When "Lord Jim" first appeared in 1900, many took Joseph Conrad to task for couching an entire novel in the form of an extended conversation - a ripping good yarn, if you like. Conrad defended his method, insisting that people really do talk for that long, and listen as well. In fact his chatty masterwork requires no defense - it offers up not only linguistic pleasures but a timeless exploration of morality. The eponymous Jim is a young, good-looking, genial, and naive water-clerk on the Patna, a cargo ship plying Asian waters.He is, we are told, 'the kind of fellow you would, on the strength of his looks, leave in charge of the deck'. He also harbours romantic fantasies of adventure and heroism - which are promptly scuttled one night when the ship collides with an obstacle and begins to sink. Acting on impulse, Jim jumps overboard and lands in a lifeboat, which happens to be bearing the unscrupulous captain and his cohorts away from the disaster. The Patna, however, manages to stay afloat. The foundering vessel is towed into port - and since the officers have strategically vanished, Jim is left to stand trial for abandoning the ship and its 800 passengers.
Joseph Conrad was born in the Ukraine in 1857 and grew up under Tsarist autocracy. In 1874 Conrad travelled to Marseilles, where he served in French merchant vessels before joining a British ship in 1878 as an apprentice. In 1886 he obtained British nationality. Eight years later he left the sea to devote himself to writing, publishing his first novel, Almayer's Folly, in 1895. The following year he settled in Kent, where he produced within fifteen years such modern classics as Youth, Heart of Darkness, Lord Jim, Typhoon, Nostromo, The Secret Agent and Under Western Eyes. He continued to write until his death in 1924.