Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness

Authoritative Text, Backgrounds and Contexts, Criticism

Book - 2006
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The Fourth Edition is again based on Robert Kimbrough's meticulously re-edited text. Missing words have been restored and the entire novel has been re-punctuated in accordance with Conrad's style. The result is the first published version of Heart of Darkness that allows readers to hear Marlow's voice as Conrad heard it when he wrote the story. "Backgrounds and Contexts" provides readers with a generous collection of maps and photographs that bring the Belgian Congo to life. Textual materials, topically arranged, address nineteenth-century views of imperialism and racism and include autobiographical writings by Conrad on his life in the Congo. New to the Fourth Edition is an excerpt from Adam Hochschild's recent book, King Leopold's Ghost, as well as writings on race by Hegel, Darwin, and Galton. "Criticism" includes a wealth of new materials, including nine contemporary reviews and assessments of Conrad and Heart of Darkness and twelve recent essays by Chinua Achebe, Peter Brooks, Daphne Erdinast-Vulcan, Edward Said, and Paul B. Armstrong, among others. Also new to this edition is a section of writings on the connections between Heart of Darkness and the film Apocalypse Now by Louis K. Greiff, Margot Norris, and Lynda J. Dryden. A Chronology and Selected Bibliography are also included. About the Series: No other series of classic texts equals the caliber of the Norton Critical Editions. Each volume combines the most authoritative text available with the comprehensive pedagogical apparatus necessary to appreciate the work fully. Careful editing, first-rate translation, and thorough explanatory annotations allow each text to meet the highest literary standards while remaining accessible to students. Each edition is printed on acid-free paper and every text in the series remains in print. Norton Critical Editions are the choice for excellence in scholarship for students at more than 2,000 universities worldwide.
Publisher: New York : W.W. Norton & Co., c2006.
Edition: 4th ed.
ISBN: 9780393926361
Branch Call Number: FICTION Conrad Joseph
Characteristics: xix, 514 p. :,ill., 1 map ;,22 cm.
Additional Contributors: Armstrong, Paul B. 1949-


From Library Staff

Joseph Conrad traveled up the Congo River and the nightmare of the Belgian Congo drove him to create this scathing critique of imperialism.

A dark allegorical masterpiece based on the author's own traumatic experiences in the Belgian Congo, recounts the voyage of Marlow up the Congo River in search of the mysterious Mr. Kurtz - a white trader whose domination of the local natives had transformed him into a depraved and abominable tyr... Read More »

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papachaucer May 24, 2020

There's so much going on in this short novel / story. The horror of European pillaging in Africa. The petty concerns of selfish functionaries whose only talent, only virtue, only superpower is to stay physically healthy in a place that routinely kills other Europeans through indigenous people's attacks, through disease, and through technology break downs.
As you no doubt know, the movie Apocalypse Now is based on Heart of Darkness with some exact quotes but moved around. The phrase "for my sins" is much later in the book, and the movie uses it differently, for example.
But the questions of Truth and of moral responsibilities are posed in both the book and the movie. It's a short enough read, so give it a go and see what you think.
In these times where persons of color are writing their own view and voice of some Western Civ stories and tropes, I wonder how someone of that culture(-al) background might re-tell a similar story?

Mar 27, 2020

As with much of Conrad's work, so much has been written about this short novel that I feel compelled to ignore the obvious and meander farther afield, if for no other purpose than to place "Heart of Darkness" into a more personal context, a viewpoint that expresses its relevance to me, at this particular moment in my life. The fact that I've just read it now, in the second week of self-imposed quarantine while a ruthless virus-driven pandemic stalks the world, has cast upon Conrad's work an astringent atmosphere, a somber illumination over and above the lugubrious shades created by the writer. The tale related by Conrad's protagonist Marlow is permeated by a sense of inevitability, of an impenetrable world beyond the control or even the comprehension of 'civilized' man. Such is also the case with this COVID-19 event: neither its future course nor its impact upon each of us personally and on our known world can be predicted with any degree of confidence. What we can say is that it has already changed us, as did Marlow's experience along that river of darkness.
As I followed Marlow's moment of decision, when he was obliged to take one side or the other in the grim contest of wills between Kurtz and the Manager, a choice that may well have determined whether he would survive, I'm acutely aware of the importance of choices that I, my family and the leaders of society are making each day. Marlow had nothing but his own instincts and his grasp on some remote cosmic reality to guide him. The situation he faced was entirely new to him. He was surrounded by a population whose beliefs and state of mind he could not penetrate and with whom he could not even communicate directly. He had no points of reference and his decision could not be delayed.
We are today also trying to find our way through a very dark valley. How appropriate!

Aug 04, 2019

This book was a difficult read as the endless metaphors became tedious and therefore, the plot was hard to follow. I struggled to stay engaged and did not enjoy the style of writing. I may try and re-read this book in a few years, once I am more comfortable with the mature language.

Jan 10, 2019

One of my favourite books to read and to teach. When I first read it umpteen years ago I found it hard work, but I've since realised that that is the point, really. You have to read it slowly, reread parts of it, digest it. Put it into context. And also note what we are told in the book of the internal narrator Marlow's tales, that they are not straightforward in meaning. That applies to the text as a whole. Read it and absorb it all, and you will be amply rewarded. If you want something to read quickly for fun, look elsewhere, folks.

Oct 15, 2018

a pleasant journey into the depth of wild +++

How the author could put that story together is a mystery.

Andrew Kyle Bacon
May 17, 2018

Am I glad to be done with this awful book.

To be clear, I enjoy classics. I'm big fan of The Idiot and Dracula, and I read quite a bit and usually very quickly. But this book took me a long time considering its rather short length, and it was a snooze. The prose is so thick as to be impenetrable. There is only ever so much useless, pointless pontification which I can take in with my two eyes before the superfluous excess of verbiage overwhelms my senses reducing me to an aching pile of why the crap am I reading this?

DPLnate Apr 04, 2018

And this also,” said Marlow out of nowhere, “has been one of the darkest places of the earth.” Vivid, hallucinatory, haunting.

Feb 01, 2018

This story was quite a different storyline than I had ever read before; The underlying messages and plot were not obvious, and certain scenes and phrases really made you think. This is a very challenging book, and I would not recommend letting young children attempt it, on account of gross themes such as cannibalism, and the very classic literary language most children would probably not understand. But, if you are in your teens or adulthood and can handle harder words, then I would definitely recommend this! The story is very exciting, and the characters are very in depth and interesting to read about.

Oberösterreich99 Jan 18, 2018

However much I enjoyed the book, it seemed the underlying messages and themes were more important than the actual characters and their actions. I understood that Kurtz was corrupted by the jungle and reverted to its barbarism, whereas he was once idealistic and had great ambitions, but I felt that the actual extent of his evil was poorly exemplified. By this I mean, the spikes or the personal cult, not the treatment of the natives, which was seen as correct in that time. Although that may just be my reading of the book. Otherwise, the themes were profound and the image painted of imperialism conveys just what it did to the native inhabitants and the people bequeathed with the 'white mans burden'.

Jun 12, 2017

Conrads semi-autobiographical novel is a must read. Although I t's a compelling, surreal story about African conquest, the true heart of darkness is that which resides within man. Read it then treat yourself to Apocalypse Now (redacted version). Even if you think you know the movie, you'll understand it very differently after this book.

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Jun 25, 2019

Sethem thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

Feb 01, 2018

rslars001 thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

Oberösterreich99 Jan 18, 2018

Oberösterreich99 thinks this title is suitable for All Ages

velociraptor jesus
Apr 03, 2011

velociraptor jesus thinks this title is suitable for All Ages

Jul 24, 2010

mbazal thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over


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ArapahoeMaryA Feb 09, 2017

Like a running blaze on a plain, like a flash of lightning in the clouds. We live in the flicker.

No, it is impossible; it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one’s existence--that which makes its truth, its meaning--its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream--alone.

Dec 22, 2010

"The horror! The horror!"

Jul 24, 2010

"The word ‘ivory’ rang in the air, was whispered, was sighed. You would think they were praying to it. A taint of imbecile rapacity blew through it all, like a whiff from some corpse. By Jove! I’ve never seen anything so unreal in my life. And outside, the silent wilderness surrounding this cleared speck on the earth struck me as something great and invincible, like evil or truth, waiting patiently for the passing away of this fantastic invasion.”

“The brown current ran swiftly out of the heart of darkness, bearing us down towards the sea with twice the speed of our upward progress; and Kurtz’s life was running swiftly, too, ebbing, ebbing out of his heart into the sea of inexorable time. . . . I saw the time approaching when I would be left alone of the party of ‘unsound method.’”


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Jul 24, 2010

Heart of Darkness (1902) grew out of a journey Joseph Conrad took up the Congo River, and the verisimilitude that the great novelist thereby brought to his most famous tale everywhere enhances its dense and shattering power. Heart of Darkness is a model of economic storytelling, an indictment of the inner and outer turmoil caused by the European imperial misadventure, and a piercing account of the fragility of the human soul.

FavouriteFiction Sep 30, 2009

A sailor takes a ship up the Congo river in search of a ivory trader.


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Jul 24, 2010

Violence: This title contains Violence.

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