This is one of the hardest topics in this list, not only because I like a lot of classic books equally but I like them in such a different way to how I like modern books. I don’t mind if classic books are challenging and feel like a chore sometimes, provided at the end it feels like it was worth it. Maybe it’s a sense of duty I feel towards these books, but for some reason I just have more patience for them than I do for modern books (which I love, but they have to hook me faster – weird but true).
So I’m just going to give my response here entirely on a whim, on what first comes to mind, while admitting that really there’s a whole bunch of books I could mention in this post. My choice for today is… *drumroll* …Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. Oh wow, I didn’t see that coming (no, really, I didn’t). Anyway I like this, this is a good book. At barely over a hundred pages, you wouldn’t think much happens. And it doesn’t, really, but there are so many layers to this story that reading it is a very intense process. I remember having to write a critical analysis of it at uni, and I had to read it three times before I felt even remotely confident to attempt to analyse it in any way, shape or form.
Published in 1899, it fits in that period of literature where writers were shifting from the conventions of Victorian writing to the ideas of the Modernist movement. It follows Charles Marlow as he works transporting ivory down the Congo River, while he becomes increasingly obsessed with the mysterious Mr Kurtz. Meanwhile, the novel explores the concepts of racism and racist attitudes between what are considered to be barbaric society and civilised society, in terms of what constitutes each and the darkness in man’s heart to take advantage of the other in this clash of cultures. The writing is not just intense but dense, filled with imagery that makes references to all realms of literature alongside symbolism and metaphors galore. It’s not necessarily writing I love, but writing that I have a deep respect for – it’s powerful, memorable and very thought provoking. Often I would put the book down after reading a particular passage and just meditate on it for a few moments, and I kind of suspect this was what Conrad may have hoped his readers would do.
This was a tough book, but it was worth every moment of my time and I can’t wait to read it a fourth time – it has been a few years now. Maybe I’ll write a better review of it when I’ve reread it.
Have you read Heart of Darkness? What were your thoughts?
What is your favourite classic book, and what do you like about it so much that sets it above the rest for you?