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Let me start off by saying this book is really short. A grand total of 74 pages. If you read one book for the rest of your life, you are capable of reading this. Even though the story is a little hard to follow, it is longer than a Sports Illustrated magazine, so I think one could handle it. After all, everyone needs to read at least one classic novel of their choice in their lifetime, but that’s just my opinion. This book really reminded me of Lord of the Flies by William Golding, because of the primitiveness and the setting, in a way. The story is of a young man named Marlow, a sensitive and quiet Belgian trading company employee. It is set during the time of imperialism, focusing on ‘the scramble for Africa’ and on the way other countries were exploiting the resources Africa provided. The story relates to the author’s time in the “Congo Free State” in 1890, which severely affected his health, and he published the novel in 1899 as a three part article in a magazine and then published as a short novel in 1902. Anyway, it follows Marlow and his journey for the company into the deep of Africa realizing it is not what he imagined, saying “…I had blundered into a place of cruel and absurd mysteries not fit for a human being to behold.” . On the way, he hears of a great man named Mr. Kurtz, a trader who gathers the ivory so the British can sell it. Kurtz has become, in a way, one of the natives and he is quite primitive. Marlow and his crew are attacked by natives a few times throughout the novel, causing the death of the helmsman that Marlow had become close to. In the end of the novel, Marlow finally meets the elusive Kurtz, and he is dying from an illness. Near the time of his death, he gives Marlow a packet of papers for people that he was close to in his life and his workplace. He dies saying, “The horror! The horror!” Marlow travels back to England, falling ill himself, which was probably typical at this time without proper healthcare conditions, and he gives some of the papers to Kurtz’s fiancé. She asks what Kurtz’s last words were. Marlow lies and says it was her name. Way to go men, lying to women just to make them feel better about themselves. In the end, Marlow has a feeling that he knew Kurtz, even though he only met him once after hearing rumors about him. In the novel he says, “Kurtz was a remarkable man. He had something to say. He said it.”, suggesting that he and Kurtz were more acquainted than they actually were. Marlow also seems to have mixed feelings towards Kurtz, seeing him as awesome and mysterious, but also as pathetic and small.
I apologize if this review was a bit sparse, I read this book almost two weeks ago and you can see how that would be a struggle considering my last post. However, I really liked this short novel (not because of the length, mind you) because it had to do with history. Seeing an author’s connection with their current time period and then writing about it has been done countless times, but it still gives us some insight to how life was like back in a time we really can’t imagine and what people were like. That is my favorite thing about historical fiction and classic novels: they were written in a time period that would’ve been forgotten if we hadn’t had those authors write it all down. History would be nothing without recordings of it, and we would be nothing without them.