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Zdzisław Najder's Contribution to Conrad Studies in English

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 March 2024

Jolanta Dudek
Affiliation:
Jagiellonian University, Krakow
Andrzej Juszczyk
Affiliation:
Jagiellonian University, Krakow
Joanna Skolik
Affiliation:
Uniwersytet Opolski
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Summary

Zdzisław Najder's furthering of Conrad scholarship in English appears in three areas: resources, commentary, and biography. In each of these areas, Najder has made considerable contributions to Conrad scholarship.

Resources

Zdzisław Najder collected and helped translate a number of primary texts relevant to Conrad scholarship. These writings are contained in two volumes: Conrad's Polish Background: Letters to and from Polish Friends (1964) and Conrad under Familial Eyes (1983). In Conrad's Polish Background, Najder clarifies Joseph Conrad's Polish heritage and experience. He has collected and translated numerous important letters and documents previously available only in Polish. In particular, Najder includes a document by Conrad's uncle Tadeusz Bobrowski written to Conrad about his parents and recounting his own interaction with Conrad as his longtime guardian. While Conrad's Polish Background focuses primarily on Conrad's letters to and from Polish friends and family, Conrad under Familial Eyes collects correspondence about Conrad, as well as other valuable documents, especially selections from Bobrowski's Memoir, which chronicles events relevant to Conrad and his family. These two volumes have been invaluable to scholars, particularly to biographers. Because Conrad notoriously dissembled and misled his readers regarding his biography and also because most information and documents concerning Conrad's early biography existed almost exclusively in Polish, early biographers often recorded factual errors. Not until these Polish documents were available in English were these errors corrected, perhaps most significantly Conrad's fabrication about having been wounded in a duel in Marseilles.

Along with these two volumes of Polish sources, Najder edited a volume of writings in Congo Diary and Other Uncollected Pieces (1978). Najder includes headnotes for each document and makes available in a single volume a group of largely uncollected writings. As with his collections of Polish documents, this volume has been an important resource for many scholars.

Commentary

Najder's contribution to Conrad criticism consists of a group of articles on Conrad's life and works as well as a volume of essays, Conrad in Perspective: Essays on Art and Fidelity (1997). Along with insightful readings of general trends in Conrad's oeuvre and illuminations of individual works, Najder especially emphasized two related aspects of Conrad's writings: the influence of Polish culture and a focus on the chivalric tradition of honor as it appears in the recurring theme of fidelity.

Conrad in Perspective is a collection of Najder's commentaries on Conrad prior to 1997.

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Publisher: Jagiellonian University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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