I had always resisted reading this book, or indeed any other Conrad, as I had the idea he was a racist writer, and I also object to reading writers who are not writing in their first language - because I support translation and translators, see previous post. But in June this year, when sig other and I were on holiday, finishing our capitals of Europe with the last three in the Balkans (Montenegro is fab), I did read Heart of Darkness. I have it as an ebook, and I can no longer buy ebooks in English, or almost not, because of the iniquity of UK booksellers (see previous post) but that is another story, and one which will be returned to.
Anyway, I did not get this book. I could appreciate it, but I did not really get it. Conrad says the seaman is not a wanderer but a sedentary creature: his home, the ship, is where he always is, and the sea is always the same. "The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves" (p. 12). I know what he means about being on board ship though. I have always wanted to live and work on a ship, and I never will now. This is probably why I like the Yotel pod hotels so much. But anyway, spot on there, Joe. However, "the contorted mangroves, that seemed to writhe at us in the extremity of an impotent despair" (p. 21). What bollocks is this?
But - some nice turns of phrase - "this papier-mâché Mephistopheles" (p. 35). Cool.
Mr Kurtz, Mr Kurtz. So what? The few days I once spent in Ghana, near the border with Togo, show me that his description of an African river is an excellent one. But it was a different river. And another country.
So, anyway - some white bloke goes to Africa after ivory, and manages to get a whole bunch of Africans to do as he says. A different white bloke is captain of a steamer which goes off up the river to find the first white bloke - why? and a whole bunch of Africans are hired to crew the steamer. But nobody gives them anything to eat. Is this not barbaric conduct? Conrad does not say so. And apparently "savages" chant "some weird incantation" (p. 85). Do they? Am I supposed to be impressed? More "weird incantations" (p. 85) - what does this even mean? And apparently, along the river bank there are "secular trees" (p. 91) - huh? "I looked at him as you peer down at a man who is lying at the bottom of a precipice where the sun never shines". Yeah, right. Like we've all done that.
And then at the end the narrator, Marlow, is in bad faith because he lies about Kurtz's last words.
Oh, do me a favour.