All About Books discussion

Heart of Darkness
This topic is about Heart of Darkness
83 views
The 100 Best Novels > Week 32 - Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Comments Showing 1-22 of 22 (22 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Jenny (last edited Apr 28, 2014 02:41AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments This weeks 'winner' is Heart of Darkness (1899) by Joseph Conrad (born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski; 3 December 1857 – 3 August 1924).

From the article:

Conrad's first and second languages were Polish and French, with his third language, English, not acquired until he was 20. English, however, was the medium he adopted to explore his youthful experience as a riverboat captain in Belgian Congo. Part of the work's strange hallucinatory atmosphere comes from the writer's struggle with a language that was not his mother tongue. He sometimes said he would have preferred to be a French novelist, and that English was a language without "clean edges". He once complained that "all English words are instruments for exciting blurred emotions". This, paradoxically, is perhaps what gives the book its famously enigmatic, and ambiguous, atmosphere.
(...)
None of Conrad's other books have inspired such veneration, especially in America, though some (including me) might want to place Nostromo(1904) higher up the pantheon. Critics have endlessly debated it. Chinua Achebe denounced it, in a famous 1975 lecture, as the work of "a bloody racist". Among the novels in this series, few novels occupy such an unassailable place on the list. It is a haunting, hypnotic masterpiece by a great writer who towers over the literature of the 20th century.

Find the article here

more about Josep Conrad here

the Guardian article regarding Chinua Achebe and the controversial discussion of 'Heart of Darkness'here


message 2: by LauraT (last edited Apr 28, 2014 06:29AM) (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 13133 comments Mod
No way: I DON'T like Joseph Conrad. I admire him - writing so well in a language which is not your mothertongue is extremely difficoult if not impossible - I also admit that his style is ahrp, dry, to the point, but ...
There's always a but with his books for me ...


Bionic Jean (bionicjean) I couldn't agree more, Laura! I'm sooo pleased not to be the first to post that view though! LOL


Shirley | 4177 comments I read it about a year ago and it got 3 stars from me. What I liked was the claustrophobic atmosphere he created.


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

This is on my TBR list and I do own a copy. I love reading about Africa but I have heard negative things about the book which is why I've put it off


Shirley | 4177 comments Heather wrote: "This is on my TBR list and I do own a copy. I love reading about Africa but I have heard negative things about the book which is why I've put it off"

It's very old-fashioned in my opinion, and also rather racist. However, if you can cope with that (takes some adjusting to) and see it as just a symptom of the time in which it was written, it's a good read. I do understand why people don't like it, though.


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

I really hated Robinson Crusoe and that was because I found it old fashioned and a bit racist so maybe it's not for me! Worth a go as it's quite short. Can always add another DNF to the list


Leslie | 15985 comments I quite like Conrad. I haven't read this in a long time but I remember finding the imagery compelling. Laura, have you read Secret Agent? I think that you might find that more to your taste...


message 9: by LauraT (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 13133 comments Mod
Leslie wrote: "I quite like Conrad. I haven't read this in a long time but I remember finding the imagery compelling. Laura, have you read Secret Agent? I think that you might find that more to your taste..."

I think I did but so many years ago I don't remember ... I'll give him another chance


message 10: by Gill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gill | 5720 comments We read this at my face to face book group recently. We talked quite a lot there about the horrifying history of the Belgian Congo and how Conrad reflected this.


message 11: by LauraT (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 13133 comments Mod
Gill wrote: "We read this at my face to face book group recently. We talked quite a lot there about the horrifying history of the Belgian Congo and how Conrad reflected this."

This I think is what was picked up in "Apocalips now", set in Vietnam but with parallel, if not similar, atrocities ...


Alannah Clarke (alannahclarke) | 11539 comments Mod
Read this a while ago, I have to say I wasn't blown away by it.


message 13: by Everyman (new)

Everyman Great comments. I keep meaning to read some Conrad, but never get around to it.


Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments I am not a big fan of Heart of Darkness, for very similar reasons as Shirley and I haven't yet come around to try something else by Conrad.
However today I stumbled over a quote from the book that I scribbled down into my notebook. Trying to find the original English quote to share with you I realized this is one of the rare occasions where I actually prefer the translation to the original, but the latter is still stunning:

And at last, in its curved and imperceptible fall, the sun sank low, and from glowing white changed to a dull red without rays and without heat, as if about to go out suddenly, stricken to death by the touch of that gloom brooding over a crowd of men.


Alannah Clarke (alannahclarke) | 11539 comments Mod
Jenny wrote: "I am not a big fan of Heart of Darkness, for very similar reasons as Shirley and I haven't yet come around to try something else by Conrad.
However today I stumbled over a quote from the book that ..."


I'm glad I am not the only one here who thinks the same.


message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

I am afraid this is a book of which I am not fond at all. I read it upon recommendation by my poppa, but found it a chore to get through. I thought it was a little difficult to follow.


message 17: by Greg (new)

Greg | 7350 comments Mod
Jenny wrote: "I am not a big fan of Heart of Darkness, for very similar reasons as Shirley and I haven't yet come around to try something else by Conrad.
However today I stumbled over a quote from the book that ..."


I really liked Lord Jim, a fantastic book. Heart of Darkness wasn't bad but a bit over the top as others have said.


Shelby Dana | 1 comments I didn't understand Heart of Darkness at all in the beginning and had a really hard time getting into it. However, once I did my homework and discovered more about Joseph Conrad's personal history and the setting in which it took place, my initial questions faded and I was able to spend more time thinking about the deeper meanings of the work. Now I can see why it's considered a classic!


message 19: by Greg (new)

Greg | 7350 comments Mod
Great Shelby! :)


Meghan Derrick Fuller Greg wrote: "Jenny wrote: "I am not a big fan of Heart of Darkness, for very similar reasons as Shirley and I haven't yet come around to try something else by Conrad.
However today I stumbled over a quote from ..."


So what do you mean by over the top, Greg? I have heard a lot of people say that and I want to understand more.


message 21: by Leah (new) - rated it 3 stars

Leah Smartt | 1 comments I agree with what Shirley said up at the top. Conrad so expertly creates this "claustrophobic atmosphere." Even though I don't particularly love this novel, I can't say I wasn't completely drawn in. I was so interested in the way that Marlow told his story. All in all, I really appreciate this novel.


message 22: by Greg (last edited Feb 13, 2015 02:11AM) (new)

Greg | 7350 comments Mod
Meghan wrote: "Greg wrote: "Jenny wrote: "I am not a big fan of Heart of Darkness, for very similar reasons as Shirley and I haven't yet come around to try something else by Conrad.
However today I stumbled over ..."


Meghan, let me say first that I really like Conrad - beautiful & highly suggestive writing is always something I appreciate ... psychological depth as well and rich with symbolic language. Great stuff!

By "over the top" though, I meant that in subject matter and tone, Heart of Darkness is fairly extreme, both compared with Conrad's other works and in general. Subject matter: the cannibals & heads on stakes. Tone: to me, the overall tone is extremely dark, surreal even.

The depiction of the natives also is pretty extreme - so surreal & dark that many readers end up with a gut feeling of racism on Conrad's part. I don't think so myself but I can certainly see why many think so.

Partly I think it's a reaction to the somewhat bizarre & extreme treatment of the natives' collective character - if the book were a painting, it wouldn't be a meticulously rendered work of realism. It would be a work of expressionism perhaps or maybe even something by Edvard Munch. The natives are sketched in that sort of exaggerated manner - I don't think it's meant to be quite literal. But that very odd depiction ironically makes a book that I interpret (at least on some levels) as a fierce indictment of colonialism feel to many people like a racist book.

It's been a good 5 or 10 years since I last read the book though I've read it more than once. Hopefully my memory is accurate! I think I'm due for another re-read sometime soon. :)


back to top