Joseph Conrad is recognized as one of the 20th century's greatest English language novelists. He was born Jozef Konrad Nalecz Korzeniowski on December 3, 1857, in the Polish Ukraine. His father, a writer and translator, was from Polish nobility, but political activity against Russian oppression led to his exile. Conrad was orphaned at a young age and subsequently raised by his uncle. At 17 he went to sea, an experience that shaped the bleak view of human nature which he expressed in his fiction. In such works as Lord Jim (1900), Youth (1902), and Nostromo (1904), Conrad depicts individuals thrust by circumstances beyond their control into moral and emotional dilemmas. His novel Heart of Darkness (1902), perhaps his best known and most influential work, narrates a literal journey to the center of the African jungle. This novel inspired the acclaimed motion picture Apocalypse Now. After the publication of his first novel, Almayer's Folly (1895), Conrad gave up the sea. He produced thirteen novels, two volumes of memoirs, and twenty-eight short stories. He died on August 3, 1924, in England.
Adam Hochschild was born in New York City in 1942. As a college student, he spent a summer working on an anti-government newspaper in South Africa and worked briefly as a civil rights worker in Mississippi in 1964. He began his journalism career as a reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle. Then he worked for ten years as a magazine editor and writer, at Ramparts and Mother Jones, which he co-founded. He has also written for The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, and The Nation. His first book, Half the Way Home: A Memoir of Father and Son, was published in 1986. His other books include The Mirror at Midnight: A South African Journey; The Unquiet Ghost: Russians Remember Stalin; Finding the Trapdoor: Essays, Portraits, Travels; King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa; Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire's Slaves; and To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918. He teaches writing at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.