Heart of Darkness is a short novel written by Joseph Conrad, written as a frame narrative, about Charles Marlow's life as an ivory transporter down the Congo River in Central Africa. The river is "a mighty big river, that you could see on the map, resembling an immense snake uncoiled, with its head in the sea, its body at rest curving afar over a vast country, and its tail lost in the depths of the land." In the course of his travel in central Africa, Marlow becomes obsessed with Mr. Kurtz. The story is a complex exploration of the attitudes people hold on what constitutes a barbarian versus a civilized society and the attitudes on colonialism and racism that were part and parcel of European imperialism. Originally published as a three-part serial story, in Blackwood's Magazine, the novella Heart of Darkness has been variously published and translated into many languages. In 1998, the Modern Library ranked Heart of Darkness as the sixty-seventh of the hundred best novels in English of the twentieth century.
About the Author
Joseph Conrad was a Polish author who wrote in English after settling in England. He was granted British nationality in 1886, but always considered himself a Pole. Conrad is regarded as one of the greatest novelists in English, though he did not speak the language fluently until he was in his twenties (and always with a marked accent). He wrote stories and novels, often with a nautical setting, that depict trials of the human spirit in the midst of an indifferent universe. He was a master prose stylist who brought a distinctly non-English tragic sensibility into English literature. While some of his works have a strain of romanticism, his works are viewed as modernist literature. His narrative style and anti-heroic characters have influenced many authors, including D. H. Lawrence, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell: 254 Graham Greene, Malcolm Lowry, William Golding, William S. Burroughs, Joseph Heller, Italo Calvino, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, J. G. Ballard, John le Carre, V. S. Naipaul, Philip Roth, Hunter S. Thompson, J. M. Coetzee and Salman Rushdie. Films have been adapted from, or inspired by, Conrad's Almayer's Folly, An Outcast of the Islands, Heart of Darkness, Lord Jim, Nostromo, The Secret Agent, The Duel, Victory, The Shadow Line, and The Rover. Writing in the heyday of the British Empire, Conrad drew on his native Poland's national experiences and on his personal experiences in the French and British merchant navies, to create short stories and novels that reflect aspects of a European-dominated world, while plumbing the depths of the human soul. Appreciated early on by literary cognoscenti, his fiction and nonfiction have gained an almost prophetic cachet in the light of subsequent national and international disasters of the 20th and 21st centuries.