I really enjoyed Heart of Darkness, but I’m fairly sure I understood almost none of it. (Lecture tends to be good at clarifying things for me though, so I’m not too worried.)
The first thing I noticed was the chunks of text and lack of paragraph separation, I will admit. I grew used to it as I kept reading, but it doesn’t look very approachable. Also, Conrad’s language is very descriptive, to the point where I would call it flowery. I don’t think this detracts from the understanding of the book, but it’s worth commenting on.
Also, his tone is very conversational. Obviously the whole thing is told in the form of a story, but it’s gratifying as a reader to pick up a book and feel like the author (and, by extension, the characters) are speaking to you directly. He has certain expressions that are just unbelievably gorgeous, and I flagged some pages simply because the words he used made me go back and read the passage again and again. For instance:
“One ship is very much like another, and the sea is always the same.” (69-70) This is just so eloquently worded … and it applies to a lot of situations. The minor details all blend together and in the long run, the world/sea/life is fairly uniform.
“… the weakness of many tellers of tales who seem so often unaware of what their audience would best like to hear …” (72) This is just really accurate, so I thought I’d point it out.
“We could not understand because we were too far and could not remember, because we were travelling in the night of first ages, of those ages that are gone, leaving hardly a sign – and no memories.” (107) This deals with a few concepts we’ve touched on already in Arts One. It talks about memories as well as the concept of suppressing those memories, intentionally or otherwise, and not leaving a sign (silencing?) past events. Wow, this text is remaking/remodelling previous texts.
A closing word: I intended to flag all the places where ‘darkness’ comes up so I could accurately point out all the things it could mean, but I failed pretty early on and gave up. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to go through it again, because I think the different meanings of ‘darkness’ are definitely applicable. Darkness = desolation, negativity, skin colour, death, the power of the devil, etc.
I hate feeling like I’m missing the point, as I often do with that ‘story about a story’ kind of book. Oh well. All will become clear soon.
I agree that Conrad has some nice expressions, but I don’t really find Heart of Darkness flowery – I think there’s a difference between flowery and maybe just being a little too descriptive. (This might be where being a strict editor comes in, I guess!)
Yeah I’m going to have to disagree with the flowery comment as well. His use of imagery comes off as incredibly compact to me! It’s evocative but concise.