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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.