Monday, 3 November 2014

Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

Anchored somewhere in the Thames, a sailor tells his shipmates a story. A story about savages, a story about an amazing journey, a story about ivory.

Ok I hold my hands up. I read this because Stephen King mentioned it in his fabulously helpful book 'On Writing.' But I can only describe my experience of reading Heart of Darkness by saying it's a bit like reading Marmite. In parts the writing is faultless. Conrad's prose and use of imagery is in places exceptional and anybody wanting to improve their writing can learn so much from it. The book also gives a fascinating and gloomy insight into what atrocities were committed at the hands of the British Empire. Most of us roll our eyes up at some of the terrible things that are happening around the world at the moment but books like this are a startling reminder that were arguably just as bad at one time.

However this was also a difficult read. At times it was like reading a very long and annoying cryptic poem. For such a short book it did feel much longer and I wouldn't advise anybody to read it too quickly. There isn't much of a plot and I can't honestly say that I enjoyed it exactly, although I did appreciate some of the wonderful prose.

To sum up I'd say that reading Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness is like eating a very strange fruit. It's different and it tastes funny but it's not something you'd necessarily want to eat again in a hurry.
Fundamentally this is a story about power and greed. And coincidentally enough I can draw real parallels between this and my last read, The Great Gatsby. Both books revolving around selfishness and featuring mysterious elusive characters who come to a sudden, tragic end.

Did I appreciate it's educational merits? Yes. Did I enjoy it? Not really. Essentially books should be fun to read. This has no doubt been used around the world as an English homework staple but that doesn't mean it's fun!

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