Heart of Darkness

By Joseph Conrad
Produced by Another Time...Another Place
Read by David Case

3.97 Hours 12/01/1998 unabridged
Format:
  • Regular Price: $11.95

    Special Price $4.00

    or 1 Credit

    ISBN: 9781455170647

  • $5.95

    ISBN: 9781482110623

  • $19.95

    ISBN: 9781433203824

  • $19.95

    ISBN: 9781433203831

Compelling, exotic, and suspenseful, Heart of Darkness is far more than just an adventure story. The novel explores deep into the dark regions of the hearts and souls of its characters and into the conflicts prevalent in more “primitive” cultures. It is also a striking picture of the moral deterioration that can result from prolonged isolation. Marlow, the story’s narrator, tells his friends of an experience in the Congo where he once ran a river steamer for a trading company. He tells of the ivory traders’ cruel exploitation of the natives there. Chief among these is a greedy and treacherous European named Kurtz, who has used savagery to obtain semidivine power over the natives. While Marlow tries to get Kurtz back down the river, Kurtz tries to justify his actions, asserting that he has seen into the very heart of things.

Learn More
Membership Details
  • Only $12.99/month gets you 1 Credit/month
  • Cancel anytime
  • Hate a book? Then we do too, and we'll exchange it.
See how it works in 15 seconds

Summary

Summary

One of Modern Library's 100 Best English-Language Novels of the Twentieth Century

Compelling, exotic, and suspenseful, Heart of Darkness is far more than just an adventure story. The novel explores deep into the dark regions of the hearts and souls of its characters and into the conflicts prevalent in more “primitive” cultures. It is also a striking picture of the moral deterioration that can result from prolonged isolation.

Marlow, the story’s narrator, tells his friends of an experience in the Congo where he once ran a river steamer for a trading company. He tells of the ivory traders’ cruel exploitation of the natives there. Chief among these is a greedy and treacherous European named Kurtz, who has used savagery to obtain semidivine power over the natives. While Marlow tries to get Kurtz back down the river, Kurtz tries to justify his actions, asserting that he has seen into the very heart of things.

Editorial Reviews

Editorial Reviews

“Heart of Darkness has had an influence that goes beyond the specifically literary. This parable of a man’s ‘heart of darkness’ dramatized in the alleged ‘Dark Continent’ of Africa transcended its late Victorian era to acquire the stature of one of the great, if troubling, visionary works of western civilization.” Joyce Carol Oates
“Once experienced, it is hard to let Heart of Darkness go. A masterpiece of surprise, of expression, and psychological nuance, of fury at colonial expansion and of how men make the least of life, the novella is like a poem, endlessly readable and worthy of rereading.” Telegraph (London)
“One of literature’s most somber fictions. It explores fundamental questions about man’s nature: his capacity for evil; the necessity for restraint; the effect of physical darkness and isolation on a civilized soul; and the necessity of relinquishing pride for one’s own spiritual salvation.” Masterpieces of World Literature
“Born to Polish parents in what is now known as the Ukraine, Joseph Conrad would become one of the greatest writers in the English language…He not only solidified his place in the panethon of great novelists, but also established himself as a keen-eyed chronicler of the social and political themes that animated the contemporary world around him.” John G. Peters, author of Conrad and Impressionism

Reviews

Reviews

by Bertie Wooster 9/13/2017
Overall Performance
Narration
Story

Still the Most Powerful Piece of Short Fiction I've Ever Read

“Any work that aspires, however humbly, to the condition of art should carry its justification in every line.”

I don’t know if Conrad said that before or after he had written Heart of Darkness, but he certainly lives up to it in this book.

The writing itself is as lush and exotic as the landscape and people it describes. Every sentence accumulates, like the overhanging, overlapping foliage along the riverbanks, adding to the brooding atmosphere of strangeness, savagery, imbecility, futility, boredom and incipient violence. The book's very form conveys its meaning, above and beyond the words. And the power of those words and that form came home to me all over again; I was amazed how much of this story has stuck with me since I first read it in high school. Conrad came to the English language as an outsider and, like a convert to a new religion, appreciated its possibilities and power more than most of us who have grown up in it.

Not having read Heart of Darkness since high school, much of the story’s impenetrability vanished in the glare of 30-odd years of real life experience. Back then I understood the critique of colonialism and, to a certain extent, the futility of human effort in the face of natural forces. Now I can see deeper into the darkness. I get the double-edged sword of ideals, especially when they are assumed as a cover for more nefarious aims. And I get that those ideals can still be, by some weird mental calculus, sincerely half-believed even in the face of their manifest hollowness. And now I understand how Marlow can, for all his (and our) revulsion, admire Kurtz for the forthright honesty of his final words, an indictment of himself as well as the enterprise of which he was a part.

But to peg the book merely an indictment of colonialism or progress or the West is to make it a pamphlet rather than a work of art. Conrad was too great a writer to be that flat-footed and one-dimensional. And it is not altogether true, either. Part of Kurtz’s moral failure—one of the things that revolts Marlow the most—is his surrender to the very jungle he was supposedly sent to tame. It’s easy enough to see and despise the rapaciousness of Kurtz and the “pilgrims” who want so desperately to take his place. It’s harder to step back, look at the larger picture and see the ways in which we, good anti-colonialists that we are, may nevertheless resemble him.

Heart of Darkness is the third work of fiction I have listened to that deals with the theme of overstepping boundaries. Quite unintentionally, I picked three books in a row: Crime and Punishment, The Picture of Dorian Grey and Heart of Darkness, all profound excursions into the consequences of stepping beyond the bounds of what is acceptable—not just to “society” but to ourselves, to the voice of conscience that persists and grows louder the more we try to stifle it.

The truth is, the evil, greedy colonialists have some idea of boundaries, a sense that certain practices are not to be countenanced. As one admits, Kurtz has “ruined” the region in which he operated. And while a purely business judgment without any reference to morality, it adds yet another dimension to Kurtz’s transgression. Similarly, the cannibals Marlow hires for the trip refrain from trying to eat their fellow crewmembers, in spite of a gnawing hunger (Marlow speculates that it might have been a kind of honor that restrained them). In the end Kurtz is completely “alone,” with nothing “above him or below him”, inhabiting neither the savage nor the civilized world. Unfortunately, you and I don’t have to be driven by an inordinate lust for ivory (Kurtz) or long to be a Nietzschean superman (Raskolnikov) or desire to avoid the ravages of age and sin (Dorian Grey) to end up in the same place.

Frederick Davidson’s performance leaves something to be desired. At times Conrad’s sentence structure surprises him and throws off his usually impeccable pacing. In a few places important words or ideas are slurred over and you need to hit the rewind button. But overall Davidson is still Davidson, and he is well equipped to express the brooding atmosphere, subtle insinuations and acidic ironies in which this book abounds.

Author

Author Bio: Joseph Conrad

Joseph Conrad (Józef Teodor Konrad Nalecz Korzeniowski) (1857–1924) was born in Ukraine. Raised by an uncle after the death of his parents, he educated himself by reading widely in Polish and French. At age twenty-one he began a long career sailing the seas on French merchant vessels, after which he went to London and began writing, using the romance and adventure of his own life for his incomparable sea novels.

Titles by Author

See All

Details

Details

Available Formats : Digital Download, Digital Rental, CD, MP3 CD
Category: Fiction/Classics
Runtime: 3.97
Audience: Adult
Language: English