Joseph Conrad is essentially a nineteenth century writer who anticipated and then lived into the modernist age of the early twentieth century, helping to shape its spirit of uncertainty, anxiety, and moral ambiguity. Even his own life and works share the contradictions of the era. He is best known as an author of mannish sea tales, yet he only achieved success with a novel set entirely on dry land which had a woman as its central character (Flora Barral in Chance). He is now regarded as a great figure in the tradition of the English novel, yet he was Polish, and English was his third language. He's also regarded as something of a conservative, yet his political views were scathingly radical (see The Secret Agent).
A Smile of Fortune comes from his mature period (1911) and features the familiar Conradian device of a young sea captain who is confronted by a puzzling ethical dilemma. The first person narrator is a confirmed bachelor given to a philosophic approach to life, but whom Conrad cleverly makes vulnerable to the duplicities of the more experienced people around him... Read more >>