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Heart of Darkness (Penguin Classics) by Conrad, Joseph (2007) Paperback – 1994
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Top Customer Reviews
The majority of the story is told by a seaman as he sits aboard a yawl moored in the river Thames. The foundation of the novella is an European employer has hired Marlow to find rogue ivory trader Mr Kurtz who has absconded into the jungle with the company's money and ivory. Marlow begins the story naive and idealistic yet as he ventures deeper and deeper down the unnamed river into the continent he begins to suspect that corruption and madness has overcome Kurtz. Kurtz himself is not seen until later in he story but the foreshadowing of his introduction builds the suspense and climaxes with Marlow's decision to indeed bring Kurtz out of the jungle.
Although a much deeper plot synopsis could be given and spoilers included, I believe the reader will enjoy discovering the poety like prose of Conrad's novella themselves. Readers for generations have enjoyed, contemplated and been fascinated with the imagery and story of "Heart of Darkness".
Heart of Darkness is a deep, enigmatic book containing many hidden metaphors. I'm sure I didn't catch half the metaphor illustrations in the text.
The entire book is a dialogue of a story being told. Marlow, an old sailor, is retelling the time of when he steamed through the Congo searching for the mysterious Mr. Kurtz. It might even cause a chill to go down your spine in the sincerely bleak parts.
"I remembered the old doctor—'It would be interesting for science to watch the mental changes of individuals, on the spot.' I felt I was becoming scientifically interesting."
It is a revelation of mankind's fatal instincts. It's about the hidden depths of the mind and the secrets inside mankind's heart.
"The reaches opened before us and closed behind, as if the forest had stepped leisurely across the water to bar the way for our return. We penetrated deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness. It was very quiet there."
Conrad doesn’t always share all with the reader - Marlow gets his commission through the unspoken connections of an influential aunt, much (apparently) will pass between Kurtz and Marlow that leaks back to the story well after their encounter on the upper Congo River. And time, or Conrad’s essential story, can occasionally ‘jerk’ without warning. Marlow longs for rivets to repair his steamboat on the Congo - but the repairs all happen without narration or description. Marlow’s trip down the Congo with Kurtz is only briefly told, but hugely important to the outcome.
Conrad ‘wields’ the story to explore what is really the theme of the book - ‘the horror’ of human hatefulness. This is a book that leaves readers full of wondering “what is meant (?)” or sorting out perceived (and real) metaphor. It is certainly about more than a steamboat’s trip up the Congo River - and has sprouted a cottage industry of amateur and professional interpreters all too anxious to sort it all out for the rest of us. Read it - you will like it!