How's my Luck now?

Reflections, views and descriptions during my stay at IIM Lucknow from July 2004 to March 2006

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Location: India

Friday, May 27, 2005

'Heart of Darkness'

I have wanted to read this classic by Joseph Conrad (Penguin, 1994) for some time, and did so this week. First published in 1902, it is more of an extended short story than a novel. It has been pretty influential through the 20th century, including being the inspiration for Coppola's 'Apocalypse Now'.

A seaman called Marlow recounts to his friends on board a ship on the Thames his stay in the
Dark Continent - Africa - when colonisation by Europe had not yet become formal, and was at
the trading (and exploitation) stage. Marlow first moves to a Central Station of his Company, several hundred miles inland in Africa's dense forest, and then, along with the central station manager and several others, sails upstream on a big river right into the heart of darkness - the deepest of African forests. They are in search of a station manager called Kurtz (Marlon Brando's character in the film, name retained), who is their most productive manager, sending the largest quantity of ivory from his post. Moreover, Kurtz is known for his moralizing and his speeches, hearing of which, Marlow is pretty impressed with him.

But it is on approaching and meeting a badly ailing Kurtz that Marlow realizes that Kurtz is actually a tyrannous and cruel man who has set himself up as a God among the local people. Even though on his deathbed, Kurtz is extremely unwilling to go to the central station with his colleagues for treatment, so much does power attract him. Finally, he dies en route to the central station on the wooden vessel, and is buried there. But for his fiancee in Europe and all other people, he becomes a martyr, a noble hero who died in the cause of bringing light to the dark continent. Only Marlow realizes the true nature of Kurtz.

Although only a hundred-odd pages long, one must read each sentence closely and gauge the meaning that Conrad wishes to give to it. If one gives a thought to what Conrad describes, the whole thing is chilling - both the treatment of the native Africans by the whites, and the utter power that nature held in Africa over a stifled, ailing man.

7 Comments:

Blogger Darth Midnightmare said...

Why just Africa? The treatment of the natives by white men in every place they have ever been to is stunning in its cruelty and ruthlessness. The genocide of the Red Indians in North America, the massacre of the Aborigines in Australia, the apartheid in South Africa, the cruel repression throughout Africa, the cruelty in India etc etc.....these are just not documented, for the history we read is written by the whites......Sad but true....history is written by the winners.....and that is what we are fed on and brought up on....but the fact is that compared to the cruelty and massacre perpetrated by white man, even Islamic terrorism has a long way to go before it can catch up...

Mind you, I have not even mentioned the slaughter of the Saxons, the Crusades, the with-hunts etc.....a small stat, in the 15th and 16th century, approximately 1100 "witches" were burnt every year in England alone.....

5:06 AM  
Blogger Samrat said...

Great review ted.
i have also read it. but i gulped it down without chewing.
generally happens with me when i read on the comp, same thing happened with metamorphosis also.
have to cultivate e-reading :).

1:19 AM  
Blogger Tadatmya Vaishnav said...

Johnny boy,
Thanks for that comment. The witch-hunt goes on (Bush-style)...

Samrat,
Read Nabokov's lecture on Metamorphosis...it's a great one. Am currently e-reading a classic that I have long wanted to read in full - Moby Dick. But won't be able to finish it this week...so will continue in L...

3:57 AM  
Blogger Darth Midnightmare said...

Indeed, the witch-hunt does go on.....

BTW, what's with the GPA crash that I heard you suffered? I lost my mob and your number with it....

11:57 PM  
Blogger Tadatmya Vaishnav said...

Yeah, the GPA crash...our grading system is akin to an efficient market...no amount of knowledge of any kind will help you get great profits every time :) ...this market, as you know, showed 'irrational exuberance' in the 2nd term, when it handed me a TG of 8.15, and in the next term, the whole index seems to be down, and my TG is 6.79. It's all right, of course, no worries.

12:42 AM  
Blogger Darth Midnightmare said...

Wow!!!! Imagine me though....the other end of the spectrum....from a 4.54 to 5.79!!!!!! :D

4:57 AM  
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4:22 PM  

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