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Heart of Darkness (PDF) by Joseph Conrad. Written in 1899, this novella has been considered one of the best examples of the use of symbolism in modern literature. Even though the story is shorter than most novels, Conrad’s dense, layered prose can make for a slow and sometimes frustrating experience. But it can also be rewarding reading. The novel is widely regarded as a critique of European colonial rule in Africa, while also examining the themes of power dynamics and morality.  This story has led to many adaptations, including the 1979 Frances Ford Coppola film, Apocalypse Now, which substitutes Vietnam for Congo, yet retains the name of Kurtz for its elusive central character (played by Marlon Brando).

The Heart of Darkness (pdf) novel is centered around a riverboat pilot named Marlow who signs on to work for a Belgian company making inroads into the African Congo. Once he reaches Africa, Marlow’s piloting job transforms into a quest to locate a mysterious company employee named Kurtz who has all but vanished into the African jungle. Marlow’s journey is a nightmarish trip through a land he does not understand, where his European cohorts operate without the influence of laws or ‘civilized’ society.

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