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About the Author
Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) grew up amid political unrest in Russian-occupied Poland. After twenty years at sea with the French and British merchant navies, he settled in England in 1894. Over the next three decades he revolutionized the English novel with books such as Typhoon, Nostromo, The Secret Agent, and especially Heart of Darkness, his best-known and most influential work.
Date of Birth:December 3, 1857
Date of Death:August 3, 1924
Place of Birth:Berdiczew, Podolia, Russia
Place of Death:Bishopsbourne, Kent, England
Education:Tutored in Switzerland. Self-taught in classical literature. Attended maritime school in Marseilles, France
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Heart of Darkness, while one of Conrad's most famous novels is not among my favorites. In it he explores the issues surrounding imperialism in complicated ways. At the very least, the incidental scenery of the book offers a harsh picture of colonial enterprise. The impetus behind Marlow¿s adventures, too, has to do with the hypocrisy inherent in the rhetoric used to justify imperialism. The men who work for the Company describe what they do as ¿trade,¿ and their treatment of native Africans is part of a benevolent project of ¿civilization.¿ Marlow refers to his helmsman as a piece of machinery, and Kurtz¿s African mistress is at best a piece of statuary. It can be argued that Heart of Darkness dramatizes the oppression of nonwhites in a sinister way that is much harder to remedy than the open abuses of Kurtz or the Company¿s men. The existence of nonwhites and their exoticism enable his self-contemplation. This kind of dehumanization is harder to identify than colonial violence or open racism. Heart of Darkness ultimately offers a powerful and complex presentation of issues surrounding race. Another theme surrounds the nature of observation and Marlow gains a great deal of information by watching the world around him. He can be found overhearing others¿ conversations, as when he listens from the deck of the wrecked steamer to the manager of the Central Station and his uncle discussing Kurtz and the Russian trader. This phenomenon speaks to the difficulty of direct communication between individuals: information must come as the result of chance observation and astute interpretation. Words themselves often fail to capture meaning adequately, and thus they must be taken in the context of their utterance. Another good example of this is Marlow¿s conversation with the brickmaker, during which Marlow is able to figure out a good deal more than simply what the man has to say. Ultimately the bleak character of the novel work against it for me. This is a world that I find difficult to contemplate.
Heart of Darkness is a strange book, even for a lit. major who has read it before. First of all, our narrator is three times removed from the story--he's a sailor on The Nellie telling us (the readers) about his experience listening to another sailor (Marlow) tell a story about something that happened to him years ago. More than once during the course of the book I forgot about the narrator, The Nellie and the Thames.The heart of the story is Marlow sharing his journey deep into the Congo to retrieve a brilliant and charismatic ivory-hunter who has gone missing. Marlow fills us in on his growing up, how he got the appointment with "The Company" as their pilot, languishing with useless hangers-on at The Company station while waiting for passage down the river into the heart of the jungle, and finally his journey downriver to the camp of the mysterous Kurtz, what he finds there, and how the effects of that meeting radiate outward for the rest of his life.This short novel is full of commentary about the African natives, colonialism, and how these two very different cultures simply could not mesh. Included in this particular edition is commentary and essays about the novel, including the by now famous essay by Chinua Achebe wherein he states that Conrad is a racist. Having those essays right there at my finger-tips as I read the novel enriched the reading experience immeasurably, and rather than having Heart of Darkness removed from the canon I think it should instead always be paired with Achebe's essay. Whether or not Conrad was in fact racist, reading the two pieces together brings the student a much more well-rounded and enlightening reading experience.Literary criticism aside, Conrad's novel is full of beautiful prose. While the story itself may seem to progress at a snail's pace at times, this pace seems perfectly in sync with the pace of the river, and life in the Congo. This seemingly slow pace gives the reader every opportunity to lose herself in the vivid descriptions of the landscape, and Marlow's keen insights into the colonial psyche. While this may not be an easy book to read, it is without a doubt a worthwhile book to have read.
absolutely AMAZING. that's all. i can go on at lengths about why i love this book.
Intriguing and enlightening. Had to read this for a college course, and was glad that I did.