Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad.
At just over 100 pages, this is probably one of the shortest books I’ve read since I was a child. It has no elaborate plot full of twists and turns but, what it does have, is lots of really vivid descriptions of life on the sea and exploring regions in Africa.
The book’s set around the late 1800s (which is when it was written), Joseph himself had been a sailor at an earlier stage of his life before settling in England as he was originally from the Ukraine. The book explores issues around race, the wilds of Africa, culture, death, and human nature.
It makes me think of those talkative, little old men that want to tell anyone who’ll listen about their lives, as this is a Marlow’s adventure he’s telling to a new crew of sailors about his youth in search of a man named Kurtz, and what he encountered along the way. This is around the time of ivory traders, witchcraft, ‘savages’, and social ignorance.
This is just a brief telling of an adventure, but such a vibrant journey that has Marlow questioning himself and those around him. He begins to believe that it is the wilds of Africa – venturing into the ‘heart of darkness’ of the natural world – that can infect a soul, and drive them insane.
It really is a beautifully written “modern classic” that well deserves the critical acclaim, though it does feel as if it ends rather abruptly.