10 Quotes That Take You Right Into The Heart of Darkness
The year 2017 has been declared Joseph Conrad Year in Poland to mark the 160th anniversary of the renowned writer’s birth. To mark the occasion, Culture.pl brings you 10 memorable quotes from the book Heart of Darkness that take you right to the heart of one of the Polish-born author’s most recognised works.
1. On the beginnings of the world
Going up that river was like travelling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest. The air was warm, thick, heavy, sluggish. There was no joy in the brilliance of sunshine.
In Joseph Conrad’s novella set in colonial Africa at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the seaman Marlow finds employment with a European trade company. They instruct him to pilot a steamboat up a great, tropical river to reach Mr. Kurtz, an agent of the company, who has a reputation for securing great profits.
2. On life's sadness
Droll thing life is - that mysterious arrangement of merciless logic for a futile purpose.
3. On work
I don't like work - no man does - 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.
4. On the mind of man
The mind of man is capable of anything - because everything is in it, all the past as well as all the future.
After a lengthy journey, Marlow arrives at his destination. He finds Kurtz’s unusual activities position him outside the norms of the Old Continent: in his remote, jungle outpost he acts like a cruel demigod, accepting worship from locals and functioning in a house surrounded by severed heads impaled on posts.
5. On grief
Even extreme grief may ultimately vent itself in violence - but more generally takes the form of apathy. . . .
6. On fighting death
I have wrestled with death. It is the most unexciting contest you can imagine.
7. On solitude
We live, as we dream – alone. . . .
Heart of Darkness has the form of a relation – it begins with Marlow starting to recount his story to a small group of sailors aboard a ship anchored on the Thames. In a brief digression from the narrative, he dwells on how the essence of one’s experience is incommunicable and delivers this quote pointing to the ultimate loneliness of human life.
8. Last words
He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision – he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath – ‘The horror! The horror!’
When Marlow finally finds Kurtz, the latter is already very ill and it’s not long before he passes away. These are his last words, which were memorably uttered by Marlon Brando in his portrayal of Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola’s famed film rendition of Conrad’s tale.
9. T.S. Eliot's inspiration
Mistah Kurtz – he dead.
With these words, an African boy informs Marlow that Kurtz has just died. The quote was used by T.S. Eliot as an epigraph for his poem The Hollow Men. The New York Times once described the poem’s ending as ‘probably the most quoted lines of any 20th-century poet writing in English’:
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but with a whimper
10. On stopping reading
I slipped the book into my pocket. I assure you to leave off reading was like tearing myself away from the shelter of an old and solid friendship.
Author: Marek Kępa, May 2017