‘Heart of Darkness’ by Joseph Conrad

My rating: 3 stars

Human beings are capable of many brutal actions, and colonialism is a good example of that. In Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, readers get a glimpse of a time where Europeans exploited African countries. Unfortunately, overall, the story feels hasty and undetailed. Although there are various moments of brilliance when it comes to the prose, the characters and the plot are mostly uninteresting.

The narrator of this novella is one of the men aboard the Nellie, which is sailing the Thames. But almost the entirety of the book consists of a monologue by Marlow, who recalls his time somewhere in Congo years before. While there, he searched for a man who was in charge of an ivory trading post, Mr Kurtz.

Despite the plot being generally monotonous, there are some interesting remarks about life and vivid descriptions of the nature and ambience. The last couple of pages feature a realistic portrayal of grief. And Marlow also described colonialism in accurate, condemning terms.

“It was robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a great scale, and men going at it blind – as is very proper for those who tackle a darkness.”

The text is filled with racist slurs and some sexist opinions, though, which is unsurprising, seeing that the book was first published at the end of the 19th century.

The characters are sadly not fully explored. In Congo, Marlow and his companions faced grave danger. I didn’t care about their safety at all, however, since they don’t feel real.

I managed to read this novella in its entirety mostly because of the almost musical structure of the sentences. One carried me unconsciously to the next. It was worth finishing it for the touching final couple of pages, which somewhat saved the book for me.


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