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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Reader's Diary #880- Joseph Conrad: Heart of Darkness

Finally knocking another classic off my tbr list, I'm now surprised it's taken me this long. Had I done any research at all I would have discovered it's a novella at only 88 pages. No matter how difficult, I can do 88 pages.

And it was a little difficult. Not Hubert Aquin Next Episode difficult, but certainly a thinker. For the very few remaining people out there left to read it, Heart of Darkness is narrated by a character named Charlie Marlow who is aboard a sailboat on the Thames, waiting for the tide to rise before they set out. To his fellow passengers, Marlow recounts a trip he made sailing into Africa and meeting with an infamous character named Kurtz, a fellow European who has gone there to export ivory and who winds up going crazy with new found power.

Perhaps it's the frame story that gives Marlow's tale the air of a parable. There wisdom behind his story, it's a matter of finding the significance. Alas, the wisdom seems rather dire. Could it be that we are all possible of evil, of greed, of injustice toward our fellow man? I read a poem yesterday by Renaltta Arluk in which she discusses the British who fled to Canada to avoid oppression, "only to discover their own humanity/ was knowing how to rule." It seems to supplement the plot of Heart of Darkness, only Conrad doesn't seem to point fingers solely at the British or the Belgiums or any particular group for that matter. At the beginning Marlow surmises that it must have been similar when the Romans first conquered Britons. The message seems to be that all societies and individuals have the potential to let greed consume them to the point of dominating and exploiting others. Reminds me of the Saturday Night Live iPhone 5 sketch this past weekend. Did you see it? The horror, the horror.


2 comments:

Eric P said...

Now you are well prepared to tackle Timothy Findley's Headhunter, which incidentally I have finally gotten around to reviewing. Of course, Headhunter is more like 500 pages!

John Mutford said...

It was only while reading this book that I'd even heard of that Timothy Findley book. Sounds interesting! (But too long.)