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