Heart of Darkness (1899) is a short novel 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. Short Summary Aboard the Nellie, anchored in the River Thames near Gravesend, England, Charles Marlow tells his fellow sailors about the events that led to his appointment as captain of a river-steamboat for an ivory trading company. He describes his passage on ships to the wilderness to the Company's station, which strikes Marlow as a scene of devastation: disorganized, machinery parts here and there, periodic demolition explosions, weakened native black men who have been demoralized, in chains, literally being worked to death, and strolling behind them a white Company man in a uniform carrying a rifle. At this station Marlow meets the Company's chief accountant who tells him of a Mr. Kurtz, and explains that Kurtz is a first-class agent.
About the Author
Joseph Conrad (born; Berdichev, Imperial Russia, 3 December 1857 - 3 August 1924, Bishopsbourne, Kent, England) 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. Early life Joseph Conrad was born on 3 December 1857 in Berdichev, in Podolia, a part of modern Ukraine that had belonged to the Kingdom of Poland before the 1793 Second Partition of Poland. He was the only child of Apollo Korzeniowski and his wife Ewa Bobrowska. The father was a writer, translator, political activist and would-be revolutionary. Conrad, who would actually be known to his family as "Konrad" rather than "Jozef," was christened Jozef Teodor Konrad after his maternal grandfather Jozef, his paternal grandfather Teodor, and the heroes (both named "Konrad") of two poems by Adam Mickiewicz, Dziady and Konrad Wallenrod. Though the vast majority of the area's inhabitants were Ukrainians, the land was almost completely owned by the Polish szlachta (nobility) that Conrad's parents belonged to. Polish literature, particularly patriotic literature, was held in high esteem by the area's Polish population. Because of the father's attempts at farming and his political activism, the family moved repeatedly. In May 1861 they moved to Warsaw, where Apollo joined the resistance against the Russian Empire. This led to his imprisonment in Pavilion X (Ten) of the Warsaw Citadel. Conrad would write: " In the courtyard of this Citadel - characteristically for our nation - my childhood memories begin." On 9 May 1862 Apollo and his family were exiled to Vologda, 500 kilometres north of Moscow and known for its bad climate. In January 1863 Apollo's sentence was commuted, and the family was sent to Chernihiv in northeast Ukraine, where conditions were much better. However, on 18 April 1865 Ewa died of tuberculosis.