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Heart of Darkness 
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Wondering about the connection between Burns and Conrad reminds me of Orwell's comment that the British Empire was run by gangs of Jews and Scotsmen. Being from colonial Scottish stock myself I find I have rather conflicted views on the merits of colonialism.

As I understand it Heart of Darkness was a key text in opening understanding of the failings of imperialism in Africa. Previously the Kipling ideas of the white man's burden and jingo were assumed. With King Leopold the question was what Belgium paid for all the rubber it got, since the ships went to the Congo empty and returned full. Of course the answer was they paid nothing. If the Africans didn't tap rubber their hands were chopped off. The palaces of Brussels are built on Congolese blood. The parallel with the Vietnam War is quite complicated, as the USA thought it was saving the world from communism rather than engaging in simple plunder, and there is some truth in that, but like in Graham Greene's The Quiet American, and for that matter in Iraq today, the idiocy and waste of America's implementation undermined much of what morality existed in their ideals.



Sun Jan 20, 2008 10:11 pm
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Ophelia wrote:
...but now I can see there is a lot more to it than I remembered.


Exactly the same for me, Ophelia. I appreciated this recent reading so much more than I did as a kid.

Penelope wrote:
Now it is hurting.


I hope in a good way, yes?



Mon Jan 21, 2008 12:28 am
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The hurting is not so good.....but I am sure it is good for my intellect.

Robert - don't try for a connection between Burns and Conrad - I wasn't implying one, only reminding that it is Burns Night - any excuse for a celebration!

I was interested in your comments re the Belgians not paying for the rubber. I remember in the year 2000 - The Millenium Diamond came to rest in the Dome in London. I never went to see it but I was most interested in the story of how that diamond was discovered, and bought and sold. Changing hands from the original prospector (it would appear that it was due to the Bank's insistence that he got a fair price) to the diamond merchant - to (Jewish) Antwerp and on to London. Most enlightening.


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Mon Jan 21, 2008 6:16 am
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I just thought I'd let you know how much I am enjoying 'Heart of Darkness' now. Really got into it.

I thought you might like to hear about the Thames Estuary, which is described so evocatively in the opening chapter.

About three years ago my husband and myself had a holiday on the Romney Marshes - we stayed at an Inn called The Star, in a village called St. Mary in the Marsh. We visited Gravesend and Dungeness etc... It is a beautiful and mysterious area. The mists are just as described by Conrad. I went to visit the grave of Edith Nesbit the childrens' writer which is in the graveyard of the Church next to the Star Inn.

However, I thought you might like to hear about the effect of the mists. One morning early, we emerged from the Inn and across the narrow lane was a field of sheep. Buried up to their necks in mist. All one could see was about thirty sheeps heads poking, disembodied through the mist. Like rather bewildered looking Cheshire Cats......it was a wonderous, amusing and unforgettable sight.


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Tue Jan 22, 2008 11:09 am
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I read the book at one sitting last night. It is wonderful. Conrad calls the Congo mist 'diaphanous', echoing the theme of how the great river extends like an imperial snake from the leaden Thames. There is a constant ambiguity - notably in the title itself. Conventional opinion regards 'deepest darkest Africa' as the heart of darkness, when in fact the real darkness is in the heart of the European plunderers.



Tue Jan 22, 2008 5:30 pm
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I read Heart of Darkness about three years ago for an ethics class. At that time I really didn't give myself enough time to digest the book. I look forward to taking a second look and discussing it here.

I'll echo what was said earlier about Conrad, I am also quite amazed that he did not learn English until he was a young adult. This fact alone makes me want to take a second look at this book.



Wed Jan 23, 2008 9:24 pm
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I'm going to move this thread into the new Heart of Darkness forum now. :)



Fri Feb 01, 2008 9:28 am
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Now I don't know whether or not I am in the right forum place.

However, I have been amazed by this book. It is only a short read, but by no means an easy one. I have felt absolutely 'under the skin' of the narrator. I loved the phrase - We live as we die - alone

I also sympathise with his feeling sick in the face of lies and dishonesty - not because I do not understand the various reasons why people lie - but because it separates us - makes us feel even more alone.

These comments have arisen from from Chapter Two -


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Fri Feb 01, 2008 1:01 pm
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Here I am, having a discussion with myself!!!

I quoted wrongly - you clown Penny!!!

It Says:- We live as we dream - alone

Not die - you numpty woman!

I was thinking about some people hating to go to sleep as they feel that sleep is a little death. I have rarely felt like that.....I love going to sleep. If things go wrong and I am worried or upset - I just want to go to bed......and I am a very good sleeper. I could sleep for England!!!

In fact now I come to think of it......I don't feel alone in my dreams.

In life, I always feel isolated and alone.....inside. I have a husband and family around me.....so I am not alone. But I do understand what E M Forster was getting at when he said....'only connect'. I just don't often feel connected.

I am going to stop waffling now. Do join in......everybody or I shall go to bed and dream you.


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Fri Feb 01, 2008 2:09 pm
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Here I am having a little discussion with myself.

I misquoted in that last post: We live as we dream - alone

Not as we die - You Numpty woman Penny!!

I had been thinking about the notion of sleep being a 'little death' - some people not liking to go to sleep.

Not me, I like sleep - I could sleep for England!!!


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Fri Feb 01, 2008 2:25 pm
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Penelope wrote:
Here I am having a little discussion with myself.

I misquoted in that last post: We live as we dream - alone

Not as we die - You Numpty woman Penny!!

I had been thinking about the notion of sleep being a 'little death' - some people not liking to go to sleep.

Not me, I like sleep - I could sleep for England!!!


I have always equated sleep with death-lite. But I kinda appreciate the quote with either 'die' or 'sleep'. Kinda hits home either way!

Mr. P.


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Fri Feb 01, 2008 2:34 pm
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It is very dreamlike - or nightmarish. Brilliant

But so bleak. All that suffering, just for Ivory - because it was fashionable. Diamonds....because they are shiney......

What are we, Magpies?


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Fri Feb 01, 2008 4:16 pm
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I can understand the desire for rubber.....(so would you if you could see our weather at the moment) also cotton etc....useful things...which help to make us comfortable in the world.

But Ivory? Diamonds? Gold? Intrinsically useless. Just shiney...so we have all nodded in agreement that they are valuable.

I recently read about the epic journeys undertaken to get 'nutmeg'. In 17th century England, if you could get back to London with a small bag of nutmeg, you had made your fortune...Jackpot. Nutmeg???? Well, it is very nice grated on a rice pudding......but......

Oh, what are we like? :cry:


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Prejudice, a dirty word, and faith, a clean one, have something in common: they both begin where reason ends.

Harper Lee - Go set a Watchman


Fri Feb 01, 2008 4:45 pm
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Penelope wrote:
I can understand the desire for rubber.....(so would you if you could see our weather at the moment) also cotton etc....useful things...which help to make us comfortable in the world.

But Ivory? Diamonds? Gold? Intrinsically useless. Just shiney...so we have all nodded in agreement that they are valuable.

I recently read about the epic journeys undertaken to get 'nutmeg'. In 17th century England, if you could get back to London with a small bag of nutmeg, you had made your fortune...Jackpot. Nutmeg???? Well, it is very nice grated on a rice pudding......but......

Oh, what are we like? :cry:


Salt is another commodity that has caused much suffering and conflict. This of course is a needed item for life to exist, so I guess it is not the same as luxury items.

Check out "Salt: A World History" by Mark Kurlansky for a good read.


Mr. P.


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Fri Feb 01, 2008 4:52 pm
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Mr. P - of course, I know about salt. We live on a pile of salt here in Northwich, and there is Middlewich, Leftwich, Nantwich.....named, all because of the salt. The Wiches.

We have a town underneath our town. There are lorries, wagons, trucks driving around on roads. There are pillars of salt, holding up the surface of this town, and a few times in history we have had severe subsidence - overnight.

Keeps us on our toes..here up North.

It's grim.....but we love it. (Do you know Tom Lehrer, or is he before your time?) There are hailstones beating against my windows just now.

Salt I can understand.....Rubber, Cotton, Wool, COAL - (don't talk to me about Coal - there are miners on both sides of my family going back through generations) but coal is useful and necessary (here up North).

I just keep wondering about the shiney useless stuff....We are inclined to follow like sheep....myself included. Wonder why we do that?


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Prejudice, a dirty word, and faith, a clean one, have something in common: they both begin where reason ends.

Harper Lee - Go set a Watchman


Fri Feb 01, 2008 5:50 pm
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