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Stephen Ross
Associate Professor

Affiliation with UVic English: Faculty

Special Book: Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad

When did you first read this book: In first year university, 1989.

Which sentence from this book has special significance for you?

“The Horror! The Horror!” and “Mistah Kurtz, he dead.” Both of these speak to Conrad’s incredible, but possibly accidental, unmasking not just of the viciousness of imperialism (which was, after all, well known to all who cared to know by 1899) but also the ways in which global capitalist expansion had invaded the psyches of its functionaries. The horror is Kurtz’s “whispered cry” that is “a moral victory.”

What does the sentence mean to you?

It represents his final glimpse of the hollow rottenness generated in his mind (maybe even soul?) by total commitment to the Company’s acquisitionist logic. The casual scorn of the African’s announcement of Kurtz’s death verbally casts his corpse upon the dustheap of history; you can hear it hit when it lands.

Without a question *the* great novel of the twentieth century, penned off-hand in a rush and almost by accident before the century had even begun.