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Heart of Darkness
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PAST Group Reads 2019 > Heart of Darkness- January Bonus- SPOILER Thread

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message 1: by J., Your Obedient Servant (new) - rated it 2 stars

J. (jammons42) | 510 comments Mod
This is the spoiler thread for our January bonus read. Anything that happens in the book is fair game, so turn back if you haven't read that far and don't want to know.

This thread will be unlocked once some of us have started reading the book.


Jacinta | 70 comments I just finished. This has been on my to-read list for a while, but I didn't really expect to like it, so I probably wouldn't have gotten to it for years if it weren't a group read.

I was right though; I didn't like it. While I thought the concept was fine and the main takeaway ("The horror! The horror!") was memorable, I never felt pulled into the writing. I would personally have found Kurtz's descent into savagery and eventual remorse much more moving if I had in any way experienced it as a reader.


Linda Abhors the New GR Design | 915 comments It's been on my "books you should read" list for a long time. I can't say that I loved it, but I didn't hate it (I did NOT have good experiences with Conrad in high school ("Lord Jim") or college ("Nostromo").
I decided this is one of the books that I wanted to read because I learned a while back that he wasn't a native speaker of English, and didn't learn English until he was 18, so it impressed me that he wanted to write in that language.....I think about what must have influenced that decision when he decided to pick up the pen......did he think that the story would be better received if it were accessible to English speakers? Was it important that it be in the language of the imperial powers he was criticizing? And even if both of those are yes, why not write it in your native language and have someone translate it? Would he have been concerned at all with selling the story? Had he really just cut himself off from Poland completely?
So, as I read, I was looking at the language, and I did find, after the first part, spots that were intriguing to me for that reason (Though I think he did a better job with "Amy Foster" and "Secret Sharer").


Linda Abhors the New GR Design | 915 comments Jacinta wrote: "I just finished. This has been on my to-read list for a while, but I didn't really expect to like it, so I probably wouldn't have gotten to it for years if it weren't a group read.

I was right tho..."


I also remember, at the end of the first part, thinking, "Wait! He's going into this description of the power of Kurtz's voice, but he hasn't even met Kurtz yet!". There's a dream-like quality to the end of that first chapter that was annoying to me, because it was clouding things....and yes, it seems that Kurtz is built up, and then, when he arrives, he's only able to converse with him for a matters of minutes or hours, it seems, before Kurtz expires. So I see this contradiction between this man who claims that Kurtz had a powerful way of speaking, this charisma, this "careful, it's a slippery slope" warning not to be like Kurtz contrasted with his preventing Kurtz from reaching the chief's village and then just letting him die on the boat. He was supposedly enthralled and on the verge of being taken in by his charisma, but then most callous.


Jacinta | 70 comments It's definitely impressive that English was not his first language; I can't imagine taking on a project like this in another language.

This was my first experience with Conrad, so I can't compare it to his other works. I read that Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" was a response to HoD, and while I didn't love that either, I at least felt more immersed in the writing than I did here. Has anyone else read both books? See the connection between them?


Linda Abhors the New GR Design | 915 comments I read Achebe years and years ago, and can't say that I remember a ton about it.....I think I read it because I wanted a break, something to read in English, and it was one of those books you "should read", but I was lacking the context when I read it...although Achebe was Nigerian (not Congolese), I think it's a question of portraying any African culture from the inside, vs. from the perspective of the colonizer. I know that he gave a famous lecture on it where he denounced Conrad's work on that basis: the Congolese were not portrayed as complex individuals. Rather, they're not really portrayed at all; they're almost a part of the backdrop. The only one who has any interaction depicted with the narrator is the boat pilot; the rest are merely there, muttering and (so the narrator seems to think) waiting for their chance to pounce on them and eat them. Achebe would have been one of the first African authors widely recognized, IIRC.

English lit isn't my area (it's contemporary Spanish American lit), but I know that a similar conversation was taking place in South America at the time.........the opposition between "Civilization", supposedly represented by the Europeans (Spanish, French or British) vs the "Barbarians"(in this case, the indigenous, although those countries impacted by slavery substituted the indigenous people for Africans and Afro-Caribbeans). Positivism was water not so long under the bridge.


Mary | 6 comments It was hard to read at first. The writing was difficult to follow. Also, not knowing anything about the book, I initially thought it was taking place in South America. This should have been a short story, instead of a novel.


Linda Abhors the New GR Design | 915 comments Mary wrote: "It was hard to read at first. The writing was difficult to follow. Also, not knowing anything about the book, I initially thought it was taking place in South America. This should have been a short..."

Thanks for joining in, Mary!
I have to say that when Nancy asked me if I'd be interested in "leading" this discussion (i.e., could I get the book read before Jan 1st), I was afraid that I wouldn't have time to get 250 pp in before January 1st. I was actually relieved to see that the whole book really contained 3 novellas.
What do you think could have been removed to make it shorter? I'm curious! :D


Codie | 61 comments Linda, I had no idea that English wasn’t his first language but it definitely makes sense now, with how he wrote the story. I found it difficult to get through. At the same time, there is so much that could be mulled over when it comes to ‘The horror! The horror!’


Linda Abhors the New GR Design | 915 comments Codie wrote: "Linda, I had no idea that English wasn’t his first language but it definitely makes sense now, with how he wrote the story. I found it difficult to get through. At the same time, there is so much t..."

Did the edition you read include an introduction?


Linda Abhors the New GR Design | 915 comments Jacinta wrote: "I just finished. This has been on my to-read list for a while, but I didn't really expect to like it, so I probably wouldn't have gotten to it for years if it weren't a group read.

I was right tho..."


I think it might have been directed to a particular audience.....first, his comments on women (typical of the times, I know, but still annoying) would indicate that he didn't expect female readers. I think in part it was directed to other seafarers, and maybe that's why we find the language and concerns difficult. What I'd be interested in knowing is whether or not he expected those criticized to read it or not.

People suggest reading instead King Leopold's Ghost .......also, related indirectly to the story, the last re-make of Burrough's "Tarzan" included as character the real-life abolitionist George Washington Williams, who was investigating the Congo, King Leopold, and the slavery of Africans within Africa.


message 12: by NancyJ, Moderator (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
Thanks for the references to other books.

My son is the only person I know who said he liked this book. He read it in High School. (Sometimes it seemed that everything they read in his school was 50-100 years old. He didn't mind, but his younger brother hated it, and begged to changed schools.) The Apocalypse Now connection probably helped.


Linda Abhors the New GR Design | 915 comments NancyJ wrote: "Thanks for the references to other books.

My son is the only person I know who said he liked this book. He read it in High School. (Sometimes it seemed that everything they read in his school was..."


Yeah, and maybe a hip teacher? I remember doing a seminar once on medieval lit (had to do a course or take a prelim in the area .....um, I'll take the class, thanks!). There was a Spanish medieval text, very famous, and I'd read part of it before. Well, with this prof, it made all the difference, and I could see why he was one of the greats. He made it interesting, and pointed out some things that I hadn't seen/heard before. So happy I had the chance to take a course with him, not just for bragging rights, but because of what I learned.
I didn't hate it. I'm just not putting it on the list of favs, probably. If your edition contains "Amy Foster", give that one a shot.


message 14: by aPriL does feral sometimes (last edited Jan 19, 2019 05:10PM) (new)

aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) Gosh, I really enjoyed reading Conrad ( I have read three books by him because I thought, all things considered, his ideas being some dated and some prejudiced), he had a good grasp of what colonialism was really about, even if it was from an Eurocentric viewpoint. He was an outsider, so he had a clearer picture of European motivations. He lived in England and wrote in English, I believe, because Poland has never been a bastion of democracy and free speech. Christianity was always extremely LOUD in Poland. I would have to google all of this again. It has been a long time since I read this novel. Corrections may be required....


Linda Abhors the New GR Design | 915 comments aPriL does feral sometimes wrote: "Gosh, I really enjoyed reading Conrad ( I have read three books by him because I thought, all things considered, his ideas being some dated and some prejudiced), he had a good grasp of what colonia..."

The intro to mine basically says that he was part of old aristocracy family, and that he had to leave Poland in order to escape military service (could be why he chose to write in English, but having lived in France/learned French, I'm surprised he didn't write in French, since many Poles would have understood it). So, I really think that what you've pointed out here, April-and it's so much more apparent in "Amy Foster"-is his dig at the English government over the issue of colonialism.


message 16: by aPriL does feral sometimes (last edited Feb 12, 2019 09:55PM) (new)

aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) Ok, I re-read. It is all about moral corruption and cynical rapaciousness by men falsely proclaiming to bring light to the darkness of Africa.

Kurtz meant to be a true light bringer, while men like the Manager simply didn’t care who they killed to get rich. Both types of men end up as rapists, slavers, murderers, robbers and monsters, but Kurtz has enough morals remaining to be horrified by what he has done in the name of self-gratification.

I got the feeling the disappointed Marlow was afflicted by a malarial fever on top of what turned out to be his unromantic adventures, making everything nightmarish. Yet, he chickened out at the last moment at telling the truth about the filthy immoral going-low of entrepreneurship underlying the supposed going-high Romance of Colonialism to a still-enthralled homeland audience under the influence of marketing spin. “Making Africa Great!”

So to speak.


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