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Heart of Darkness (1899)

by Joseph Conrad

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
20,125319141 (3.56)2 / 1097
"Heart of Darkness" grew out of a journey Joseph Conrad took up the Congo River; the verisimilitude that the great novelist thereby brought to his most famous tale everywhere enhances its dense and shattering power. Apparently a sailor's yarn, it is in fact a grim parody of the adventure story, in which the narrator, Marlow, travels deep into the heart of the Congo where he encounters the crazed idealist Kurtz and discovers that the relative values of the civilized and the primitive are not what they seem. "Heart of Darkness" is a model of economic storytelling, an indictment of the inner and outer turmoil caused by the European imperial misadventure, and a piercing account of the fragility of the human soul.… (more)
  1. 201
    King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa by Adam Hochschild (baobab, chrisharpe)
  2. 100
    The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (baobab, WSB7)
    WSB7: Both about "colonialisms" abuses in the Congo, among other themes.
  3. 81
    The Quiet American by Graham Greene (browner56)
    browner56: Powerful, suspenseful fictional accounts of the intended and unintended consequences of colonial rule
  4. 92
    Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (SanctiSpiritus)
  5. 61
    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 (Trifolia)
    Trifolia: Both books focus on the ugly sides of colonialism.
  8. 20
    The Dream of the Celt by Mario Vargas Llosa (gust)
  9. 20
    Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa by Jason Stearns (Anonymous user)
  10. 20
    The Roots of Heaven by Romain Gary (ursula)
  11. 20
    Exterminate All the Brutes by Sven Lindqvist (Polaris-)
  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
    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.
  14. 20
    The Sea Wolf by Jack London (wvlibrarydude)
  15. 20
    The African Queen by C. S. Forester (Cecilturtle)
  16. 53
    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.
  17. 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.
  18. 10
    The Beach by Alex Garland (TomWaitsTables)
  19. 21
    The Drowned World by J. G. Ballard (amanda4242)
  20. 10
    Headhunter by Timothy Findley (chrisharpe)
    chrisharpe: "Headhunter" is a clever and well written fantasy on the theme of Kurtz.

(see all 28 recommendations)

Africa (4)
1890s (6)
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» See also 1097 mentions

English (284)  Spanish (9)  Catalan (6)  Italian (4)  German (3)  Swedish (3)  Dutch (3)  French (2)  Danish (1)  Tagalog (1)  Finnish (1)  Galician (1)  All languages (318)
Showing 1-5 of 284 (next | show all)
I mostly read it because I was in the mood to read something about colonial africa, wilderness, the civilized man facing the nature etc. I had started and given up on it years ago because it seemed boring, but somehow this time I was taken in, I guess because of the state of my mind, and managed to finish it. I liked it. The passages about the jungle were very eerie and omnious without anything much taking place and yet they were very interesting to read, and I was unable to pry my eyes away from the page. ( )
  Sebuktegin | May 25, 2021 |
I just couldn't stay with this story. The writing style was like one long rambling paragraph. There were a few interesting images, but I got tired of it and let it go. ( )
  bcrowl399 | May 22, 2021 |
I am not disclosing any trade secrets. In fact the manager said afterwards that Mr. Kurtz's methods had ruined the district. I have no opinion on that point, but I want you clearly to understand that thee was nothing profitable in these heads being there. They only showed that Mr. Kurtz lacked restraint in the gratification of his various lusts, that there was something wanting in him--some small matter which, when the pressing need arose, could not be found under his magnificent eloquence.

My first 'real' job was as a service cashier at a car dealership. Really eye-opening experience, let me tell you. People who would do any damn thing that did not land them in prison for a few more dollars. One of the most horrible things I have ever yet had to do as a human being was take a several thousand dollar payment from a self employed lady (counted out in cash) for second replacement of a transmission she had bought from us two months before, all because our most conniving service adviser had had her parts warranty voided for user abuse. Not a thing I could do about it but take her money a second time. I got out of there as quick as I could, but it left a deep impression. Evil is not some villain holed up in a remote fortress plotting to take over the world. Evil is banal. Mundane. Neighbors. Friends. Family. Me. Us.

Conrad got it. This is my fourth or fifth read through this book, and I knew he got it, but I didn't know how well he got it until Kenneth Branagh read this book to me. Like most, I've always been more than a little disappointed in the reveal of Kurtz. He really is just a voice. A voice once removed. Marlow's voice. My mind just circled around, trying to figure out Kurtz through Marlow, not quite getting it. Then Branagh read it, and I got it. Kurtz isn't the point. Marlow is the point. And Marlow failed. (I knew that too, but I had always excused him for it. Excused us for it. Not this time.)

I'm going to skip right over the feminism issues. They're there, but they didn't matter to me as a reader, and they're mine, so I feel I can skip them if I want. (Short version: yes, Conrad treats women as ancillary to male concerns, does the pedestal thing, etc. Expects his readers to be men, too. Doesn't matter. Wholly immaterial to the point of the book, which is mine as much as any man's.)

There is, however, a famous essay by [a:Chinua Achebe|8051|Chinua Achebe|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1294661664p2/8051.jpg] which finds this to be a racist book. I've not had time to read the essay just yet, but with all due respect to Mr. Achebe, this is not a racist book. The 'n' word appears in a number of places (which Mr. Branagh replaces with 'native' in this reading), but it appears as well in Twain's work and that is not racist either. The cannibals are the most admirable people in this work. Maybe the only admirable people. As to a whole continent serving as a backdrop for one man's descent into darkness, well, that is half of literature, isn't it? Half the literature I read anyway. (I live in the American west, so maybe that's why I think this my-home-as-a-backdrop thing just happens to us all.) Africa does not drive Kurtz evil. Kurtz brought the evil with him to Africa. The book is quite clear on that point.

My mind, faced with these things, goes to the universal wells, or the nearest it can get to them. Goes to older places, and other books:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? - Jeremiah 17:9 (KJV)

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. - Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NIV)

Read this, if you haven't. If at all possible, have Mr. Branagh read it to you. (I'll leave a little more on that in the comments.) And maybe let's all try to be strong in the dark.

Morituri te salutant.

*******************************
12/3/15 initial reaction:
This audio performance lifts the whole book into genius territory. Review to come.
*******************************
12/7/15: Sorry for the bump; I'm fighting with GR about which book counts for a challenge. I'm deleting my previous rating of this book under the Project Gutenberg version to see if I can get it to work right. (Just know that the text is in public domain and therefore free from Gutenberg, and that the audio version bumped my rating up two stars to a six star rating.) ( )
  amyotheramy | May 11, 2021 |
I read this in high school and immediately recognized it in Coppola's film, "Apocalypse Now" and have since then recognized the message in real life. The story is about Marlowe traveling deep into the Congo jungle to locate Kurtz who is an ivory trader but is purported to have lost his mind and established himself as a God. One of the book's messages was about how restraint is the thing that allows humans to behave civilly -- a message that has recently become ever more apparent. A shallow read of the book might think that the Africans were the ones needing to be restrained and that they had corrupted Kurtz. But Kurtz himself was not only unrestrained, he represented the European colonists who had been trampling throughout the world for centuries and wreaking havoc of long established cultures. ( )
  dcvance | May 4, 2021 |
What else can be said about Heart of Darkness that has not yet been said?

I am adding here a paragraph I wrote while commenting on Adam’s review:

I am rethinking my own review here, as it is at the end a way out of saying anything meaningful or otherwise. But, seriously, what has not yet been said about The Heart of Darkness? Personally though – and my impressions are by no means original – I was struck by the power of “story telling” to question contemporary issues (it was still a contemporary issue in 1899 when it was first published) and to examine human nature. I don’t want to diminish Conrad’s accomplishment in either front by scrutinizing his racism and anti-feminism, and this is not just a cop-out, but a understand that even geniuses are frequently incapable of rising above the mores of their time.
( )
  RosanaDR | Apr 15, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 284 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (138 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Conrad, Josephprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Branagh, KennethNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Butcher, TimIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Freissler, Ernst WolfgangÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Goonetilleke, D. C. R. A.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harding, JeremyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kish, MattIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kivivuori, KristiinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lesage, ClaudineTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
O'Prey, PaulIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pirè, LucianaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vancells i Flotats, MontserratTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Watts, CedricEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Westerdijk, S.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Westerdijk, S.Afterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilson, A. N.Forewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zapatka, ManfredSprechersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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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.
Quotations
"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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

"Heart of Darkness" grew out of a journey Joseph Conrad took up the Congo River; the verisimilitude that the great novelist thereby brought to his most famous tale everywhere enhances its dense and shattering power. Apparently a sailor's yarn, it is in fact a grim parody of the adventure story, in which the narrator, Marlow, travels deep into the heart of the Congo where he encounters the crazed idealist Kurtz and discovers that the relative values of the civilized and the primitive are not what they seem. "Heart of Darkness" is a model of economic storytelling, an indictment of the inner and outer turmoil caused by the European imperial misadventure, and a piercing account of the fragility of the human soul.

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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.
Haiku summary
King Leopold's fans
appreciate this tribute;
Mister Kurtz, he dead.
(thorold)

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Penguin Australia

4 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 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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