The horror! The horror!

I just re-read Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad.

I remember sitting at a bus-stop when I was 18, thinking ‘I am too young for this book’. A script-writerly pal of mine said she had the same experience (minus the bus-stop), but assured me that I am probably now old enough to read it. She thinks it is quite an extraordinary book.

Rime of the Ancient Mariner meets She meets The Plague meets Fitzcarraldo. Find it, read it, and marvel,” she said.

So read it again I did. And it is an extraordinary book. I’m not sure I was supposed to find it funny, but then again I was reading it while seated next to Ms10 who was wrestling maths homework, and the only way I could get her to forge on into the heart of mathematical darkness was to say, ‘OK, every time you complete one sum, I will read out a word’.

That got things going. And we were both in fits of laughter … at first.

But as the maths became more of a jungle, so did Marlow’s journey on his search for Mr Kurtz. What started out as light-hearted adventure turned into sidelong glances from DD, as each new and awesome word passed her mother’s lips.

Thames; eyes; river; clothes; rivets; yellow; flesh; lie; mercy; pitiful; protest; mourning; abominable; menace; bones… darkness.

Conrad, in case you didn’t know, is a king of dichotomies – light and dark; civilised and wild; order and chaos; known and unknown; sane and insane. But my favourite moment is when Marlow – at the mouth (or threshold) of the untamed and unnamed river in Africa – encounters in an office two caucasian women who are casually knitting with black yarn. Yes, knitting. What a gorgeous mash-up – domesticity meets the public servant; civilised meets untamed. Knitting seems absurd – insane – and Marlow has no idea what he’s in for.

The horror! The horror!

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