In one of his essays written shortly after the war, Gustaw Herling pointed out that what mattered to him in his approach to novels was not the used method of writing, but a specific representation of a human being in “moral and psychological becoming.” The patron of the idea of such a representation and the tendencies associated with it was Joseph Conrad, the author occupying an exceptional place in Herling's writings on literature. This article discusses a wide range of issues relating to the fictional character and its creation, a vast subject of Herling's essays and critical writings. Close attention is paid to his perception of Conrad's protagonists and to his use of them as a measure of literary works by other authors, especially moralist writers: Graham Greene, Albert Camus, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Franz Kafka, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. The article also discusses other themes and strategies of Herling's criticism, emphasizing its multilateral and far-reaching nature. It shows how Herling—moving from the literary character to the author—crossed the boundaries of literature and connected its fictional realm with the real world. As a critic and writer living and working in exile, Herling not only dealt with literature as an art form, but also debated the problems of postwar history and politics, communism, human freedom, and the moral attitudes and responsibilities of writers.

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