Saturday, December 08, 2007

Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad

This audiobook was obtained free of charge from Overdrive Audio through the Alachua County Public Library. It was 3 hours and 58 minutes long. And although the file said it was narrated by Frederick Davidson, it is actually narrated by David Case.

This novella was originally released in 1902. It's the tale of a young sea captain who is assigned to a ship on a river in deepest Africa. He has just replaced another man who took his own life.

The young captain encounters many dangers while seeking an English-born local demigod who has all but cornered the local ivory trade. He rules his realm with absolute authority and, like every white man in the area, relies on the fears and superstitions of the natives to both rule and survive. The boat's shrill whistle does more to repel armed attack than a fusillade of rifles.

When our hero finds the "great man", he is close to death from cancer, and he never stops trying to stay in power up until the end. He dies in terrible fear, and the sea captain has to deliver the man's memoirs to his widow in England. Although he did not like or admire the man, he likewise helps to embellish the story of how great he was and how his last words were his beloved's name, instead of the actual, "The horror!"

This literary classic is seen by many as a depiction of the evil of mankind and how it hides beneath a thin veneer of civilization. No argument here. But it is also an entertaining piece of writing which recalls other stories of civilized English gentlemen being confronted with the alien strangeness of the jungle and less civilized people. I cannot give it less than 4 stars.

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