December 12, 2007


Caption: Author Joseph Conrad. Image courtesy of wikipedia.

This week, El Cabrero is attending a conference in DC. I'm savoring the irony of writing about Heart of Darkness within view of the Bush White House.

Joseph Conrad, author of Heart of Darkness and many other works, was born Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski in Russian-dominated Poland in 1857. His father was convicted by the Czarist government of revolutionary sentiments. The family, including Jozef, was deported to northern Russia, where his mother soon died.

Note: while his parents truly were opposed to Russian rule, one didn't have to work to hard to be convicted of being a revolutionist by that government.

Before he was 20, he signed on as an apprentice on a ship and spent much of the next 20 or so years at sea. Like the narrator Marlow in Heart of Darkness, he sailed the Congo River in 1890 and personally witnessed some of the imperial brutality described in his novel.

I think of Conrad as writing about the apparent apex of colonialism much as Graham Greene wrote about the era of its apparent decline. The story was not intended to be primarily a work of political propaganda, which may have had the odd effect of making its political statement stronger.

But Conrad's concerns were not limited to the political. The darkness that he delved was existential and even cosmic. He seems to be asking what kinds of creatures we are who can do this kind of thing to one another.

SPEAKING OF WHICH, here's an item from Common Dreams about torture, death squads and disappearances from Central America to the Middle East.

OFF BASE. Iraq's government says the US cannot have permanent military bases there. I wasn't aware that they had a choice...

WEIGHED IN THE BALANCE AND FOUND WANTING. That's the verdict of a new study of the Bush administration's Labor Department.


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