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postcolonial literature

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Heart of Darkness

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A tale by J. Conrad, published 1902. On board a boat anchored peacefully in the Thames the narrator, Marlow, tells the story of his journey on another river.

Travelling in Africa to join a cargo boat, Marlow grows disgusted by what he sees of the greed of the ivory traders and their brutal exploitation of the natives. At a company station he hears of the remarkable agent Mr Kurtz who is stationed in the very heart of the ivory country. Marlow makes a long and arduous cross‐country trek to join the steamboat which he will command on an ivory collecting journey into the interior, but at the Central Station he finds that his boat has been mysteriously wrecked. He learns that Kurtz has dismissed his assistant and is seriously ill. With repairs completed Marlow sets off on the two‐month journey towards Kurtz. The river passage through the heavy motionless forest fills Marlow with a growing sense of dread. Nearing its destination the boat is attacked by tribesmen and a helmsman is killed. At the Inner Station Marlow is met by a naïve young Russian sailor who tells Marlow of Kurtz's brilliance and the semi‐divine power he exercises over the natives. A row of severed heads on stakes round the hut give an intimation of the barbaric rites by which Kurtz has achieved his ascendancy. While Marlow attempts to get Kurtz back down the river Kurtz tries to justify his actions and his motives: he has seen into the very heart of things. But dying his last words are: ‘The horror! The horror!’ Marlow is left with two packages to deliver, Kurtz's report for the Society for Suppression of Savage Customs, and some letters for his girlfriend. This short novel has become one of the most‐discussed texts in post‐colonial literary studies; it also inspired Coppola's film Apocalypse Now (1979).

Subjects: Literature

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