Ironies of Progress: Joseph Conrad and Imperialism in Africa

  • D. C. R. A. Goonetilleke
Part of the Insights book series


Imperial realities and alien cultures have had a tremendous impact on writers who have come into contact with them, contributing crucially to their maturation and the enlargement of their sensibility, and stimulating them to creativity. E. M. Forster found India more liberating and inspiring than Cambridge, Wiltshire and even Italy. He rightly considered his experience of Dewas State Senior ‘the great opportunity of my life’.1 Conrad told Edward Garnett, ‘Before the Congo I was only a simple animal.’2 It is true that the physical disorders Conrad suffered during his Congo journey incapacitated him so much that he was forced to curtail his career as a seaman and to think more seriously of a career as a writer.3 But obviously the most important of the consequences, from a literary point of view, was the impact of the Congo on his imagination, particularly as it manifested itself in Heart of Darkness. It is a central text in any discussion of ‘Literature and Imperialism’ and the central text in regard to Africa. Conrad’s is ‘the dominant image of Africa in the Western imagination’.4


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© Robert Giddings 1991

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  • D. C. R. A. Goonetilleke

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