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Book Review

Heart of Darkness

Joseph Conrad

4/5

The book has resonance for present times as Colonialism is reassessed but is a good read in that tension is conveyed and the multiple layers of darkness, the geographical, of the soul, of morality, of lives lived and of the mind all contrasted with the light possible.

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The book prompted a good discussion with relative consensus on the themes, ideas and responses. The book is short in length but quite a slow read as the text is compact, even dense. The tale is of Marlow recounting his journey, by boat, into darkest Africa, specifically the Congo. His job is to collect ivory from one of the outstations manned by the charismatic, by repute, Kurtz.

Conrad has a mastery of the English language, which he did not learn until he was in his 20s and the descriptions are vivid and effective, though possibly too long in places. The first two chapters draw the reader into the darkness and include philosophical points and can be quite profound eg “We live as we dream – alone.”

He reflects some of the attitudes of Victorian times through the characters of the immaculately clean, white, starched linen, suited travellers who are passengers on the boat, their greed for the ivory they are collecting and their attitudes to the native population. Marlow reflects a more respectful, even an admiration, for the black population seeing them as human beings, flawed as are all men.

The character of Kurtz is by reputation and never fully demonstrated by his words or actions within the book. He has obviously gone mad and become violent , demonstrated by the heads on poles around his home, and yet the native population revere him as a god which is attributed to his oratory, of which there are no examples. Whether this was a deliberate authorial decision to prevent the reader making a different judgement is not known.

The book has resonance for present times as Colonialism is reassessed but is a good read in that tension is conveyed and the multiple layers of darkness, the geographical, of the soul, of morality, of lives lived and of the mind all contrasted with the light possible.

Any one wishing to join the Book Group is very welcome. The next meeting is 10:30 on Wednesday 8th March when we will discuss “The Woman in White” by Wilkie Collins. Very appropriate (?) for International Women’s Day.