Review: Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This is supposedly a classic novella, or short novel. Well it certainly felt short on plot, yet reading it seemed to drag on forever.

I’ve never given up on a book partway through, but this time it was incredibly tempting. The narrator’s prose is tedious and nothing of consequence seems to happen for ages (perhaps because he is constantly travelling with a fixed goal, and only meets other characters briefly). Only the fact that it was short encouraged me to plough on.

Fortunately later on it did pick up a tad. Actually my favourite part was the meeting between Marlow and Kurtz’s fiancée, something of an epilogue to the actual story.

However I still can’t understand why it’s regarded as a classic. Kurtz, the driving force of the story, exists mainly through reputation and other characters extolling him, rather than any of his actions. “Mr. Kurtz was the best agent he had, an exceptional man…” “I was then rather excited at the prospect of meeting Kurtz very soon…” “I was cut to the quick at the idea of having lost the inestimable privilege of listening to the gifted Kurtz…” It’s as if Conrad had never heard of ‘show, don’t tell’. Then inevitably, finally meeting Kurtz seems like a huge anti-climax. Nor did I find the supposed anti-colonial themes compelling. Perhaps when it was written they were more shocking, but the fact that colonialism was not all sweetness and light hardly qualifies as a revelation these days.

Oh and by the end if Conrad title-dropped the words “heart” and “darkness” one more time I was quite ready to drop dead muttering “the horror! the horror!” myself.

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