This Penguin edition assembles 4 stories that were first published together in 1904, and written in nearly the same sequence. 3 were first published in magazines, 1 not. The reasons why 'Falk' was not able to find a magazine publisher are attributed either to its inconvenient length, or to the upsetting subject of canibalism.
The stories share several themes: the sea is there, even when the action is on land, and so are ships and the people who spend parts of their lives on them. Alienation is in all, being a stranger, being expatriate, as is the reverse of the medal, xenophobia, condescension, racism.
One common theme is 'imagination', twice for the alleged lack of it, twice for the obvious overabundance of it.
Best of the crop is Typhoon, which I have reviewed separately and longer. A funny adventure story, as I see it.
The other long story is Falk, which is actually 2 for the price of one. The main story, the frame, is a farce about expatriates in Bangkok; inside the main story, the title hero tells the narrator his adventure on a Danish steamer that went adrift in the Southern ocean, leading to the horrifying experience that some readers found disgusting.
2 shorter stories are set in Kentish villages near the sea, and both deal with strangers. Amy Foster is the far better one of the two stories, dealing with a shipwrecked man from Eastern Europe who gets stranded and is treated like an animal until he slowly manages to establish a rudimentary foothold in a hostile environment. The title hero is a domestic helper who is the first to show pity for the 'madman' and even falls in love. Tragically, she is not fully able to discard the prejudices of her countrymen. (Is there an autobiographical component here? John Stape, the Conrad biographer who wrote the introduction, thinks not. I guess he is right.)
The last story (To-Morrow) is maybe the least remarkable piece of writing from Conrad that I know, and quite forgettable.
In these four stories, written between 1900 and 1902, Joseph Conrad bid gradual farewell to his adventurous life at sea and began to confront the more daunting complexities of life on land in the twentieth century. In 'Typhoon' Conrad reveals, in the steadfast courage of an undemonstrative captain and the imaginative readiness of his young first mate, the differences between instinct and intelligence in a partnership vital to human survival. 'Falk', the companion sea-story, contrasts, as Conrad once put it, 'common sentimentalism with the frank standpoint of a more or less primitive man', a man with a conscience, however, about the girl he desires. In one of the 'land-stories' Conrad explores the utter isolation of an East European emigrant in England; in the other, the plight of a woman ironically trapped by the unwitting alliance of two retired widowers - each blind in his own way.