Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Joseph Conrad Stinks

While trying to think of candidates for my list of good shorts novels (that I've read), I moseyed on over to Project Gutenberg's etext of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Scanning through it, I remembered the rotten hippo meat:
I don't pretend to say that steamboat floated all the time. More than once she had to wade for a bit, with twenty cannibals splashing around and pushing. We had enlisted some of these chaps on the way for a crew. Fine fellows—cannibals—in their place. They were men one could work with, and I am grateful to them. And, after all, they did not eat each other before my face: they had brought along a provision of hippo-meat which went rotten, and made the mystery of the wilderness stink in my nostrils. Phoo! I can sniff it now.
Not enough novels include smells. A novel is words, and words are abstractions, but for some reason describing something we can see seems more natural than describing something we can smell. Hearing, touch and taste also have a more comfortable place in literature than smell. Who knows why we snub the nose...