‘The Secret Sharer’ by Joseph Conrad

Replicants and doubles, impostures and facsimiles, seem to have swarmed through this selection. So why not close with that double man Konrad Korzeniowski: the dispossessed Polish exile who, via the British merchant marine, became an English literary gent? In ‘The Secret Sharer’, we will never know the exact status of Leggatt: the fugitive first-mate who rises from the waters of the Gulf of Thailand to plague, and partner, the baffled captain who gives him shelter. “Can it be, I asked myself, that he is not visible to other eyes than mine? It was like being haunted.” That sense of haunting lingers long after Leggatt, the captain’s “second self”, plunges back into the waves: an outcast symbol of unbelonging, “a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth”.

First published 1910; collected in The Secret Sharer and Other Stories, Penguin Classics, 2014

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