Review of HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad
FACTS ABOUT THE BOOK
Title: Heart of Darkness
Author: Joseph Conrad
Publisher: Amazon Fulfillment
Genre: Adventure, (Historical) Fiction
WHAT IS IT ABOUT?
I find it very hard to answer that question, even, or especially after reading the book.
The book starts with some men on a boat and proceeds with one of those men telling the others of his voyage into the heart of Africa. The rest of the book then consists out of this retelling. The story shows many encounters between the white and black men in a time when the blacks were treated shockingly and horridly.
MY OPINION ON THE BOOK
It was very hard for me to get into the story because it is written in a very unclear and vague way. The storytelling does never stick to any real plot but breaks too often out of the actual story to tell some more. That "more" loses itself and therefore also the reader in an awful lot of words.
This book uses a very elaborate amount of English words and feels at times as though that is its sole purpose: to use as many different and eloquent English words as possible, while completely forgetting about the actual plot. This extremity felt a lot like showing off to me and made the reading very hard and tiring.
I was surprised by the fact that the direct speech always seemed quite realistic because of all the filling words as "you know" and the repetition of the same word to connect to what had previously been said. That felt very authentic and made clear that there was someone telling a story to others the whole time.
The fact that the book consisted so largely out of the retelling of a story reminded me a lot of "The Time Machine", another late 19th century novel that I've recently read. (You can read my review to it if you click here.)
I really liked the feel of actual direct speech while reading the book, because it balanced out the otherwise extremely elaborate use of English.
I also enjoyed it whenever the narrator interrupted his retelling to refer to his listeners because I felt like that kept the storytelling a tiny bit fresher.
This book has a very old and problematic portrayal of women. Since women didn't appear that often throughout the story, this was not a prominent issue but some sentences still struck me as quite misogynistic.
Speaking of problematic issues - this book is also very racist. There are many debates about that fact but I could absolutely not deny it while reading it. The book draws such a strict line between white and black people and sees the black people as a completely different and lower species, through the eyes of the narrator. It also really surprised and shocked me that such a racist book is still being read in school and university classes because I don't really see how you could not read it as racist.
The black people aren't even given a human word to be described by but rather animalistic and abstract ones - always negatively connotated ones.
Throughout the story I felt like it's never made quite clear what the narrator's opinion on the treatment of the black people actually is. He seems to see and name the brutality and cruelity but doesn't really judge anyone negatively for it.
The 100 pages consist out of too much unnecessary information that made me fall asleep a few times over reading it. The narrator obviously loves telling stories and loves to have listeners, but he takes an eternity to get to any actual point. If everything that actually happens plotwise in the retelling would have been written down, the book would probably have been about 20 pages long.
It also feels like the narrator trys to explore every tiny detail of his story while telling it. If there just hadn't been so many unnecessary pages, the book would have been a thousand times more enjoyable.
I really tormented myself through this book. It was extremely hard to concentrate on the story because it was so unclear. I couldn't imagine anything that was written there and always read the words but never understood what they wanted to tell me. Unforunately, it was very easy to drift away while reading it. I often read a page and didn't get what it meant at all.
Still I have to acknowledge that there were sometimes quite beautifully expressed sentences within this book.
The first half of the book was already quite exhausting, but the storytelling hit an extreme low point in the middle and didn't manage to get any better from thereon. It was so incredibly boring and a torture to force myself to read it til the end. I fell asleep multiple times while reading it.
The actual plot falls completely in the background because the focus isn't on the action but on the description or analysing or who knows on what. I didn't actually get what the focus was supposed to be on after a while. It takes ages for anything to actually happen and after something has then finally happened, it takes another eternity until another thing happens. This is also why one could basically sum up the actual plot of this story in one minute; but the plot isn't really what the majority of this book is about.
It's not only a hard but also a demotivating read, which is why I again can't understand why one would still force young people to read it nowadays. It makes you hate reading which is something so unfortunate to happen to young ones.
It was very hard to keep track of who is saying what, when people where speaking in the book because it was all blurry and unclear and hard to understand.
The last pages were suddenly written with less words and were much clearer to understand then the whole part before. Unfortunately, that contrast went into the other extreme and felt rather dull and stupidly repetitive and so out of touch with the rest of the book.
Here's one gif to sum up this whole reading experience:
(source: https://68.media.tumblr.com/ec9478f0101bca479583aa64740bd471/tumblr_o3p0siSsfy1t20a5ho1_400.gif )