Melissa Rudder's Reviews > Heart of Darkness and the Congo Diary

Heart of Darkness and the Congo Diary by Joseph Conrad
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Apr 19, 12

bookshelves: master-s-exam, teach-it
Read in April, 2012, read count: 7

I didn't enjoy the intricate descriptions, psychological complexities, and social commentary of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness this time as much as I did on my third read. I tend to blame myself for this, but maybe Heart of Darkness just can't stand up to four reads in eight years.

There's a lot to be said about Heart of Darkness. And there certainly has been a lot said about it. It's worth reading if only to join the discourse in which Chinua Achebe declared Conrad "a thoroughgoing racist." Can Conrad be excused as a product of his racist, Imperialist time? Does his critical portrayal of unsympathetic and inhumane imperialism make up for his narrow-sighted portrayal of Africans? Should schools teach books where Africans are mere bestial shadows? Did Conrad preserve an ironic distance between himself and his narrator that forces a critique of racism and absolves the author of that guilt? Important questions resulting in a worthwhile (and often heated) discussion.

There are images and moments from Heart of Darkness that are very much impressed upon my memory. Kurtz is a remarkably powerful figure. He seems to haunt much of the literary community (in the same way that he haunted Marlow even before they met) even though he, as a character, is present for less than a tenth of the novel. (That was an approximation, so don't quote me on that. But it's a close approximation, I'm sure.) Perhaps looking over that edge with Marlow is all it takes to be forever imprinted with what we saw.

Quotes:

"I don't like work--no man does--but I like what is in the work--the chance to find yourself."

"Droll thing life is--that mysterious arrangement of merciless logic for a futile purpose."

(This is an old review. I've read the novella several more times but lack the desire to edit this review.)
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