Pale Wire (Popscene)

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Up The River

So, I finally read Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Yeah, I know you read it while you were earning that English degree. I was sitting in CMN 342: Intimate Relationships and reflecting on my lack of intimate relationships instead, okay?

I don't get why this book gets such a bad rap. From what I understand, Edward Said and the post-colonialism crew have all piled on because it doesn't offer a "full realized alternative to imperialism."

It's a novella, not a position paper for the state department or an essay in Foreign Affairs. There's this thing called SUBTLEY*; it's sort of what art is all about. Just because the narrator says something racist doesn't mean the book is. The arc of the story travels from one monsterous European act to the next, I must have come across at least a dozen instances were the Africans come out favorably next to the whites, plus London, Brussels (a "whited sepulchre") and the colonies are portrayed as some sort of gloomy, hellish nightmare.

Great book, anyway. I loved it. The Broadview Press edition I linked above has a neat introduction and a bunch of cool writing from the same period included in the appendix for context. Dig on that copy. It's cheap, too.

*There's irony, too, and that's probably more important but I couldn't resist writing subtley in all caps, which, come to think of it, is also ironic, but in a different sense.