Saturday, December 15, 2007

Heart of Darkness

I finished Heart of Darkness today. It was a good book, quite a bit of work, more than just a story, a novel. It felt like an attempt to make a book without words, on some level. I'm going to write about it a little now, it's a highly uneducated and personal analysis, but I'll try to keep it short and objective.

The first thing I'm hit by is the way the story begins with the people who tell the story. What do we know about them, why are they here, what function has the "I" in that perspective? Why did the author not choose to have Marlow speak directly to the reader, instead of giving us a person to stand in for us, one we hardly know anything about? It could be the signal, right there in the beginning of the book, to read this not as ourselves but as the person there with Marlow, to look beyond our immediate surroundings and lives, even ourselves.

The story is then told that way, like a story around a forest campfire, all in one bout, never once slipping from this clear personal perspective. We're not given a grand amount of pure fact, despite the enormous flow of words; we're given sights, thoughts, emotions. What has Mr.Kurtz really done? We understand what, though most of it is never fully stated. And that is what the book heavily relies on, that we understand though we're not always led like the blind; we must use our own eyes and ears and that is why we need the guidance of looking away from ourselves in the beginning or we might interpret things from the wrong perspective.

So what is it that he wants us to interpret, to see in this darkness? The Heart of Darkness deals very little in good and evil, right and wrong, it states its story proudly and attempts something much more respectable: to dive in behind such concepts into mind and soul, but from a grounded starting point, not soaring up into academy philosophy or righteous religion, creeping at its target looking from below, from outside. It is an exploration of a broken mind without intention of mending or understanding, but also of how the breaking itself may affect everything around the person, even more than the person himself.

And of all this, I understand only a little. I would need to read the book at least twice again, improve my vocabulary of the old form of English, and then write a full essay to gather my thoughts to catch the full vision. Especially the ending seems odd and as if carrying a great weight I cannot track. I did like the book, not with grim happiness as in The Perfume, painful satisfaction as in Of Mice and Men or mind-numbing love like The Tollbridge, but with calm amazement, somehow like I imagine Marlow himself feeling, watching this event unfold before ones eyes, knowing you understand only little, but your soul understand so much more.

Well, that's what I had to say. It's said that some books you cannot understand unless you have read other books before, just like you learn about life as you live it. Someday, I imagine, I will read it again, and maybe then I will have read the right books and lived the right life and understand more.

8 comments:

Phaze said...

You should read the english translation of "Journey to the West", it has alot of complex and even at times annoying words in it.

Rik said...

Journey to the West? The Chinese folktale? Or am I mistaken? That's a peculiar advice, if so...

Heart of Darkness is a complicated book. I saw it as being a lot about how identity relates to others. The whole "Gaze into an abyss, and the abyss gazes also into you" - deal.

phaze said...

Correct, while Journey to the West isnt even a bit complicated it still contains amazing content.

The recomendation was for the language used and not the complexity of the story.

Iceye said...

hm, yes, I agree with you, Rik. Maybe what happens in the beginning is that the reader is tranformed from him/herself into "the person that listens to Marlow" just like Marlow was once transformed into "the person that listens to Mr. Kurtz" (thus the Voice). An interaction in bookform, thus my sense of it being an attempt to write a book without words?

Iceye said...

I'll look into that "Journey" also.

Rik said...

Holy armadillos, that's many comments in short time unless my time-perception is skewed.

I've never seen a translated book being recommended for the language before - for some reason that intrigues me.

Nallenon said...

My sister was supposed to read Heart of Darkness a week or so ago, I'm not quite sure how that turned out in the end. Seemed a bit too complicated for her, to be honest.

Iceye said...

It's not a book for everyone, that's for sure.