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Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Heart of Darkness (1902)

by Joseph Conrad

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
14,505197138 (3.59)2 / 872
  1. 191
    King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa by Adam Hochschild (baobab, chrisharpe)
  2. 90
    The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (baobab, WSB7)
    WSB7: Both about "colonialisms" abuses in the Congo, among other themes.
  3. 71
    The Quiet American by Graham Greene (browner56)
    browner56: Powerful, suspenseful fictional accounts of the intended and unintended consequences of colonial rule
  4. 72
    Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (SanctiSpiritus)
  5. 51
    Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline (gust)
  6. 51
    State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (DetailMuse)
    DetailMuse: Includes a quest for a Kurtz-like character.
  7. 30
    Max Havelaar: Or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company by Multatuli (JustJoey4)
    JustJoey4: Both books focus on the ugly sides of colonialism.
  8. 20
    Exterminate All the Brutes by Sven Lindqvist (Polaris-)
  9. 20
    The Roots of Heaven by Romain Gary (ursula)
  10. 20
    The Dream of the Celt by Mario Vargas Llosa (gust)
  11. 20
    Downward to the Earth by Robert Silverberg (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Silverberg was inspired by Conrad's story to write Downward to Earth and makes some interesting comments on the themes that Conrad explores.
  12. 20
    The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (Sylak)
    Sylak: Delving the depths of human savagery and corruption.
  13. 20
    The African Queen by C. S. Forester (Cecilturtle)
  14. 20
    The Sea Wolf by Jack London (wvlibrarydude)
  15. 10
    Headhunter by Timothy Findley (chrisharpe)
    chrisharpe: "Headhunter" is a clever and well written fantasy on the theme of Kurtz.
  16. 10
    Fly Away Peter by David Malouf (lucyknows)
    lucyknows: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad may be paired with Fly Away Peter by David Malouf as both authors show human nature to be hollow to the core.
  17. 21
    The Royal Way by Andre Malraux (thatguyzero)
  18. 10
    The Beach by Alex Garland (TomWaitsTables)
  19. 10
    Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa by Jason Stearns (Anonymous user)
  20. 43
    Congo: The Epic History Of A People by David Van Reybrouck (gust, Jozefus)
    Jozefus: Bekroond werk over de geschiedenis van Congo, dat door The Independent een "masterpiece" genoemd werd.

(see all 26 recommendations)

1890s (9)

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English (173)  Spanish (7)  German (3)  Italian (3)  Catalan (2)  Dutch (2)  Swedish (2)  Tagalog (1)  Danish (1)  French (1)  Finnish (1)  Galician (1)  All languages (197)
Showing 1-5 of 173 (next | show all)
I resolved to read this. I did so. The horror, the horror. ( )
  fuzzi | Oct 3, 2015 |
"Heart of Darkness is an exploration into the jungles of the Imperial Age. The book has a running theme of Imperialism; it deals with racism, sexism and other forms of one people forcing others into submission.

To depict the essence of an epoch, preserving a reality long gone, is an unforgiving task given it’s impossible to do perfectly. However, it is not a useless effort, for even though we are incapable of bringing the past back to life, we can recover its essential outlines, immortalizing it through words.

Based on the author’s own experiences, Heart of Darkness takes us to the heart of Africa at the end of 19th century, more precisely to the Congo Free State, private kingdom of Leopold II of Belgium. Leopold was the tyrant responsible for the brutal exploitation of the local population and for millions of deaths (even though exact numbers are non-existent, it is estimated that Congo’s total population has been cut in half during Leopold’s reign).
In the immutability of their surroundings the foreign shores, the foreign faces, the changing immensity of life, glide past, veiled not by a sense of mystery but by a slightly disdainful ignorance; for there is nothing mysterious to a seaman unless it be the sea itself, which is the mistress of his existence and as inscrutable as Destiny.
The story is told by Marlow to his fellows marines, describing his travel to Africa. He talks of the strong feelings that took control of his being during the time he spent in the jungle. Hired by a trading company to take the role of a captain of a steamboat, Marlow embraces the task of going up the Congo River searching for one of the company’s agents called Kurtz. The operation takes months to be completed, during which Marlow takes a close look at the insensibility with which the natives are treated. Moreover, he has to cope with hunger and the possibility of being infected with the diseases that plague the region.

On the other hand, the constant reassuring comments about Kurtz, which emphasize his efficiency and his moral, drive Marlow to desire meeting him more than anything; the intensity of his desire grows to some kind of obsession. Going up the river proves to be difficult and dangerous; soon the crew is under a constant atmosphere of tension that, gradually, makes Marlow more and more apprehensive, which only gets worse as soon as he finds out that Kurtz is a man completely different of what he expected.

The moral degeneration of sophisticated and educated Kurtz shows us how fragile humans can be. It is a strong reference to the fact that sometimes our rationality is incapable of containing the primitive instincts when they are woken up by a wild environment; it’s like a deep darkness which has taken roots in all human beings, impossible of being contained even by the light of progress and knowledge.

Expressing a profound understanding of psychological theories, Heart of Darkness also offers powerful historical insight, exposing atrocities committed on the time of the Imperial colonies, which, despite having their impacts on humanity attenuated by time, should not be forgotten. Again, it brings a feeling of disquietude by which we contemplate some of the darker aspects of human nature.
Destiny. My destiny! Droll thing life is—that mysterious arrangement of merciless logic for a futile purpose. The most you can hope from it is some knowledge of yourself—that comes too late—a crop of unextinguishable regrets. I have wrestled with death. It is the most unexciting contest you can imagine.
Yes, the whole thing is dense and, more often than not, you feel as if you were on a steamer in the heart of an immense darkness, struggling to understand the subtle meaning hidden on the smallest description. But in contrast to that darkness, I had moments of rich enlightenment. Those moments where I felt like I was getting it. Nonetheless, this book is painful; it's definitely not one that illuminates and lightens the soul. Instead, it pushes the reader to mental exhaustion. This is good, though, for it allows us to experience a sort of catharsis, a sort of release as we face down the worst in ourselves. We can deal with that part of ourselves, because we have identified it.

Interesting quotes that I didn't include in the review:
We live as we dream--alone...
Your strength is just an accident owed to the weakness of others.

The Last Passage
""I pulled myself together and spoke slowly.
""'The last word he pronounced was—your name.'
""I heard a light sigh, and then my heart stood still, stopped dead short by an exulting and terrible cry, by the cry of inconceivable triumph and of unspeakable pain. 'I knew it—I was sure!' . . . She knew. She was sure. I heard her weeping; she had hidden her face in her hands. It seemed to me that the house would collapse before I could escape, that the heavens would fall upon my head. But nothing happened. The heavens do not fall for such a trifle. Would they have fallen, I wonder, if I had rendered Kurtz that justice which was his due? Hadn't he said he wanted only justice? But I couldn't. I could not tell her. It would have been too dark—too dark altogether. . . .""
Marlow ceased, and sat apart, indistinct and silent, in the pose of a meditating Buddha. Nobody moved for a time. ""We have lost the first of the ebb,"" said the Director, suddenly. I raised my head. The offing was barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed somber under an overcast sky—seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness.
" ( )
  AdemilsonM | Sep 2, 2015 |
The eye-opener for me was when I read Kurtz saying "The horror, the horror", I suddenly realised that the movie, Apocalypse Now was based on this book! Although it is supposed to be one of the best short stories ever written, like many stories of this genre, I found it unsatisfying as it raised more questions than it answered. ( )
  jvgravy | Sep 2, 2015 |
Heart of Darkness is one of those books that you need to read more than once to understand and appreciate it properly. Joseph Conrad provides a strong symbolism and narrative in this short story. ( )
  DoctorFate | Jul 29, 2015 |
This guy learned English as an adult and writes so well, I don't feel worthy to review him. I was assigned this book in Freshman English and I couldn't read it then. I couldn't read all that much back then, but finally I'm up to the level of a college freshman.

So here's the idea. Civilization, and sanity is all a lie, as are books and book reviews. Behind it all is an unspeakable reality--an unspeakable horror, and of that which one cannot speak, one must remain silent. Freud's version of this was the ego and the id, or, to translate his German differently, the I and the It. The I suppresses the It. It does this in the name of civilization, but the I is not really in charge. The It drives it from below to force it to carry out it's secret lusts but they are disguised.

The disguise is efficiency and morality and progress and commerce and business and law. The Company employed Marlowe as an agent of civilization and sent him into the African Id with it's alien savagery, which makes no sense to a Westerner. It's animal and insane and must be held in check by brutality that only makes sense if you realize it's frightening alterity. It is so "other" that it could never be understood and even to try is dangerous because that way lies madness.

But, as Marlowe sees as he descends deeper and deeper into the Congo, the sanity being imposed on Africa is a sham. It's no more sane than that which it opposes. What it is, is ordered and familiar, and seems to be almost working if you ignore the parts that ought to be ignored, such as the mindless inhuman suffering imposed on the natives in the process of satisfying the White man's greed.

But ahead of Marlowe on his journey is Kurtz who has, it is reported, freed himself of all restraint. Kurtz answers to nothing and nobody and is worshiped by the natives. He satisfies all his lusts and greeds and would kill anyone who got in his was, or was perceived as getting in his way or just needed to be killed on his whim.

The story is framed as Marlowe telling the story of his descent into the heart of this darkness and his return to the ordinary world, having barely glimpsed what must be fled in terror and bearing witness to the man who didn't flinch from any of it. It's set up like so many horror stories with the naive protagonist seeing the signs of warning which are obvious to us, the readers of the book, but foolishly ignored by him as he proceeds into the Heart of Darkness.

How can a sheltered undergraduate at a fancy university understand such a thing except as an abstract trope? How can a review express it as other than an abstract trope? Well, there, I've done it and we can all go home now. ( )
1 vote Gimley_Farb | Jul 6, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (102 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Conrad, Josephprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Branagh, KennethNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kish, MattIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
O'Prey, PaulIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vancells i Flotats, MontserratTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Watts, CedricEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

Is contained in

Heart of Darkness and The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad

Heart of Darkness / Almayer's Folly / The Lagoon by Joseph Conrad

Youth / Heart of Darkness / Typhoon / The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad

Seven Great British Short Novels by Philip Rahv

Great Modern Short Stories by Grant Overton

Youth | Heart of Darkness | The End of the Tether by Joseph Conrad

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The Nellie, a cruising yawl, swung to her anchor without a flutter of the sails, and was at rest. The flood had made, the wind was nearly calm, and being bound down the river, the only thing for it was to come to and wait for the turn of the tide.
"The horror! The horror!"
"And this also," said Marlow suddenly, "has been one of the dark places of the earth."
"What you say is rather profound, and probably erroneous," he said, with a laugh.
I've seen the devil of violence, and the devil of greed, and the devil of hot desire...these were strong, lusty, red-eyed devils, that swayed men - men, I tell you. But as I stood on this hillside, I foresaw that in the blinding sunshine of that land I would become acquainted with a flabby, pretending, weak-eyed devil of a rapacious and pitiless folly.
And outside, the silent wilderness surrounding this cleared speck on the earth struck me as something great and invincible, like evil or truth, waiting patiently for the passing away of this fantastic invasion.
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Wikipedia in English (3)

Book description
This is story of Marlow and his quest to find Mr Kurtz within the dense jungles of Africa. His journey challenges his values and life and reveals new sides of himself that only darkness could expose.

This book was really hard to read at times. So much of what i readmade me think. It took me longer to read each page- each paragraph- because there was so much meaning in each one. A lot of the book was about how I interpreted it. That was a new one for me.
Haiku summary
King Leopold's fans
appreciate this tribute;
Mister Kurtz, he dead.

No descriptions found.

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A journey up the river in the Belgian Congo is also a journey into the darkest part of a man's soul.

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24 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

5 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141441674, 0143106589, 014356644X, 0241956803, 0141199784

Tantor Media

2 editions of this book were published by Tantor Media.

Editions: 1400100615, 1400108462

Urban Romantics

2 editions of this book were published by Urban Romantics.

Editions: 1909175978, 1909175986

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An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

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