Today marks the 150th birthday of one of the greatest sea-storytellers of all time, Joseph Conrad.
Master mariner and novelist, Conrad was a keen observer of human nature, often using maritime life as the medium for delivering lesson’s that transcend the shipboard experience.
The ship, this ship, our ship, the ship we serve, is the moral symbol of our life. A ship has to be respected, actually and ideally; her merit, her innocence, are sacred things. Of all the creations of man she is the closest partner of his toil and courage. From every point of view it is imperative that you should do well by her. And, as always in the case of true love, all you can do for her adds only to the tale of her merits in your heart. Mute and compelling, she claims not only your fidelity, but your respect. (An Introduction to Conrad (1933) – Part I Autobiography, The Ship We Serve – p. 82)
Conrad is probably most famously known for the classics Lord Jim and The Heart of Darkness; however, his short stories are some of my favorite works of literature. Youth, A Narrative and The Secret Sharer are two that I find particularly entertaining and meaningful and have integrated both in leadership programs for youth and adults, respectively. (see USCG Commandant Thad Allen’s comments about his recommended leadership reading from Leadership Profile Series – Department of Management at the US Coast Guard Academy)
Many of Conrad’s works including Youth, A Narrative and The Secret Sharer are freely available for download through Project Gutenberg in print and audio formats.
The Australian National Maritime Museum currently has an exhibit entitled Conrad in Australia and on their website they have two short recording of readings of the author’s works that are worth listening to.
Additional interesting information about the author’s life and work can be found at the Joseph Conrad Society website.