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Joseph Conrad was born in Ukraine in 1857. He grew up surrounded by upheaval; his Polish father was exiled to northern Russia for political activities, and Conrad was orphaned by the age of 11. He left for Marseilles in 1874 and began training as a seaman. After an attempt at suicide, Conrad joined the British merchant navy and became a British subject in 1886. Following the publication of his first novel, Almayer's Folly in 1895 he left the sea behind and settled down to a life of writing. Troubled financially for many years, Conrad faced uncomplimentary critics and an indifferent public. He finally became a popular success with Chance in 1913, fourteen years after the publication of his masterpiece, Heart of Darkness, in 1899. He died in 1924, his status as one of the great writers of his time already assured.