Ok so here’s the thing. I firmly believe that there is a secret fear of criticizing anything considered ‘A Classic’. It’s as if this title suddenly confers not only a stamp of literary excellence, but also makes a book both interesting andbeyond-reproach. Any criticism is like an affront to civilized society and the criticiser an ape with the IQ of a 5 year old. I am aware that this is not always the case, but it is often true. Whilst there is no doubt that books defined as ‘Classics’ are literarily excellent and a welcome addition to the canon of world literature, this doesn’t automatically mean that you’re actually going to enjoy them, or that your dislike of the book is some reflection on your intellectual capacity.
There is an actual reason for this rant, the reason coming in the form of the book Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. I’m not going to put it lightly- watching paint dry would have been more interesting than reading Heart of Darkness. I watched my kindle “percentage of book done” counter with the same level of assiduous concentration as school student watches the clock in a maths class. The story centres on Charles Marlow, who is also the narrator. It talks of his time as a river-boat captain in Africa, exploring the three levels of darkness encounters by Marlow: the darkness of the Congo, the darkness of the European treatment of the African natives, and the darkness within every human being. Marlow’s job is to transport ivory downriver and to retrieve a famous ivory trader, Kurtz, who has apparently gone a little wild in the jungle.
Don’t get me wrong- there are many admirable qualities to this book- the frame narrative is intriguing, as is the exploration of human nature, but other than being painfully dull it is also incredibly racist, and therefore can happily claim the tile of being the dullest book I have ever read, classic or no.