Sunday, 20 July 2008

The Secret Agents Heart of Darkness.

“It had become so pitch dark that we listeners could hardly see one another. For a long time already he, sitting apart, had been no more to us than a voice. There was not a word from anybody.

The others might have been asleep, but I was awake. I listened, I listened on the watch for the sentence, for the word, that would give me the clue to the faint uneasiness inspired by this narrative that seemed to shape itself without human lips in the heavy night-air of the river”.
Heart of Darkness. Joseph Conrad.

Dear sports, this is a non-Prophet organisation! “ when I was a little chap, I had a passion for maps”. Yep, I’ve been re-reading the two great Joseph Conrad books, ‘Heart of Darkness’ and ‘The Secret Agent’. They are, sporty chums, two of the best and most prescient books of the Western Canon. The striking thing about Joe’s Heart of Darkness', is that it describes like a multi-layered relief map, as it naturally would, the difficult, revealing and shockingly surprising journey many of us have taken regards the illumination of the truth of Islamism, Left radicalism and the evil of macrame wall hangings.

All of us who are hip to the crazy scene of Mohammad the super loon, have in some way, penetrated and traversed something ineffably cruel, terrible, blackly awesome and inhuman with as Conrad said, a heart of darkness.

Ok. "The horror, the horror!", is mostly now used as a common comic effect by the er, often naff. Curiously, the phrase still works surprisingly effectively within the context of the book. And also when one has it in mind when perusing any of the thousands of daily outrages, all courtesy of the religion of peace.

And right now, if one cares to fire up a few flares of analysis into the apocalyptic gloom of our mortal enemies, we can easily see most everything rather clearly. Islamist geeks are also the enemies of any free minded Muslims so defined here or elsewhere, who genuinely try to escape from the blackness at the centre of the memeplex of the Koranic.

So as my compadre Cappy said in my previous post, despair is a sin and we must persevere. Just don't go stark raving nutso like Kurtz!

Here again is the worthy interview with the great Bat Ye’or on the reality of Islam and the canard of a moderate majority. And another hip piece by Dr. Laurie Roth at Canada Free Press on the OIC UN group of 57 Islamic states aiming to criminalise Christianity and the free West.

And this is a small empirical sample of the 'Heart of Darkness' in which the disgusting Taliban dwell.

Then in The Secret Agent, one is taken aback at how centuries old is the anarchist and terrorist freak; their ill and irrational nihilist mindset; their arrogance; the disdain for ordinary life and their clichéd, rotten speech and methods. And most importantly, their utterly mad and alienated pointlessness.

Conrad and his achievements are so explicitly resonant. What can I laughably add to his work and art? Don't answer that! So dig, hepcats, some of my favourite passages from these two perfect and profound novels. As they say, life is most resonant a night...

Excerpt from Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’. Source: Bibliomania.

“... No, it is impossible; it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one’s existence - that which makes its truth, its meaning its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream alone....” Heart of Darkness.

“I would not have gone so far as to fight for Kurtz, but I went for him near enough to lie. You know I hate, detest, and can’t bear a lie, not because I am straighter than the rest of us, but simply because it appalls me. There is a taint of death, a flavour of mortality in lies which is exactly what I hate and detest in the world - what I want to forget. It makes me miserable and sick, like biting something rotten would do. Temperament, I suppose.

Well, I went near enough to it by letting the young fool there believe anything he liked to imagine as to my influence in Europe. I became in an instant as much of a pretence as the rest of the bewitched pilgrims. This simply because I had a notion it somehow would be of help to that Kurtz whom at the time I did not see you understand. He was just a word for me.

I did not see the man in the name any more than you do. Do you see him? Do you see the story? Do you see anything? It seems to me I am trying to tell you a dream - making a vain attempt, because no relation of a dream can convey the dream-sensation, that commingling of absurdity, surprise, and bewilderment in a tremor of struggling revolt, that notion of being captured by the incredible which is of the very essence of dreams....””. Marlow. Heart of Darkness.

“She had given me a chance to come out a bit - to find out what I could do. No, I don’t like work. I had rather laze about and think of all the fine things that can be done. I don’t like work - no man does - but I like what is in the work - the chance to find yourself. Your own reality - for yourself, not for others - what no other man can ever know. They can only see the mere show, and never can tell what it really means”. Heart of Darkness.

“Ah! my boy, trust to this - I say, trust to this.’ I saw him extend his short flipper of an arm for a gesture that took in the forest, the creek, the mud, the river - seemed to beckon with a dishonouring flourish before the sunlit face of the land a treacherous appeal to the lurking death, to the hidden evil, to the profound darkness of its heart.

It was so startling that I leaped to my feet and looked back at the edge of the forest, as though I had expected an answer of some sort to that black display of confidence. You know the foolish notions that come to one sometimes. The high stillness confronted these two figures with its ominous patience, waiting for the passing away of a fantastic invasion”. Heart of Darkness.

“Trees, trees, millions of trees, massive, immense, running up high; and at their foot, hugging the bank against the stream, crept the little begrimed steamboat, like a sluggish beetle crawling on the floor of a lofty portico. It made you feel very small, very lost, and yet it was not altogether depressing, that feeling. After all, if you were small, the grimy beetle crawled on - which was just what you wanted it to do. Where the pilgrims imagined it crawled to I don’t know. To some place where they expected to get something. I bet!

For me it crawled towards Kurtz – exclusively; but when the steam-pipes started leaking we crawled very slow. The reaches opened before us and closed behind, as if the forest had stepped leisurely across the water to bar the way for our return. We penetrated deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness. It was very quiet there. At night sometimes the roll of drums behind the curtain of trees would run up the river and remain sustained faintly, as if hovering in the air high over our heads, till the first break of day. Whether it meant war, peace, or prayer we could not tell.”. Heart of Darkness.

”The steamer toiled along slowly on the edge of a black and incomprehensible frenzy. The prehistoric man was cursing us, praying to us, welcoming us - who could tell? We were cut off from the comprehension of our surroundings; we glided past like phantoms, wondering and secretly appalled, as sane men would be before an enthusiastic outbreak in a madhouse. We could not understand because we were too far and could not remember because we were travelling in the night of first ages, of those ages that are gone, leaving hardly a sign - and no memories". Heart of Dakness.

“The earth seemed unearthly. We are accustomed to look upon the shackled form of a conquered monster, but there - there you could look at a thing monstrous and free. It was unearthly, and the men were - No, they were not inhuman. Well, you know, that was the worst of it - this suspicion of their not being inhuman.

It would come slowly to one. They howled and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces; but what thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity - like yours - the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar. Ugly. Yes, it was ugly enough; but if you were man enough you would admit to yourself that there was in you just the faintest trace of a response to the terrible frankness of that noise, a dim suspicion of there being a meaning in it which you - you so remote from the night of first ages - could comprehend. And why not?

The mind of man is capable of anything - because everything is in it, all the past as well as all the future. What was there after all? Joy, fear, sorrow, devotion, valour, rage - who can tell? - but truth - truth stripped of its cloak of time. Let the fool gape and shudder - the man knows, and can look on without a wink. But he must at least be as much of a man as these on the shore. He must meet that truth with his own true stuff - with his own inborn strength. Principles won’t do. Acquisitions, clothes, pretty rags - rags that would fly off at the first good shake. No; you want a deliberate belief.

An appeal to me in this fiendish row - is there? Very well; I hear; I admit, but I have a voice, too, and for good or evil mine is the speech that cannot be silenced. Of course, a fool, what with sheer fright and fine sentiments, is always safe. Who’s that grunting? You wonder I didn’t go ashore for a howl and a dance? Well, no - I didn’t. Fine sentiments, you say? Fine sentiments, be hanged!” Heart of Darkness.

“A complaining clamour, modulated in savage discords, filled our ears. The sheer unexpectedness of it made my hair stir under my cap. I don’t know how it struck the others: to me it seemed as though the mist itself had screamed, so suddenly, and apparently from all sides at once, did this tumultuous and mournful uproar arise.

It culminated in a hurried outbreak of almost intolerably excessive shrieking, which stopped short, leaving us stiffened in a variety of silly attitudes, and obstinately listening to the nearly as appalling and excessive silence. ‘Good God! What is the meaning -’ stammered at my elbow one of the pilgrims - a little fat man, with sandy hair and red whiskers, who wore sidespring boots, and pink pyjamas tucked into his socks.

Two others remained open-mouthed a whole minute, then dashed into the little cabin, to rush out incontinently and stand darting scared glances, with Winchesters at ‘ready’ in their hands. What we could see was just the steamer we were on, her outlines blurred as though she had been on the point of dissolving, and a misty strip of water, perhaps two feet broad, around her - and that was all. The rest of the world was nowhere, as far as our eyes and ears were concerned. Just nowhere. Gone, disappeared; swept off without leaving a whisper or a shadow behind”. Heart of Darkness.

“That was not the point. The point was in his being a gifted creature, and that of all his gifts the one that stood out preeminently, that carried with it a sense of real presence, was his ability to talk,his words - the gift of expression, the bewildering, the illuminating, the most exalted and the most contemptible, the pulsating stream of light, or the deceitful flow from the heart of an impenetrable darkness”. Heart of Darkness.

“... Who was not his friend who had heard him speak once?’ she was saying. ‘He drew men towards him by what was best in them.’ She looked at me with intensity. ‘It is the gift of the great,’ she went on, and the sound of her low voice seemed to have the accompaniment of all the other sounds, full of mystery, desolation, and sorrow, I had ever heard - the ripple of the river, the soughing of the trees swayed by the wind, the murmurs of the crowds, the faint ring of incomprehensible words cried from afar, the whisper of a voice speaking from beyond the threshold of an eternal darkness. ‘But you have heard him! You know!’ she cried.

“Yes, I know,’ I said with something like despair in my heart, but bowing my head before the faith that was in her, before that great and saving illusion that shone with an unearthly glow in the darkness, in the triumphant darkness from which I could not have defended her - from which I could not even defend myself”. Heart of Darkness.

“Forgive me. I - I have mourned so long in silence - in silence.... You were with him - to the last? I think of his loneliness. Nobody near to understand him as I would have understood. Perhaps no one to hear....’

“To the very end,’ I said, shakily. ‘I heard his very last words....’ I stopped in a fright.

“Repeat them,’ she murmured in a heart-broken tone. ‘I want - I want - something - something - to - to live with".

“I was on the point of crying at her, ‘Don’t you hear them?’ The dusk was repeating them in a persistent whisper all around us, in a whisper that seemed to swell menacingly like the first whisper of a rising wind. ‘The horror! The horror!” The heart of Darkness.

“I heard a light sigh and then my heart stood still, stopped dead short by an exulting and terrible cry, by the cry of inconceivable triumph and of unspeakable pain. ‘I knew it - I was sure!’... She knew. She was sure. I heard her weeping; she had hidden her face in her hands.

It seemed to me that the house would collapse before I could escape, that the heavens would fall upon my head. But nothing happened. The heavens do not fall for such a trifle. Would they have fallen, I wonder, if I had rendered Kurtz that justice which was his due? Hadn’t he said he wanted only justice? But I couldn’t. I could not tell her. It would have been too dark - too dark altogether....”

Marlow ceased, and sat apart, indistinct and silent, in the pose of a meditating Buddha. Nobody moved for a time. “We have lost the first of the ebb,” said the Director suddenly. I raised my head. The offing was barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed sombre under an overcast sky - seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness”. Heart of Darkness.

Excerpt from Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent. [In paperback, pages 29 to 35.] Source:

“What we want is to administer a tonic to the Conference in Milan,' he said, airily. `Its deliberations upon international action for the suppression of political crime don't seem to get anywhere. England lags.

This country is absurd with its sentimental regard for individual liberty. It's intolerable to think that all your friends have got only to come over to...'

`In that way I have them all under my eye,' Mr Verloc interrupted, huskily.

`It would be much more to the point to have them all under lock and key. England must be brought into line. The imbecile bourgeoisie of this country make themselves the accomplices of the very people whose aim is to drive them out of their houses to starve in ditches. And they have the political power still, if they only had the sense to use it for their preservation. I suppose you agree that the middle classes are stupid?'

Mr Verloc agreed hoarsely.`They are.'

`They have no imagination. They are blinded by an idiotic vanity. What they want just now is a jolly good scare. This is the psychological moment to set your friends to work. I have had you called here to develop to you my idea.'

And Mr Vladimir developed his idea from on high, with scorn and condescension, displaying at the same time an amount of ignorance as to the real aims, thoughts, and methods of the revolutionary world which filled the silent Mr Verloc with inward consternation.

He confounded causes with effects more than was excusable; the most distinguished propagandists with impulsive bomb throwers; assumed organization where in the nature of things it could not exist; spoke of the social revolutionary party one moment as of a perfectly disciplined army, where the word of chiefs was supreme, and at another as if it had been the loosest association of desperate brigands that ever camped in a mountain gorge.

Once Mr Verloc had opened his mouth for a protest, but the raising of a shapely, large white hand arrested him. Very soon he became too appalled to even try to protest. He listened in a stillness of dread which resembled the immobility of profound attention.

`A series of outrages,' Mr Vladimir continued, calmly, `executed here in this country; not only planned here - that would not do - they would not mind. Your friends could set half the Continent on fire without influencing the public opinion here in favour of a universal repressive legislation. They will not look outside their backyard here.'

Mr Verloc cleared his throat, but his heart failed him, and he said nothing.
`These outrages need not be especially sanguinary,' Mr Vladimir went on, as if delivering a scientific lecture, `but they must sufficiently startling - effective. Let them be directed against buildings, for instance. What is the fetish of the hour that all the bourgeoisie recognize - eh, Mr Verloc?'

Mr Verloc opened his hands and shrugged his shoulders slightly.

`You are too lazy to think,' was Mr Vladimir's comment upon that gesture. `Pay attention to what I say. The fetish of today is neither royalty nor religion. Therefore the palace and the church should be left alone. You understand what I mean, Mr Verloc?'

The dismay and the scorn of Mr Verloc found vent in an attempt at levity.
`Perfectly. But what of the Embassies? A series of attacks on the various Embassies,' he began; but he could not withstand the cold, watchful stare of the First Secretary.

`You can be facetious, I see,' the latter observed, carelessly. `That's all right. It may enliven your oratory at socialistic congresses. But this room is no place for it. It would be infinitely safer for you to follow carefully what I am saying. As you are being called upon to furnish facts instead of cock-and-bull stories, you had better try to make your profit off what I am taking the trouble to explain to you.

The sacrosanct fetish of today is science. Why don't you get some of your friends to go for that wooden-faced panjandrum - eh? Is it not part of these institutions which must be swept away before the F.P. comes along?'

Mr Verloc said nothing. He was afraid to open his lips lest a groan should escape him.

`This is what you should try for. An attempt upon a crowned head or on a president is sensational enough in a way, but not so much as it used to be. It has entered into the general conception of the existence of all chiefs of state. It's almost conventional - especially since so many presidents have been assassinated. Now let us take an outrage upon - say, a church.

Horrible enough at first sight, no doubt, and yet not so effective as a person of an ordinary mind might think. No matter how revolutionary and anarchist in inception, there would be fools enough to give such an outrage the character of a religious manifestation. And that would detract from the especial alarming significance we wish to give to the act.

A murderous attempt on a restaurant or a theatre would suffer in the same way from the suggestion of non-political passion; the exasperation of a hungry man, an act of social revenge. All this is used up; it is no longer instructive as an object lesson in revolutionary anarchism. Every newspaper has ready-made phrases to explain such manifestations away.

I am about to give you the philosophy of bomb throwing from my point of view; from the point of view you pretend to have been serving for the last eleven years. I will try not to talk above your head. The sensibilities of the class you are attacking are soon blunted. Property seems to them an indestructible thing. You can't count upon their emotions either of pity or fear for very long. A bomb outrage to have any influence on public opinion now must go beyond the intention of vengeance or terrorism. It must be purely destructive. It must be that, and only that, beyond the faintest suspicion of any other object.

You anarchists should make it clear that you are perfectly determined to make a clean sweep of the whole social creation. But how to get that appallingly absurd notion into the heads of the middle classes so that there should be no mistake? That's the question. By directing your blows at something outside the ordinary passions of humanity is the answer. Of course, there is art. A bomb in the National Gallery would make some noise. But it would not be serious enough. Art has never been their fetish.

It's like breaking a few back windows in a man's house; whereas, if you want to make him really sit up, you must try at least to raise the roof. There would be some screaming of course, but from whom? Artists - art critics and such like - people of no account. Nobody minds what they say.

But there is learning - science. Any imbecile that has got an income believes in that. He does not know why, but he believes it matters somehow. It is the sacrosanct fetish. All the damned professors are radicals at heart. Let them know that their great panjandrum has got to go, too, to make room for the Future of the Proletariat.

A howl from all these intellectual idiots is bound to help forward the labours of the Milan Conference. They will be writing to the papers. Their indignation would be above suspicion, no material interests being openly at stake, and it will alarm every selfishness of the class which should be impressed. They believe that in some mysterious way science is at the source of their material prosperity. They do. And the absurd ferocity of such a demonstration will affect them more profoundly than the mangling of a whole street - or theatre - full of their own kind.

To that last they can always say: "Oh! it's mere class hate." But what is one to say to an act of destructive ferocity so absurd as to be incomprehensible, inexplicable, almost unthinkable; in fact, mad? Madness alone is truly terrifying, inasmuch as you cannot placate it either by threats, persuasion, or bribes.

Moreover, I am a civilized man. I would never dream of directing you to organize a mere butchery, even if I expected the best results from it. But I wouldn't expect from a butchery the result I want. Murder is always with us. It is almost an institution.

The demonstration must be against learning - science. But not every science will do. The attack must have all the shocking senselessness of gratuitous blasphemy. Since bombs are your means of expression, it would be really telling if one could throw a bomb into pure mathematics. But that is impossible.

I have been trying to educate you; I have expounded to you the higher philosophy of your usefulness, and suggested to you some serviceable arguments. The practical application of my teaching interests you mostly. But from the moment I have undertaken to interview you I have also given some attention to the practical aspect of the question. What do you think of having a go at astronomy?'

For some time already Mr Verloc's immobility by the side of the armchair resembled a state of collapsed coma - a sort of passive insensibility interrupted by slight convulsive starts, such as may be observed in the domestic dog having a nightmare on the hearthrug. And it was in an uneasy, doglike growl that he repeated the word: Astronomy.'

He had not recovered thoroughly as yet from the state of bewilderment brought about by the effort to follow Mr Vladimir's rapid, incisive utterance. It had overcome his power of assimilation. It had made him angry. This anger was complicated by incredulity. And suddenly it dawned upon him that all this was an elaborate joke.

Mr Vladimir exhibited his white teeth in a smile, with dimples on his round, full face posed with a complacent inclination above the bristling bow of his necktie. The favourite of intelligent society women had assumed his drawing-room attitude accompanying the delivery of delicate witticisms. Sitting well forward, his white hand upraised, he seemed to hold delicately between his thumb and forefinger the subtlety of his suggestion.

There could be nothing better. Such an outrage combines the greatest possible regard for humanity with the most alarming display of ferocious imbecility. I defy the ingenuity of journalists to persuade their public that any given member of the proletariat can have a personal grievance against astronomy.

Starvation itself could hardly be dragged in there - eh? And there are other advantages. The whole civilized world has heard of Greenwich. The very bootblacks in the basement of Charing Cross Station know something of it. See?'

The features of Mr Vladimir, so well known in the best society by their humorous urbanity, beamed with cynical self-satisfaction, which would have astonished the intelligent women his wit entertained so exquisitely. `Yes,' he continued, with a contemptuous smile, `the blowing up of the first meridian is bound to raise a howl of execration.'

`A difficult business,' Mr Verloc mumbled, feeling that this was the only safe thing to say.

`What is the matter? Haven't you the whole gang under your hand? The very pick of the basket? That old terrorist Yundt is here. I see him walking about Piccadilly in his green havelock almost every day. And Michaelis, the ticket-of-leave apostle - you don't mean to say you don't know where he is? Because if you don't, I can tell you,' Mr Vladimir went on menacingly. `If you imagine that you are the only one in the secret fund list, you are mistaken.'

This perfectly gratuitous suggestion caused Mr Verloc to shuffle his feet slightly. And the whole Lausanne lot - eh? Haven't they been flocking over here at the first hint of the Milan Conference? This is an absurd country”.

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