The Written Image: Heart of Darkness

In October 2011 Tin House Books published Ohio artist Matt Kish’s Moby-Dick in Pictures, a collection of original illustrations set against the backdrop of Melville’s famous seafaring tome. This month, Joseph Conrad will get similar treatment, as Tin House will publish Kish’s follow-up, an illustrated edition of Heart of Darkness. Kish, a librarian and former English teacher with no formal artistic training, has created one hundred illustrations for Conrad’s inimitable novel, each inspired by Conrad’s original text.

Unlike its predecessor, Kish’s Heart of Darkness will include the full text of the novel alongside the illustrations. “Where Moby-Dick roams far and wide across both land and sea, Heart of Darkness moves in one direction only, and that is downward,” Kish writes in the introduction to the book, noting that his attempt to visually re-create Conrad’s ideas of race, violence, and the dark corners of the human soul posed a difficult challenge. “I knew that in order to illustrate this book truthfully, I had to find a way to show that what happens in Heart of Darkness is horrifyingly universal.” The illustrations above were created in ink and marker on watercolor paper; the image on the left corresponds to the following passage from the book: “Then without more ado I tipped him overboard. The current snatched him as though he had been a wisp of grass, and I saw the body roll over twice before I lost sight of it forever.” For a slideshow of more images from Kish’s Heart of Darkness, along with the passages that inspired each, visit