“Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad
In the modern world of a successful and irreversible growing globalization the problem of the dialogue between civilizations as a socio-cultural communities that preserve originality is becoming increasingly urgent and important.
The basis of the productive dialogue as a communicative process is a sense of self-identity, understanding of the historical roots of your own culture and national traditions. Only then one can adequately perceive another culture, history and way of life.
Identifying the features of communication and interpretation processes in European and non-European cultures requires analysis of not only and not just a scientific treatises, but the amount of works of popular culture, particularly literature that reflected the ordinary picture of the world seen by an individual, its system of values, preferences and prejudices.
In this context, a particular interest is the work of Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) – a writer and seascape painter of Polish origin, who wrote many works, among which "Heart of Darkness" stands out (Flushman 10-15).
Conrad's novel "Heart of Darkness" (1899) was based on personal impressions. The writer had a direct experience of observations on the colonial policy of the three empires, to each of which he had a special relationship. As a Pole, he experienced the oppression of the Russian Empire, but as a nobleman, he naturally believed that his class takes precedence over the Ukrainian peasants. He disfavored Russians, for him they were the barbarians who established authority over the Polish nobility, and this partly disrupted his protest against social oppression and stupidity of the imperialists. But as a British officer, he mainly respected and admired the British style of colonial rule and believed that the English carry the civilization with them and natives, faced with the new order, often benefit from such violence on their culture (Said 19-31).
On the other hand, as it is evident from his early stories, he didn’t consider natives to be mentally retarded people. As part of their culture, they were just as clever and insightful as white men - in the framework of their culture, but found themselves at a disadvantage when the white People brought their technical "improvements" to their lives. In the Belgian Congo the writer with his own eyes saw the cruelty and despotism of the imperialist system, whose side, due to his position, he was forced to take. The situation was even more complicated by the fact that he was unable to identify himself with Africans suffering, thereby equating them with the Poles, because the cultural differences between them were too big (Said 19-31).
For many years in his books he had been struggling to resolve these paradoxes. Was he a supporter or an opponent of the empire? As a Polish nobleman, he could not consider himself a democrat. But still, what are the conditions under which some people have the right to control others, and are the oppressed people to revolt against their masters, and if they are, then how in such cases should inevitable bloodshed be considered? These painful thoughts were reflected in the novel "Heart of Darkness", written eight years after the writer's stay in Congo (Said 19-31).
The true hero of Conrad’s work is a romantic hero, such as Kurtz in "Heart of Darkness". E. Said believes that in "Heart of Darkness" the author shows imperial position regarding controlling Europeans and controlled non-Europeans, that the story of Captain Marlow about his voyage on the river into the “heart” of Africa, in the "heart of darkness" is a relationship of two worlds joined with the mind, the strength and the will of the Europeans. For Conrad a European, when getting in a misleading environment of Africa, falls into the "darkness", formed by the natives’ resistance of their "civilizing mission." Said thinks that Conrad’s Africans is not a direct experience or the author's reflection, but "the world in the word language," the result of the influence on the author of the "library of Africanism" – the works by Europeans about the Black continent. "Heart of Darkness" is not a photographic literature "reflection", but the mixing of words and images, objectives and intentions, ideas and interests [Said 23-30, 68].
In the novel he explores the darkness of the human heart, but this is not a symbolic or metaphysical work. For this it is too realistic (Hay 15). We can recall, how Africans are described there, who were ruled by colonial officials, who brought "the organization" to their lives: “They were not enemies, they were not criminals, they were nothing earthly now - nothing but black shadows of disease and starvation, lying confusedly in the greenish gloom.” (Conrad 72).
This description is one of the most frightening descriptions of imperialist policies. This topic was more than relevant to those years because it was put forward by life itself.
It’s important to note that Conrad wasn’t interested in politics, but a man’s role in politics. The writer predicts the main political events of XX century and the man’s destiny in them (Hay 15).
Conrad’s work still has great significance for the modern world. I think, if Conrad lived in our time, he would have plenty of room for new interesting ideas about the concept of imperialism. As stated above, the writer did not like the Russian for historical and personal reasons, and given the current political balance of power in the world when Russia increases military power and actively manifests itself in the international arena, Conrad in his new work could hit out the policy of the Russian president. And who knows: maybe this Conrad’s new work about the imperialism in XXI century would change the world for better.
Conrad, Joseph. (Dent's Collected Edition, 1968), Heart of darkness. In Youth, Heart of Darkness, and the End of the Tether. London: Dent. Print.
Flushman A. Conrads Politics. Baltimore, 1967. Print.
Hay E.K. The Political Novels of Joseph Conrad: A Critical Study. Chicago, 1963, 329 p. Web. 29 January 2016.
Said E.W. Culture and Imperialism. N.Y., 1993. Web. 29 January 2016.