Conrad's Congo

Joseph Conrad

Introduced by J. H. Stape

Unique to Folio, this collection explores the genesis of Heart of Darkness. With an introduction by Conrad expert J. H. Stape and contemporary photographs.

Published price: US$ 53.95


Conrad's Congo

In 1890, at the age of 33, Joseph Conrad fulfilled his childhood dream of visiting Central Africa when he became captain of a paddle-steamer on the Congo River, under the employ of the Société Anonyme Belge. However, as he would later write, in place of the dream came the realisation that the colonial enterprise was ‘the vilest scramble for loot that ever disfigured the history of human conscience and geographical exploration’. The journey was to profoundly affect him, both mentally and physically, for the rest of his life, proving formative in his development as a writer and the creation of Heart of Darkness.

Production Details


Introduced by J. H. Stape.

Preface by Adam Hochschild.

Bound in cloth.

Blocked with a design by Neil Gower.

Set in Minion.

256 pages.

Frontispiece and 16 pages of sepia and black & white plates
and some integrated diagrams.

Book size: 9" x 6¼".

A collection of writings which form the building blocks of Conrad's genius

Conrad’s ‘Up-river Book’, the ship’s log in which he recorded his six-week journey aboard the Roi des Belges, is central to this story, and is framed by his ‘Congo Diary’, recording the eight months he spent in the Congo Free State. Interspersed with these texts are his letters to family and friends. The short story, ‘An Outpost of Progress’, which foreshadows Conrad’s most ambitious and acclaimed work, and is the only other to draw directly on his experiences in the Congo, is also included. Two European men take charge of a trading station, puffed up with a sense of superiority, but regarded as ‘imbeciles’ by their superiors and oblivious to the simmering hatred of their conduit slave from Sierra Leone.

‘The raw materials in this volume may help us better understand the mixture of temptations, illusions, hopes and experiences that were the building blocks of Conrad’s genius’

Two appendices provide additional context. One consists of testimonies on how the journey affected the course of Conrad’s life, from writers including Bertrand Russell and Ford Madox Ford. The second is an extract from then British Consul Roger Casement’s 1903 Congo Report, which documented the human rights abuses committed by the colonial administration. Conrad expert J. H. Stape, who advised on the compilation of this illuminating collection and provided linking passages, has written a new introduction, which sits alongside a preface by Adam Hochschild adapted from his bestselling history King Leopold’s Ghost. Conrad’s hand-drawn diagrams from his diary and the original ‘Up-river Book’ accompany a series of photographs from the archives at the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium, which has an extensive collection of photographs of the Congo from the period that Conrad was there. One is an unusually clear image of the Roi des Belges; others provide disturbing insights into the brutality of the slave trade. The source material that forms this unique collection weaves together a remarkable story about the genius that would produce one of the 20th century’s greatest works of fiction.

About Joseph Conrad

Joseph Conrad was born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski in 1857 in Berdyczów, in Russian-occupied Ukraine, to Polish parents. Following his parents’ deaths after the family returned from exile in northern Russia he began a career as a sailor in the 1870s by joining the French merchant marine and, eventually, the British merchant navy. After twenty years at sea, including his influential time in the Belgian Congo, Conrad became a British subject and settled in England to devote himself to writing fiction in English, his third language. His works include Almayer’s Folly, An Outcast of the Islands,The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’, Heart of Darkness, Lord Jim, Typhoon, Nostromo, The Secret Agent, Under Western Eyes, Chance and The Rover.

About J. H. Stape

J. H. Stape is a Conrad scholar of international standing and a Research Fellow at St Mary’s University College, Twickenham, London. He is the author of The Several Lives of Joseph Conrad (2007) and is co-General Editor of The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Joseph Conrad, for which he co-edited Notes on Life and Letters (2004), A Personal Record (2008), Last Essays (2010), Lord Jim (2011) and Tales of Unrest (2012). He also co-edited volumes 7 and 9 (2007 and 2009) of the Cambridge Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad and is a contributing editor of The Conradian: The Journal of the Joseph Conrad Society (UK).

About Adam Hochschild

Adam Hochschild is a journalist, author and teacher of writing at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley. His books have been translated into twelve languages and include King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa (1998), from which his preface is, in part, adapted, and which won the Duff Cooper Prize in Britain, the Lionel Gelber Prize in Canada and was a finalist for the 1998 National Book Critics Circle Award in the United States; Bury the Chains: The British Struggle to Abolish Slavery (2005); and To End All Wars: A Story of Protest and Patriotism in the First World War (2011).


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