On November 15 1884, the representatives of fourteen European powers and a plethora of ambassadors gathered in Berlin to decide the fate of colonial Africa. From 1884 to 1909, 5 to 21 million Africans (about 50% of the population of the Congo Basin) perished. Such collective palliation of the crimes of humanity was called by some "a whitewashed official complicity in political spheres". Along with this, it is important to note that Joseph Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness, serialized in 1899, holds a central position in what is defined as "colonial literature", developing on a number of different themes, European imperialism and shared complicity in particular. The hushed complicity we can observe in Heart of Darkness involves the protection of a common secret, leading to the covering up of a joint guilt. However, to properly understand the complicity, we should bear in mind that it is rooted in a complex relationship of proximity and mutual understanding.
[...] In spite of this hesitation however, the reader is caught in the narrative and is willing to bear with Marlow The nature of complicity 1. The basic relationships of complicity in the novella: Just before leaving for Africa, Marlow remarks: was just as though I had been let into some conspiracy and I was glad to get out.” There is an ironic discrepancy between what he knows or says and what he unwittingly gives the reader evidence for knowing. He is already caught in that collective conspiracy the nature of which is slowly revealed from page to page Marlow and the others: Marlow is caught from the very start even before he “tried the women”. [...]
[...] He sees that, he cannot accept this “isolation amongst all these men with whom had no point of contact for it “seemed to keep [him] away from the truth of things In that sense, to discover the truth and complete his initiatory voyage, he has to take his share of participation in a crime against humanity, in that “aggravated murder on a great scale” about which no one talks. The Chief Accountant, the Brickmaker, the Russian trader, the Harlequin, etc. [...]
[...] They too are guilty of the crime of hiding, hiding it under appellations like cause of progress”, “emissary of light”, they even gather evidence for the hypocrisy of imperialism and for what happens in Africa Shared guilt and the impossibility of relief: what causes this complicity is the understanding of the other. Marlow knows why the other Europeans feel as they do. He has experienced the same fascination for and attraction to the wilderness. The awareness of man's initial savage state, the knowledge that it is somewhere deeply hidden in the unconscious, causes the profound guilt every single character of the novella tries to hide and which is only expressed by Kurtz's horror! [...]
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