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The Art of Literary Biography$
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John Batchelor

Print publication date: 1995

Print ISBN-13: 9780198182894

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198182894.001.0001

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Conrad’s Truancy

Conrad’s Truancy

(p.115) 8 Conrad’s Truancy
The Art of Literary Biography


Oxford University Press

Joseph Conrad shot himself through the chest in Marseilles; later he represented this injury as the result of a duel and his earlier biographers took him at his word and reiterated the duel story. He lied about the duel for what can be seen as compelling reasons for a young man coming from Polish aristocratic and Catholic culture, where to be known to have attempted suicide would have involved a catastrophic loss of honour. The duel story retained its currency in Conrad biographies until the discovery of a letter in the 1950s from Conrad's uncle which gives a circumstantial account of the suicide attempt. Subsequently, the biographers have revised the story. His story about being an orphan is given. He was an obsessional and spell-binding letter-writer, and the letters are in many cases lacerating displays of a suffering personality. His greatest novels were the products of truancy from the novels that he was supposed to be writing.

Keywords:   Joseph Conrad, truancy, biography, biographer, suicide attempt

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