Conrad's Heart of Darkness

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Conrad's Heart of Darkness

Post  sil on Tue May 31, 2011 11:48 pm

eddie wrote:Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad – review

Phil Mongredien takes another trip up that African river…

The Observer, Sunday 23 January 2011


The film Apocalypse Now transposed Conrad’s novel to south-east Asia. Photograph: Allstar/Miramax/Sportsphoto Ltd./Allstar

In 1890, Joseph Conrad, an officer aboard the Roi des Belges, sailed up the River Congo into the hinterland of the Congo Free State, in effect the private fiefdom of King Leopold of Belgium. Eight years later, just as details of Leopold's genocidal regime began to become public, Conrad's experiences there inspired him to write Heart of Darkness, as powerful a condemnation of imperialism as has ever been written, and still a deeply unsettling read more than a century on.

The novella centres on the efforts of Marlow, Conrad's alter ego, to travel up an unnamed African river on behalf of his employer in order to bring back a rogue ivory trader, Mr Kurtz. Kurtz's reputation precedes him: "He is a prodigy… an emissary of pity and science and progress." Yet as Marlow gets closer to Kurtz, there is the growing suggestion that he has in some way become corrupted and descended into savagery.

The further upstream Marlow gets, the more intense the sense of impending danger, with cryptic warnings and a bloody ambush ratcheting up the tension. When Marlow finally reaches Kurtz's camp, he discovers a scene of unimaginable depravity. The dying Kurtz is taken aboard the boat (along with a prodigious quantity of ivory), but he does not survive the journey back downstream. With Marlow present, his chilling last words are "The horror! The horror!"

It is tempting to see Heart of Darkness as a masterfully constructed parable on human nature (witness Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola's film adaptation, in which the action was transposed to south-east Asia) but as historian Adam Hochschild has pointed out in King Leopold's Ghost, about the king's rape of the Congo, Conrad himself was quite clear that it was based on specific events he had witnessed, saying it was "experience… pushed a little (and only very little) beyond the actual facts of the case". Despite his protestations, this is undeniably an invaluable historical document offering a glimpse into the horrific human consequences of the imperial powers' scramble for Africa as much as it is a compelling tale.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

sil

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Re: Conrad's Heart of Darkness

Post  sil on Tue May 31, 2011 11:49 pm

pinhedz wrote:At the end of "Heart of Darkness," Kurtz's wife back in England asks Marlow: "What were his last words?"

Marlow says "His last words were your name."

She says "I knew it, I was sure of it," showing how hoplessly naive she is.

At the end of "Apocalypse Now," Kurtz's native wife asks Marlow the same question, and he tells her Kurtz's last words were her name.

Then the native wife says "I knew it, I was sure of it."

How could Coppola have got this so totally wrong--as if the woman residing right in the heart of the heart of darkness would have asked the same question as the sheltered Victorian Englishwoman?

sil

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Re: Conrad's Heart of Darkness

Post  sil on Tue May 31, 2011 11:50 pm

Eddie wrote:Compare and contrast the last hateful words the teenage gangster Pinky in Graham Greene's Brighton Rock records on a shellac disc for his adolescent bride.

If I remember correctly, the disc is scatched so she never gets to hear them and is able to preserve intact the illusion that he had loved her.

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