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67 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greats
Some readers seem to have difficulty with this short novel. It's certainly not easy reading (Conrad never is, though I love his prose style), but is a challenging, thought-provoking and highly absorbing character study. The journey is as much into a mind breaking down as it is a physical journey down the Congo River. I found it richly rewarding (both the 1st time and when...
Published on 13 Feb 2008 by Mr. S. Harris

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179 of 191 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Kindle edition review
This review is specifically about the Kindle edition of The Heart of Darkness, and more specifically:
# Publisher: Public Domain Books (9 Jan 2006)
# Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
# ASIN: B000JQU7A8
Reviews between editions seem to be frequently amalgamated and so it is important to note this is about the free (at time of writing)...
Published on 18 Jan 2011 by Gerund


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67 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greats, 13 Feb 2008
By 
Mr. S. Harris (Bristol, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Heart of Darkness (Paperback)
Some readers seem to have difficulty with this short novel. It's certainly not easy reading (Conrad never is, though I love his prose style), but is a challenging, thought-provoking and highly absorbing character study. The journey is as much into a mind breaking down as it is a physical journey down the Congo River. I found it richly rewarding (both the 1st time and when I read it again recently). It probably says more, in a short space, than any other novel about human existence, civilization and human excesses (with the possible exception of "The Fall" by Albert Camus). Powerful stuff - if you like a strong poison then try it (and then check out Conrad's great full-length novels: "Lord Jim", "Nostromo" and "Under Western Eyes").
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb, although difficult., 25 Nov 2010
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What struck me about Conrad's tale was the richness of his descriptions. The way he combines words in a highly unorthodox way succeeds in giving sections of the work a very disturbing feel to them. I suspect this stems from English being Conrad's third language. In any case, it gives the text an unpredictable tenor that keeps the reader in a state of unease, just as the author intended.

The themes are no less profound. I particularly enjoyed Conrad's critique of Western civilization - comparing the tribesmen with the supposedly superior whites and comparing the Congo with the Thames of 1000 years ago.

For all its virtues, this book is quite disorientating and requires careful reading. At several points I had to reread pages to determine who was talking to whom. In particular, the point at which Kurtz finally makes his appearance is (perhaps intentionally) skimmed over without fanfare. I feel that another read or two is in order.

This Penguin Classics edition comes with some extras. Some, like the analysis of changes made between the typescript and the book, are for enthusiasts only. Others, such as the timeline and explanatory notes are essential to any reader. It's a slim volume that is appropriately sombre-looking.

A genuine classic.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This isn't a book you will "like" or "love" - it's a book that will haunt you, 14 July 2013
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This review is from: Heart of Darkness (Kindle Edition)
I'm not sure how to rate this book. I gave it 4* because I think the author's intention was to manifest the horrifying reality of colonization and he managed to do that in a Gothic non-sensationalist method.

The book deals with colonisation and its cruelty. And that's how it ought to be read. One ought not to expect a happy ending or a story of redemption and freedom. Or any romantic feelings of adventure and escape. Or characters one would be able to identify with. This isn't a book you will "like" or "love" - it's a book that will haunt you. It's a book that will shock you - a book that demonstrates how "respectable" persons can rationalise human brutality.

In the West many people were convinced that that colonization was almost a philanthropic endeavour that brought redemption and civilization to the savage natives. One could say that we are still hold this belief as we invade countries around the world such as Iraq (only this time we use "Democracy" and mythic WMD as our motto as we torture people, bomb cities and steal oil).

The book is narrated by Charles Marlow, a sailor/ skipper who Captains a boat for an ivory trading company along the Congo River. The scenery, the uncertainty and darkness of the Congo jungles creates an eerie atmosphere which becomes embedded to the story. Usually the thought of jungles in tropical locations would induce me to thoughts of beautiful nature and exotic holidays. However, in this instance it came across as sinister.

The author uses prose, which although I wouldn't describe as subtle, it's far from descriptive, in order to convey the cruelty and inhumane methods used by the Colonist against the natives. There's a distinct lack of sentiment expressed which gave substance rather than retracted from what the author attempted to convey. No emotional breakdowns as such (although there were shared moments of repulsion felt by the Narrator) but no extreme language. Certain references relating to inhumane behavior were described in an almost scientific, observational (even philosophical) way - not quite casual references - but not the detailed descriptions and expressive emotional thoughts one would expect. An example is below:

"You remember I told you I had been struck at the distance by certain attempts at ornamentation, rather remarkable in the ruinous aspect of the place. Now I had suddenly a nearer view, and its first result was to throw my head back as if before a blow. Then I went carefully from post to post with my glass, and I saw my mistake. These round knobs were not ornamental but symbolic; they were expressive and puzzling, striking and disturbing-food for thought and for vultures if there had been any looking down from the sky, but at all events for such ants as were industrious enough to ascend the pole. They would have been even more impressive, those heads on stakes, if their faces had not been turned to face the house. Only one, the face I had made out was facing my way"

The above relates to the Narrator finding a row of posts with decapitated heads of natives.

The author's descriptions of the Africans and how the people of Congo were during the 19th century are quite fascinating. Not detailed or in any way a historical account, but highly interesting. Some were described as cannibals, some were chained and worked hard, some were dying and in pain but all were primitive. However, despite that the Narrator could feel a certain kinship to this "early man":

"They howled and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces; but what thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity- like yours- the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar."

The character of Klutz was rather a mystery. Evil but a genius, poetic, artistic, accomplished but apparently without much human feeling. A man who could command but despised those all around him. But what was most horrifying is the depth of depravity and evilness he stooped to in order to become "something" to be accepted in Europe by his Intended's family.

"The thing was to know what he belonged to, how many powers of darkness claimed him for their own. That was a reflection that made you creepy all over."

Overall, not a book to gain much pleasure. Not a plot to win hearts or experience a great adventure. But certainly a terrible tale which illustrated the lurking darkness that could be found within man.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Powerful & anguished take on colonisation, 1 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Heart of Darkness (Kindle Edition)
The story opens on board a yacht moored in the Thames but due to set sail for parts unknown; the men aboard are drinking and swapping yarns as they wait listlessly for the tide to turn. The setting sun provides a brooding backdrop and leads one of the men, Marlow, to declare “this also has been one of the dark places of the earth” and launch into a tale.

He’s speculating how the first Roman invaders must have felt sailing up the river into the unfamiliar British terrain in an inhospitable climate populated by savage natives; an interesting parallel to his own experience captaining a river steamboat up the Congo to ‘relieve’ the resident of a remote ivory trading post.

The man at the centre of the mission is the charismatic Mr Kurtz whose trading prowess is second to none due in part to a skill in oratory that gives him a Messianic quality that spellbinds colleagues and natives alike. In fact the natives are so devoted they don’t want him to leave.

Marlow’s engagement, induction and voyage up river is recounted; with hard-nosed detachment as far the physical dangers are concerned, but with more circumspection as regards the psychological pressures that emanate from the jungle beyond the riverbank – the continent’s heart of darkness. He can begin to understand how a white man may succumb to “the fascination of the abomination” that can be found there and be prey to “the growing regret, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate”.

The immensely powerful language (quoted to do it justice) gives the novella the feel of a horror story; as it is – but there’s nothing supernatural here, it is all horribly, if unfamiliarly natural in the time and place that was Equatorial Africa in the time of colonisation. And Conrad should know, he did the steamboat job himself and, as a result, this anguished take on colonisation provides an interesting contrast to Rider Haggard’s bravado. (See previous review of King Soloman’s Mines).

[See my weekly reviews each Friday on abibliodyssey.blogspot.com]
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not the easiest, but one of the top 5 reads of all time, 30 Aug 2009
This review is from: Heart of Darkness (Paperback)
At the very dawn of the 21st century, the front page of a major UK broadsheet newspaper (The Daily Telegraph), summed up the previous 100 years as "the century of 'Heart of Darkness' and 'The Waste Land'". Yes, this short novel, actually first published (I think) in 1899, presciently captures the horrors that are to come once "civilized" men of the industrialized West gain dominion over the Earth. I first read this book about 25 years ago - and, as a callow youth, I barely understood a word of it. Yet its symbolism enthralled me and I have been compelled to return to it 4 or 5 times since, each time gaining a deeper insight into what Conrad, through his imperfect narrator Marlow, is struggling to say. The writing is superb, the themes immense, and the setting in Africa's dark heart (counterpointed with the scenes on the Thames) sensational. One day I hope to emulate Graham Greene and reread the book while travelling up the Congo by boat. But I know I must be prepared for a dark, dark journey... and one that fails to reach a neat and tidy conclusion.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Conrad's Heart of Darkness, 6 Nov 2012
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This review is from: Heart of Darkness (Kindle Edition)
What a book this is! And a free Kindly download into the bargain. I am 58 and have never read it, now realising that most people read it for O Level! Anyway after confusing me to begin with, I started to look into it a bit more only to find that Conrad was there and witnessed some of this awful stuff. I then moved on to King Leopold's Ghost (another Kindle book by the way) and was amazed and horrified at what evil greed produced in the two decades between 1890 and 1910 or thereabouts. Really a novel for all seasons seeing it touches on the darkness of the human heart - and, I presume, an implied message of the need for redemption? Well done for putting it on Kindle - which, by the way, I love, despite being an old technophobe.
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179 of 191 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Kindle edition review, 18 Jan 2011
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This review is from: Heart of Darkness (Kindle Edition)
This review is specifically about the Kindle edition of The Heart of Darkness, and more specifically:
# Publisher: Public Domain Books (9 Jan 2006)
# Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
# ASIN: B000JQU7A8
Reviews between editions seem to be frequently amalgamated and so it is important to note this is about the free (at time of writing) version.

Please also note that this review is about the 'edition', not the actual story itself and is therefore no reflection on Conrad's writing.

Having made myself clear on what I am reviewing (hopefully!) then my opinion is this:

Download some samples of other versions and pay some small amount for a better text. I struggled with half of this version before resorting to the actual book that I already owned. There are two major problems:

1. The style of writing and the protagonist Marlow's delivery makes very frequent use of dashes (en or em rules). This Kindle edition uses double hyphens, viz --, with no spaces, as in 'There were cases of them down at the coast--cases--piled up--burst--split!', which makes reading awkward and detracts from the narrative style.

2. Carriage returns are used frequently in error and seemingly at random. It is possible to identify new paragraphs as they are correctly indented but, having a line finishing after the first word for example, implies the end of a paragraph. However, the non-indented start of the next line shows that the text was meant to be continuous. Checking several examples with the Penguin text edition shows that these frequent carriage returns are, indeed, in error.

This edition is not recommended for reading on the Kindle.
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110 of 118 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The darkness in men's hearts, 19 Jan 2000
By 
phil451 (Essex, England) - See all my reviews
With this novella Joseph Conrad brutally rips away the barriers that men build to hide themselves and exposes the evil that lurks in all men's hearts, waiting for an opportunity to get out.kurtz sails away into the dark continent full of ambition to build a bright shining society where men will be Gods. The result is unspeakable evil. What actually happens the reader never knows. They are just invited to look at the battered result of Kurtz's ambition. Marlowe returns and visits the now dead Kurt's fiancee, but is unable to tell her the truth about her beloved and makes up some romantic tale to spare her feelings. Nowadays Conrad is vulnerable to accusations of racism as he uses Africa to represent the dark continent. As always the politically correct have completely missed the pooint. The evil was in Kurtz, as it is in all men, not in Africa. And Conrad was exposing the wickednesss of colonolism which he was vehemently against, which anyone could find out if they read his works closely. In fact he was not a racist but years ahead of his time.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Feverish delirium, 6 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Heart of Darkness (Paperback)
This is a very interesting book written with an almost hallucinogenic imagination. Conrad must be a bit feverish when he wrote the book as a result of some tropical disease from Africa. There is no shortage of metaphors and similes suggesting the vile and sinister sensations of living in a macabre land of the unknown, `no joy in the brilliance of sunshine,' as he put it. Nightmarish scenes are omnipresent, every sound signifies an alarm of danger, and every sight evokes feelings of disgust and fear. Conrad shows an extraordinary talent in his use of English vocabulary to add mood and atmosphere to his description of places and situations, accentuating the detrimental effect of the tropical environment, i.e. the heat, vegetation, animals, etc. to the mental and physical health of men. His choice of words is particularly strong in the realm of doom and gloom.

`The horror! The horror!' these are the final words of Kurtz, the hero (or anti-hero) of this book. Kurtz, a 19th century European trader, who had 'gone native' in Congo of West Africa, was regarded by the local tribal people as their God. But did he love them? We only found out at the end of his life about his true feelings towards these people who worshipped him, `Exterminate the brutes!' he said with such disgust. It is possible that he was referring to the cannibals as `brutes'. But it is hinted in the novel that Kurtz himself, while mingling with the natives, had probably participated in their cannibalistic feast. We get the feeling that he had since gone insane from the experience. Who wouldn't? He had contracted 'brain malaria' from eating human flesh!

Kurtz is a mystery, a mythology. Throughout the novel, there is hardly any clear depiction of Kurtz apart from the scene of his death. We only get glimpses of his personality from remarks made by other people who knew him. So who was Kurtz? Was he a solitary madman, a sad misanthrope who rejected European civilization and preferred to live with the natives and act as their protector and saviour? Was he a religious nut trying to civilize and humanize the `savages' with his own belief? Or was he just another ruthless colonial adventurer who dominated and manipulated the `simple' tribal people through his ingenuity and scheming? The answer is not entirely clear until we read part of his report on the 'Suppression of Savage Customs' (p.70).

The film 'Apocalypse Now' was supposedly based on this book with the story transposed to Vietnam in the 20th century. But my recommendations would go to 'Aguirre - Wrath of God' (1972) by Werner Herzog, and 'Queimada - Burn!'(1969) by Gillo Pontecorvo. Both these films made interesting statements on Colonialism.

Highly recommended.
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dense and difficult, ultimately rewarding., 25 July 2006
By 
Bruno - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Heart Of Darkness (Paperback)
I'm sure many readers will, like me, find this a difficult read, the prose almost as dense and impenetrable as the jungle that Marlowe travels down in order to find his truth. Still, having only read it through once, I did get enough out of it to believe that further study will reveal some profound light in the heart of darkness. At only 100 odd pages, it does seem to have been designed by the author to be returned to again and again, small enough to swallow, but needing longer to fully digest.

Some passages are genuinely quite unnerving, with a sense successfully conveyed of a man who has cut away the veneer of civilisation, looked into the soul of humanity, and seen something truly disturbing. In short, this book is about nihilism, about the flimsy and shifting world of language that alone seperates humanity from the other animals (but only in a delusory sense). The power of Kurtz is almost wholly cast by his words, a potency maintained even whilst barely existing as a decaying, dying body. The story juxtaposes the power of language, through the dense tale spun by Marlowe of the mythical but ultimately physically insubstantial Kurtz, with the raw natural savagery of the African jungle and its muscular and visceral inhabitants. Language is what seperates the human from the animal, but in the heart of darkness, language, and through it civilisation, is revealed to be a false god created ultimately to serve animal passions.

Moreover, the novel contains the message that when man tries to shed his 'civilising' light on those judged to be savages, he merely succeeds in laying bare the moral emptiness of his own soul. Something to think about and to fruitfully connect with the war in Iraq, just as others did with Vietnam.
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