Heart of Darkness by Conrad, Anyango & Mairowitz

Heart of Darkness
by Joseph Conrad, illustrated by Catherine Anyango, adapted by David Zane Mairowitz
Self Made Hero, 2010

Ironically, this graphic novel adaptation is longer than the original novella! It’s impossible to read without hearing ‘The End’ by The Doors playing in your head, and Anyango’s murky monochrome watercolour pencils* maintain a doomed atmosphere from beginning to end, so it’s certainly not a fun read – but Apocalypse Now wasn’t exactly a comedy, was it?

It’s let down somewhat by the layout and lettering. The blurry and indistinct illustrations are laid out in crisp rectangular panels, when a softer edge would’ve worked much better, and the dialogue and captions are almost lost in their semi-transparent balloons and spindly uppercase font.

Selections are incorporated from the diary Conrad kept on his trip up the Congo in 1890, and the rising dread and paranoia is palpable. There are few finer depictions of that glacial zone of the human psyche, past madness and on the other side, a calm and clear perception of your own monstrous nature. Heart of Darkness is referenced several times in T.S. Elliot’s famous poem The Hollow Men, and in a time when hollow men are firmly in charge, it continues to be dismally relevant.

* Like the splendid The Arrival if Shaun Tan had been having a really bad day.

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