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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Conrad's Heart of Darkness
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...
Published on 6 Nov. 2012 by arboroff

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A classic, but you have to work at it.
It's a classic, but like many, hard work. The prose at times becomes as tangled, dense and florid as the jungle at the Heart of Darkness. I'm glad I can say I've read it, but won't be returning.
Published 20 months ago by jerome a bradley


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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Conrad's Heart of Darkness, 6 Nov. 2012
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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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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Powerful & anguished take on colonisation, 1 Nov. 2013
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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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11 of 12 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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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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really enjoyable book, 28 Nov. 2013
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Enjoyable and made even better as it was a free download to my Android tablet, with the Kindle app it worked flawlessly and kept me entertained, overall impressed with all parties the author the tablet and Amazons Kindle app.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A powerful story of man's inhumanity to man, 12 May 2015
By 
Terry D "tdawson735" (UK) - See all my reviews
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Written in 1899, Conrad's struggle with English - he was Polish and only learnt English in his early 20's - gives `Heart of Darkness' an atmosphere that is both enigmatic and ambiguous.

The relatively short book (116 pages on the Kindle edition) is the story of Marlow's steamboat journey into the primitive interior of East Africa and the near-endless problems he encounters as he attempts to bring the ivory trader Kurtz back to civilisation.

Marlow is told that Kurtz, in trading with the indigenous African cannibals, has acquired large quantities of ivory for the faceless Company that employs them and, in the process, has become some form of God in the eyes of the natives. Marlow, however, discovers someone who is raving incomprehensibly, close to death and seeing visions; Conrad's portrayal of Kurtz's final enigmatic words - `the horror! the horror!' - are a damning indictment of the brutalising and morally unacceptable effect the Company's activities.

After Kurtz's death Marlow, utterly disillusioned by his experiences, returns to Europe and, in the story's final twist, takes some of Kurtz's letters and papers to Kurtz's fiancée. After the meeting Conrad leaves us to decide whether Marlow, as a person, has changed fundamentally - or whether he's simply someone who has lost his illusions.

`Heart of Darkness' is, quite definitely, not the easiest of books to read (thus the four stars) but, 100+ years after it was written, remains a powerful and atmospheric study of man's inhumanity to man.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A good book to look back and not forget the unlimited inhumanity of man in the pursuit of profit., 6 Mar. 2015
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"A reminder to question the conceits of culture and ideology. "
This is a story laden with history and the shame of that history , also a story that has metamorphosed into Apocalypse Now and Hearts of Darkness: A Film-makers Apocalypse A documentary of the making of the film that resembles some of the struggles in the book. This makes it hard to judge or criticize without those influences prejudicing the commentary.
It is still a poignant story of the worst of colonial Africa, and the attitudes of the period. but at the beginning the narrator comments about how in the more distant past of Britain they had been the savages of the Roman empire giving us a glimpse that power and abuse are timeless.
If you have ever wonder why so many animals are nearly extinct this book and its language is a very good example, the companies main interest is ivory but the one word never mention in the book is elephant and all that this men do is collect ivory. The casual and institutionalised abuse of the locals is I am sure described in a very sanitized way, I suspect that the HORROR was much larger. Conrad also describes and inefficient colonial force and wonder why the people of this lands never just wiped them out, it is ponder many writers have made about other conflicts the best reasoning and perhaps the saddest was by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago “ you surrender because you think “It’s a mistake! They will set things right!” but they is just you, the other "they" are not there to set things right but to implement the new regime and so it goes.
Mr kurtz is not a truly well drawn character and the devotion felt by others seems strange to the modern reader; unlike Kurtz in Apocalypse Now who is charismatic and mad with modern Horror.
A good book to look back and not forget the unlimited inhumanity of man in the pursuit of profit.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Remarkably dark and interesting, 28 Aug. 2014
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One of the book's theme is eloquence, the beauty of expression, and the power it evokes. When Marlow thinks that Kurtz is dead, he becomes despondent because he will never hear Kurtz talk. I also find it interesting how it seems that Kurtz's deficiences of being physically weak are not discussed in detail and is outweighed by his ability to speak, which empowers him to be a dominating figure over others.

The book at times was difficult to read because it made me become aware of the darkness inside people, and made me reflect on my personal dark periods. The ending is extremely painful, when Marlow and Kurtz's wife continuously complement Kurtz, and how as each praise is said, both their hearts feel darker, because they both know what this remarkable man did. Marlow does not reveal the explicit details to Kurtz's wife because he wanted to "keep back alone for the salvation of another soul."

For parts of the book, I could not understand why Marlow should continue to stay with Kurtz until the end. But I found parts towards the end brilliant when Kurtz's final words was 'horrible'. What I think this means, is that Kurtz (which includes his subconscious) knew all along that what he was doing was evil, and for Marlow to hear this revived his hope in human nature. And thus that Kurtz had essentially a pure heart. 'I went no more near the remarkable man who had pronounced judgment upon the adventures of his soul on this earth.'

I remember a description of a rich, starch-collared chief accountant and thought this was wonderful to read. It made me think of Churchill's outfit when he met Tito at Naples 12 August 1944. The account is on page 22: "Moreover, I respected the fellow. Yes; I respected his collars, his vast cuffs, his brushed hair. His appearance was certainly that of a hairdresser's dummy; but in the great demoralization of the land he kept up his appearance. That's backbone. His starched collars and got-up shirt-fronts were achievements of character...this man had verily accomplished something. And he was devoted to his books, which were in apple-pie order."

I particularly enjoyed reading the following passages:

"I wasn't very interested in him. No. Still, I was curious to see whether this man, who had come out equipped with moral ideas of some sort, would climb to the top after all, and how he would set about his work when there."
"Perhaps he was just simply a fine fellow who stuck to his work for its own sake."
"I saw him extend his short flipper of an arm for a gesture...a treacherous appeal..to the profound darkness of its heart."
"I was cut to the quick at the idea of having lost the inestimable privilege of listening to the gifted Kurtz."
"Everything belonged to him- but that was a trifle. The thing was to know what he belonged to, how many powers of darkness claimed him for their own."
"It gave me the notion of an exotic immensity ruled by an august benevolence. It made me tingle with enthusiasm. This was the unbounded power of eloquence-of words- of being noble words."
"...and to this day I don't know why I was so jealous of sharing with anyone the particular blackness of that experience."
"I made the strange discovery that I had never imagined him as doing, you know, but as discoursing. I didn't say to myself, Now I will never see him, or Now I will never shake him by the hand, but, Now I will never hear him. The man presented himself as a voice. Not of course that I did not connect him with some sort of action. Hadn't I been told in all the tones of jealousy and admiration that he had collected...his being a gifted creature, and that of all his gifts the one that stood out pre-eminently, that carried with it a sense of real presence, was his ability to talk, his words- the gift of expression, the bewildering, the illuminating, the most exalted and the most contemptible, the pulsating stream of light, or the deceitful flow from the heart of an impenetrable darkness."
"...I found with humiliation that probably I would have nothing to say. This is the reason why I affirm that Kurtz was a remarkable man. He had something to say. He said it. Since I had peeped over the edge myself, I understand better the meaning of his stare, that could not see the flame of the candle, but was wide enough to embrace the whole universe, piercing enough to penetrate all the hearts that beat in the darkness. He had summed up- he had judged. "The horror!" He was a remarkable man."
"...and to this day I am unable to say what was Kurtz's profession, whether he ever had any- which was the greatest of his talents. I had taken...He was a universal genius...but heavens! how that man could talk! He electrified large meetings."
"...Who was not his friend who had heard him speak once? She was saying. He drew men towards him by what was best in them. She looked at me with intensity. It is the gift of the great, she went on."
"How can you imagine what particular region of the first ages a man's untrammeled feet may take him into by way of solitude- utter solitude without a policeman- by the way of silence, utter silence, where no warning voice of a kind neighbour can be heard whispering of public opinion. These little things make all the great difference. When they are gone you must fall back upon your own innate strength, upon your own capacity for faithfulness..the earth for us is a place to live in, where we must put up with sights, with sounds, with smells too, by Jove!- breathe dead hippo, so to speak, and not be contaminated. And there, don't you see? Your strength comes in, the faith in your ability for the digging of unostentatious holes to bury the stuff in- your power of devotion, not to yourself, but to an obscure, back-breaking buisness."
"This was the unbounded power of eloquence-of words- of burning noble words."
"He (Kurtz) won't be forgotten. Whatever he was, he was not common. He had the power to charm or frighten rudimentary souls into an aggravated with-dance in his honor; he could also fill the small souls of the pilgrims with bitter misgivings, he had one devoted friend at least, and he had conquered one soul in the world that was neither rudimentary or self-seeking."
"Now when I was a little chap I had a passion for maps. I would look for hours at South America, or Africa, or Australia, and lose myself in all the glories of exploration."
"Soul satiated with primitive emotions, avid of lying fame, of sham distinction, of all the appearances of success and power."
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5.0 out of 5 stars Undeniably a classic., 16 Mar. 2015
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As someone who greatly enjoyed both Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now and the video game Spec Ops: the Line (both adaptations of Heart of Darkness and both wonderful examples of storytelling in their respective mediums, in my opinion), it was with great anticipation that I started reading Conrad's apparent classic.

I'm happy to say that I was not disappointed. While on the surface the book is a study, if not a criticism, of colonialism, at its heart, if you'll excuse the pun, is an examination of the most savage aspects of the human condition. Conrad presents the story in an interesting story-within-a-story format and I'm not sure there would be a more effective possible way of telling it.

As wonderful as the book is, it is not perfect. My chief criticism would be that the charisma, for want of a better word, of Kurtz is conveyed more through the opinion of the narrator than his words or actions within the story. Perhaps it is an unfair comparison but the character just doesn't have the same presence he had in Apocalypse Now, either when present or absent from a scene.

Overall, this book absolutely deserves its status as a classic and is well worth a read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heart of Darkness turns into Apocalypse now., 4 Feb. 2014
By 
Alan R. Locke "Alan R Locke" (Sussex UK) - See all my reviews
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Fantastic read. Now I understand why the film Apocalypse Now has this as an uncredited link.
Very atmospheric. Get through the intro and then it takes off.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good book, 17 Jan. 2014
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An encapsulating read which uses wonderful language in creating a vivid imagery of a dark, intense yet fascinating county and continent.
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Heart of Darkness
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
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