- Series: Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century
- Paperback: 160 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Inc.; Great Books edition (February 1, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0140281630
- ISBN-13: 978-0140281637
- Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.6 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 1,954 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #801,273 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Heart of Darkness (Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century) Great Books Edition
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About the Author
Joseph Conrad (originally Józef Teodor Konrad Nalecz Korzeniowski) was born in the Ukraine in 1857 and grew up under Tsarist autocracy. His parents, ardent Polish patriots, died when he was a child, following their exile for anti-Russian activities, and he came under the protection of his tradition-conscious uncle, Thaddeus Bobrowski, who watched over him for the next twenty-five years. In 1874 Bobrowski conceded to his nephew's passionate desire to go to sea, and Conrad travelled to Marseilles, where he served in French merchant vessels before joining a British ship in 1878 as an apprentice. In 1886 he obtained British nationality and his Master's certificate in the British Merchant Service. Eight years later he left the sea to devote himself to writing, publishing his first novel, Almayer's Folly, in 1895. The following year he married Jessie George and eventually settled in Kent, where he produced within fifteen years such modern classics as Youth, Heart of Darkness, Lord Jim, Typhoon, Nostromo, The Secret Agent and Under Western Eyes. He continued to write until his death in 1924. Today Conrad is generally regarded as one of the greatest writers of fiction in Englishhis third language. He once described himself as being concerned 'with the ideal value of things, events and people'; in the Preface to The Nigger of the 'Narcissus' he defined his task as 'by the power of the written word ... before all, to make you see'.
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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.