“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

Singapore’s Joseph Conrad Memorial

Posted: April 14th, 2011 | 1 Comment »

A slightly tenuous link in Singapore for this statue and memorial – but still Conrad of course deserves to be remembered. The problem is that Conrad memorials could go in a lot of places – Polish born, English naturalised, served with both the French and British merchant navies. And then the books – Heart of Darkness could mean a memorial in Africa, The Secret Agent could justify one in Greenwich and of course he did write a few books that took place aboard ships in the old Malay Federated States. So Singapore has a small claim, and not a lot of other people to erect monuments to I suppose now that all the raffles ones have been done. So here’s the Conrad memorial that sits outside the Fullerton Hotel in Singapore. Conrad did apparently spend a few months in Singapore and plenty of kids (me included way back when) got fascinated by South East Asia reading Conrad novels like Lord Jim and Typhoon.

So here’s the memorial with the text on it reproduced below for the interested:

Joseph Conrad-Korzeniowski, a Pole by birth, British Master Mariner and a great English writer who made Singapore and the whole of Southeast Asia better known to the world.

Joseph Conrad-Korzeniowski, born on the 3rd of December 1857 in Berdichiv (today’s Ukraine, then under Russian rule) in a Polish family, is one of the masters of modern English prose. Although English was his third language, after Polish and French, he wrote in it such classic works as “Heart of Darkness” (1899), “Lord Jim” (1900) and “Nostromo (1904).

The son of a Polish writer and patriotic leader, Conrad experienced political repression while in exile with his parents in Russia. Orphaned at twelve, he left Poland for France when he was seventeen. For four years he served in French merchant vessels. In 1878, he signed up with a British shop and started to learn English. He became a British subject in 1886. As a seaman, later Master Mariner, he sailed several times to Southeast Asia and Australia. Conrad made eight voyages to Singapore between March 1883 and March 1888. Singapore was his home-port for five months in 1887-88 while he served as first mate in the Vidar, a steamboat that plied the trading routes of West Borneo and Celebes (now Sulawesi).

Conrad’s impressions of Singapore appear in several of his stories, notably “The End of the Tether” (1902). At that time, all incoming vessels would have to report at the General Post Office (presently the Fullerton Hotel) to collect and deliver mails. When Conrad’s ships docked in Singapore, he would have used the postal services of the Master Attendant’s Marine Office at the General Post Office.

In 1896, Conrad settled permanently in England. He died in Canterbury on the 3rd of August 1924.

This plaque was officially unveiled by H.E. Aleksander Kwasniewski, President of the Republic of Poland, on 24th February 2004.

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One Comment on “Singapore’s Joseph Conrad Memorial”

  1. 1 Prof. Dr. Osayimwense Osa said at 4:06 pm on June 19th, 2017:

    Very good!

    A writer of world fame and of numerous international dimensions deserve such recognition.

    I am presently working on a book on Joseph Conrad, and I’ll appreciate any help you can send to me –particularly his status–past, present, and possible future direction in Poland or in Polish culture.

    Osayimwense Osa
    professor of English, Virginia State University

    oosa111@gmail.com

    804 318 1809 (home)
    804 503 1809 (mobile)


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