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Heart of Darkness Aziloth Books Joseph Conrad


3rd March 2013 Literature & Fiction 52 Comments

Joseph Conrad was born in 1857 at Berdyczw in the Ukraine. Orphaned at the age of eleven, he left home at 16 to seek his fortune on the sea. He led an adventurous life, surviving gun-running, shipwreck and a stint as captain of a Congo steamboat. It was this latter venture which opened his eyes to the abuses of colonial power and the darker side of imperialism. These insights and experiences inform the plot and characters of Heart of Darkness, a chilling condemnation of the hypocrisy of imperial rhetoric, where the ‘bringing of civilization’ to ‘benighted natives’ hides the true extent of oppression, exploitation and hideous cruelty.

Novella by Joseph Conrad, first published in 1902 with the story “Youth” and thereafter published separately. The story reflects the physical and psychological shock Conrad himself experienced in 1890, when he worked briefly in the Belgian Congo. The narrator, Marlow, describes a journey he took on an African river. Assigned by an ivory company to take command of a cargo boat stranded in the interior, Marlow makes his way through the treacherous forest, witnessing the brutalization of the natives by white traders and hearing tantalizing stories of a Mr. Kurtz, the company’s most successful representative. He reaches Kurtz’s compound in a remote outpost only to see a row of human heads mounted on poles. In this alien context, unbound by the strictures of his own culture, Kurtz has exchanged his soul for a bloody sovereignty, but a mortal illness is bringing his reign of terror to a close. As Marlow transports him downriver, Kurtz delivers an arrogant and empty explanation of his deeds as a visionary quest. To the narrator Kurtz’s dying words, “The horror! The horror!” represent despair at the encounter with human depravity–the heart of darkness. — The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Founded in 1906 by J.M. Dent, the Everyman Library has always tried to make the best books ever written available to the greatest number of people at the lowest possible price. Unique editorial features that help Everyman Paperback Classics stand out from the crowd include: a leading scholar or literary critic’s introduction to the text, a biography of the author, a chronology of her or his life and times, a historical selection of criticism, and a concise plot summary. All books published since 1993 have also been completely restyled: all type has been reset, to offer a clarity and ease of reading unique among editions of the classics; a vibrant, full-color cover design now complements these great texts with beautiful contemporary works of art. But the best feature must be Everyman’s uniquely low price. Each Everyman title offers these extensive materials at a price that competes with the most inexpensive editions on the market-but Everyman Paperbacks have durable binding, quality paper, and the highest editorial and scholarly standards. –This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Novella by Joseph Conrad, first published in 1902 with the story “Youth” and thereafter published separately. The story reflects the physical and psychological shock Conrad himself experienced in 1890, when he worked briefly in the Belgian Congo. The narrator, Marlow, describes a journey he took on an African river. Assigned by an ivory company to take command of a cargo boat stranded in the interior, Marlow makes his way through the treacherous forest, witnessing the brutalization of the natives by white traders and hearing tantalizing stories of a Mr. Kurtz, the company’s most successful representative. He reaches Kurtz’s compound in a remote outpost only to see a row of human heads mounted on poles. In this alien context, unbound by the strictures of his own culture, Kurtz has exchanged his soul for a bloody sovereignty, but a mortal illness is bringing his reign of terror to a close. As Marlow transports him downriver, Kurtz delivers an arrogant and empty explanation of his deeds as a visionary quest. To the narrator Kurtz’s dying words, “The horror! The horror!” represent despair at the encounter with human depravity–the heart of darkness. — The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Heart of Darkness (Cathedral Classics)










  • 52 responses to "Heart of Darkness Aziloth Books Joseph Conrad"

  • Chuck NYC
    2:44 on March 3rd, 2013
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    There can be long debate about the hidden meanings, etc. in Heart of Darkness. And, of course, if one pays even a scintilla of attention. one’s mind will no doubt be provoked by this deep, mysterious and moving tale. For example, there could be (I’m sure there has already been) a century long debate on the exact meaning of the title. However, besides the import of its moral/human/instinctive/spritual teachings, Heart of Darkness is often overlooked for the sheer excitement and anticipation the words cause. This is, to put it bluntly, a terriffic story. I was so anticipating the meeting between Marlow and Kurtz that I could barely stand it. And the visual imagery is astonishing. I will never forget the stakes with heads of savages. One must wonder how familiar Conrad was with the story of Vlad the Impaler (Dracula)!! Of course, it is the importance of the work that has made its immutable mark on literature. Any reader will surely be able to recognize his or her ! own instinctive/unconscious capabilities (desires, perhaps?) when they read this book. Who among us can wholly deny that we would not have behaved like Kurtz when left unrestrained by our society and placed in a position where it was not difficult to make a relatively unchallenged rise to power? Perhaps imperialism, left unchecked, is human nature, and our nature, our instinct is to civilize those different from us by way of any means feasible, which, with “savages” or the “uncivilized”, is violence, fear or terror. Do a quick check of history, and you will find this to be true. The Heart of Darkness may in fact be the heart of man, a metaphor for the instinctive nature of man.

  • Sansei
    3:46 on March 3rd, 2013
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    Most of Murakami’s work revolves around a common theme — the sense of isolation people feel and how easy it is for this loneliness to break your spirit and leave you little more than an empty shell. Sputnik Sweetheart focusses on the sense of loss people feel when they discover that love is fleeting and realize that the closeness they share with someone today will soon fade and may never be recaptured.

    The plot is fairly straight-forward. K is in love with his best friend Sumire, an aspiring writer who considers K to be a close friend, but nothing more. Sumire, in turn, is madly in love with Miu, a married wine importer who lost the capacity for love when she went through a traumatic experience as a student. Sumire sets aside her writing to work as Miu’s personal assistant, and the two head off to Europe on a business trip. Sumire mysteriously disappears, and Miu summons K to help search for her.

    Each of the novel’s characters is scarred by loss, and like the Sputnik, each character feels isolated, connected to the world and the people around them by the most thin and tenuous of threads. Miu suffers a traumatic experience as a young student which leaves her half a person and turned her hair white. As K sees her for the last time, she is a hollow shell, and her white hair reminds K of bone that has had every bit of life bleached from it.

    Sumire’s sense of loneliness is even greater. Having never previously experienced or even understood love, she falls completely for Miu only to realize that Miu will never love her back. Like two satellites briefly passing each other in space, never to meet again, Sumire realizes that the has grown as close to Miu as she ever will and that she will eventually lose what little she has. She imagines another world where Miu’s lost half still lives and abandons our world to seek Miu there.

    K too feels isolated. As Sumire becomes increasingly enamored with Miu, K sees his best friend and closest confident slip away. When Sumire disappears for good, K does his best to move on with life, but the sense of loss stays with him, and as the novel concludes, K finds himself tempted to join Sumire somewhere in that other world.

    If you’re a Murakami fan, you need no encouragement to read this book. If you’re new to Murakami and are wondering which work to start with, Sputnik Sweetheart will provide you with an excellent introduction to Murakami’s writing and leave you wanting more. This is a beautifully written novel, and Murakami’s simple, eloquent prose conveys they characters’ loneliness like few other writers can. Bravo Murakami! We eagerly await your next book.

  • VinnyA
    4:59 on March 3rd, 2013
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    I would like to address myself specifically to the Norton Critical Edition of this book. The difficulty that many readers face when they pick up a classic, pre-twentieth century novel is that they are not conversant with the history of the times in which it was written. Heart of Darkness can be enjoyed purely as a well written novella, but then you miss so much of what Conrad is trying to say not only regarding the thin veneer of man’s social persona (ala Lord of the Flies) but about the evils of 19th century imperialism. What is the story of Colonialism? Do Conrad’s derogatory remarks about Blacks make him a bigot? What were Conrad’s overall views on life? What were Conrad’s personal experiences in the Congo? What did readers think of Heart of Darkness when it was written, and what do the critics think of it today?

    The Norton Critical Edition gives you 325 extra pages of material written by Conrad and others that provide answers to the above questions. You don’t have to read all of these many articles, of course, but a good sampling of them will make your immersion in this famous story all the more enjoyable and meaningful.

    This is a story that everyone should read, and the Norton Critical Edition provides the best format for the reading experience.

  • Curt Viebranz
    5:32 on March 3rd, 2013
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    The Heart of Darkness is a great novel for one who wants to venture into a place full of corruption and savagery. This novel takes you into the brutality of the European state of mind. While reading this novel you will fall into the darkness and temptation to abandon morality completely once leaving the context of European society. The Heart of Darkness introduces an immense tale of imperialism and the absurdity of evil. I recommend you read this novel and be “lead into the heart of an immense darkness.”

  • Steve Soden
    5:54 on March 3rd, 2013
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    I was once one of those students forced to read this book at school. I was dragged kicking and screaming to its pages and read it only because I did not want to flunk my English Literature class. I was riveted from the first page, right up to the last paragraph. It is quite simply Conrad’s finest book, (yes, I read his other books after this one.) However be aware, this is not everyone’s cup of tea. There will be some people who will read this book and think, “Oh God, you have to be kidding!” However if you can get passed this mentality then you are in for a real literary treat.

    The story is simple enough, a young Englishman; Marlow (this character appears in Conrad’s story “Youth”) goes out to Africa to seek his fortune. He is at first idealistic, and full of himself. However he quickly realises that Africa is full of petty bureaucrats who have no idea how to make use of this dark jewel they have acquired. Like Colonists before them, they proceed to ravage and plunder the land of its natural resources. Enter Kurtz, an Ivory Trader who has gone Native. He has become a Renegade, living with his Black mistress in the heart of Africa’s interior; systematically turning his back on his supposed civilised self.

    Marlow meets Kurtz after an eventful trip up the Congo and finds himself curiously attracted to this strange man who is [very ill], and obviously going insane. Kurtz in turn is an embarrassment to his employers who would rather see him dead than returned to “civilization.” Of course this is unspoken, and the hypocrisy of human natures sticks out like a sore thumb in this novel, especially as Kurtz is one of the best Ivory Traders on the Congo route.

    Marlow struggles to understand Kurtz and what makes him tick, but he only touches the surface of a man who can live in neither the Black or White world comfortably. He has been [harmed] by both worlds and therefore he is cursed. Heart of Darkness has many facets; it is a story about Imperialism, racism, and the darkness of human nature. Conrad purposely leaves the ending open to interpretation. …

    This is a book that will make you think, make you want to it re-read again and again in case you have missed anything. There are also some genuinely funny moments in the book such as the Doctor who measures skulls for a hobby and the pompous Trading Post clerk who teaches his Black maid to starch his clothes. This edition, (Dover Thrift) is well worth getting as well, as it is [inexpensive] and cheerful and it definitely won’t break the bank money wise.

  • midas
    7:11 on March 3rd, 2013
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    While justifiably a classic of 20th Century literature, Conrad’s depiction of a journey up the Congo River will not find favor with everyone. Because he had actually made such a journey himself, Conrad is able to give ornate descriptions that bring this mysterious locale to life before our eyes – at least, for those whose response to the printed word is largely visual. To those readers who, like this reviewer, are more intrigued by plot and character than by the appearance of a person or place, Conrad’s lengthy descriptions of the river and its banks may seem tiresome, mere delay as the plot slowly unfolds.

    And is it ever slow. This measured pacing is supposed to create a strong element of suspense as we wonder what will happen when Marlow finally meets the mysterious Kurtz, but casual readers should be forgiven for not really caring. The journey itself doesn’t get exciting until the attack comes, a good three-quarters of the way through the book, so those hoping for action and adventure will find little to their taste. So why is this novel considered such a masterpiece?

    Apart from Conrad’s turgid prose, the real power of this story is in its philosophical content. Marlow’s physical journey into Africa parallels a psychological journey into the darkness of the human condition. He seeks a Kurtz who has been described as an emissary of science and progress, the best man the company has ever sent to Africa, a veritable superman whose humanity, sensitivity, leadership skills, and practical know-how have enabled him to accomplish amazing things in these most difficult of circumstances. In effect Kurtz represents Colonialism itself; he is the living proof that European Imperialist policies can improve conditions in the colonies while netting a profit for the home country. But what Marlow finds is something very different, and the equivocal conclusion forces the reader to make his own decisions about the moral choices that are made. For many, the story makes a strong indictment of the atrocities perpetrated by Kurtz, and by extension, the colonial powers behind him, and by further extension, most of human history, which is characterized by the company manager as the process by which the strong take what they want from the weak, using brute force.

    This is not a “fun” read; there’s no trace of humor or romance as we use the term. Women have only the tiniest roles, and there are passages that have been roundly criticized as offensive to Africans. If those concerns don’t bother you, and you can get past the slow plot, there are some heavy points being made here. For the rest of us, Apocalypse Now is a fantastic film that sets pretty much the same story in war-era Viet Nam. It won’t get you through your English class, but it’s a far more entertaining work of art.

  • heiyanquan
    9:02 on March 3rd, 2013
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    Sputnik Sweetheart– as you can read elsewhere in the review, it’s about Sumire, a 20something would-be writer, who feels friendship for our narrator, K, a slightly older teacher, though he adores her and desires her. Instead, Sumire falls in love with Miu, a mysterious older woman. Though they’re never what you’d actually call a couple, Sumire ventures to join Miu at work, and they travel to Europe, where Sumire disappears “like smoke,” as Murakami writes. Our narrator is summoned from Japan to help solve the mystery.

    If there’s a central theme, it might be the examination of loneliness, and how people try to meet, and nearly meet, but never quite do so. Though Murakami doesn’t hide this below the surface, his style is such that the reader never feels as if attending a lecture, but rather it resembles listening to the all-too-seldom musings aloud of a very wise, close friend.

    A never-consummated relationship, a close relationship between one who is madly in love and another who has no such desire to take “that step,” is the source of great sadness and lonesomeness. I’ve not encountered a writer yet who writes of this as well as Haruki.

    If you’ve read Norwegian Wood, Sputnik Sweetheart should hold few surprises for you. It has the simple story structure of Norwegian Wood, and indeed many of the plot elements are very similar. But there is a shadowy, creeping supernatural flavor to the novel also, an otherworldliness that reminds me of _A Wild Sheep Chase_ or _Wind-up Bird Chronicle_.

    IF YOU’RE NEW TO HARUKI MURAKAMI: I wouldn’t start with Sputnik Sweetheart. He’s written many wonderful novels, and I would recommend _Norwegian Wood_ or _A Wild Sheep Chase_ instead: _Norwegian Wood_ because it’s simply a better all-around novel, and _A Wild Sheep Chase_ because it’s a better introduction to Haruki’s work.

    Sputnik Sweetheart is a little delicacy, a short and bittersweet treat. I eagerly await Haruki’s next work.

    ken32

  • watchdong
    10:26 on March 3rd, 2013
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    Lately all Murakami seems to be writing about is a love triangle, or maybe it just seems that way. The last I read was Norwegian Wood, which was a love triangle. And wasn’t South of the Border, West of the Sun offer some kind of a triangle? And I’d read an excerpt of this novel in The New Yorker earlier in the year, titled, “Man-Eating Cats.” I thought it was pretty bad.

    So as you can see, I had my biases going into the book. And for the first fifty pages or so, it was Murakami on repeat — the same nonchalant male narrator, the same quirky female character…but then something happened. As usual, I fell into his story big time. It’s not a bad story at all, and as he tells it, Murakami addresses a very prevalent theme: loneliness. This book is about all forms of loneliness, irreparable, irretrievable loneliness.

    My favorite Murakami is Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, and this one doesn’t come close. I’d rank it right around those other two books of his I mentioned in the beginning of this review.

  • xenobia
    11:24 on March 3rd, 2013
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    I am still uncertain I grasped all the underlying meanings and intentions of Haruki Murakami in this poetic story but know that this was a unique read; one which requires time and thought in order to really “get into” and enjoy. The story takes several turns and its focus shifts between its three characters.
    The story starts with the description of Sumire, a bit of a lost soul who wants to become a writer. Sumire writes all the time, but something is lacking. Her male friend, the narrator of the story whose name is never revealed, encourages her that “a story is not something of this world. A real story requires a kind of magical baptism to link the world on this side with the world on the other side…”
    what he really means is that Sumire needs more time, more life experience, maybe more pain in order to breath life into the story; Sumire however, seems to remain on the search for the “other side”. When Sumire falls in love with Miu, a much older business woman, her life undergoes a tremendous change and suddenly she is no longer able to write. As if somehow the focus of her life has shifted… The voice of the narrator who has been telling us about Sumire changes its tone and we now understand that he is an active participant in the story – he is in love with Sumire but understands that his love for this meaningful and special soul companion will not be returned. This is the pain he has to suffer.
    The story reaches its climax in the Greek island where Sumire and Miu have gone for vacation. One night the narrator receives a telephone call from Miu who begs him to come to the Island at once.
    It is never clear who is the real hero of the story as the tale shifts from one character to another and all characters are endearing in the same tender vulnerable way. Maybe the male narrator, speaking in its own voice is the one who touches your heart the most but you can feel the pain and lonliness of all characters and their endless search for something which is impossible to get.. at least not on this side.
    The story is definitely surprising – starting from its special name and characters and follow its intriguing tale, touching the real and the supernatural in a way that is in total harmony and agreement with all the book.
    Sputnik Sweetheart deals with the presence and absence of people and how absence can be present in every nuance of ones life. I think this is also intended in the name of the story and the explanation given in the preface to the term “Sputnik” ending in the words: “but the satellite was never recovered”…which should have given me the first clue to what is about to happen, one of the many clues and signs that Murakami will give along the book. The book by the way is not depressing as it may sound. Sad and poetic yet you can feel a life force running underneath.

  • Stopthenoise
    12:07 on March 3rd, 2013
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    To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I “got” this book altogether. I’m sure there is something else hidden in the text; some eye-awakening symbolism, some brilliant analysis buried in a complex maze made more cumbersome by Joseph Conrad’s circumlocution.

    I read this book with more than a few trips to the Dictionary, and, at times, I found myself re-reading the same paragraph. Conrad’s prose is difficult, at times overwhelmingly so.

    Reading over criticisms of the book yielded some insights into imperialism (or something). But I didn’t get that at all. I still don’t, really. I guess, stretching it, you would bump into something akin to that. After all, here is Marlow, the protagonist, going off to Africa and all he finds is madness (not that he could see past his nose, what with all the fog and darkness, and gloominess, and broodingness).

    Instead, what I found was something bothersome lurking in the middle of all that confusion. Except it only related to me, you see, not to the world “out there.” The book is an exploration of two peoples inner psychology. It is disturbing, to be sure, in the same way that existentialism is sometimes said to be disturbing – when done in a particular way, it leads to angst and meaninglessness. That “hell is other people” concept.

    Here, judge for yourself:

    “…it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one’s existence – that which makes its truth, its meaning – its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream – alone.” (p. 39)

    “…but I like what is in the work – the chance to find yourself. Your own reality – for yourself, not for others – what no other man can ever know.” (p. 41)

    “Droll thing life is – that mysterious arrangement of merciless logic for a futile purpose. The most you can hope from it is some knowledge of yourself – that comes too late – a crop of unextinguishable regrets.” (p. 100)

    That’s the theme, as I see it, of this novel. Never mind the arguments about this novel’s `hidden’ attacks on imperialism (a double meaning on `heart of darkness’-for one, it is the depth of your soul and, for two, it is the depth of Africa). It is the book’s deeply penetrating and disturbing account of introspection that is most memorable.

    And on those grounds, I recommend it.

  • cyber monday
    12:28 on March 3rd, 2013
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    Don’t get me wrong – I love Haruki Murakami. I have noticed, however, in reading his works, that the style and tone and themes are often too much alike, and this grows slightly tiresome after a while. How many books can a person write about people disappearing without a trace? In short, the narrator of Sputnik Sweetheart, a schoolteacher, is in love with a strange girl called Sumire who only desire to be a writer. Sumire realizes early on that she has fallen in love with a sophisticated older businesswoman, Miu. Miu gives Sumire a job, and that is where the changes and complications ensue.

    Interesting ideas in this book include Murakami’s brief exploration of the idea of being “attentive”. When the main character/narrator had an affair with an older woman earlier in his life, he was “instructed” in how to go about being with a woman when the woman used the analogy of being a good driver versus an attentive driver. The woman insists that being a good driver does not matter as long as the driver is “attentive” and alert. The narrator began to see the connection to his sexual being… being alert and attentive to the things around him. “Not prejudging things, listening to what’s going on, keeping your ears, heart and mind open.”

    Another interesting idea is the idea of your existence being split into two parts. One of the main characters, Miu, felt herself split in half one night… one side had all her sexual desire, her youth. The part the character in the book was left with was a woman with no sexual desire, who held everyone at arm’s length and whose hair had turned white overnight. The narrator explores the idea of what is on “the other side”… can people cross over between these two existences?

    Finally, Murakami writes, “So that’s how we live our lives. No matter how deep and fatal the loss, no matter how important the thing that’s stolen from us-that’s snatched right out of our hands-even if we are left completely changed, with only the outer layer of skin from before, we continue to play out our lives this way, in silence. We draw ever nearer to the end of our allotted span of time, bidding it farewell as it trails off behind. Repeating, often, adroitly, the endless deeds of the everyday. Leaving behind a feeling of immeasurable emptiness.”

    I have given these ideas a great deal of thought. No matter the impression we have left nor how intense the experiences we shared with someone, when circumstances change, you lives are separate and you go on like nothing has happened. This is a theme that re-emerges in life multiple times.

  • Charcoal
    13:08 on March 3rd, 2013
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    I remember when the Soviets sent the dog, Laika, up in the sputnik to circle the planet. Laika was a sacrifice, and for the little girl, me, that was not a good thing. I still feel that way. I am still haunted by how terribly cruel we are to take our creatures and use them like that. We do it to ourselves every time we turn our backs on a friend’s needs or whenever we keep love silent rather than risk rejection. We actually lessen ourselves, metaphorically and often literally never quite realize that we have lost something that cannot be replaced. Murakami knows. He has been there, done or witnessed that, and goodness can he write about it!

    The sacrifice of dogs is part of a conversation the narrator has with his friend and secret love, Sumire who suffers from serious writer’s block. The narrator uses the metaphor of the walled cities in China, how the gates were made of the bones of dead soldiers, and how dogs were sacrificed so that the bones could be baptized with the power to revive to protect the walled city. “A real story requires a kind of magical baptism to link the world on this side with the world on the other side.”

    I felt like I was alone in a sputnik circling my own shadows and dreams and memories and cowardly acts as I immersed myself in this novel of a young man’s realization of what matters most in our lives and of what leaves us feeling less. Always metaphorical, Murakami can be appealingly literal and writes the most erotic imaginary sexual encounters and describes male frustration as well as anyone writing. The various ways of love in the story all resonate and one can only hope that as the story continues beyond the book that all find joy in what they have kept of themselves.

    I first found Murakami’s books, not realizing that he was such a popular writer, and I have read them out of order or randomly so far. And so far, I’ve not been disappointed. I equate this to beginning a passionate affair and finding each new encounter more because of what has come before. In this book, Murakami is in genius mode. He can make writing less more. Sputnik Sweetheart is a great place to become acquainted with the monkey mind that is Murakami.

  • Rayna Waites
    13:44 on March 3rd, 2013
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    I was motivated to re-visit Conrad’s early masterpiece by Sebald’s Walk in Suffolk, which contains a bio chapter on Conrad with emphasis on his Congo experience, which was a traumatic one. Conrad had taken up the job of a skipper of a river steamboat, but he quit after a short time, in disgust with the colonial practices of the Belgians and their crude exploitation methods.
    Marlow is Conrad’s alter ego here, a captain who tells his story to some other guests at a dinner party. The party takes place on a ship in the Thames estuary around the turn of the 19th century. An initial narrator gives us the frame of the five men coming together for a chat and a drink and dinner. Marlow then takes over and tells us ‘one of his inconsequential stories’, as the introducer expects with some sarcasm: how he got the Congo job and went there with curiosity. He is appalled from the start by the crude colonialist violence that he observes on the African West Coast and then in the Congo territory itself, and by the raw greed of the colonialists. Kurtz of course, the main protagonist of Marlow’s tale, who has not much of a ‘life’ role to play in the story, stands for the fallen white man, the one whose character cracked and who gave in to temptations and demons, his personal ones and from the world around him. He had the reputation of being a superior specimen, a man with morality and efficiency. The ‘heart of darkness’ is an ambiguous place and title. It can mean the center of the unknown inner Africa, but it also means the soul of the fallen man.(Kurtz is best known with the face of Marlon Brando and the whispered words: the horror! the horror! But Apocalypse Now transformed the story from Congo colonialism into Indochina war cruelty.)
    Marlow’s attitude is ambiguous, he thinks like a benevolent white man with an essentially racist attitude himself, but with a more ‘humane’ approach. He is realistic about imperialism: the conquest of the earth means mostly the taking it away from those who have a different complexion and flatter noses. He even takes history with a broader sweep: looking over the Thames at sunset towards the ‘monster’ city he is reminded of the times when this was a dark place for the invading Roman army.
    The book is written in a remarkably opaque language. One struggles with every single sentence just to follow the story line. This is unfortunate, I am sure a more straightforward narrative technique would have opened a broader audience for the subject.
    Conrad was a man who produced stunning visual effects of the mind with his inventions, but he was not a chief engineer of narrative simplicity. If one is looking for a good straightforward narrative, this is not it. If one is willing to take up the struggle, one is rewarded though. One has to wrestle meaning out of his writing, it is not a walk in the park. The style is highly contextual, every sentence implies worlds and assumes you know which ones. At the same time, he is also able to come up with pretty gems of sentences like when Marlow describes his steamboat: she rang under my feet like an empty biscuit tin, but she was nothing so solid in make, and rather less pretty in shape.
    In line with the frame narrator’s low expectations for Marlow’s story, half of the audience is asleep by half way. I was not.

  • Deidre Broski
    14:28 on March 3rd, 2013
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    This exactly and literally is what “Heart of Darkness” is all about, the search for meaning. We search for meaning as we read the story of Marlow who is searching for meaning in his search for Kurtz…who, guess what, has been involved in his own search for meaning.

    Much is, or should be, obvious here. Conrad is depicting the horror of colonization. Some readers got lost here and thought he was defending colonization, but careful reading proves the opposite. Racism is also crucified here, but some readers miss that. The big difficulty is the prolific use of the word “nigger” which had a significantly different connotation in the time that Conrad wrote than it does now. The connotation had changed drastically, and the reader should be aware of the difference between the 19th century English connotation and the 20th century American connotation.

    The writing is deeply textured. Conrad goes into exquisite detail and for those who flow into his description, the story becomes more absolutely real and intense.

    This book is rewarding to those who have the patience. It’s a shame that it’s required reading in high school. Most high schoolers haven’t had the living experiences that would help them understand the point of the story.

  • Gail Richardson
    14:39 on March 3rd, 2013
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    I would have given it a five, but the tremendous complexity of Conrad’s writing mars somewhat the fantastic novel. The book is about a British sailor, Marlow, who ventures into the depth of the African continent – to Congo, which at the time (beginning of the 20th century) was colonized by the British. The deeper Marlow’s steam-boat penetrates into the continent – the looser are the ties with the western civilization, until it seems to Marlow that the western civilization exists only in his mind. Marlow witnesses the unbelievable cruelty on behalf of the British towards the natives, and starts questioning whether humanity and all the ideals that we are brought upon are nothing but arbitrary abstracts. The black continent draws Marlow in deeper and deeper and engulfes him in the shroud of darkness, and as Marlow takes his boat further to the heart of the continent – he gets ever closer to the heart of darkness, where he encounters Kurtz – an employer in the company that trades ivory. Kurtz is an incredibly ambiguous character, and on a symbolic level he is the heart of darkness. Kurtz, who essentially becomes a king of a native tribe, is torn between Good and Evil. He is overwhelmed by compassion and understanding towards the natives, and the compulsion to rule by terror.

    Great book – if you can get through the dense stuff – read it!

  • Ryan Rivera
    16:33 on March 3rd, 2013
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    I am still uncertain I grasped all the underlying meanings and intentions of Haruki Murakami in this poetic story but know that this was a unique read; one which requires time and thought in order to really “get into” and enjoy. The story takes several turns and its focus shifts between its three characters.
    The story starts with the description of Sumire, a bit of a lost soul who wants to become a writer. Sumire writes all the time, but something is lacking. Her male friend, the narrator of the story whose name is never revealed, encourages her that “a story is not something of this world. A real story requires a kind of magical baptism to link the world on this side with the world on the other side…”
    what he really means is that Sumire needs more time, more life experience, maybe more pain in order to breath life into the story; Sumire however, seems to remain on the search for the “other side”. When Sumire falls in love with Miu, a much older business woman, her life undergoes a tremendous change and suddenly she is no longer able to write. As if somehow the focus of her life has shifted… The voice of the narrator who has been telling us about Sumire changes its tone and we now understand that he is an active participant in the story – he is in love with Sumire but understands that his love for this meaningful and special soul companion will not be returned. This is the pain he has to suffer.
    The story reaches its climax in the Greek island where Sumire and Miu have gone for vacation. One night the narrator receives a telephone call from Miu who begs him to come to the Island at once.
    It is never clear who is the real hero of the story as the tale shifts from one character to another and all characters are endearing in the same tender vulnerable way. Maybe the male narrator, speaking in its own voice is the one who touches your heart the most but you can feel the pain and lonliness of all characters and their endless search for something which is impossible to get.. at least not on this side.
    The story is definitely surprising – starting from its special name and characters and follow its intriguing tale, touching the real and the supernatural in a way that is in total harmony and agreement with all the book.
    Sputnik Sweetheart deals with the presence and absence of people and how absence can be present in every nuance of ones life. I think this is also intended in the name of the story and the explanation given in the preface to the term “Sputnik” ending in the words: “but the satellite was never recovered”…which should have given me the first clue to what is about to happen, one of the many clues and signs that Murakami will give along the book. The book by the way is not depressing as it may sound. Sad and poetic yet you can feel a life force running underneath.

  • Roxanne Kment
    18:00 on March 3rd, 2013
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    Have you ever feel that you don’t really understand what’s going on around you, that you don’t really belong, and you don’t really connect with anyone or anything? That life is like 2 Sputniks, passing each other in space, never really connecting? Or that you could disappear off the face of the earth and no one would notice but the world would keep on going? In this concise nvoel, Murakami sucessfully painted a vivid picture of what human alienation feels like — loneliness, despair, the need to love and be loved in return.
    The story is about two loners, K. (a teacher) and Sumire (a novice writer), who found each other through their common interests in books and music. After the disppearance of Sumire, you could feel the longings and despair of K. It’s not often that people connect with one another and once found, it is to be cherished. But K. lost Sumire — Sumire just disappeared one day without leaving any clues to her whereabouts. For Murakami, such is life. Things happen, full of absurdities and confusions, but still, one must go on because it is the only life we have.

  • wallst
    18:49 on March 3rd, 2013
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    I am most decidely a fan of Haruki Murakami even though he has produced some not-so-interesting material over the years. ‘The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle’, a surreal materpiece, remains his best. However I found his most famous ‘Norwegian Wood’ to be too sentimental for its own good. Thankfully with ‘Sputnik Sweetheart’ the author has found the right blend of the surreal and the romantic. I loved it.

    ‘Sputnik Sweetheart’ is about an odd love triangle where the love is either platonic or something a bit stronger yet unfulfilled; there is no sex in this book. Murakami, with no doubt significant credit to the translator, excels in expressing each of the unique character’s loneliness without being too depressing. Cerebral without taking itself too seriously. And as for the surreal element … it works very nicely (no spoilers here!).

    Bottom line: a elegant piece of modern literature. Read it.

  • JoeChen
    20:18 on March 3rd, 2013
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    Sputnik Sweetheart is my first Haruki Murakami novel. This novel was absolutely beautifully written. An somewhat obsessive love story, if you will. The words and the flow made it a pleasure to read from start to finish. Kudos to the translators. The story told was a bit much for me, I was left with many “whys” and agonizing up at night over the meaning of some details. I know some people love this type of novel, that keeps you pondering and discussing with friends, but I like answers, I like to know.

  • China Sux
    20:36 on March 3rd, 2013
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    I was once one of those students forced to read this book at school. I was dragged kicking and screaming to its pages and read it only because I did not want to flunk my class. I was riveted from the first page, right up to the last paragraph. It is quite simply Conrad’s finest book, (yes, I read his other books after this one.) The story is simple enough, a young Englishman, Marlow goes out to Africa to seek his fortune. He is at first idealistic, and full of himself. However he quickly realises that Africa is full of petty bureaucrats who have no idea how to make use of this dark jewel they have acquired. Like Colonists before them, they proceed to ravage and plunder the land of its natural resources. Enter Kurtz, an Ivory Trader who has gone Native. He has become a Renegade, living with his Black mistress in the heart of Africa’s interior; systematically turning his back on his supposed civilised self. Marlow meets him after an eventful trip up the Congo and finds himself curiously attracted to this strange man who is dying, and obviously going insane. Kurtz in turn is an embarrassment to his employers who would rather see him dead than returned to “civilization.” Of course this is unspoken, and the hypocrisy of human natures sticks out like a sore thumb in this novel, especially as Kurtz is one of the best Ivory Traders on the Congo route. Marlow struggles to understand Kurtz and what makes him tick, but he only touches the surface of a man who can live in neither the Black or White world comfortably. He has been corrupted by both worlds and therefore he is cursed. Heart of Darkness has many facets; it is a story about Imperialism, racism, and the darkness of human nature. Conrad purposely leaves the ending open to interpretation. What is the “horror” that Kurtz whispers with his dying breath, is it Africa herself with the depths that have yet to be uncovered, or is it the human psyche with all its viciousness as it greedily crushes a land and people into submission? This is a book that will make you think, make you want to it re-read again and again in case you have missed anything. There are also some genuinely funny moments in the book such as the Doctor who measures skulls for a hobby and the pompous Trading Post clerk who teaches his Black maid to starch his clothes. This edition, (Dover Thrift) is well worth getting as well, as it is cheap and cheerful and it definitely won’t break the bank money wise.

  • lucy appleton
    21:51 on March 3rd, 2013
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    Since the Tokyo Gas Attack, Murakami’s writing has turned more earnest, straightforwardly inquisitive. He’s always been a philosophical writer, never afraid to delve into metaphysical issues. But whereas his books like “Wind-Up Bird Chronicles” dealt with such matters in a more subversively sinister way, “Sputnik Sweetheart” is a heartfelt inquiry to why and how we change, where our ‘true selves’ are.

    With Sumire’s mysterious disappearance, Murakami plays a neat trick. The sense of dualism that people feel, of the ‘other side’, becomes almost physical and palpable as the narrator recounts her story (and Miu’s). And this theme of dualism reaches its climax when there is an actual split of a person – a fictional maneuver, as implausible as it may sound, that works to perfection in Murakami’s hands.

    Because of Murakami’s unassuming, simple prose, when there’s a philosophical musing, it never sounds heavy handed. His metaphors and characterization are, as always, dead on. But the customary strange and scary irresolution of his stories (i.e. ‘Wind-Up Bird’) is not here. Only a gentle contemplation of it. I wouldn’t say it’s sentimental, but it’s more directly emotional than his other works. Although this book is fine and profound, I miss the sprawling ambition and themes in his previous books. This lyrical book reads more like a novella than a novel.

  • DUsan Neumann
    23:50 on March 3rd, 2013
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    This review is specifically about this Norton Edition. Normally I love Norton editions because the footnotes provide so much information and create the context for the story. The Norton edition of Wide Sargasso Sea is a great example; all types of historical footnotes about Jamaica and the situation in the Caribbean at that time fill the text. This edition, while it has articles that prove to be useful, is severely lacking in notation for the text itself. Heart of Darkness is a notoriously difficult novel to read and the notes provide little information. For instance, on p. 9 the narrator mentions arriving in a city that makes him think of a “white sepulchre.” This city is Brussels, but there is no footnote saying so. The next page the narrator meets “The great man himself” which I’m guessing is Leopold, but again, no footnote. There are tons of similar examples. You have to be very familiar with the history of the Belgium Congo to understand the book, and Norton Editions are usually great for readers who aren’t as familiar with the context of the work but this one is an exception to that case. I still give this edition three stars because as I said before the subsequent articles are very helpful.

  • EdKent
    0:53 on March 4th, 2013
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    English majors are justly fond of Conrad, who packs his stories with subtlety, symbolism, parallels, and rich imagery. “Heart of Darkness” is a brief and strangely absorbing read. Its plot is simple enough on the surface, about a sailor who guides a steamer up the Congo in search of a vaunted ivory trader. But beneath the surface, in a palpable atmosphere of unease, lie the book’s complicated themes. This isn’t just a condemnation of European activity in Africa, but a glimpse at the evil within every man. In some ways this book is a precursor to “Lord of the Flies” and other twentieth century books of despair, and yet Conrad does not leave the reader without hope. In skilful, mystical passages about light and dark, black and white, tall and short, jungle and sepulchre, Conrad gives us much food for thought about the nature of humankind and the possibilities for both good and evil. I see this book more as a warning than a simple cry of despair – though it pays ample attention to “the horror” of it all.

  • Cayman Guy
    1:08 on March 4th, 2013
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    Murakami doesn’t break any new ground here … for me, the overall tone of the book was similar to South of the Border, West of the Sun … the book starts off with a straight-forward, yet complicated desire (think Norwegian Wood), moves into mysterious disappearances and dual-selfs (think Wind-Up Bird), and ends with a more edgy stretch involving a security cop and a kid in a scene that reminded me a lot of Dance, Dance, Dance.

    The story itself is interesting but I didn’t find it particularly compelling, certainly not like some of his earlier, longer works. For me at least, the most notable part of this book was the skill with which Murakami dipped into his bucket of Loneliness and painted the tales of several unique individuals who could not be satisfied. K, a loner who is distant from his family, loses the one person he truly loves (who cannot love him back the same way he loves her anyway). Sumire, whose tornado-like love cannot be returned by Miu because of Miu’s strange experience in Switzerland. Miu, who suffered a truly bizarre experience on a Ferris Wheel and is only a shell of her previous self (Murakami’s one of the few writers who can make a ferris wheel, of all things, terrifying). K’s married “girlfriend” and her son are also lonely.

    Murakami somehow manages to keep this tale sad without being depressing. A good work, it’ll be appreciated by fans of Murakami. However, if you haven’t read anything by him and are looking for someplace to start, I’d recommend one of his earlier works first. Murakami seems to have turned a little more mellow with his last few books. Nevertheless, a good read.

  • migukin
    1:33 on March 4th, 2013
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    This novel should have been a novella. The core of the novel is about 50 pages long, and really good, but it takes too long to get to it. There is a unique quality of strange ethereal mystery at the core. Fortunately, it’s a quick read so you don’t feel like it wasn’t worth it. It ends like After Dark, leaving you hanging.

    The best thing about this author is his tender understanding of people.

  • Ian Drew
    3:33 on March 4th, 2013
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    I was assigned this book as summer reading for my senior AP Lit. class. Here are a few observations I made that might be useful to other students…

    1. Overall, it’s a good read. It’s short (brevity is beautiful), FULL of suspence, and very interesting. If you’re thinking of skipping it and relying on Sparky or Cliff, please reconsider. Conrad’s prose is deep and beautiful. The descriptions of “Patches,” the amiable Russian whose clothes are so patched they resemble the multicolor map of colonized Africa, are brilliant.

    2. That said, using a study guide alongside your reading is probably a good idea. Conrad is terribly subtle. I usually pick things up immediately, but I was a bit confused at the end. Online SparkNotes were somewhat helpful.

    3. I bought the Penguin Classics edition with an introduction and notes by Robert Hampson. The notes were helpful, but I thought the introduction was less than spectacular. As I said, I wanted to clarify a few things about Conrad’s themes and characters, and Hampson didn’t answer my questions. So either try a different edition with better analysis and criticism (Norton Critical perhaps) or get a companion study guide.

    4. Our class is reading Heart of Darkness together with Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Even if that novel (which is very good, by the way) isn’t on your list, you’ll likely be asked in some way to respond to Achebe’s criticism of Conrad. Penguin actually dealt fairly well with the Achebe issue and provided a response; however, I imagine Norton deals with it equally well if not better. It might be worth your while to pick up a book that you know covers that issue.

  • migukin
    4:57 on March 4th, 2013
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    Heart of Darkness is one of those classics of literature that should be read by everyone. It is dark and deeply psychological. But more than just a great novel, it is probably one of the most frequently referenced culture touchstones in the western world (if you think Apocolypse Now was an “important film,” then you should read the inspiration behind it–Heart of Darkness). But anyone can find “what is this book about” on many websites. THe Norton Critical edition is probably the best way to read Heart of Darkness. THe Norton Critical edition includes contemporary reviews, and major literary critics discussing the importance of the book. In other words, if you read the Norton Critical edition you’ll of course be able to talk about “what happens” in the book but also “why it is significant”

  • Radjin
    6:36 on March 4th, 2013
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    murakami’s everyman K takes us into his lands of loss, longing and unrequited love. there’s something very special about this compact novel- murakami’s narrative voice is somewhat more vunerable than in his previous works, and his tightly repressed dialogue offsets a few scenes of fierce eroticism.

    once again our narrator is passive; his inaction serves as a ground and sounding board for his best friend sumire, a would-be writer who he is not-so-secretly in love with. when she disappears on a business trip to an unnamed greek island things become strange, in a way wholly familiar to murakami’s readers.

    this feels a lot like some of the short stories, particularly “sleep” and “tv people” where you wonder what is “real”. the narrator spends a lot of time asking questions, mulling over events, but nothing is ever resolved. the enjoyment is in the blurring.

    don’t let the simplicity of the story put you off; there’s a poetic beauty to the chilly isolation these characters find themselves in. a few days after finishing this, something in it snuck up on me and i was overwhelmed by the most profound feeling of sadness.

  • LookALike
    7:28 on March 4th, 2013
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    To some extent, all Murakami’s books are tightly structured along a philosophical theme (i.e. life and death in Norwegian Wood, conscious and subconscious in Hard-boiled Wonderland, and despair and action in Dance Dance Dance), but in Sputnik Sweetheart he goes into a territory less universal – sign and symbol, idea and spirit, and presence and absence. I used to see Murakami as a philosophical novelist, but now I feel like I’m reading a novel written by a philosopher.

    The storyline is only a cover for Murakami to unfold his reflections on these themes – Sumire was swept by her love for an otherworldly woman; meanwhile, the earthier “I”(is he yet again nameless?) quietly awaits her love. It’s his discussion on the contradictory forces behind these characters that makes Sputnik Sweetheart an intriguing read: Sumire was named after a Mozart’s song with the most beautiful music and the most callous lyrics; Miu is a foreigner who can no longer speak her mother tongue; “I” is a passionate, kind, intelligent teacher, who nonetheless sleeps with the mother of one of his pupils. All of them feel the force of destiny, and each answers in one’s own way: Sumire disappears after her quest for heavenly beauty; Miu is no longer a living person, but a memorial to the person she was, just like the statue of her father. “I” remains in this world, resists, and hangs on to a thread of hope that nobody else would call hope. All three are aware that they need some fresh blood – the spirit – to revitalize their being – the white bones.

    Murakami’s approach is even more abstract and conceptual here than before, and it enables him to hit some sublime emotional notes, for example, the horrid scene when Miu watchs her own rape, and the final scene when “I” waits for Sumire to call back. The pain was so pure and transcendental – Murakami definitely spills some blood over the white bones here!

    The prose is absolutely stunning: it flows like a piece of music, with tones and colors and subtle emotions, even a bit serene sloppiness. Hat off to the translators.

  • BigLawPartner
    9:23 on March 4th, 2013
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    Joseph Conrad’s novel, Heart of Darkness, had a vivid sense of description that made this book astonishing. When reading this book I had every scene totally drawn out in my head and I knew what every character looked like. This book had many pieces and when I finished reading this book it seemed as the puzzle had been completed. After I finished reading Heat of Darkness, I watched the movie, which was a mistake.
    The movie cut out so many substantial parts. For example, in the novel Marlow waited a very long time for the rivets to come for him to fix his boat. This was a big source of futility. In the movie that part was just left out. The movie added more parts that were useless and made no sense. For example, when Kurtz was talking to Marlow at the end of the book and Kurtz snapped the monkey’s neck and killed him. What purpose did that scene have, other than to make the audience feel sorry for the monkey? It’s as if the script writer didn’t even read the whole book and just put the parts that he read in the movie.
    If I had not read the novel before I had watched the movie I would have been thoroughly confused. The book was amazing and it is truly a classic in American Literature, but the movie could have defiantly been nominated for the worst picture in the Razzie Awards.

  • Moe Green
    10:02 on March 4th, 2013
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    This is a very unusual book, dealing with colonialism, barbarianism, insanity and mental torment. Unfortunetly the Author, Joseph Conrad, has written more than I, and most people will ever be able to grasp with our simple minds that cherish only literal things like M-TV and McDonalds. Yes, I, as a highschool student found this book incredibly tedious and hard to read, but I know that there is so much inside this book. It is a shame that when something truely real comes along, no one is smart enough to realize it. Perhaps Conrad should have known this, since he seems to know so much about the human soul, and not written his book in this unusuall method.

  • Cynthia Rowland
    11:23 on March 4th, 2013
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    I envy you if you have not read this; there is something magical about that moment you begin this tale and realize how Murakami just keeps getting better with each novel. In fact, if you haven’t read any of his novels, I’d suggest setting aside a weekend, buying a few such as this one, “Wind-Up Clockbird”, “Dance Dance Dance” and “South of the Border, West of the Sun”, stocking up on some good wine, snacks and cat food, unplugging the phone and then settling back for pure pleasure.

    His prose is stripped down to an almost zen-like state; I don’t understand how it survives translation so well. Beautiful, like an Arvo Part of literature.

    The story? Well, I won’t spoil it, there is enough written here already. Just your basic tale of loneliness and artificial separation that so many experience in this cold and non-emotional twenty-first century. One can only wish that some people read these and actually learn something – that true contact involves emotions, is messy and is why we exist in the first place.

    Enjoy!

  • dont you know?
    13:13 on March 4th, 2013
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    I’m not sure how to feel about this book. While reading it, I really could not become absorbed by Conrad’s dense prose, though, while occasionaly eloquent, is very thick, and, well, British. But now that I am finished with it, I can not get the images the novella invokes out of my head. The conquest of Africa by the Imperialist on the surface, and the corruption of man’s very morality underneath. The story is deceptively simple, merely a man working for an Ivory trading company, ominously called “The Company”, going up the Congo river to meet up with Kurtz, the archetype of Western Imperialism. During this trip, we are shown the inner workings of man and his heart of darkness. The novella is not perfect though. Conrad’s condemnation of Imperialism is uneven. Yes, the only discernable cause of Kurtz’s descent into evil and madness is the imperialist ethic of master-slave, and it is fairly clear that Marlowe (conrad) is condemning that ethic, but at the same time, he doesn’t work very hard to elevate the view of the African natives any higher in the esteem of his western readers. Anyway, as the novella is only about 100 pages, it is something that can be read in a day. Invest an afternoon in it, and decide for yourself.

  • Baidehi Creeper
    13:23 on March 4th, 2013
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    No-one seriously interested in English literature can afford not to read this book. As a central device, the parallel journey into the heart of Africa and the dark centre of the human experience, remains as powerful as ever. The writing in the opening pages, depicting the men and the Thames and the wide possibilities that rise with every outgoing tide, remain as evocative as anything in English. Conrad’s subject is barbarity, a theme as relevant now as then. His dark view of the colonial instinct also stands as a warning at this very hour. With “Lord Jim” a thicker, but in many ways easier book to read, Conrad poses the great existential question that was to dominate personal politics throughout the 20th Century, the taking of personal responsibility, the search for personal redemption – as one character puts it: “How to be – Ach! How to be?” With “Heart of Darkness” he articulates what Michael Ignatieff has described as “the seductiveness of moral disgust.” Faced with the darkness around him, the character Kurtz advises “exterminate the brutes.” His final, dread epiphany, his message from the heart of his own darkness “The Horror! The Horror!” is as chilling now as it was a century ago – a century that has seen more horror than even Conrad could have imagined.

  • Bryant White
    15:11 on March 4th, 2013
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    I’ll admit first off that Murakami is one of my all time favorites and I’ve read every one of his novels available in English. I still think his masterpiece is The Wind Up Bird Chronicle for its sheer mass and scope, but I was impressed by this novel for just the opposite. In this rather short and seemingly simple novel, some of the deepest and most profound thoughts and events take place. Like our narrator in Norwegian wood, we have a young man devoted to a girl, in this case the lovable Sumire. Unfortunately, she feels no desire for him and instead falls in love with a married women. This is where things turn into Vintage Murakami with surrealistic events taking place (old Murakami fans will think of the elevator to another time zone type of thing). Here, Sumire disappears and our narrator sets out in search of her. What he ultimately discovers is what the reader will uncover.

    The prose is very sparse compared to his other novels, but I think Murakami does well in this kind of minimalist style which has a seething undercurrent lurking just beneath the surface. The emotions are heartfelt and deep — our narrator suffers for his love and devotion. Not only another excellent Murakami novel, but an accessible one that should earn him some new fans. Hopefully this novel will direct new readers to his earlier masterworks.

  • Johnny Depp
    16:43 on March 4th, 2013
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    I would have given it a five, but the tremendous complexity of Conrad’s writing mars somewhat the fantastic novel. The book is about a British sailor, Marlow, who ventures into the depth of the African continent – to Congo, which at the time (beginning of the 20th century) was colonized by the British. The deeper Marlow’s steam-boat penetrates into the continent – the looser are the ties with the western civilization, until it seems to Marlow that the western civilization exists only in his mind. Marlow witnesses the unbelievable cruelty on behalf of the British towards the natives, and starts questioning whether humanity and all the ideals that we are brought upon are nothing but arbitrary abstracts. The black continent draws Marlow in deeper and deeper and engulfes him in the shroud of darkness, and as Marlow takes his boat further to the heart of the continent – he gets ever closer to the heart of darkness, where he encounters Kurtz – an employer in the company that trades ivory. Kurtz is an incredibly ambiguous character, and on a symbolic level he is the heart of darkness. Kurtz, who essentially becomes a king of a native tribe, is torn between Good and Evil. He is overwhelmed by compassion and understanding towards the natives, and the compulsion to rule by terror.

    Great book – if you can get through the dense stuff – read it!

  • jfutral
    16:54 on March 4th, 2013
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    Haruki Murakami is one of those author’s who, if you read one of his books, you’re hooked and have to read them all. If you’re a fan, this book will not disappoint. The narrating character is similar to the man in most of his books. There’s nothing extraordinary about him, yet that’s exactly why you love the guy and are happy to be let into his life for a little while. This book reminded me a bit of my favorite Murakami book, Hard-Boiled Wonderland. It’s the idea of another possible world out there that makes things interesting. The love story wasn’t as gripping as say, the one in South of the Border, West of the Sun. I hate calling attention to the love triangle in this story, as most reviews do, but I suppose it is unavoidable. Our narrator must deal with his unrequited love for a unique woman who reminds me of one of the author Banana Yoshimoto’s characters. She, in turn, must deal with her unrequited love for the older woman she works with.

    The most striking thing to me about this book, was that Murakami actually made me, a woman, understand what it’s like for a man to feel love and lust for a woman. I understood all of the narrator’s thoughts and feelings. I guess that’s what’s great about Murakami’s books. If you love Murakami, then read this one too. It will be like hanging out with an old friend.

  • Neta Broad
    17:46 on March 4th, 2013
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    Several people I am acquainted with have questioned my reading of “Heart of Darkness,” using as argument the fact that they read it “in high school.” Apparently, for these very well-read souls, if the book was in their high school reading list, then it should never be approached again. Well, both the poem of “El Cid” and the novel “Don Quijote” first revealed their wonders to me when I was in high school, and now that I have read them again (and “Don Quijote” complete this time), they have just proved to be timeless classics with something to tell a person of any age. “Heart of Darkness,” by Joseph Conrad, is a classic that, given its length, invites several readings, particularly if one goes beyond the “high school-depth” sadly evident in those acquaintances of mine. The different, dark, alien world of the Congo as barely seen through Marlow’s eyes, juxtaposed with the author’s subtle-but-powerful condemnation of a system that promotes exploitation of those seen as “inferior,” is one of this novella’s most important, and often missed, commentaries. Marlow is the English sailor who does not, and cannot, understand anything that is not English, from the nameless city across the Channel (Brussels, most probably), to the ghost-like figures that people his employer’s offices, to the multi-coloured map that shows how Africa has been carved, to the multi-coloured Russian whose language Marlowe cannot recognize and believes is cypher, to the river itself, to the native inhabitants of the land he is invading. This trip up the Congo river that Marlow tells his shipmates about while on the Thames is a journey after a man’s voice, his treasure of ivory, and his report on the natives. This man, Kurtz, is the one who will state “kill the brutes!” in his report, expressing the opinion of so many Europeans regarding most, and maybe all, non-European races.

    “Heart of Darkness” can be read simply as an adventure, but there are several, better, adventure books that have better “hooks” and are, at the same time, more easily forgotten. This is an extraordinary short book by an extraordinary author. Do not deprive yourself of a magnificent, early 20th century masterpiece of literature, just because someone was not hooked by it, or because someone read it in high school and it just wouldn’t do to read it again. The power of this book is not in its “easy” prose, because its prose is definitely not easy. It is not in an artificially complex prose, either. This second fault seems more the refuge of other writers, plenty of them modern ones, who have confused “good” with obscure, and “better” with unreadable. Conrad knows how to tell a story, and there is a method to this dark tale told by Marlow, a man much closer to Kurtz than he would like to admit. Since the reader is presented only with Marlow’s account, the jump from the reader to Marlow to Kurtz and back to the reader is a troubling one. Here is Conrad’s mastery. Read the book. If you have read it, try it again. It may surprise you what new revelations prowl its pages.

    This 3rd Norton Critical edition is the best I have seen so far. The essays are all good, but Chinua Achebe’s deserves special attention: the Nigerian author advocates not reading “Heart of Darkness” at all, a statement that, coming from a writer, is not just surprising, but deeply disturbing. I sincerely believe that this form of intentional ignorance, of voluntary censorship on the part of the reader, only serves to foment a generalized, public ignorance of the world around us.

  • Rodney Beede
    18:36 on March 4th, 2013
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    Joseph Conrad’s novel about one man’s journey into the heart of darkness is considered a classic, and for good reason. This novel has no fear in providing the reader with detailed descriptions of all the horrors that take place throughout its pages.

    The novel starts out with Marlow, the main character, sitting down with a few of his ship-mates to tell a story. Normally Marlow’s stories aren’t ones to stay up for, but he quickly ensnares the listeners with his disturbing tale of madness. Marlow was the captain of a steamboat who ends up at a slave-trading post along the banks of a huge river in Africa. While at the post, not only does Marlow witness some of the most horrible things you can imagine, but he also hears many rumors and stories of a brilliant man, Kurtz, who runs another post farther up the river, and farther into the deep wilderness. Kurtz is supposed to be next in line to run everything with the Company, but the rumors running around the post aren’t all good ones, and Marlow is eventually commissioned to take his steamboat upriver and find Kurtz. Once Marlow finally reaches his destination, the book really takes the reader over with its frightening descriptions of Kurtz and his situation that he created being alone out at this post with the natives for the longest time.

    Conrad’s writing, as most classical writing, is a little hard to follow at moments, and while the book should be appreciated for its elegant, disturbing descriptions, I actually felt that the dialog between the characters, particularly Kurtz and Marlow was the strongest point of the novel. As Marlow comes into contact with more people who actually know Kurtz, the reader is informed again and again what a brilliant man he is, and how just listening to him talk can be the best thing in the world. But when Marlow and Kurtz finally meet, the reader is only given a few snippets of conversation, and the rest goes unmentioned by the author except for a couple parts at the end. While this small criticism of the novel doesn’t mean that it isn’t still a classic, it just means that in terms of this particular reader, I think it could have been even better and more powerful than it was.

    But other than that one small beef, I have nothing bad to say about this novel. Conrad was a gifted writer who seemed to understand the effect that shocking images can have on a reader. The images spoken of in his novel aren’t pointlessly graphic at all, they are all engineered so the reader can understand the true nature of everything that was going on in during this time.

    On a side note, reading this novel helped me understand Apocalypse Now a whole lot more than I did before.

  • John Berne
    20:14 on March 4th, 2013
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    Beautifully written (at least in translation) as is all of Murakami’s work. This is a haunting meditation on longing but the stranger aspects of the story work less well than they do in other of his novels.

  • Detroit
    22:04 on March 4th, 2013
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    Definitely not as much emotional as Norwegian Wood and not as intense as Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, but nevertheless, still a worthwhile read. It possesses the classic Murakami’s dream-like touch (although not as strong as his more popular books) which keeps the story engaging and page-turning. I think, as long you are a reader who likes his style of writing (his way of thinking), then you will love the book. It is also an extremely quick read.

  • everydaypanos
    23:07 on March 4th, 2013
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    Sputnik Sweetheart was the first Haruki Murakami novel I ever read. He quickly became one of my favorite novelists and I went on a mad quest to read every novel of his published in English.

    Sputnik Sweetheart is a short, bittersweet novel about three people trying to make connections in an alienating society. K, a young Japanese elementary school teacher is in love with his best friend Sumire. Sumire is a determined young woman who is so focused on being a novelist that she does not pay attention to love or very much else actually. This changes suddenly when Sumire goes to a cousin’s wedding. At the wedding she sits next to Miu, an older, highly attractive married Korean woman who runs a very succesful wine import business. Sumire falls for Miu hard and fast. Miu befriends Sumire immediately and makes her into a project of sorts. She hires Sumire as a part-time assistant, makes her learn to drive, take French and Italian lessons, and become more cultured and wordly. Miu also replaces Sumire’s baggy and grungy wardrobes with more feminine and fashionable clothing.

    Through out Sumire’s transformation K falls more deeply in love with her and also begins to feel sadder about it. He is not sure how to react to Sumire’s newly discovered lesbianism. Is it a simple crush, a youthful experiment, or a life long decision?

    Sputnik Sweetheart is a novel about the joy and angonies of unrequited love and first love. It is about whether true love is merely a romantic ideal or something that can actually exist and happen. Haruki Murakami is a master writer whether he is describing emotion or physical location. Anyone who has ever been in love should be able to appreciate this novel.

  • Lesson
    0:18 on March 5th, 2013
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    I’m not going to review of Conrad’s actual work. Too much ink has been spilled on that. I just want to give my thoughts on the free kindle edition.

    Since it’s free, you can’t argue with the price. However, you sort of get what you pay for. The chapters are not keyed, making navigation a tad more difficult. This lack is almost a non-issue, however, since the book is so short. The text also contains quite a few typos. Most damaging to the reading experience is the somewhat sloppy paragraphing.

    These issues are minor, though. Since this edition is free, one shouldn’t expect a pristine text.

  • Gene Mosher
    1:35 on March 5th, 2013
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    “Sputnik Sweetheart” is a novel that enters the lives of a teacher, a girl called Sumire and a woman called Miu. The teacher loves Sumire as a woman, Sumire loves Miu and Miu is just Miu. The incomplete love triangle forms the main relational backdrop to the story.

    The novel delves into the longings, loneliness and loves of the characters, each one longing for something and not always achieving it. In Murakmi’s usual surreal way, he brings the teacher, (who happens to be the narrator of the story), through the barriers to an end that is quite fitting.

    I rather enjoyed this book for its relative ease of comprehending what Murakami was getting at. Other books I found perplexing and they left me with a feeling that I had missed a central piece of the story. “Sputnik Sweetheart” is one I would suggest to new readers of Murakami, I think. It was a good book to illustrate how Murakami should be approached at a basic level. I found this aspect of it helpful to understand some of his other works.

    There is some cross referencing to other Murakami works, such as a reference to the short story “Man-Eating Cats”, which appears in Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman. There are other references that appear in “Sputnik Sweetheart” as well.

    Overall, this was an enjoyable read and one that left me feeling rather satisfied. It was not perplexing to the degree of Murakami’s other works, though in some ways, it was less profound, as well. At the end of the day, it was a good way to kill a few hours with a very good book.

  • Sparky
    2:57 on March 5th, 2013
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    This tale of a lonely girl floating quietly around her object of desire, never able to reach out and have her feelings reciprocated, is intriguing and fun to read. Murakami takes the reader from the griminess of Tokyo to the simultaneously lush and stark Greek isles. The story of Miu and Sumire along with the narrator flows nicely together despite an incompleteness about their characters.

    The only complaint that kept rerunning itself as I made my way through the book was that I felt I was missing something in the translation. Unlike those texts translated by Rubin or Birnbaum, Sputnik Sweetheart had the distinct aftertaste of trans-language awkwardness. Phrases that have a certain meaning in Japanese seem to be translated literally and the meaning is lost in our culture.

    Murakami continues his excursions into mind games with this book and it becomes totally clear by the end of the book that he is doing so. In fact, the last chapter is so ambiguous and strangely worded that one doesn’t know whether the final scene was reality or a dream. For most of the book, Murakami builds a wall of safety and reality for the reader, but then turns in the second half and smashes the wall to reveal that the characters’ realities are not predicated on laws of a single universe.

    A very intriguing book, if not a little confusing. Recommended for die-hard Murakami fans, but perhaps a little too removed from objective reality (or too close to it) for some readers.

  • Paul Sutter
    4:05 on March 5th, 2013
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    Marlow, a British sailor at the turn of the century, recounts his search for a certain Mr. Kurtz, along a river in Congo, to an anonymous “I.” The book is a monologue told over a single evening. The emotions Marlow displays are awe (towards Kurtz), disdain (towards the misdeeds of the company Marlow works for and the misdeeds of the “natives”), and fear. The intensity of such emotions draws one to follow the monologue till the end. I grew interested in this novel due to the ubiquitous references to it in contemporary political literature. The book I found however to be of psychological nature more than anything else. Never once while reading was I convinced that ideology was the crux of the matter. To the contrary I felt as if imperialism/colonialism were used as articles to justify the existence of the puzzle that was Kurtz. Conrad may have intended Kurtz, in his bleakness and contradictions, to be an embodiment of such ideologies, as contemporary critics like to put it. Such arguments naturally lend themselves to the interpretation that this novel is a critique of imperialism. It may well be, if one can assume that Conrad understood the highly politicized term “imperialism” as we do now. I suspect that this novel is instead really a critique, or a report, of “the present,” the circumstance Conrad had experienced.

  • Proofreader
    4:22 on March 5th, 2013
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    Daytime scents of nightmare horrors. Man and his insane ways – bushman, postman, commoner, who to blame? Unless you are familiar with the background of this stunning novel do yourself a favor and get the Norton Critical Edition. For a century Conrad’s novel has drawn raves and rage. Each is left to decide where the sanity line lies, to the right or to the left. Upriver or downriver? Riveting every page of the way.

  • Kimmy
    4:55 on March 5th, 2013
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    So help me, I tried. I really tried. Paragraph upon paragraph was read, re-read, and sometimes read a third time, trying to soak it all up. My efforts were often rewarded, but not necessarily with a mind-blowing epiphany or an intoxicatingly rich literary morsel. There were many times when I found myself asking if that was all there was to the stream of consciousness rambling, the scaffold of metaphors threatening to topple under their own weight, or the lofty word choices. Yes, there was insight. Yes there was truth. Yes there was a candid essay on imperialism, racism, and the consistently mentioned eponymous phrase that lingers in all of us. Is that all? How much am I missing? I found myself wishing I had Cliff’s Notes or a critical edition just to see what others more experienced in deciphering this novella had to say. Alas, I had nothing but my own head and I came up short. Nothing in this story made me pause and wonder. Nothing in this story made me want to read it again. Nothing in this story helped me to understand why it is so widely regarded as a classic. One thing that did strike me, however, is the fact that it is regarded as a book to be read by young adults. Many of the reviewers were in high school when they read it. My God, how much harder would it be at that age? I’m freaking forty-six and have lived and learned a great deal and I found it hard to plow through. What sadistic bastard would assign this to a fifteen year old and expect anything but a lot of confusion and frustration?
    Maybe I am not mentally up to what Conrad offers. Like pearls before swine, the book’s brilliance is wasted on me. I’m cool with that. If I couldn’t get it after putting my best into it, then it is something I’ll never get. There are too many books out there with the label of “classic” and I’ll try my luck with them. If you are like me and wonder what the fuss was all about, here’s a raised glass to us all. Oink oink.

  • Phillip P.
    6:17 on March 5th, 2013
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    I have read every one of his works and without a doubt he’s one of my favorite authors. But, unless you’ve read everything else by him, read one of his other, better books (in order of greatest to least):

    Norweigian Wood, Dance Dance Dance, Hardboiled Wonderland, Wind up Bird Chronicle, Elephant Vanishes, Wild Sheep Chase, South of the Border West of the Sun.*

    Integrating personal love story and “postmodern” fantasy that characterize Murakami’s two distinct writing styles, In Sputnik, neither works. The magic just isn’t surprising or fantastical here, and having read some of his other works they may seem repetitive.

    In terms of the personal and love story, the characters are flat and the relationships are uninteresting. Even the narrator is flat. His mundanity is just sleepy, whereas Murakami normally makes the mundane narrator spectacular.

    And the writing is Murakami at his worst. One paragraph per section sometimes, it’s really silly. That the book is essentially 200 pages double-spaced is not reassuring. Maybe it’s the new translator

    If you’ve read all of his other stuff and need a “Murakami Fix” buy the book. Otherwise, read one of his better books.


    * The “greatness” order of his best three novels (1 Norwegian Wood, 2 Dance Dance Dance, 3 Hardboiled Wonderland) is debatable. Hardboiled Wonderland has the most entertaining plot, but it’s a pulp/pop cyberpunk novel. Dance Dance Dance is Murakami at his most brilliant, his most entertaining all around work if you appreciate intellectual stimulation and pyrotechnics in addition to an an engaging plot. Finally, Norwegian Wood is so incredibly personal that it is his most emotionally engaging work; it will make you cry.
    It goes the same for all three of these, though: you wont be able to put them down.

  • Thomas Hebert
    7:50 on March 5th, 2013
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    Thus far, I’d only read Murakami’s more “fantastic” novels, such as Wild Sheep Chase and Hardboiled Wonderland so Sputnik Sweetheart was somewhat of a shock to me. Yet there are some similarities: nameless (almost), young, male narrator; cute, quirky, attractive, young female character with whom the narrator is enamored; mystery; and the occasional unusual setting.

    Sputnik Sweetheart follows the story of K, his love for the quirky Sumire, her attraction to the mysterious Miu and the mystery surrounding Sumire’s disappearance on a remote Greek island. Filled with plenty of angst, unrequited love and unrealized dreams, Sputnik Sweetheart is perhaps more introspective than many of Murakami’s novels but it’s no less enjoyable. Murakami’s sense of humor, despite the sullen subject matter, shines through and his overall style makes this a unique novel.

  • Ray Hoppes
    8:12 on March 5th, 2013
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    If I could give one piece of advice to those about to tackle Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness,” it would be to get a version with lots of background information, literary criticisms, and the like.

    The best way to read it is to read it once through (in my version, this was a short, but very dense 115 pages), then read all the extra stuff, then read it again. Unless you’re a certified genius with extensive literary and historical knowledge, you’re going to be lost without all the outside information.

    That said, this is a very affecting book. It’s really all the ambiguities and the frustrating anticlimax that make you think. Thinking is good, and people should do it more often.

  • Aankhen
    9:21 on March 5th, 2013
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    I just finished Sputnik Sweetheart. And I loved it. So I went on Amazon to read reviews, to see if other people agreed with me. I guess not. Many people complained how the book lacked depth; one reviewer even said it was poolside reading. These remarks took me by surprise, as the book reached out to me on many levels. It gave me something to think about.

    One idea in this book is that we are all broken vessels, and we want others to complete us. But perhaps that’s too much to ask. After all, everyone is looking for something different, and many of us aren’t even looking. So we all continue to be broken, to live each day isolated and unfulfilled. Is this life as we know and understand it? At times. I highly recommend this book if you want something to mull over. The plot and ideas are not straightforward, but the emotional impact is there. You don’t have to look hard; just let the book guide you. Murakami will remind you of what you already know, beautifully and introspectively.

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