Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad – review
Phil Mongredien takes another trip up that African river…
In 1890, Joseph Conrad, an officer aboard the Roi des Belges, sailed up the River Congo into the hinterland of the Congo Free State, in effect the private fiefdom of King Leopold of Belgium. Eight years later, just as details of Leopold’s genocidal regime began to become public, Conrad’s experiences there inspired him to write Heart of Darkness, as powerful a condemnation of imperialism as has ever been written, and still a deeply unsettling read more than a century on.
The novella centres on the efforts of Marlow, Conrad’s alter ego, to travel up an unnamed African river on behalf of his employer in order to bring back a rogue ivory trader, Mr Kurtz. Kurtz’s reputation precedes him: “He is a prodigy… an emissary of pity and science and progress.” Yet as Marlow gets closer to Kurtz, there is the growing suggestion that he has in some way become corrupted and descended into savagery.
The further upstream Marlow gets, the more intense the sense of impending danger, with cryptic warnings and a bloody ambush ratcheting up the tension. When Marlow finally reaches Kurtz’s camp, he discovers a scene of unimaginable depravity. The dying Kurtz is taken aboard the boat (along with a prodigious quantity of ivory), but he does not survive the journey back downstream. With Marlow present, his chilling last words are “The horror! The horror!”
It is tempting to see Heart of Darkness as a masterfully constructed parable on human nature (witness Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola’s film adaptation, in which the action was transposed to south-east Asia) but as historian Adam Hochschild has pointed out in King Leopold’s Ghost, about the king’s rape of the Congo, Conrad himself was quite clear that it was based on specific events he had witnessed, saying it was “experience… pushed a little (and only very little) beyond the actual facts of the case”. Despite his protestations, this is undeniably an invaluable historical document offering a glimpse into the horrific human consequences of the imperial powers’ scramble for Africa as much as it is a compelling tale.
After reading this article on the book that was adapted to make apocalypse now I learnt from the bit highlighted that although it was an actual real life event in time, the book did make it out to sound slightly different to what actually happened. Although the book still does give a clear explanation onto various events and feelings that occurred. Francis Ford Coppola adapted his film from the book which could effect how real and accurate it was to the real Vietnam war.
Source from wordpress blog from Erin Lombard published in 15th December 2013.
Since its release in 1979, Apocalypse Now has become one of the most epic and well-known American war movies set during the conflict in Vietnam. Using this controversial historical backdrop, Apocalypse Now explores the depths of the human mind and its constant battle between good and evil. The historical accuracy of the movie and its use as a primary source is analyzed through the examination of the movie, as well as the use of both primary and secondary sources.
After reading this blog I learnt there was a lot of untrue historic details that were inaccurate. The geography of the film was one of the most accurate things as real historic events did happen in the Saigon River it was set there although wasn’t actually filmed there.