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ISBN: 9780140274226


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Heart of Darkness

Series: essential.penguin S.

by Joseph Conrad

Category: Fiction / A - C
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Publication date: 7 October 1999
Number of pages: 112

"Heart of Darkness", a masterpiece of Classical Literature, is the product of Conrad's most surprising attempt to go abroad, in Congo. Like Charlie Marlow, the narrator, Conrad was soon grievously shocked by the ruthless exploitation of native labourers and by the deplorably low intellectual and moral level of the commercial company's officials. In "Heart of Darkness", death hovers over the whole story. The African workers, repeatedly called "primitive" or even "savage" people, die in large numbers, though they preserve their own dignity and appear less contemptible than their greedy European oppressors and exploiters. The most striking episode is the death of the mysteriously impressive Mr. Kurtz. Marlow defines Kurtz variously as an "atrocious phantom", as a "pitiful Jupiter", but also as a "remarkable man". Marlow found fascination in Kurtz, in his physique, and more particularly in his voice, in his words, empty as they are. In spite of his moral decay, Kurtz remains superior to the other envoys from Europe who are mostly mercenary imbeciles. "Amy Foster" (1900) provides another view of the exile-emigre's condition and fate, through the adventure on English soil of the young foreigner Yanko, who turns out to be the only survivor of a shipwreck on the southern coast of England. As he cannot speak English, Yanko is treated with fear, contempt and hostility by the local population. A simple-minded, plain-looking girl, the Amy Foster of the title, agrees to marry him; they are both primitive creatures like the Africans in "Heart of Darkness", yet that union of two derelicts seems to work out well enough; but when a child is born to the couple and the young father falls ill, Amy is frightened by hearing him speak incomprehensible words to his son...

This dark novella seems to have come boiling up out of some twisted jungle in Conrad's subconscious. The writing is dense and lush; lovely and terrifying. It is perfectly suited to the physical and moral landscape. The title refers to the centre of Africa where the enigmatic Kurtz has set up a dubious empire, but Conrad's genius is in showing us the dark centre of ourselves. A modern editor would perhaps encourage Conrad to use a stripped-down, leaner, more muscular style but thankfully Heart of Darkness is the vivid classic we've enjoyed for nearly a century. (Kirkus UK)

What the papers say:
" A great piece of writing , a modern experimental classic that holds its power" malcom bradbury mail on sunday

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