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Novelist Joseph Conrad Display On 150th B'day

Display of letters, photos for novelist Joseph Conrad's 150th birthday

The Australian National Maritime Museum is celebrating renowned novelist Joseph Conrad's 150th birthday with a special display exploring his maritime links to Australia.

Conrad in Australia looks at his fascination with the sea and the magnificent clipper ships which traversed the oceans, and recounts his vivid impressions of Australian ports.

Born Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski in Poland on 3 December 1857, Joseph Conrad is widely hailed as one of the greatest writers of the English language with classics such as Heart of Darkness, Lord Jim and Nostromo.

Conrad, however, was a mariner before he began to write... becoming a seaman when he was 16. He soon joined the merchant navy and used his experiences abroad as inspiration for many of his novels.

He visited Sydney four times in the decade from 1878, describing it as a "fair city" and "one of the finest, most beautiful, vast and safe bays the sun ever shone upon" in his memoir The Mirror of the Sea.

In Conrad in Australia original letters from Conrad to Australian acquaintances are on display for the first time together with photographs of vessels he travelled on in his voyages to Australia. Excerpts from The Mirror of the Sea can also be heard in the exhibition, read by Polish-Australian academic and theatre director Andrew Siedlecki.

Interestingly, Conrad spoke barely any English on his first visit to Australia. He learnt much of the language while living on board the wool clipper the Duke of Sutherland in Circular Quay, listening to the sailors' "impolite stories in racy language". He wrote "every word...reached me distinctly over the bulwarks as I sat smoking on the main hatch".

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The birthday celebrations at the National Maritime Museum will include a special children's performance on Sunday 2 December Courageous Conrad. At 11 am and 1 pm, children can hear 'super silly scary stories' from Joe Conrad himself (played by teacher guide John Lamzies) during the half-hour free family performance.

Exploring one of the key themes from many of Conrad's novels - facing one's fear - the performance will follow Joe, alone on a boat and trying to write a new story. Kids can help Joe face his fears and discover that things aren't always as scary as they may first appear.

Conrad in Australia will remain on display, admission free, until 10 February 2008. The Australian National Maritime Museum, Darling Harbour, is open daily from 9.30 am to 5 pm (6 pm in January).


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