il viaggio alla scoperta di sé

From the 15thcentury to the 20th century European countries tried to expound (espandere) and build empires overseas (oltremare). The excuses were the economic depression, the need for other trades, moral purposes and humanitarian aims (scopi). Between 1884 and 1885 L‘ Etat Indèpendant du Congowas born under the King Leopold II from Belgium, in 1908 Congobecame a Belgian colony. It was the final act of a long commercial activity in Congo. Soon the other European countries became interested in the African territories and started contrasting Leopold’s administration of the continent. England settled (stabilì) some stations to “lay the foundation (gettare le fondamenta) of happiness in Africa”, to control and prevent (prevenire) the slave trade and to stipulate pacts with local kings. The English diplomats even wrote reports about the exploitation(sfruttamento) of King Leopold agents whose violence was in contrast with the mission of enlightening (illuminare) the primitive peoples as they declared.

In 1912 J. Conrad wrote A Personal Record, a report of his journey through Africa. He has been attracted by a blank (vuoto) space on the geographical card of Africasince he was nine.  Those blank spaces were the areas unexplored and Congowas “the blankest of blank spaces”. Conrad went to Congoin 1890 as a Commander of a river steamboat with the help of his Aunt Marguerita Poradowska in Brusselswho recommended him. In Matadi he started his walk to Kinshasa where his boat is being repaired. With another steamer he went to  Stanley’s Falls. During his journey back, he rescued (salva) a very sick (malato) agent of the Sociètè, a French man with a German name, Klein (little) who died during before their arrival. .

Back in London in 1891, in his letters, Conrad refers about his disillusion in the ideals of the civilisation.

The book develops (si sviluppa) on two levels: the real journey on the river Congo into the wilderness and the journey into the psyche. The journey into the self is strictly connected with the disillusion of the idea of imperialism and with the development of Man’s personality.  Of course Conrad knew about the new studies by Sygmund Freud concerning ego and the oniric dimension of Man.

Darkeness and light become symbols: the darkness represents ignorance, evil, wilderness; light stands for civilisation and knowledge (conoscenza). This duality becomes symbol of imperialism: the colonisers face (fronteggano) hostile countries to take civilisation, but they become violent invaders that exploit (sfruttano) native people. Conrad makes a reference to Roman conquerors, stressing the difference with the English colonialism. The consequences are the same.

Brussels is a white sepulchre, a combination of hypocrisy and illusion; the wilderness is the “blank space” of Conrad’s childhood, the darkness where the primitives live. Nature is cruel and violent to man there because Man looks at it as something to exploit and subjugate. White men are intruders in this world and ivory brings death.

The only redemption for this violence is the ideal the white Man brings on of the civilisation. Marlow thinks about white and black men: the western world has developed technically, but its greatness and its strength(forza)  disappear if compared with nature. Even the words cannot express the difference; the gap(divario)  existing between these two cultures and to overcome (superarlo) this gap is to die.

This journey goes on parallel with Marlow’s self-discovery. He reaches his private knowledge going through the various stations symbolically named as Outer and Inner till he arrives at the core (cuore) of the wilderness and the lie hidden under the word “civilisation”.Man discovers himself when he has to face the unknown. This experience seems to happen in a dream-like dimension, but the reality is given through the description of the landscape and of the value of work.

Conrad appears detached from what he writes: he chooses two narrators, one anonymous that tells what Marlow says about his own experience. 

Kurtz is the symbol of the power: he wants to swallow (ingoiare) everything with his open mouth, everything belongs to him (his is the Intended; his is the ivory).  He is the imperialism that produces darkness.

In conclusion, the darkness that wraps London at the beginning of the story is the darkness of the Western countries that London embraces as the Capital of European culture and will-to-powe, .the darkness is inside the light of the civil world. The novel begins and finishes in London, the Capital of the western world, immerged in a gloomy atmosphere. The circle is complete Conrad- Marlow and his alter ego Mr. Kurtz get the awareness (consapevolezza) of their conscience.

Heart of Darkeness inspired  Francis Ford Coppola’s film, Apocalypse Now (1979).