Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

Penguin Random House

“Conrad’s narrator Marlow, a seaman and wanderer, recounts his physical and psychological journey in search of the infamous ivory trader Kurtz: dying, insane, and guilty of unspeakable atrocities. Travelling upriver to the heart of the African continent, he gradually becomes obsessed by this enigmatic, wraith-like figure. Marlow’s discovery of how Kurtz has gained his position of power over the local people involves him in a radical questioning, not only of his own nature and values, but also those of western civilisation. The inspiration for Francis Ford Coppola’s Oscar-winning film Apocalypse Now, Heart of Darkness is a quintessentially modernist work exploring the limits of human experience and the nightmarish realities of imperialism.Part of a major series of new editions of Conrad’s most famous works in Penguin Classics, this volume contains Conrad’s Congo Diary, a chronology, further reading, notes, a map of the Congo, a glossary and an introduction discussing the author’s experiences in Africa, the narrative and symbolic complexities of Heart of Darkness and critical responses to the novel”

(Penguin Random House, 2017)

 Whoever wrote that book blurb at Penguin Random House kudos because that’s very accurate. I have to admit while reading this  book I was both enraptured but also horrified. Imperialism and colonisation are real but every time I read about it whether it’s  in a fictional context or a historical one I still feel horrified and shocked. I was shocked at the amount of  racial and derogatory language used to describe the natives of Africa and the way they’re treated. I kept reading this book simply because I had to know more about Kurtz, the development of the ivory trade (a subject which i feel passionately about, no elephant should have their tusks taken away) and because of  language passages such as this one:
“There were moments when one’s past came back to one, as it will sometimes when you not a moment to spare for yourself; but it came in the shape of a unrestful and noisy dream, remembered with wonder amongst the overwhelming realities of this strange world  of plants, and water, and silence. 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.”
(Conrad, 2007)
Would I read this book again? In all honesty I don’t know, maybe. I have mixed feelings about this piece of Conrad’s work. I will read it again at some point (so this blog post might change). Until then, stay tuned.
If you have read Heart of Darkness before or a fan of Conrad’s other works  and are looking for something that’s similar but not written by him I would recommend  Voltaire’s Candide or Optimism? 
Conrad, J.  (2007) Heart of Darkness.  London: Penguin Random House.
Penguin Random House (2017) ‘Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad’.  Available at: [Online] (Accessed on: 24 January 2017



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