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Heart of Darkness and Selected Short Fiction (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) Paperback – March 1, 2008


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Product Details

  • Series: Barnes & Noble Classics
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Barnes & Noble Classics (March 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1593081235
  • ISBN-13: 978-1593081232
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #155,370 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

From A. Michael Matin's Introduction to Heart of Darkness and Selected Short Fiction

Heart of Darkness (1899) is one of the most broadly influential works in the history of British literature. The novella’s diverse attributes—its rich symbolism, intricate plotting, evocative prose, penetrating psychological insights, broad allusiveness, moral significance, metaphysical suggestiveness—have earned for it the admiration of literary scholars and critics, high school and college teachers, and general readers alike. Further, its impact can be gauged not only by the frequency with which it is read, taught, and written about, but also by its cultural fertility. It has heavily influenced works ranging from T. S. Eliot’s landmark poem The Waste Land (1922), the manuscript of which has as its original epigraph a passage from the book that concludes with the last words of Conrad’s antihero Kurtz, to Barbara Kingsolver’s novel The Poisonwood Bible (1998), which updates the tale to the years shortly before and after independence, when the Belgian Congo became the nation that is known today as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Nor has its artistic influence been limited to literature; to cite only the most famous instance, it served as the basis for Francis Ford Coppola’s film Apocalypse Now (1979), which transposes the story, in both place and time, to Vietnam and Cambodia during the American-Vietnamese War and recasts Kurtz as a renegade American colonel. Its various homages aside, in its original form Heart of Darkness has for several generations influenced the literary and moral outlook of innumerable readers. Yet while the text is widely recognized as an indictment of the greed and ruthlessness that generally drove European imperialism in Africa, most readers are unfamiliar with the fact that the setting is the event in imperial history so uniquely horrific in its sheer scale of suffering and death that it has been termed the African Holocaust. As Conrad himself would characterize the situation in the Congo nearly a quarter of a century after his novella was published, it was “the vilest scramble for loot that ever disfigured the history of human conscience” (“Geography and Some Explorers,” p. 17).

Set during the era of heightened competition for imperial territories that historians have termed the New Imperialism, Heart of Darkness is loosely based on Conrad’s experiences and observations during a six-month stint, in 1890, in the Congo as an employee of a Belgian company, the Société Anonyme Belge pour le Commerce du Haut-Congo. This was five years after the 1884–1885 Berlin Conference, a meeting of representatives of the European powers to establish the terms according to which much of the continent of Africa would be divided among them. During this meeting, King Leopold II of Belgium, skillfully playing the jealousies and fears of rival powers off one another, astonishingly managed to secure as his own personal property over 900,000 square miles of central Africa—that is, a territory roughly seventy-five times the size of the diminutive country he ruled. Under humanitarian pretenses, Leopold’s agents, who had begun the process of conquest several years earlier, effectively turned the so-called Congo Free State into an enormous forced labor camp for the extraction of ivory and, later, after the worldwide rubber boom in the early 1890s following the popularization of the pneumatic tire, rubber. In addition to outright murders, the slave labor conditions led to many deaths from starvation and disease as well as a steeply declining birth rate. Even during an era in which most Europeans viewed imperialism as legitimate, the appalling circumstances of Leopold’s Congo (it would officially become a Belgian colony in 1908, and Leopold would die the following year never having so much as visited the territory) led to international outrage. Conservative demographic estimates place the region’s depopulation toll between 1880 and 1920 at 10 million people—that is, half of the total population—with the worst of the carnage occurring between 1890 and 1910. Not much was known outside Africa about the conditions of Leopold’s rule when Conrad was there, but in the several years before he began writing Heart of Darkness, in 1898, it became an international scandal, and regular reports appeared in the British and European press denouncing the abuses. Even before the publicity and protests, however (which would peak several years after the novella’s publication), Conrad had seen enough on his own to be thoroughly disgusted.


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Customer Reviews

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Apart from that however, this book was somewhat disappointing to me.
Ferro
I remember reading Heart of Darkness for freshman English forty some years ago and remembered that it was very good.
MileHigh Gal
Drenched in pathos, this is one of Conrad's most moving works and very thought-provoking.
Bill R. Moore

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Bill R. Moore on February 9, 2010
Format: Paperback
Joseph Conrad is one of the greatest short story and novella writers, and this excellent omnibus has four of his best short works: "Youth," "Heart of Darkness," "Amy Foster," and "The Secret Sharer." All are essential for any fan or critic and an excellent place for the curious to start. However, all are available in many editions with widely varying supplemental material and prices. Readers must decide what edition suits their needs, but anyone wanting a representative selection with substantial supplementary material at a reasonable price could do no better.

"Youth" is one of Conrad's most famous and acclaimed stories but is in my view the weak link. Like the better-known "Heart of Darkness," it is told by the character Marlow through another first-person narrator, but the plot is more akin to the symbolic, adventure-esque seafaring stories of prior Conrad. There is more traditional excitement and suspense than in most Conrad, especially later work, which may attract those who usually dislike his fiction. However, as nearly always with him, symbolism is the real point. As the title suggests, this is a tale about youth and all it stands for and arguably one of its best literary representations. Marlow recalls the excitement and elation he felt when he first captained a ship, fondly recalling exuberance and naïveté long since lost. However, as so often in such situations, nearly everything goes wrong, and youthful ideals are put to experience's harshly dramatic test. "Youth" is thus a sort of mini-bildungsroman, though Marlow's mad rush for the symbolic finish at the end of his story proper shows he learned very little at the time. However, he is now wiser and older, and retelling the old story brings several ambivalent feelings.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By FicktionPhotography on July 7, 2014
Format: Paperback
This edition of Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" and assorted other short stories (fiction) sports the title work along with "Youth", "Amy Foster", and the popular "The Secret Sharer". Although the stories do attempt to harken to our adventurous side, the idea of darkest Africa or the coast of China doesn't have much appeal anymore. However, the stories are still timeless in their psychological stripping down of humanity to show that we, much like any other "tribal nation", are still animalistic. We are capable of horrors, of treacheries, of diseased action that spreads like wildfire and consumes the internal workings of our so called humanity.

Conrad was the king of making us dread the unknown, dread ourselves, and dread what we were capable of when the two were combined. He works off of his own experiences in many of his tales, harkening back to his days spent aboard and working on ships. He puts perspectives and comparisons in place to show that the English, Great Britain, way of looking at the world wasn't nearly as acute as it pretended to be. That even respectable Englishmen can be misshapen. Unfortunately, the other side of the coin was that it was a "reduction" of being misshapen. As if you had to go down a few levels on the evolution ladder to fit in or be one with the cannibals of Africa or the inner workings of our more primal selves. Still, we have to give credit where credit is due.

Conrad never fails to make comparisons and very little contrast to other races or men who have become primal. For example, "The Secret Sharer" continually asserts that the less barbaric Captain is a direct reflection of the chief mate of the Sephora who killed a man due to a high stress situation on foreign waters.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Scora on July 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Although English was not his initial language, I think that had it been, Conrad would have wielded much the same command of the language as Shakespeare in his day. But regardless of the writing quality, this is also a gripping and mesmerizing story. Perhaps some of this is because Conrad used to be in the same line of work as the main character, Marlow, who recurs in many of his works, but this story delves far beyond mere personal reflections, dealing with far more difficult and weighty issues than, say, Anna Karenina, and even many of the plays of Shakespeare; But, for me, the story is nevertheless as thrilling as any modern day mass-market novel, if not more because of its superior writing and philosophical quality. My favorite sections are Part 2, and the final scene, so don't give up early. I would give this six stars if I could. This is not my favorite edition, but the one I read first.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mr. James Greene on January 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
An excellent collection of short fiction. Each tale is as compelling, as it is entertaining. Conrad is one of the best short story writers ever he is like a darker Stevenson who delves into the human psyche.
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By Qing Yi Wang on July 2, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book is wonderful and the service of Amazon is awesome to me too!!!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Perfect for a library of other classics. Contains other works by Joseph Conrad. Reasonalby priced; this is a book that can be read over and over.
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