Editing the Classics: Heart of Darkness

30 Apr

I’m starting a new series. It’s called Editing the Classics. Here I will edit, rewrite, or otherwise alter classic works of literature in the public domain. The idea is to offer a new interpretation of the text with insight and humor, to modernize the tale, and in some instances to see how the story reads when made PC. I hope you guys like it, and if you’ve got suggestions for works you’d like to see here, let me know in the comments below!

Editing the Classics: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

You can find the full original text for free here.

Excerpt fom chapter 1

Original:

“The old doctor felt my pulse, evidently thinking of something else the while. ‘Good, good for there,’ he mumbled, and then with a certain eagerness asked me whether I would let him measure my head. Rather surprised, I said Yes, when he produced a thing like calipers and got the dimensions back and front and every way, taking notes carefully. He was an unshaven little man in a threadbare coat like a gaberdine, with his feet in slippers, and I thought him a harmless fool. ‘I always ask leave, in the interests of science, to measure the crania of those going out there,’ he said. ‘And when they come back, too?’ I asked. ‘Oh, I never see them,’ he remarked; ‘and, moreover, the changes take place inside, you know.’ He smiled, as if at some quiet joke. ‘So you are going out there. Famous. Interesting, too.’ He gave me a searching glance, and made another note. ‘Ever any madness in your family?’ he asked, in a matter-of-fact tone. I felt very annoyed. ‘Is that question in the interests of science, too?’ ‘It would be,’ he said, without taking notice of my irritation, ‘interesting for science to watch the mental changes of individuals, on the spot, but…’ ‘Are you an alienist?’ I interrupted. ‘Every doctor should be—a little,’ answered that original, imperturbably. ‘I have a little theory which you messieurs who go out there must help me to prove. This is my share in the advantages my country shall reap from the possession of such a magnificent dependency. The mere wealth I leave to others. Pardon my questions, but you are the first Englishman coming under my observation…’ I hastened to assure him I was not in the least typical. ‘If I were,’ said I, ‘I wouldn’t be talking like this with you.’ ‘What you say is rather profound, and probably erroneous,’ he said, with a laugh. ‘Avoid irritation more than exposure to the sun. Adieu. How do you English say, eh? Good-bye. Ah! Good-bye. Adieu. In the tropics one must before everything keep calm.’… He lifted a warning forefinger…. ‘Du calme, du calme.’

New:

“The old doctor felt my pulse. His glazed over stare indicated he was thinking of something else. He mumbled, and then, with a strange eagerness, asked me whether I would let him measure my head. Rather surprised, I said yes. He came at my face with a thing like calipers and I shifted away from him. ‘Hey, I’m not taking your eyes out or anything…’ Remembering myself, I leaned toward him. Not long after clamping the sides of my head from all angles, the kook took great care with the notes of my dimensions. Dr. Whoever was an unshaven little man in a worn out raincoat. He had the nerve to where slippers to work, and I thought him a harmless fool. Explaining himself he said, ‘I always, in the interests of science, you know, measure the crania of those crazy enough to go out there,’ he said. ‘And when they come back, too?’ I asked. ‘Oh, I never see them,’ he remarked; I had to wonder if that meant they never came back. ‘And, moreover,’ he continued, ‘the changes take place inside, you know.’ He smiled, as if at some quiet joke. One of us was certainly crazy. ‘So you are going out there. Interesting. He gave me a searching glance, as if testing my decision, and made another note. ‘Ever any madness in your family?’ he asked, in a matter-of-fact tone. I felt very annoyed. I wanted to ask the same of him. ‘Is that question in the interests of science, too?’ ‘It would be,’ he said without taking notice of my irritation, ‘but the medical community doesn’t really care for my research. But soon they will. I have a little theory which you business men who go out there must help me to prove. This is my share in the knowledge of my country–the mere wealth I leave to others.’ Scrubbing his face like the ‘scientific’ inquiry had exhausted him, he paused. I followed the path with my eyes to see where his gaze had landed. I thought he momentarily fell asleep. Suddenly, he coughed and came back to life, continuing as if he had never stopped. ‘So, you’ll have to forgive my questions. You are the first Englishman I’ve examined…’ I quickly filled in that he should not take me as the norm. ‘If I were,’ I said, ‘I wouldn’t be talking like this with you.’ ‘What you say is rather profound, and probably wrong,’ the doctor retorted with a laugh. ‘But fine. Avoid irritation more than exposure to the sun. Adieu. What do you English say? Oh, good-bye. Ah! Good-bye. Adieu. In the tropics, one must, before everything, stay alive.’ As I exited his small clinic, he lifted a warning forefinger…”

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