Joseph Conrad

May 10, 2006

Joseph Conrad.jpg

Born in Russia to Polish parents in exile
Sailor for 16 years
Learned English at the age of 21
British novelist
Ability to suggest the vibration, color, and form of distant places as well as the complexity of human responses to moments of moral crisis
Fascinated by the mystery of Africa

Heart of Darkness (1902)

“Darkness” is both a conventional metaphor for obscurity and evil and a common cliche referring to Africa and the “unenlightened” state of its indigenous population
Plays on images of darkness and savagery and complicates any simple opposition by associating moral darkness


“… but in the great demoralisation of the land he kept up his appearance.  That’s backbone.   His starched collars and got-up shirt-fronts were achievements of character.”

“You know I hate, detest, and can’t bear a lie, not because I am sraighter than the rest of us, but simply because it appals me.  There is a taint of death, a flavour of morality in lies- which is exactly what I hate and detest in the world- what I want to forget.”

“No, it is impossible; it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one’s existence- that which makes its truth, its meaning-its subtle and penetrating essence.  It is impossible.  We live, as we dream-alone…”

“Your own reality- for yourself, not for others- what no other man can ever know.  They can only see the mere show, and never can tell what it really means.”

“I saw him extend his short flipper of an arm for a gesture that took in the forest, the creek, the mud, the river- seemed tot beckon with a dishonouring flourish before the sunlit face of the land a treacherous appeal to the lurking death, to the hidden evil, to the profound darkness of its heart.”

“The earth seemed unearthly. We are accustomed to look upon the shackled form of a conquered monster, but there- there you could look at a thing monstrous and free. It was unearthly, and the men were- No, they were not inhuman. Well, you know, that was the worst of it- this suspicion of their not being inhuman. It would come slowly to one. They howled and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces; but what thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity-like yours- the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar.  Ugly.  Yes, it was ugly enough; but if you were man enough you would admit to yourself that there was in you just that faintest trace of a response to the terrible frankness of that noise, a dim suspicion of there being a meaning in it which you -you so remote form the night of first ages- could comprehend.”

“The thing was to know what he belonged to, how many powers of darkness claimed him for their own.  That was the relfection that made you creepy all over.  It was impossible- it was not good for either-;trying to imagine.  He had taken a high seat amongst the devils of the land- I mean literally.”

“But the wilderness had found him out early, and had taken on him a terrible vengeance for the fantastic invasion.  I think it had whispered to to him things about himself which he did not know, things of which he had no conception till he took counsel with this great solitude- and the whisper had proven irresistibly fascinating.  It echoed loudly within him because he was hollow at the core…”

“I was within a hair’s-breadth of the last opportunity for pronouncement, and I found with humiliation that probably I would have nothing t say.  This is the reason why I affirm that Kurtz was a remarkable man.  He had something to say.  He said it.”

“They were intruders whose knowledge of life was to me an irritating pretence, because I felt so sure they could not possibly know the things I knew.”


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