- Paperback: 80 pages
- Publisher: Dover Publications; New ed edition (1 July 1990)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0486264645
- ISBN-13: 978-0486264646
- Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 0.6 x 21 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 68 g
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 63,561 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Heart of Darkness Paperback – Unabridged, 1 Jul 1990
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From the Back Cover
Although Polish by birth, Joseph Conrad (18571924) is regarded as one of the greatest writers in English, andHeart of Darkness, first published in 1902, is considered by many his "most famous, finest, and most enigmatic story."Encyclopaedia Britannica. The tale concerns the journey of the narrator (Marlow) up the Congo River on behalf of a Belgian trading company. Far upriver, he encounters the mysterious Kurtz, an ivory trader who exercises an almost godlike sway over the inhabitants of the region. Both repelled and fascinated by the man, Marlow is brought face to face with the corruption and despair that Conrad saw at the heart of human existence.
In its combination of narrative and symbolic power, masterly character study and acute psychological penetration,Heart of Darkness ranks as a landmark of modern fiction. It is a book no serious student of literature can afford to miss.
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A merchant company is missing an agent Kurtz, and Marlowe must find him. Traveling through harsher environments than he imagined possible he may have found what he was seeking. As with many of this type of epic the physical distance or direction is not as important than the transformation it plays on one’s soul.
I missed this book somehow in school. The reason I started to read this book before actually I actually became immersed in it, was to see how close it came to the movie. No, not the movie you are thinking of. "Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death" (1988.) The film was shot primarily in the avocado groves maintained by the University of California at Riverside (UCR), which the university uses for horticultural experiments. Adrienne Barbeau is Dr. Kurtz.
The horror.....the horror.....
Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death
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Forget the whole "50 pages a night before bed" deal, I had to push myself to get through 2-3 pages a night (and then I slept like a baby). However, in return I was rewarded with one of the most epic, dark, and rewarding stories I've ever encountered, and two of my all-time favorite literary passages:
“I don't like work--no man does--but I like what is in the work--the chance to find yourself. Your own reality--for yourself not for others--what no other man can ever know. They can only see the mere show, and never can tell what it really means.”
“Going up that river was like travelling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest. The air was warm, thick, heavy, sluggish. There was no joy in the brilliance of sunshine. The long stretches of the waterway ran on, deserted, into the gloom of overschadowed distances. [...] And this stillness of life did not in the least resemble a peace. It was the stillness of an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable intention. It looked at you with a vengeful aspect.”
I come from a very liberal area, where sentiments like needing to love your work and the inherently peaceful goodness of nature are accepted without too much questioning, so I found these two passages to be both brutally and blessedly refreshing. The quote about no man liking to work is something that I try to remember every day and have found both realistic and fortifying for the grind.
PS. I'd be remiss if I went through a review of Heart of Darkness without mentioning Apocalypse Now, one of my favorite movies of all time, and nearly as exhausting as the book (if such a thing were possible). I'm not sure if I'd love the book as much as I do if I hadn't seen Apocalypse Now first. Make sure to watch it if you're thinking about reading HoD, you'll thank me later.
From what I understand this short work is heavily based on Conrad's own experiences from what he saw in the Congo Free State, something that would go on to effect his health and stability as it does for the character of the book Marlow. Marlow is a young man from England. Hungry for adventure on a steam boat in the dark continent. He manages to land a job with a company that is based on the Congo. So now the captain of his own tug boat he goes into Africa only to bare witness to the acts of the corporation he works for. Lines of naked bony natives in chains are led into mine shafts by uniformed men, massive tracts of the jungle are slashed and burned for bits of ivory, while starving slaves are left to die on the banks of the river. If this is progress then humanity is doomed it seems. But Marlow isn't there to gawk instead he's sent down river to track down and find a company agent, Mr Kurtz.
Kurtz seems to be a golden boy of the company. His superiors praise him, so does his family and friends. He is like the embodiment of European ideals, superior in every way to the savages but as Marlowe goes down the river and further into the dark jungles he learns more about this man and his troubling nature. Despite his superior stock and civilized morals Kurtz had quite literally "gone native". It can be looked at in various ways. A disturbing indictment of greed and imperialism. A look at the self destructive nature of humanity or civilization in general. While the book was good in the respects of allegory its still very archaic. His writing can drag in certain parts and feels pretty dated. But it's Conrad's depictions of the natives stands out above all of them. They have almost no actual culture, they prance around fires with grass skirts and bones in their noses; and the description of the witch woman feels like it was torn right out of a pulp magazine. Still though I think the themes of the book and overall message trump these bits but some may just find them distasteful.
In the end I actually liked Heart of Darkness but it definitely is racist in some parts. Conrad may have been disgusted with the Congo Free State, he may have been against imperialism, but he still saw the Africans as a lesser people. Still one can't really indict a man on views that were otherwise very common in his time. Compared to others from the same period Conrad was definitely a progressive. The book is pretty powerful and it had a strong message of anti-imperialism before it was beaten to death later on. In the end it's all a matter of taste. I liked it, its well written, not long, and it may dwell in the back of your head for a while. It left me wondering whether or not Kurtz's final message "exterminate the brutes" was meant for the natives or mankind in general.