Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. Penguin Classics, 1987.
Reason read: I needed a short book for the Portland Public Library reading challenge. This us under 150 pages.
We begin with two rivers of contradiction, the Thames and the Congo. Marlow’s journey begins and ends on the Thames.
After reading Heart of Darkness did you ask yourself, “what is the definition of civilized?” I know I did.
Also, I found myself paying attention to light and dark imagery throughout Heart of Darkness. There were contradiction of light and darkness – the sun setting versus the lighthouse’s beam and the glare of the stars. Light needs the dark in order to be its brightest. Night falling has an impact on people and places. All in all, the plot was slow and plodding. I kept waiting for something drastic to happen because I knew the horror could jump out and gnash its teeth any second. The pages leading up to the grand finale seemed nothing more than a vain attempt to rattle the nerves.
I know many people who couldn’t stand Heart of Darkness, but I have to offer this as an alternative. Why? Why is it so hated? I can remember reading a book about a woman working up the courage to commit suicide. I cared to little for the character that by the end of the book I was wishing she would just get it over with! I wanted her kill herself. Instead of saying I hated the book because I wanted the main character dead, I applauded the author. The power of the writing forced me to feel that strongly about a character. Maybe, just maybe, Conrad was forcing his audience to hate much in the same way.
Quotes to quote, “One ship is very much like another, and the sea is always the same” (p 29), “Black shadows of disease and starvation” (p 44), “Your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others” (p 31),
Author fact: I was shocked to learn, according to Paul O’Prey’s introduction, that Conrad, distraught over debts and other failings, shot himself in the chest. What the what? A nicer fact is that Conrad was influenced by Henry James.
Book trivia: I didn’t realize the movie Apocalypse Now was based on Heart of Darkness.
As an aside, you know I have to make connections to my favorite singer, Natalie Merchant. I couldn’t help but think of “Hateful Hate” when I read in the introduction about the white man’s greed for ivory. To be fair, “Hateful Hate” is a 10,000 Maniacs song, but it’s Natalie’s voice I hear when she sings about spotted skins and ivory and that hateful hate.
Confessional: somehow I missed reading this in high school, college, grad school and beyond.
Nancy said: You can always tell when Pearl likes a book. She includes it in more than one Lust chapter and/or includes it in more than one Lust book. It was mentioned four times in Book Lust. Her most meaningful comments include Heart of Darkness is the story all other African novels are measured against and Heart of Darkness should be read along side The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver and Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. Having read Kingsolver and Achebe earlier in the challenge, I did not get to enjoy this grouping.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapters called “Africa: Today and Yesterday” (p 10), “African Colonialism: Fiction” (p 14), “Companion Reads” (p 63), and “100 Good Reads, Decade By Decade: 1900s” (p 175). Also, in Book Lust To Go in the simple chapter “Nigeria” (p 156). To be fair, Heart of Darkness should not have been indexed in Book Lust To Go. Pearl only mentions it because Chinua Achebe wrote an essay about racism in Heart of Darkness.