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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Heart of Darkness: A Few Excerpts

In my last post, I had mentioned that, over the next few weeks, I would post lists of my favourite books and Web sites. In the first such post in the series, here's a short note on one of my favourite books

Eighteen years ago, I read
 'Heart of Darkness', a novel by Joseph Conrad. The novel, which barely runs into about 120 pages, captures the ideas of slave trade and the ruthlessness of colonialism and imperialism, through the eyes of a European sailor.

Most importantly, the highly philosophical novel focuses on the 'human condition', a subject that has always fascinated me.

Here are a few excerpts from 'Heart of Darkness'. 

To tear treasure out of the bowels of the land was their desire, with no more moral purpose at the back of it than there is in burglars breaking into a safe.

They were conquerors, and for that you want only brute force — nothing to boast of, when you have it, since your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others.
 They grabbed what they could get for the sake of what was to be got. It was just robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a great scale, and men going at it blind — as is very proper for those who tackle a darkness. The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretence but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea — something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to. . .

It is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one's existence — that which makes its truth, its meaning — its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible.We live, as we dream — alone. . . .

I don't like work—no man does—but I like what is in work—the chance to find yourself. Your own reality—for yourself, not for others—what no other man can ever know.

The mind of man is capable of anything — because everything is in it, all the past as well as all the future. What was there after all? Joy, fear, sorrow, devotion, valour, rage — who can tell? — but truth — truth stripped of its cloak of time. Let the fool gape and shudder — the man knows, and can look on without a wink. But he must at least be as much of a man as these on the shore. He must meet that truth with his own true stuff — with his own inborn strength. Principles? Principles won't do. Acquisitions, clothes, pretty rags — rags that would fly off at the first good shake. No; you want a deliberate belief.

No fear can stand up to hunger, no patience can wear it out, disgust simply does not exist where hunger is; and as to superstition, beliefs, and what you may call principles, they are less than chaff in a breeze.

Droll thing life is — that mysterious arrangement of merciless logic for a futile purpose. The most you can hope from it is some knowledge of yourself — that comes too late — a crop of unextinguishable regrets. I have wrestled with death. It is the most unexciting contest you can imagine. It takes place in an impalpable grayness, with nothing underfoot, with nothing around, without spectators, without clamor, without glory, without the great desire of victory, without the great fear of defeat, in a sickly atmosphere of tepid skepticism, without much belief in your own right, and still less in that of your adversary. If such is the form of ultimate wisdom, then life is a greater riddle than some of us think it to be

I wanted to reproduce a few more excerpts; however, the fear of boring you prompted me to reproduce just a few ideas from Conrad's magnum opus, which have deeply impacted me.


Dheep Joy said...

Beautiful sir, to say the very least that is. :)

Bharat C. Jain said...

Hi Dheep, am glad you liked the excerpts from Heart of Darkness.

I do not write anything for anybody to read; just to satisfy the little guy inside me.

I can understand that people do not like such stuff; I can live with that.

However what perturbs me is that people find such profound ideas stupid (found in reaction to the post).

Anyway, such people are not my intended readers. I would rather have someone read this stuff and learn from it.

Happy Learning :)

Thilak Kumar K said...

"I don't like work—no man does—but I like what is in work—the chance to find yourself. Your own reality—for yourself, not for others—what no other man can ever know."
Sir, I liked the above sentence very much..It seems its an interesting book. Quickly i will google and will download it. Thank you once again for the knowledge that you are imparting to us..:)