‘I am not a facile inventor’, wrote Conrad in a letter of 24 May 1912; and he makes the same point in the Author’s Note to Tales of Unrest, where he declares that ‘The sustained invention of a really telling lie demands a talent which I do not possess.’ Conrad’s fiction, especially his earlier fiction, draws heavily on personal experience: not only settings but characters are often based on actuality, and he even goes so far as to retain the names of his real-life prototypes or close approximations to them. The experience, it needs to be added, was filtered through memory, since his two careers — as sailor and novelist, widely-travelled man of action and sedentary professional author — were not concurrent but consecutive. He spent most of the period 1883–8 in the Far East, and he uses Eastern settings in his work from Almayer’s Folly (1895) to The Rescue (1920).
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