The Diplomatic Society

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Commemorating the 160th anniversary of Joseph Conrad Korzeniowski

20 November 2017

The Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Pretoria organized a special screening of the Polish – British film “Secret Sharer” directed by Peter Fudakowski to commemorate the 160th anniversary of the birth of the great Polish and British author – meritorious for Polish and European culture – Joseph Conrad Korzeniowski.

Photo: Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to RSA Andrzej Kanthak giving guests an insight into Joseph Conrad Korzeniowski (image by: Lukasz Nowak)

Joseph Conrad, born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski (3 December 1857 – 3 August 1924), is  regarded as one of the greatest novelists to write in the English language. 

However to a vast majority of his audience in Poland, and almost all abroad, Joseph Conrad was considered to be a British writer, which is of course understandable as he wrote in English. He was a man of three cultures: Polish, French and English. Brought up in a Polish family and cultural environment, he learned French as a child and this language he spoke with the greatest influence and without foreign accent. Though he did not speak English fluently until his twenties, he was a master prose stylist who brought a non – English sensibility into English literature.  Conrad was thus an English writer who grew up in other linguistic and cultural environments.

Writing in the heyday of the British Empire, Joseph Conrad drew on, among other things, his native Poland’s national experiences and his own experiences in the French and British merchant navies, to create short stories and novels that reflect aspects of a European – dominated world, including imperialism and colonialism, and that profoundly explore the human psyche. He wrote stories and novels, many with a nautical setting, that depict trials of the human spirit in the midst of an impassive, inscrutable universe. His narrative style and anti – heroic characters have influenced many authors, including S. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, André Malraux, George Orwell, Graham Greene, Gabriel García Márquez, John Le Carré or J. M. Coetzee - a South African novelist, essayist, linguist, translator and recipient of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Among many others he wrote “Heart of Darkness”, “Lord Jim”, Typhoon”, “Nostromo”, “The Secret Agent” and “Under Western Eyes”.

The Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to RSA Andrzej Kanthak opened the screening commemorating the achievements and works of genial writer.  The Ambassador stressed that Joseph Conrad has been lauded as one of the most powerful, insightful, and disturbing novelists in the English canon despite coming to English later in life, which allowed him to combine it with the sensibilities of French, Russian and Polish literature.

The Sejm of the Republic of Poland established 2017 the year of Joseph Conrad Korzeniowski to commemorate his achievements and works. 2017 marks 160th anniversary of the birth of the great author.  The resolution emphasized that in his novels Conrad "showed a vision of Europe without borders, expressed the European spirit of Polishness, and made Polishness a common good."

Many films have been adapted from, or inspired by, Conrad’s works – and one of them is presented today “Secret Sharer” directed by Piotr Fudakowski.

Inspired by Joseph Conrad novel, Secret Sharer is a contemporary romantic thriller set on the South China Sea.  A young sea captain is bribed by a Chinese ship owner to scuttle his first command, a rusting cargo ship on its way to Shanghai, for an insurance scam.  His inscrutable Chinese crew is suspicious from the outset and temporarily abandons ship leaving the captain completely alone on board.  That night, while waiting anxiously on deck, he spies a naked body floating in the sea, tangled up in the ship’s rope ladder.  The captain’s future is transformed as he encounters mutiny, adventure and a fugitive during an epic voyage from Bangkok to Shanghai.

Piotr Fudakowski, who directed the film, is of Polish descent.  He is a film producer, writer and director of numerous feature films, including “Tsotsi”, South African and UK production, which won the Oscar for Best Feature Film in a foreign language.

Embassy of Poland in South Africa




February/March 2020








© copyright 2011-2017| The Diplomatic Society| All Rights Reserved.