was granted British nationality, he was proud of his Polish heritage and unwaveringly saw himself as a Pole. However, Conrad wrote in English and had a masterful grasp of the language. He became known as one of history’s finest English language novelists, whose work later inspired other legendary authors including George Orwell, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. Conrad's works have inspired over a hundred feature films and TV dramas over the last century.
Image credit: The Polish Library POSK