Politics and the Inadequacy of Words in Joseph Conrad’s Non-Fiction

Keywords: the Polish problem, stable irony, binary oppositions, the body politic, Gothic imagery


The Polish-born English novelist, Joseph Conrad, once challenged the general public with a statement which stigmatized the printed word in wartime coverage as being cold, silent, and colorless. The aim of this article is to investigate the manner in which the writer himself applied words in his wartime non-fictional works in order to bestow a lasting effect on his texts. It is argued that irony renders his non-fiction memorable. Thus, the focus is first placed on the manner in which irony features in Conrad’s political essays, collected in Notes on Life and Letters, from 1921. It is argued that irony applied in his non-fiction represents what Wayne C. Booth termed stable irony. Further, it is claimed that, as a spokesman for a non-existent country, Conrad succeeded in transposing the Polish perspective into a discourse familiar to the British public. This seems possible due to the application of the concept of the body politic and the deployment of Gothic imagery. Finally, the paper examines the manner in which words are effectively used to voice the stance of a moralist on truth and the lie of the printed word in the turbulent times around the end of the 19th century.

Author Biography

Sylwia Janina Wojciechowska, Jesuit University Ignatianum in Krakow, Poland

Department of English Language and Culture


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How to Cite
Wojciechowska, S. J. (2021). Politics and the Inadequacy of Words in Joseph Conrad’s Non-Fiction. Multidisciplinary Journal of School Education, 10(1(19), 47-64. https://doi.org/10.35765/mjse.2021.1019.03