“We live as we dream – alone. While the dream disappears, the life continues painfully.”
― Joseph Conrad
Why I’m Reading this Book?
I was looking for a good but small book and while browsing for something like that, I came across this book. It was in the list of books which are so small there is no excuse for not reading. So, I didn’t think of any excuse and downloaded and started reading it.
A British man telling about his time, sometimes in late 19th century, in Congo, Africa colonized under the rule of King Leopold II of Belgium, to his friends , his opinion on administrations, procedures, local people and his quest to reach a charismatic man called Mr. Kurtz.
This is not exactly a nail-biter and even though it was a small book of about 200 pages, it was hard to read. With lot of symbolism, complex use of words and inherent racist theme, it was quite difficult to stick to it, but I carried on.
There is a parallel opinion along with its being categorized as classic, i.e., this book dehumanizes African people and shouldn’t be considered a classic. Most strongly raised by one of my favorite writers, Chinua Achebe and after reading the book, I could understand it.
Heart of darkness is about Mr. Kurtz heart going dark, his descent into madness. Author tried to show the parallel between African and European and said both are equally capable of darkness. But this logic is inherently flawed, it assumes that africans by default are ‘Savages’ and European can be too. Marlow (Story-teller) sees the decline of Mr. Kurtz, nearly dies himself and then come back home enlightened. It’s the same kind of enlightenment you can get after murdering someone and then understanding murder is bad.
On surface level, story looks like anti-imperialist, where narrator is somewhat horrified seeing the state of natives at the hands of colonist, but it feels like mere observation and he takes it as normal course of life. At the heart of the book is degradation of Mr. Kurtz from a high intelligent being to raving lunatic and it feels, for that, Africa itself is the culprit. Many times, its weather, its people, their ‘lack’ of civilization bears the blame for Europeans going mad. Yet their regular coming for trade, looting everything, mistreating natives was never properly addressed in book , in-fact Marlow itself falls into this category and he thinks nothing of it.
So, I completely agree that although established in Africa, this is not a book about Africa, it’s about a European going mad because he went to a bad place. It’s the cribbing of a person, who goes somewhere on his own volition, uninvited, finds the life hard, and comes back crying.
None of the black character in the book has a name, they are referred to as savages, cannibals , rebels, boy , if this is not dehumanizing I don’t know what is. So, why did i like this book and think it was good to read it. Because it’s always good to read about people who don’t think like you. There are two types of European in the story, cruel and gentle. And at first glance you would think gentle one’s are better. But by doing nothing and just standing there, even they are participating in the ongoing horror and condoning it. Though as an author it doesn’t seem to be the intent of story, but as a 21st century reader, one can definitely get this meaning out of this book.
My Rating — 3
On the scale of: (1- Hate , 2- Neither like nor dislike, 3- Like, 4- Love, 5- Gaga)
I liked this book not because it was a good story, but because it made me think. It made me think about the people who think they are not racist but they are. It made me come across this brilliant essay by Chinua Achebe.
Why anyone else should read this Book?
First, This is a small book, I finished it in one sitting.
Second, it’s a controversial book, some call it racist, some anti-colonist. Whatever it is, it’s always good to read such books and expand your own understandings.
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Have you read it? Are you planning to? What is your opinion? Share them here. Till next time, Happy Reading Folks!!!