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heart of darkness

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message 1: by Jude (new)

Jude This was one of my favorite novellas. The author opened Pandora's box to the inner sanctum of the heart and left it to the reader to conclude on the interior of man's nature. I didn't get wrapped up in the racial problem that still exists, but in the mystery and utter terror that lies at the center of one's being. More on human nature and its evil propensities I believe should be explored more today rather than leaving the vile nature of man to fantasy.

Pamela One of my favorites, too. Seems that every time I read it, there's something new.

The mystery and utter terror that lies at the center of one's being. You nailed it with that statement.

Michael T So well written it blows my mind.

Pamela Michael wrote: "So well written it blows my mind."

And to think English wasn't his native language. One of the scenes I can't get out of mind is the one of the knitting women...shades of Dickens' Madame Defarge. Creeps me out every time I read it.

Michael T He spoke a few languages, I think Polish was his native language.

Annie When this book was assigned in High School I didn't much care for it, to be honest, however, after reading it again in University, I loved how he explored the evil depths that human nature can lead us to, and why Kurtz in his last moments exclaims: "The Horror! The Horror!"

Marino i heard a theory that he originally wrote it in polish and then translated it to english, which would make sense to me because it is really hard to read in english, while it flows naturally while reading in slavic languages. but i couldnt find any interesting sources about this so if anyone has some information on this please do tell me :)

Kristin Agreed, I absolutely loved the exploration of the human soul. Very dark and disturbing. This is one of my favorites, and whenever I suggest it to anyone they look at me like, "that silly book I was suppose to read in high school?"

message 9: by Wastrel (new) - added it

Wastrel Michael wrote: "He spoke a few languages, I think Polish was his native language."

English wasn't even his second language (that was French). Iirc he didn't even start learning English until adulthood, and later in life said that he'd always regretted not writing in French instead.

message 10: by Pamela (last edited Oct 27, 2011 08:27AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Pamela Marino, I have to disagree with you about it not flowing naturally in English. Reading it and especially The Nigger of the Narcissus (unfortunate title), I am struck by how well the language flows. Scrolling through the quotations from this book drives that home. Then there's my favorite quotation from The Nigger of the Narcissus, "The man who can't do most things and won't do the rest". Can there be a more concise character description?

Perhaps the difference you are seeing between the English and the Slavic is due to the translator? Is it a modern translation? (Modern meaning in the last 50 or so years.) That could explain the difference in the difficulty levels.

Also, from everything I can find about Conrad, it's pretty much assumed that he wrote in English as no publisher or friend ever remarked upon seeing or hearing of any earlier non-English versions of manuscripts.

As Michael said, his second language was French. I have read that perhaps the French influence is what made his English so powerful emotionally. Maybe it was because of the French--maybe it wasn't. All that matters is that whatever it was worked. He certainly stands alone!

Richard wow i must have missed the point with this book, it bored the wits off of me and i chucked it half way in. i guess one mans meat is another mans dull book

Rachael I don't know anyone who could finish this book. I did finish it but it was a gruelling process and i really struggled. it was all jsut words on paper at the end it did nothing for my imagination and i could not get a picture going in my head, and therefore could not work out what was happening throughout it.

A very unexciting read for me.

Michael T But the visuals are so powerful?

Granted I didn't really like The Secret Sharer

Rachael i really got nothing from it, nothing converted to images in my head, which makes for a very disapointing and hard read. i really rely on the images i create in my head to make a book exciting and easy to read.

☯Emily  Ginder I read this book for the first time last year for a course called imperialist literature. This was the first book read because it has a deep influence on later books in the same genre. It would help to know a little bit about the time period. King Leopold of Belgium wanted his own little fiefdom and through some finagling, received the country we call the Congo today. He made the native population to be his own personal servants, working them to death in order for him to accumulate great wealth. The consequences of his actions have led to the chaos of the Congo even to this very day.

A good history book to read about this is King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa. Then reread Heart of Darkness; you will see the power of this book. Conrad's work greatly influenced Naipaul when he wrote A Bend in the River. This book takes place in the more modern country of Congo.

Michael Canoeist Emily wrote: "The consequences of his actions have led to the chaos of the Congo even to this very day...."

In contrast to all the other thriving African nations?

☯Emily  Ginder Imperialism has affected all the countries of Africa in one way or another. However, some of the countries have had periods of stability in the past or do now. In contrast, the Congo has never had any stability and the condition continues to deteriorate. Great Britain at least had allowed a few Africans in the lower levels in politics, so they had some experience in governing. However, Belgium kept the natives of Congo uneducated with no political structure in place when they became "independent." My African friends from French-speaking countries insist that France still intervenes in their former colonies' politics whenever they choose. Therefore, they are not truly independent now.

Michael T Resources

message 19: by AndreaH (last edited Mar 17, 2012 01:52AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

AndreaH For all those who have trouble reading this book, try watching the movie "Apocalypse Now," which took this story and moved it from the Congo to Vietnam!
The try the book again; it'll be easier and make sense

Richard Andreasoldier wrote: "For all those who have trouble reading this book, try watching the movie "Apocalypse Now," which took this story and moved it from the Congo to Vietnam!
The try the book again; it'll be easier and ..."

nah, i know Apocalypse well, but Heart left me flat. nomally the clasics gel for me, but not this one. this and Great Gatsby are my own anti-lit

message 21: by Hugo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hugo Michael wrote: "Emily wrote: "The consequences of his actions have led to the chaos of the Congo even to this very day...."

In contrast to all the other thriving African nations?"


message 22: by Daniel (last edited Jan 26, 2013 06:57PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Daniel no one has ever spoken of some of the humerous scenes depicted, how about the time the brit is running to get a bucket of water to put out a fire and the bucket is losing water through a hole as the guy runs up the hill or the conversation with his aunt telling about a man must earn his wage, there was some humerous aspects to this story, does anyone else see them? Is conrad having fun at the expense of the british and their sometimes aloofness?

message 23: by Feliks (last edited Jan 26, 2013 09:45PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Feliks As much as I love the narrative and Conrad's vocabulary and the force and focus of the tale (typical Conrad intensity) I will be critical here: I kind of think he caught hold of something that got away from him, with this project. He fumbled the finale, somewhat. Its a mishmash.

That the final segment between Kurtz and Marlowe is still so rich and powerful attests to Conrad's superb ability to describe psychology; but as a story, I was left wanting more clarity. That's why I continue to re-read it ever so often. Trying to eke more out of it.

The journey to find Kurtz is handled pretty well-- Marlowe's mental state--but the scenery of that trip seems muddled; nothing is isolated or drawn sharply. I recall a shack Marlowe stops at (along the way) with the most clarity as I write this now. Descriptions of the 'silence'. The natives aboard the steamer. Little else.

Once we get to Kurtz's station; its feverishly written but with few traceable events to put ones finger on and say, 'yes, there, now I get what's happening'. Kurtz is brought in late; already half-dead; and doesn't speak much. Marlowe doesn't speak much. He wanders around the camp exploring and various threats are considered; (he wonders whether he is in danger at various points) but nothing ever materializes. The sight of the skulls--much time is spent on Marlowe's reaction to this--but the grand conclusion to this story is random interjections from the dying Kurtz. No real philosophy emerges; we see a thumbnail sketch of a man who obviously has some dire set of tenets he lives by; but then the story is abruptly brought to an end. The native princess bids Kurtz farewell; final flourish described with perhaps one sentence. Meanwhile, how many tedious pages did he pen for 'The Rescue' or 'Almayer's Folly'? Horribly overlong, both. The fantastic concepts underlying 'Heart' --given postcard brevity.

I think Conrad needed to build some more events, actions, and dialog into the finale of 'Heart', that's all. It should have been a full novel. The opening of the story (Marlowe and his dinner-companions) and Conrad's depiction of the white city and the complacency of those living there; are done well. Just want more from the last few pages...

Think of the power it might have possessed had Conrad given us some kind of actual event to describe; the kind we see in his sea-tales. A raging storm; a battle; a chase; a kidnapping; a fire; a confrontation of some sort.

message 24: by Kit (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kit Masters Any one here ever read "Falk" by Conrad?
It's one of his best in my opinion.
Falk is another one of his dark, dark characters who operates a steam tug on the Thames.

I read "Heart" a good while ago and then subsequently consumed all the Conrad I could find.
The only one I didn't enjoy was "Lord Jim."
I just found "Lord Jim" so annoying.

Conrad is a master at creating an entire story around a character, and in doing so the story becomes the Character.
His narrators are focused on trying to understand the characters, and therefore everything they say is about giving the reader to understand more about this person.
So in a sense the muddiness of the writing, the murkiness of the river and the skulls littered on the banks are all aspects of Kurtz' character.

I also really liked the themes of exploration, the white space in the middle of the map of Africa really stayed with me.
And I also like the book as telling of why the Congo has the problems it has today.

message 25: by Cait (new) - rated it 2 stars

Cait I definitely have to reread this book. I didn't like it and I was bored with it for a while when I first read it, but I want to understand and appreciate it further.

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