Laughter and books make life a little easier

Day 09 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like, but ended up loving

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This post is part of a month-long series of pre-dated posts running while I am on holiday. Feel free to comment, I’ll get back to you when I return!
Please note that any “reviews” I write here are simply my own opinion and that I am not doing any objective, informative reviews for this challenge. If there are any spoilers in a post, I will indicate it at the top.
I draw the book covers straight from Goodreads and you can click on the images to go to the book’s page on there.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad was one of the books that was prescribed to us in my first year of English. I was seriously doubting the book as I was just looking at it. It is only a little 80-pager, but it was already tiring me just by looking at it. I was right, I didn’t like the book as I read it before class. Conrad’s writing is hard. He has one of the oddest styles that I have yet met while studying English. Apparently, this is because English was his third language and he learned it late in life. Therefore he was unable to think directly in it. He translated in his head as he wrote his books in his head. I think that is extremely impressive, for someone who left a legacy like he did.

When I read the book, I was extremely confused. It’s a framed narration, so it jumps between past and present, which I would not normally consider a problem, but Conrad does this without any indication of what is happening. Not a little star in the middle of the page, not some whitespace, nothing. It simply jumps in the middle of nowhere. Therefore, you are never quite sure who is speaking and what the location is this time. It’s a hard book and I was confused and annoyed. I hardly understood anything that was going on in there. Then the classes started on Heart of Darkness. Bit by bit, everything that confused and puzzled me about this book was cleared up. Bit by bit, I came to love it. I know most people did not like it. I know most said it was too heavy going and that they did not get what this book was going on about. Sometimes, I felt so lonely in class, because I was always getting the idea that I was the only one to love this book. I couldn’t even gush about how wonderful it was to anyone else, because no one else was interested in listening. Oh well.

 

Heart of Darkness refers, amongst other things, to the darkness in the heart of every person. Therefore, this is a novel that believes that every person is born with an inherent darkness in them. All people are rotted at the heart. But not all act on it, of course. This is a novel about how power corrupts and how society degenerates far from the centre of culture. It is set in Africa, Dark Africa of the colonial age. It shows the corruption of colonial officials. It shows the cruelty, the pain, because this is all part of the “heart of darkness”. Like it keeps referring to the heart of darkness, this is a dark novel. I love it. I love the darkness and how it comments on society. I think though this book may be set in a different age of the world, it is still just as relevant to today’s society.

 

But I admit, it is a hard book to read. You need an explanation as you are reading. An annotated version would help, or even better, a reader’s companion. My copy did not have fancy stuff like that and it is a pity, because otherwise I might have understood it with the first read. Perhaps it would have been even more enjoyable then.

I would recommend Heart of Darkness to anyone who is interested in man’s inherently dark and corrupt nature and enjoys social commentary, criticism and cynicism.

 

Prepare yourselves for a bumper post tomorrow about my favourite classic book!

Sig3

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8 responses

  1. I was assigned to read this book in school too. I did like it and so many movies have been made out of this story.

    June 29, 2012 at 18:10

    • Yep, and so many other books have intertextual references to it. Shortly into my second year I realised why we did this book in the first: because we need to have read it to understand so many other prescribed books! 😉

      July 1, 2012 at 00:19

  2. Pretty much my thoughts on the book, except I wouldn’t say that I loved it. But I do think it was well done and appreciate its brilliance. Actually, I’d meant to write a post on this interesting little book but never got around to it. 😉

    June 29, 2012 at 23:21

    • Yes, I feel that way too. I mean, it’s not on my favourite constant-reread list, but I did grow to love it and it definitely exceeded my expectations! 😀

      July 1, 2012 at 00:21

  3. I love books on man’s fallen nature. Which sounds funny, because I can’t stand a non-happy ending, and I’m pretty much the perkiest person alive. 😛 But still! I always believed that man–ANY man or woman–is capable of true darkness, and it is only by God’s help some are prevented from acting on it. So I’d love to read this book some day. 🙂 And the fact that the author’s third language was English makes it even more intriguing!

    June 30, 2012 at 04:43

    • Me too! But then, I’m cynical, morbid and melancholy. 😉 And I have a thing for a non-happy ending.
      I must just say I agree with you on darkness and God’s help.
      I believe he was Polish by birth. Then he went to sea and learned French. Only late in his life he came to England and learned English. At least, that’s the way I remember it. His real name wasn’t Joseph Conrad either. It’s something similar, but I could never learn how to spell it! 😉

      July 1, 2012 at 00:25

      • Oh, question! Were you the one who reviewed “The Night Circus” a while back? I’m reading it now because someone said it was amazing. So far I’m really enjoying it, but now I can’ remember who’s recommendation I took. 😛
        Yeah, the only non-happy endings I’m okay with are open-ended, leaving room for a lot of fan fiction which end happy. I’m terrible, I know. 😛
        That’s awesome. I can’t seem to stick to a foreign language to learn. I can speak teeny bits of several languages, but I’m not fluent in anything other than English. I want to change that. I think it would be incredible to speak more than one. But more than two…!!

        July 1, 2012 at 09:43

      • No, it couldn’t have been me because I haven’t read it yet. 😉 I hear it’s good, though!
        I study languages after all, so I’m up to four now. But I’m not very fluent – lots of umh-ing and ah-ing! 😛

        July 20, 2012 at 00:27

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