'But these chaps were not much account, really. They were no colonists; their administration was merely a squeeze, and nothing more, I suspect. They were conquerors, and for that you want only brute force - nothing to boast of, when you have it, since your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others.'
In fading light on the Thames Estuary near London, as Charles Marlow and his companions relax on deck, waiting for the turn of the tide, he tells of the time he turned ‘freshwater sailor’ on the River Congo. His perilous journey upriver in a little steamboat with a band of white colonialists and a group of cannibals takes him closer to the coveted ivory, closer to Kurtz the rogue agent, closer to certain unspeakable rites and the heart of darkness. Here we encounter the darkness of the jungle; the darkness of forced labour, cruelty, and death; and that darkness that exists in the ‘civilized’ human heart. Serialised in three parts in 1899, this book was first published in 1902.
Joseph Conrad, considered one of greatest novelists in the English language, was born in Poland in 1857, only learning to speak the language fluently in his 20s and always with a strong Polish accent. Frequently, he touches on themes connected with the sea and colonialism, for he had travelled the world as a merchant seaman. He had even skippered a steamboat called Roi des Belges in King Leopold II’s private fiefdom of the Congo; these experiences and encounters find a home in this most disturbing and claustrophobic of stories. For Magpie Audio, Greg Wagland brings a certain vitality and immediacy to his reading of this unabridged classic.
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- adam friedman