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Re: Heart of darkness.

Posted by Lewis on May 21, 2004

In Reply to: Re: Heart of darkness. posted by Smokey Stover on May 21, 2004

: : : : : : READ INTO -- informed of, briefed about. "Fewer than two hundred operatives and officials, were completely read into the program, the former intelligence official said. "We're not going to read more people than necessary into our heart of darkness."
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: : : : : : WHITE -- the opposite of covert.
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: : : : : : From The New Yorker, The Gray Zone," May 24, 2004, Page 39.

: : : : : Can anyone tell me if the phrase "heart of darkness" antecedes its use by Joseph Conrad? I don't mean casual use, unbeknownst to Conrad, but used conspicuously enough to have inspired Conrad. It's interesting to hear it in the context quoted by ESC. Who knew that intelligence officials read Conrad? Or did he get it somewhere else? SS

: : : : The Dictionary of Allusions (Merriam-Webster) includes the title "Heart of Darkness." But it doesn't say anything about the origin of the title. I looked in "Now All We Need is a Title" but it didn't have this one.

: : : I've concluded that the intelligence official was, indeed, alluding to Conrad, indubitably coiner of the phrase "Heart of Darkness" , title of a story about Europeans in the Congo, probably his finest short story. Conrad (1857-1924) was born to Polish parents named Korzeniowski, and went to sea after his boyhood, giving him much material for his mostly pessimistic tales. In 1878 he was cast up on English shores, speaking little English, and made England his home. He began writing in 1895, always in English. I may be entirely wrong, but it seems to me that the English are less enthusiastic about Conrad than Americans are. (I've got to be wrong!) SS

: : I did English literature at school and at VI form college - Conrad was only mentioned once in 7 years, when we looked at a short story - I recall about a man fishing from a boat. His style is somewhat more appealing to Americans it appears - most British do not do much big game fishing and people who go fishing don't seem to have the classics stacked up by their keep-nets. I'm not saying that they don't read, but my observation is that Stephen King is more of a riverbank read than Conrad.
: : Being daring, with my ignorance, I wonder if he may be of the same ilk as Ernest Hemmingway, but less interesting.

: Thanks, Lewis, for correcting my glaring typo. I have had similar thoughts about Conrad and Hemingway, and concluded that I am too ignorant to make a comment worth reading. So naturally I'll make a comment anyway. Hemingway certainly explores the same "Heart of Darkness" as Conrad, that is the mostly unfathomable souls of men. Their different geographical venues just touch; Conrad's Congo is a long way from Kilimanjaro, and Hemingway seldom wrote about the sea. "The Old Man and the Sea" was a brilliant exception. Both writers are characterized by a spare, direct style. But in thinking about other writers of note in the same period, economy of means is a very common characteristic. It's not a sine qua non of good writing, of course. Think of Dickens or Trollope, or the American Thomas Wolfe. SS

Glad it's not just me who would put Conrad into the same box as Papa. This time tomorrow I shall be on my way to Harry's Bar to toast the old devil with a bellini. I like going to bars/coffee shops with literary connections and have covered Papa's where possible - Paris, Madrid, Venice etc. I also try to have an appropriate drink in each - so Bellini in Venice & Whisky Sour in Chicote (Madrid) - can't recall what I had in Paris - I think it was something and a coffee. Key West and Pamploma are still unvisited.

Does anybody else on here do that? go to literary bars?
I even range back in history to Chaucer (the Tabard Inn, Southwark - which may have been re-named the George if memory serves) It can't be that naff an interest can it?