Heart of Darkness

Conrad, Joseph

Book - 1999
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
Heart of Darkness
Heart of Darkness exposes the tenuous fabric that holds "civilization" together and the brutal horror at the center of European colonialism. Conrad recounts Marlow's physical and psychological journey deep into the heart of the Belgian Congo in search of the mysterious trader Kurtz.

Publisher: New York : Penguin Books, 1999
ISBN: 0140281630
Branch Call Number: FICTION CONRAD
Characteristics: 146 p. ;,22 cm


From Library Staff

"Resting one night on a boat on the River Thames, Charlie Marlow tells his friends about his experiences as a steamboat captain on the River Congo. There, in the heart of Africa, his search for the extraordinary Mr Kurtz caused him to question his own nature and values - and the natu... Read More »

Comment by: multcolib_susannel May 28, 2014

Where IS the 'heart of darkness'-in the jungle or in your soul? Inspiration for the movie Apocalypse Now .

Where IS the 'heart of darkness'-in the jungle or in your soul? Inspiration for the movie Apocalypse Now .

A dark allegorical masterpiece based on the author's own traumatic experiences in the Belgian Congo, recounts the voyage of Marlow up the Congo River in search of the mysterious Mr. Kurtz - a white trader whose domination of the local natives had transformed him into a depraved and abominable tyr... Read More »

Heart of Darkness deals powerfully with racism and colonialism, but author Chinua Achebe (above on this list) criticized it for dehumanizing portrayals of Africans, making the reading of the two novels together even more fruitful.

From the critics

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Dec 20, 2014
  • Folly rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

A wonderful book, older style of writing.

Jun 04, 2014
  • mclarjh rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

My rating is for the illustrations, not the text.

May 28, 2014

Where IS the 'heart of darkness'-in the jungle or in your soul? Inspiration for the movie Apocalypse Now .

May 28, 2013

This format does not include any paragraphs, often has blank pages, marks with a number within the text each time a page number advances, and worst of all... there is a huge section that is out of order!! Incredibly discombobulating and hard to read.

May 21, 2013
  • britprincess1 rated this: 0.5 stars out of 5.

Awful. I read this book when I was studying postcolonialism in literature, but I would never have gotten through it otherwise. It is just awful. This novella proves that it really doesn't matter how short a book is; it can sometimes be even harder to read as a longer but better book.

Nov 22, 2012
  • abkeller rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This is the horrific tale of Marlow, a British seaman who traveled to Africa for the Company, but narrowly escaped death. On the distant foreign continent, the division between white men and the natives was acute. Even in the blistering heat, some of the transplanted Englishmen sternly clung to their civilized ways, sporting pristine white long sleeved shirts and elaborately tied ties, while the natives peered from the thick undergrowth with startlingly white eyes.

Here, the jungle was so green, it was almost black. The heat and danger were oppressive and the needs of the colonists woefully misunderstood back in England. Often, the Company showered them with copper wire and cheap beads meant to impress the natives, when what they really needed was rivets to patch up a leaky steamboat.

The power struggle within the Company left Marlow out of touch and forgotten in the vast wilderness. Suddenly, he realized just how alone he truly was.

In time, Marlow came to meet Kurtz, the mysterious agent with supposedly supernatural powers. Kurtz was a “wizard” of sorts. He dealt with the African natives with effortless ease, seemingly as at home in the bush as in a London parlor. Yet, when Marlow found Kurtz, he was very ill, a prisoner among the natives, a captive of the circumstances and the life he’d been forced to endure.

How many of us walk a similar road in our lives? How thin are the trappings of civilization and how fragile life is! For those of us who realize our frailty comes the truth of self-knowledge and a rare wisdom worthy of the ages.

Jun 28, 2012
  • filmguy86 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

As estimated by the review in the back of the book, it took me 7 to 8 hours to read this tiny novella (dictionary time included). The stream of consciousness was hard to follow at times, but with some focus, it surely added to a feeling of intoxication. "The Heart of Darkness" left me morally vulnerable, apt to reflect on my thoughts. I recommend that readers also try "Season of Migration to the North," which follows the story of an African man who travels to England.

Apr 06, 2012
  • Grace_Kalman rated this: 0.5 stars out of 5.

Gack. Gack again. When you put down a book, it shouldn't be that hard to find your place again. You should be able to remember the parts you read, and parts you haven't read shouldn't seem familiar. The symbolism wasn't even that impressive. All in all, it was confusing, overly wordy, and depressing.
And lest you think me a philistine, I have read and enjoyed Jane Eyre, Les Miserables, Crime and Punishment, and All Quiet on the Western Front. But this was awful.

Feb 28, 2011
  • Noson rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This surely must be one of the great works of fictional imagination... a story within a story, full of false optimism. Written at a time when deep doubts about who is really civilized were rising to the surface of European life. Beautifully written and paced, with the haunting inner voice of Marlow not soon forgotten.

Jul 24, 2010
  • mbazal rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Such a scary horror story. It took me a few tries to understand this book fully.


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Apr 03, 2011
  • velociraptor jesus rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

velociraptor jesus thinks this title is suitable for All Ages

Jul 24, 2010
  • mbazal rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

mbazal thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over


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Dec 22, 2010
  • fusionlord rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

"The horror! The horror!"

Jul 24, 2010
  • mbazal rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

"The word ‘ivory’ rang in the air, was whispered, was sighed. You would think they were praying to it. A taint of imbecile rapacity blew through it all, like a whiff from some corpse. By Jove! I’ve never seen anything so unreal in my life. And outside, the silent wilderness surrounding this cleared speck on the earth struck me as something great and invincible, like evil or truth, waiting patiently for the passing away of this fantastic invasion.”

“The brown current ran swiftly out of the heart of darkness, bearing us down towards the sea with twice the speed of our upward progress; and Kurtz’s life was running swiftly, too, ebbing, ebbing out of his heart into the sea of inexorable time. . . . I saw the time approaching when I would be left alone of the party of ‘unsound method.’”


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Jul 24, 2010
  • mbazal rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Heart of Darkness (1902) grew out of a journey Joseph Conrad took up the Congo River, and the verisimilitude that the great novelist thereby brought to his most famous tale everywhere enhances its dense and shattering power. Heart of Darkness is a model of economic storytelling, an indictment of the inner and outer turmoil caused by the European imperial misadventure, and a piercing account of the fragility of the human soul.


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Jul 24, 2010
  • mbazal rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Violence: This title contains Violence.

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