Heart of Darkness

By Joseph Conrad,

Book cover of Heart of Darkness

Book description

Although Polish by birth, Joseph Conrad (1857–1924) is regarded as one of the greatest writers in English, and Heart of Darkness, first published in 1902, is considered by many his "most famous, finest, and most enigmatic story." — Encyclopaedia Britannica. The tale concerns the journey of the narrator (Marlow) up…

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Why read it?

11 authors picked Heart of Darkness as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Joseph Conrad is the grand master of storytelling! A captivating read for those who love this genre of writing, it's totally addictive from beginning to end. It's a story that you never tire of returning to (I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read it).

If you are interested in humanity and, in particular, man’s inhumanity to man, you will love this novel. Being that the film Apocalypse Now was based on this story shows its importance.

It's a delightful, must-read, a great start for any reader indulging in Conrad for the first time. I’m a real fan.…

I had always wanted to read Heart of Darkness as I was a fan of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, which is based on it. 

When my book club read Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, which is in part a response to Conrad, it seemed like the next logical book. It is a profoundly ironic recounting of European colonialism. Conrad’s prose is luminous, even as the story is dark. The narrative is very compelling as are the characters. I actually read it twice this year!

Conrad’s account of a futile pilgrimage up the Congo, as recounted by the unreliable narrator Marlow, has inspired many more works than its modernist contemporaries, and is by turns terribly unnerving and deeply, darkly comic.

Critics claim that the novel has received more academic analysis than any other English novel, and has thus shaped literary criticism; it has also provoked trenchant creative responses such as Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart.

It was adapted for radio by Orson Welles, and for TV by Nic Roeg, but of course the most stunning version is Francis Ford Coppola’s movie Apocalypse Now…

From Nick's list on inspiring creativity.

Talking about must reads. Everybody has read this one, right?

A masterpiece of narration, written by a Polish immigrant and published in 1902. It is a true classic. If you want be become a writer, you must read this book – and then read it again, and again.

This is storytelling at the highest level. The movie Apocalypse Now is based on this story. And very much so, although the setting is quite different. Almost every scene in the book was used in the movie.

This is a book about a journey; a journey up a river and also a…

The atmosphere of this book is downright spooky and mysterious from cover to cover, which is one thing I really love about it. Conrad masterfully unravels the dark tone of the novel with a heavy dose of foreboding till the very end, working its literary lather throughout the fabric of the story like someone creeping up on you from behind as you watch a scary movie. It’s not technically a scientific book per se other than delving deep into the recesses of the dark side of human nature and deviant psychology with regard to Kurtz’s madness. But, on that basis…

Seeing Africa and the dangers of Western assumption played out on that raw terrain was Conrad’s genius. The “otherness” of that land, reflected in actions and reactions by Marlow stand as examples of seeing reality dissolve in favor of desperate perspective needed to survive. The depth of truth here, the experience he brings to the reader of a land people think (mistakenly) has changed are unique and prescient.

Joseph Conrad, one of the most famous novelists in English in the early 20th century, was born in Ukraine to a Polish family. His first career was in the merchant marine, taking him to many parts of the world ruled by European empires. Heart of Darkness was based on his own observations as a ship captain in the Congo. It’s tough but compelling. Conrad’s indictment of the terrible atrocities committed by ivory traders, in King Leopold of Belgium’s personal fiefdom, shows the brutal treatment of enslaved labourers. But it also has gender at its heart. The fictional Captain Marlow…

Conrad was one of the great writers of his generation, not because of his eloquence, but because of his sense of adventure. But Conrad’s adventure was always about a personal journey–the journey every person has to take to achieve something of greatness. Conrad’s journies often challenged his protagonists to their extremes, to their limits. And they didn’t always find redemption; sometimes they found failure. However, the reader always finds newfound perspective, and often hopes to create a better world.

From Zoltan's list on to launch your best artistic self.

I loved how Marlowe retained a sense of wonder while steering himself into the darkness, while surrounded by those who did not wonder about it but only wanted to exploit it. I realized you could wonder about something without judging, or at the very least wonder through a lens of empathy. While I have always been empathetic, Marlowe made me realize perhaps I was often empathetic (and wonderous and sympathetic) to things I really already understood, and that for things that were in the darkness I substituted wonder for anxiety. Marlow’s wonder motivated me to look at the shadows with…

“The horror, the horror,” are the words famously uttered by Conrad’s anti-hero Kurtz (and by Marlon Brando’s character in Apocalypse Now) near the end of the Polish-born author’s riveting short novel. Conrad’s central character Marlowe narrates a slow voyage up the Congo River to a land ruled by Kurtz, a Belgian who has lost his sanity and, in the end, his life. This magically written book explores the meaning of “civilization” and “savagery” and suggests that it’s Europeans rather than Africans who are the real savages. Although Marlowe tells most of the story, there is another, unnamed, narrator who frames…

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