The Heart of Darkness

¡Hola! Everybody…
Today is…

National “Go Topless!” Protest Day

This is no prank; I met some of the women organizing the event. The NYC protest, being held simultaneously in major cities across the U.S., will take place in Central Park at the lawn behind the corner of 59th St. Central Park West/ South from 12:00 PM – 6:00 PM. Click here to visit the organizers’ site and to find out where it’s happening in your city.

* * *

-=[ In the Heart of the Heart of Darkness ]=-
“Exterminate all the brutes!”
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness


An anti-imperialist treatise at a time when imperialism was “politically correct,” Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is considered one of the great masterpieces of the Western canon. And for good reason. While Conrad has been fairly taken apart by post colonialist critics, I have to say they’re missing the point. This is a brilliantly anti-imperialist, anti-racist work of an artist at the height of his power as an innovator in literary ideas and techniques.

Based on his own journey into Africa in 1890, this is the most brilliant of Joseph Conrad’s works. Audacious, experimental (for its time), satirical, and yet deeply humanistic, the novella has continued to provoke controversy and analysis.

The story takes the form of a story within a story. Charles Marlow tells a group of British friends about his journey into a part of Central Africa identified as the “Congo Free State,” which was then the private property of Leopold II, King of the Belgians. Known as “The Dark Continent” in the Victorian Era, with all the negative attributes of darkness attributed to Africans by the English, Africa was viewed as the ultimate “other” by Europeans: its inhabitants sub-human, the continent a vast untapped reservoir of riches to be plumbed. Marlow recalls the atrocities and absurdities he witnessed: A French warship bombarding the continent, the cruel, inhumane treatment of enslaved black laborers, and the brutal greediness of white colonialists driven by the insatiable lust for profits.

The initial goal of the narrator is to meet the great Mr. Kurtz, an idealistic European trader; but upon confronting the dying adventurer, he finds instead a deranged and depraved individual. Kurtz is virtually a savage god, who sums up his view of Africans in the phrase, “Exterminate all the brutes!”

We learn that the “heart of darkness” is not simply a jungle at the center of “The Dark Continent,” it also the corrupt heart of Kurtz, and maybe even European imperialism itself. In a telling statement Conrad writes, “All Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz,” and depicts London as the center of ominous gloom.

Heart of Darkness proved enormously influential and one of its most famous adaptations was the 1979 Francis Ford Coppola masterpiece Apocalypse Now, with Marlon Brando embodying “the darkness” at the heart of the Vietnam War.

Love,

Eddie

References

Free text of Heart of Darkness at Project Gutenberg (click here)

My fave edition of Heart of Darkness (click here)

Link to the film, Apocalypse Now (click here)


O Mi Shango – Mongo Santamaria

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