Sunday, March 28, 2010

Heart of Darkness / The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad

In this pair of literary voyages into the inner self, Joseph Conrad has written two of the most chilling, disturbing, and noteworthy pieces of fiction of this century. Heart of Darkness, which first appeared in Blackwood's Magazine in 1902, makes a devastating comment on the corruptibility of humankind. Based on Conrad's own 1890 trip up the Congo river, the story is told by Marlow, the novelist's alter ego. It is a journey into darkness and horror - both literally, as the narrator descends into a sinister jungle landscape, and metaphorically, as he witnesses the depth of moral depravity symbolized by the agent Kurtz. Another voyage into the self occurs in The Secret Sharer, the tale of a young sea captain's first command as he sails into the Gulf of Siam - and into an encounter with his "double," the Jungian shadow self of the unconcious mind.

Joseph Conrad boldly experimented with the novella and novel forms, filled his writing with exotic places he himself had traveled, and concerned himself with honor, guilt, moral alienation, and expiation of sin. Heart of Darkness and The Secret Sharer encapsulate his literary achievements - and his haunting portrayal of the dark side of man. (Taken from back cover)

Wow that was one of the longest summaries ever, but I thought it accurately depicted these stories without giving too much away. This was a book I had to read for school and it contained two novellas by Joseph Conrad. For those who don't know, a novella is longer than a short story but shorter than an actual novel. For example, The Secret Sharer is about 45 pages and Heart of Darkness is about 100 pages.

Let's start with The Secret Sharer, since this was the first story in the book. Me and short stories don't always get along and I think Sharer fell into this category for me. Unless a short story really appeals to me (and most don't), I end up not liking them. Most of the time it's because I can't figure out the point or author's intent. In longer books, there's much more space for the author to explain something or make a point, but in short stories it's more subtle. I honestly did not see the reason why Conrad wrote Sharer. It's about a commander of a ship who lets a man named Leggatt onboard who killed another man, but Leggatt is eerily similar to the captain. Anyway the novella was extremely boring in which nothing happened. I do not recommend it.

Onward to Heart of Darkness! HoD is a little different because I already knew what is was about before I started reading and I already knew the message and point of the story. The whole novella is basically another character telling a very long story. This an annoying style of writing because it becomes extremely difficult to tell what's going on and who's speaking, especially because Conrad decided to only give a few key characters names. So most of the time I had no idea what was happening. This story was also boring; so boring in fact that I fell asleep while reading it. In the daytime. When I wasn't tired at all. And I'll have you know that I can't take naps in the afternoon or anything, but I still fell asleep. As stated above the difference with this book is that it actually had a good message. It takes place during Europe's colonialism and imperialism of Africa and the point it makes is that even "civilized" people can be uncivilized and savage. So I thought the novella was really boring but I still think it's good to read. Kind of a double-edged sword here so beware.

Ok so this is a really long review. In short, don't read The Secret Sharer, it's boring and even though Heart of Darkness is boring too, it has a really good message.

5 out of 10.

FTC: I borrowed this book from school.

1 comment:

Sadako said...

Never actually read these as a younger adult, but I always felt I "should." Though sometimes classics are a bit dull.