“I wasn’t arguing with a lunatic. … But his soul was mad.”
This is one story that I will admit I have been intimidated by. Perhaps because some of the synopsis reminds me of Barbara Kingsolver and her heavy novel that I can never remember but allow me to run to goodreads and check . . . (running off to truly go check goodreads…) oh yea! The Poisonwood Bible. I do wonder what Ms. Kingsolver thought of Heart of Darkness – surely she has read it, yes?
Have you read Heart of Darkness?
I chose this for May for a variety of reasons and vying close for the first and second spot are 1) It is SHORT at 200 pages, and 2) Trisha at Eclectic-Eccentric is featuring all sorts of lovely analysis posts. Goodness I do love me some juicy literature analysis!
and 3) What was that third reason? Oh yes, because I happen to already have it loaded on my Kindle.
Finally, 4) It is one of my Classics Club Fifty in Five.
I was pleasantly surprised. (That I liked it (‘it’ being the book, the reading experience.))
I would not call it compelling exactly. Not quite a fast page turner adventure book because it does tend to have dense language but not overly so. It is FULL of emotion.
“It was my imagination that wanted soothing.”
Here’s Crazy-Care’s FIRST attempt to answer your question of “what it is about?”:
The story is set up as a retelling of a sailor’s adventure. This sailing adventure was when Marlowe needed a job so he decides to go to Africa because he hears they are needing river transport captains and he is certain to find work. He does and notes that his assignment and the company that hires him is actually a bit creepy. His assignment is to get a riverboat into the “deepest darkest part of Africa” to either retrieve or supply Mr. Kurtz (I was confused here, too), a guy who is the BEST number one agent of the company and is considered awesome. Our sailor narrator is torn between just completing the job and yet also very intrigued to meet this awesome incredible Mr. Kurtz and find out why he is so awesome — no one knows how he is accomplishing all he is doing! (what he is doing, mind you, is collecting lots and lots of ivory and he is doing it by befriending (I think? Maybe not? Something tells me I really missed something.) the natives.) Others are jealous and others are mesmerized by Mr. Kurtz. He is ill when they finally get up the river and find him. The natives are hostile (but not hostile to Mr. Kurtz?) and our sailor buddy survives the ordeal and lives to tell of it. Thus the telling.
It’s really quite odd. I might have the synopsis skewed. I might have missed something big.
I swear narrator-captain guy was at first ambivalent and then curious and at one point critical of Mr. Kurtz and then somehow instantly was his best friend. THIS is why I need Trisha to explain things to me.
Or go watch Apocalypse Now?
It really did have beautiful descriptions and I wonder how it would play in audiobook format. I bet it would be awesome.
So. The elephant in the room.
The elephant is… (the elephant I thought before I read it anyway)… Is Heart of Darkness a BAD racist book? Does it demean and consider African natives as inferior? Is this a “symptom of the times”, a by-product of colonialism? OR does this book actually highlight the EVILS of colonialism and racism and confront the ideas of exploitation?
AND, excuse me while I freak out a bit here. Is this a true story?
I know and fear that I am inadequate to discuss these issues but I do want to support and advocate for a kind world, a civilization of respect for all. I read this book with the lens of it being written in 1899 and yet did not find it to endorse or promote a message that primitive cultures are inferior – I thought it an exploration of one case or specific example of the “empire” mentality of greed to exploit and take. The world is winners and losers, suckers. For me, the story didn’t deliver a succinct message; no obvious moral outrage and no epiphany. Well, other than “THE HORROR!” which I think was masked by considerable vagueness.
Evil exists. Fear exists. We fear what we do not understand. Let us seek to understand. It ain’t easy.
This book is not easy.
Then go read the excellent eclectic eccentric and marvel. You’ll understand then why Crazy-Care didn’t make a second attempt to explain this book. Heart of Darkness: Pro- or Anti-Imperialist – 5/21/15, Psychoanalyzing Heart of Darkness – 6-4-15, Deconstructing Heart of Darkness – 6/11/15, Queering Heart of Darkness – 6/18/15
“And he was devoted to his books, which were in apple-pie order.”
This book would have been fascinating and scary to discuss for a grade! Thank you so much Professor Eclectic for the thought-provoking experience. I give myself an A for ambition, a B for effort and a C for discourse.