This was a book that Pete has read a few times, both in school and in free time. He highly recommended it as a must-read. The novella is sectioned into three parts, and is only about 100 pages. In normal situations, a 100 page read should take me about two, maybe three days. This one took more like a week and a half; the first two parts were a bit chaotic and jumbled (Pete says this is intentional), but it sure wasn’t a pleasant first two parts. Confession: I consulted Spark Notes while reading the first two parts, just to make sure I was comprehending everything correctly.
But then! Part three came along and it seemed as if it was a different author, or at the very least, written at a different time as the two previous parts. And this “new” author was easier to follow! And more profound! It may be that the first two parts finally came together for me during the third part. Oh, I guess I forgot to summarize the premise of the book, so let’s do that at the end. It works. Marlowe is a man who has travelled the world by sea, and he goes to the center of Africa with a Belgian company (Marlowe is British). His ultimate goal is to sail to this man named Kurtz, who has made quite the name for himself as an ivory tradesman. Finally, Marlowe does reach a very emaciated and ill Kurtz. Kurtz passes away just before they head home to Europe. Once Marlowe arrives to the mainland, he meets several of Kurtz’s family and friends. A major theme throughout the novella (that I caught on to without the help of Spark Notes!), is the slight obsession and mixed feelings that Marlowe has with the idea of Kurtz. It’s clear that at the end, Marlowe was disappointed by Kurtz himself, as well as his family and friends. Marlowe had high expectations of Kurtz, and he was let down.
Now, my suspicions! I don’t know why, but as I was reading the final section, while Marlowe was meeting Kurtz’s family, I had the creeping suspicion that Marlowe never actually met Kurtz. For whatever reason, I think if you read the few interactions Marlowe had with Kurtz as Marlowe’s imaginations, the final scenes make much more sense. I finished the book, convinced that Kurtz was dead when Marlowe reached Kurtz’s camp. I have no idea if anyone has the same suspicions, and I’m not about to search through peer reviewed journals to find out if I’m not alone. Remember, I was an English major, but this reading goal is to read for the sheer entertainment of it, without the need to write an essay at the end.
Anyway, now I’m reading The Banner of Heaven. I’m already half way and it’s an intense read!