I was introduced to the books of Joseph Conrad in an undergraduate English course I took several years ago. It was entirely self-paced, and my only requirements were to read three novels and schedule a meeting with my instructor following the completion of each one. Since that class, I have turned into a major fan of Mr. Conrad. Heart of Darkness definitely wins the award for the novel I have reread the most times, and I have burned out multiple copies of it. For a book that is less than 150 pages, it packs a powerful punch. There is a lot of psychological depth to this novel, as there typically is in a work by Conrad.
The main character is Charlie Marlow who has worked on ships most of his life. This is the story of his journey into the African Congo and his search for the elusive Mr. Kurtz. For those of you who have never read Heart of Darkness, let me tell you that the title says it all. This is a very dark work of literature that has received more than its fair share of criticism. There is madness, horrific deaths, and a lot of passages that have been described as racist. Underneath it all, there is a glimmer of hope in the character of Marlow as he relates his journey to some friends several years later.
I won’t spoil anything else from the novel for those that have not read it. I love my current edition as it also has three short stories by Conrad as well as a very thought-provoking introduction. I plan to read some more of Conrad this year with a rereading of Lord Jim along with some unexplored works. As far as short stories go, “The Secret Sharer”
is phenomenal and may win the award for my favorite short story of all times.
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“It seems to me I am trying to tell you a dream–making a vain attempt, because no relation of a dream can convey the dream-sensation, that commingling of absurdity, surprise, and bewilderment in a tremor of struggling revolt, that notion of being captured by the incredible which is of the very essence of dreams…No, it is impossible; it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one’s existence–that which makes its truth, its meaning–its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream-alone…”