The Importance Of Joseph Conrad’s Congo Journey

1535 words - 7 pages

It was the year 1868. A young boy of about nine years of age stood looking at a map of Africa. The boy raised up his hand and stuck his finger directly into the middle of the “dark continent.” “When I grow up I shall go there,” said this boy with great enthusiasm (Conrad 13). Little did he know that some years later his childhood wish would come true.

Joseph Conrad grew up to become quite the sailor, starting as an apprentice on a French vessel in 1875 and working his way to become a master of English ships from 1878-1889 (Jean-Aubrey 19). He spent fifteen years at sea, traveling to destinations all over the globe. After much traveling he returned home to Europe. While there, he ...view middle of the document...

After reaching Boma, he would take a smaller steamer to reach Matadi, the “terminating point of navigation on the Lower Congo” (Jean-Aubry 46).

On June 13, 1890, they arrived in Matadi. It was here that Conrad would begin his famous “diary,” which he kept only until his arrival in Kinchassa on August 1st. Conrad’s “diary” can be considered vague at best. It gives very general descriptions of the landscape and only mentions certain people and places. Here, in Matadi, Conrad met the chief of the station of the Societe Anonyme Belge pour le Commerce du Haut-Congo, Mr. Grosse, and a Mr. Roger Casement. During his stay he meets with these gentlemen and makes note of the good impression made on him by Casement, referring to him as well spoken and “intelligent.” In the diary, he mentions a feeling that “life amongst the people (white) around here cannot be very comfortable” and that it would probably be for the best to avoid making acquaintances (Najder 7).

After spending two weeks in Matadi, Conrad and a caravan of thirty-two men, including the aforementioned Harou, begin their journey by land to Kinchassa. They followed a common trail, which is a railroad today, through the Pataballa Mountains to Congo de Lamba. We can see from the following “diary” entries that it was a long, arduous journey.

Sun[day], 29th. Ascent of Pataballa
sufficiently fatiguing. Camped at 11h a.m. at
Nsoke River. Mosquitos.
Monday, 30th. To Congo de Lamba after passing
black rocks long ascent. Harou giving up.
Bother. Camp bad. Water far. Dirty. At night
Harou better. (Najder 7)

On the third of July, Conrad mentions that two Danish officers, whom he had made note of earlier in the diary, leave the convoy upon passing a Protestant mission in Banza Manteka.

On July 8th they arrived in Manyanga in the early morning, where they would stop and rest for two weeks, something Conrad referred to as a “most comfortable and pleasant halt” (Najder 11). The group was supplied shelter and provisions by Messrs. Heyn and Jaeger. “We know nothing of the latter, but Reginald Heyn was an Englishman, at that time Manager of Transports of the Societe du Haut-Congo” (Jean-Aubry 56). Upon leaving on July 25th, he once again mentions the poor physical condition of Harou, who now needs to be carried in a hammock. Conrad also notes that he, himself, is “not in good form” but is not unable to walk (Najder 12).

On the morning of July 27th, they changed their course and went to the Mission of Sutili. There they met Mrs. Comber, wife of the Reverend Comber who had been in the Congo for nearly ten years (Jean Aubry 56). After receiving a “hospitable reception by Mrs. Comber” and touring the establishment, they continued to Luasi, where they had sent their luggage carriers before their temporary stop at the mission (Najder 12). In the last days of July Harou became wrought with illness,...

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