REVIEWER: Tall, Short & Tiny
I’d like to start this review by being totally honest…I didn’t like Heart of Darkness one little bit. I didn’t hate it, but I certainly groaned inwardly each time I picked it up, and very nearly didn’t finish it. However, having glowingly reviewed a number of books on the list, it felt only proper to be able to balance all those fantastic reads with one that, in my humble opinion, was not an enjoyable read (plus it’s short, and I was sure I could get through it!).
Nothing about this novella grabbed me. I didn’t enjoy the way the story was narrated, or the language that was used to do so. I found myself scoffing quietly, wondering if the person orating the story would really have used words such as “declivity” and “recrudescence”?
I did like a couple of Conrad’s descriptive sentences, and on the whole, I quite liked the majority of his descriptive passages, but that wasn’t enough.
“…on some quiet night the tremor of far-off drums, sinking, swelling, a tremor vast, faint; a sound weird, appealing, suggestive, and wild.”
“…this papier-mâché Mephistopheles…”
The subject matter is dark and gruesome, and I’m sure it would have been shocking at the time of publication, but I found it rather offensive and brutal. The story touches on cannibalism, colonialism and deception, none of which make for cheerful reading. There’s also the very Victorian ideals of men as heroes and women as love interests and belongings.
The language used to describe the “savages” made me uncomfortable, even though I tried very hard to put myself in the late-1800s frame of mind; it was interesting also to think that this novella remains controversial due to the subject of savagery, but perhaps for different (contradictory?) reasons.
“…these creatures rose to…hands and knees, and went off on all fours…”
“Why in the name of all the gnawing devils of hunger they didn’t go for us – they were thirty to five – and have a good tuck in for once, amazes me now when I think of it.”
“I looked at them with a swift quickening of interest – not because it occurred to me I might be eaten by them before very long…I perceived how unwholesome the pilgrims looked, and I hoped, yes, I positively hoped, that my aspect was not so…unappetising: a fantastic touch of vanity…”
The basic premise behind Heart of Darkness is that the human soul and mind has the capacity for extreme darkness, that every human being has two sides to their heart, and that in the right (or wrong, whichever way you’d like to look at it) situation, people act in unusual ways. However, I think that Conrad was trying to say that there is also inherent goodness in everyone too. Whether he extended that to his “savages” or not remains to be seen!
For me, this was a disappointing read and a bit of a drag, so unfortunately, I’m giving it just 2/5 stars.