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Segal, H. (1984). Joseph Conrad and the Mid-Life Crisis. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 11:3-9.

(1984). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 11:3-9

Joseph Conrad and the Mid-Life Crisis

Hanna Segal

In 1895, when he was 37 years old, Joseph Conrad published his first book, 'Almayer's Folly'. One could say that he made a meteoric appearance in English literary life. There were no prior publications (except possibly a short story sent to a competition)—no juvenilia. He was immediately recognized as a major writer by such people as Wells, Henry James, Galsworthy, Edward Garnett, who recognized a master. That is not to say that there was no further development and change in Joseph Conrad's literary achievement. New themes emerged and his style—a bit over-flowery in his early books—became terser and more self contained. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that his first books, 'Almayer's Folly' and 'An Outcast of the Islands' (1896), were books of a fully mature writer.

Conrad started writing in 1889 and took five years to complete his first book. What strange metamorphosis occurred? He himself could not account for it. In his 'Personal Record' he says: 'The conception of a planned book was entirely outside my mental range when I sat down to write; the ambition of being an author had never turned up among these gracious imaginary existences one creates for oneself in the stillness and immobility of a day dream'. What prompted him to write 'was a hidden obscureness, a completely masked and unaccountable phenomenon'. Unlike such writers as Proust, who analysed and could illuminate the springs of their own creativity, Conrad apparently remained unaware of the forces that made him into an artist.

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