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Heart of Darkness (AmazonClassics Edition) Kindle Edition
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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".
Forget the whole "50 pages a night before bed" deal, I had to push myself to get through 2-3 pages a night (and then I slept like a baby). However, in return I was rewarded with one of the most epic, dark, and rewarding stories I've ever encountered, and two of my all-time favorite literary passages:
“I don't like work--no man does--but I like what is in the work--the chance to find yourself. Your own reality--for yourself not for others--what no other man can ever know. They can only see the mere show, and never can tell what it really means.”
“Going up that river was like travelling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest. The air was warm, thick, heavy, sluggish. There was no joy in the brilliance of sunshine. The long stretches of the waterway ran on, deserted, into the gloom of overschadowed distances. [...] 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.”
I come from a very liberal area, where sentiments like needing to love your work and the inherently peaceful goodness of nature are accepted without too much questioning, so I found these two passages to be both brutally and blessedly refreshing. The quote about no man liking to work is something that I try to remember every day and have found both realistic and fortifying for the grind.
PS. I'd be remiss if I went through a review of Heart of Darkness without mentioning Apocalypse Now, one of my favorite movies of all time, and nearly as exhausting as the book (if such a thing were possible). I'm not sure if I'd love the book as much as I do if I hadn't seen Apocalypse Now first. Make sure to watch it if you're thinking about reading HoD, you'll thank me later.
To start, there are many editons of this book being reviewed here. Some reviews mentioning the formatting, illustrations, etc may have absolutely nothing to do with the edition you are thinking of purchasing. I "bought" the free Kindle edition with a beige and dark green cover. It is a fine edition and true to the original text.
Otherwise, there's not much I can say about Heart of Darkness that hasn't already been said by 1000+ reviewers. I will say that the density of the language isn't entirely to torture you. This was a common style in 1899, when this novella was written. It does seem to me, though, that the prose is easier to hack your way through the farther you get into the story. Also, give Conrad a break on some of his language and depictions regarding the African natives. He was caged by the knowledge and beliefs of Victorian England in his world view. He's making a good point. Trust me.
It's not an easy read, but with insight and maturity on the part of the reader, Conrad still has something to say.