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Heart of Darkness (Dover Thrift Editions) Paperback – Unabridged, July 1, 1990


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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Although Polish by birth, Joseph Conrad (1857–1924) is regarded as one of the greatest writers in English, and Heart 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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Product Details

  • Series: Dover Thrift Editions
  • Paperback: 72 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; New edition edition (July 1, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486264645
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486264646
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.3 x 0.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (250 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,571 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Kali on May 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
I was once one of those students forced to read this book at school. I was dragged kicking and screaming to its pages and read it only because I did not want to flunk my class. I was riveted from the first page, right up to the last paragraph. It is quite simply Conrad's finest book, (yes, I read his other books after this one.) The story is simple enough, a young Englishman, Marlow goes out to Africa to seek his fortune. He is at first idealistic, and full of himself. However he quickly realises that Africa is full of petty bureaucrats who have no idea how to make use of this dark jewel they have acquired. Like Colonists before them, they proceed to ravage and plunder the land of its natural resources. Enter Kurtz, an Ivory Trader who has gone Native. He has become a Renegade, living with his Black mistress in the heart of Africa's interior; systematically turning his back on his supposed civilised self. Marlow meets him after an eventful trip up the Congo and finds himself curiously attracted to this strange man who is dying, and obviously going insane. Kurtz in turn is an embarrassment to his employers who would rather see him dead than returned to "civilization." Of course this is unspoken, and the hypocrisy of human natures sticks out like a sore thumb in this novel, especially as Kurtz is one of the best Ivory Traders on the Congo route. Marlow struggles to understand Kurtz and what makes him tick, but he only touches the surface of a man who can live in neither the Black or White world comfortably. He has been corrupted by both worlds and therefore he is cursed. Heart of Darkness has many facets; it is a story about Imperialism, racism, and the darkness of human nature. Conrad purposely leaves the ending open to interpretation.Read more ›
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Charles Bridge, DDiv on November 24, 1999
Format: Paperback
The Author Originally from Poland, and known as Josef Konrad Korzeniowski, Joseph Conrad knew very little English until he began learning it at age 20. At age 38 he published the first of his many novels, and he displayed in each a rare mastery of his adopted language. A member of the British Merchants Navy, he worked his way from mere deckhand, to captain. While serving, he traveled widely, and entered the African Congo in 1890. It is thought that much of Heart of Darkness is based upon his experiences while there. His Message His overall message might be summed up in the cliché, Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It might also be summed up in the assertion that man's social environment is perhaps kingpin in either deterring or allowing release of the innate evil capable of flowing from his nature. The book addresses the themes of oppression and freedom, power and powerlessness, corruption and virtue, nature and nurture, in ways that are creative and profound. Overall, this book is deep. It's message only fully hit me after considerable private musing. In Heart of Darkness, Conrad explores human nature in a most ironic fashion. He does this by narrating an oral story as told by a seafaring man about an explorer-merchant who enters into the African Congo with the best of intentions of bringing light and commerce. But there in the Heart of Darkness, without any external restraint, would emerge the explorer-merchant's own heart of darkness...and the horrors that would ultimately flow from it. Is Conrad's book, at least in part, an autobiographical warning disguised as fiction? There is a strong universality and timelessness to the themes addressed in Heart of Darkness, and an extreme richness of meaning in the text. This coupled with the life of Joseph Conrad himself, in so profoundly addressing his issues of English literacy, makes this truly outstanding reading.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
Many people call this novella, published in 1902, the first real book of the 20th century, in that it deals with loss of innocence, moral ambiguity, exploration of the subconscious - all issues that factored prominently into the past hundred years.
In college I tried to read "Heart of Darkness," but couldn't make it through, despite its small size. Conrad's thick prose just put me to sleep. But I recently read "King Leopold's Ghost," a gut-wrenching book about the exploitation of the Congo around the turn of the century. With that book as factual background, I took another shot at "Heart of Darkness," and this time I tore through it.
The book works at a purely surface level, as an exotic adventure, but it's even more powerful when read as a symbolic journey - either to the core of an individual psyche or to the mysterious heart of the human condition. And what Marlow, the narrator, discovers there is enough to convince him that truly letting go - as Kurtz did - is to become immersed in a spiritual darkness that cannot be explained or escaped.
"Apocalypse Now" (based loosely on "Heart of Darkness") introduced me to the phrase "The horror! The horror!" - but reading it in Condrad's book was far more chilling.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Dave Deubler on September 12, 2003
Format: Paperback
While justifiably a classic of 20th Century literature, Conrad's depiction of a journey up the Congo River will not find favor with everyone. Because he had actually made such a journey himself, Conrad is able to give ornate descriptions that bring this mysterious locale to life before our eyes - at least, for those whose response to the printed word is largely visual. To those readers who, like this reviewer, are more intrigued by plot and character than by the appearance of a person or place, Conrad's lengthy descriptions of the river and its banks may seem tiresome, mere delay as the plot slowly unfolds.
And is it ever slow. This measured pacing is supposed to create a strong element of suspense as we wonder what will happen when Marlow finally meets the mysterious Kurtz, but casual readers should be forgiven for not really caring. The journey itself doesn't get exciting until the attack comes, a good three-quarters of the way through the book, so those hoping for action and adventure will find little to their taste. So why is this novel considered such a masterpiece?
Apart from Conrad's turgid prose, the real power of this story is in its philosophical content. Marlow's physical journey into Africa parallels a psychological journey into the darkness of the human condition. He seeks a Kurtz who has been described as an emissary of science and progress, the best man the company has ever sent to Africa, a veritable superman whose humanity, sensitivity, leadership skills, and practical know-how have enabled him to accomplish amazing things in these most difficult of circumstances. In effect Kurtz represents Colonialism itself; he is the living proof that European Imperialist policies can improve conditions in the colonies while netting a profit for the home country.
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