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Heart of Darkness: A Signature Performance by Kenneth Branagh Audiobook

Heart of Darkness: A Signature Performance by Kenneth Branagh

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Audible Editor Reviews

"The horror! The horror!" In this brooding and justly celebrated novella of 1902, seaman Charles Marlow is cruising quietly down the Thames at dusk with some friends. As night begins to fall, he tells them of his harrowing journey down an African river in search of the unscrupulous and near-legendary ivory trader named Kurtz, a quest deep into inky spiritual and symbolic darkness. Acclaimed Irish actor/director Kenneth Branagh impersonates Marlow in this recording. Admirably, while fully playing the drama, he never goes overboard. He plays the tale for the great yarn that it is. But had he taken more cognizance of its trajectory and subtleties, he would have made the listening experience far richer than he has.

Publisher's Summary

Prose that demands to be read aloud requires a special kind of narrator. For the Audible Signature Classics edition of Joseph Conrad’s atmospheric masterpiece, Heart of Darkness, we called upon four-time Academy Award nominee Kenneth Branagh.

Branagh’s performance is riveting because he reads as though he’s telling a ghost story by a campfire, capturing the story’s sense of claustrophobia, while hinting at the storyteller Marlow’s own creeping madness. Heart of Darkness follows Captain Marlow into the colonial Congo where he searches for a mysterious ivory trader, Kurtz, and discovers an evil that will haunt him forever.

With this landmark work, Conrad is credited with bringing the novel into the twentieth century; we think Branagh brings it into the twenty-first.

Stay tuned for more one-of-a-kind performances from actors David Hyde Pierce, Leelee Sobieski, Tim Curry, and more, only from Audible Signature Classics.

Listen to more Audible Signature Classics.

Public Domain (P)2010 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Acclaimed Irish actor/director Kenneth Branagh impersonates Marlow in this recording. Admirably, while fully playing the drama, he never goes overboard. He plays the tale for the great yarn that it is." (AudioFile)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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Performance
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  •  
    Andrew FAIR OAKS, CA, United States 10-17-14
    Andrew FAIR OAKS, CA, United States 10-17-14 Member Since 2009

    I'm a web developer based out of Sacramento, I listen to books while I work, and love audible.

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    "Short, but Interesting"
    Any additional comments?

    This was an interesting book, that , but a bit short. It features the utter cruelness of the white colonials in Africa, where they felt they where better than the "savages", because they were the truly savage.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
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    thomas charlotte, NC, United States 09-22-14
    thomas charlotte, NC, United States 09-22-14 Member Since 2012

    I focus mainly on History, Endurance Sports and Science/Speculative Fiction books.

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    "I am Glad I Listened to It.."
    Would you listen to Heart of Darkness: A Signature Performance by Kenneth Branagh again? Why?

    One of the great things about Audible is that we can get around to reading books we either ignored as younger people or glossed over in school This is a great example. I am glad I read it, and it was well done. I am not sure I would listen to it again, but I rarely do that with Audible titles, there are just so many new ones out there I want to get to...


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Well Kurtz is obviously the centerpiece of the story. An enigmatic figure who haunts everyone who meets him.


    What about Kenneth Branagh’s performance did you like?

    Great job, maybe the best I have heard on Audible (Tony Roberts was also great in Cat's Cradle). His reading showed a familiarity with the text that can only come with reading a classic book. This was evident in his performance.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    I rarely do that, but this is a very short book, and many readers might do that on a rainy day or on vacation.


    Any additional comments?

    British literature from this time period is very unique. Flowery language where symbolism and description trump the narrative and story line. The enigmatic Kurtz was fascinating, and has become archetypical for many other subsequent characters in literature and popular culture. Overall I highly recommend.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brian Abel Ragen St. Louis, MO USA 09-04-14
    Brian Abel Ragen St. Louis, MO USA 09-04-14 Member Since 2009
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    "The Ideal Teller for This Tale"
    Where does Heart of Darkness: A Signature Performance by Kenneth Branagh rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This is an excellent audiobook. Branagh realizes that the most important character in Heart of Darkness is not Mr. Kurtz, but Marlow, the narrator, He reads simply, but also shows that Marlow may understand more about the bizarre scenes he faces than he would ever say directly.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Marlow. Branagh makes you believe that men with better things to do would sit on a chilly deck for hours just to hear the rest of his story. And this is the first thing you have to believe if you are going to appreciate the story.


    What about Kenneth Branagh’s performance did you like?

    I liked it that he neither readi it like a Movie Star performing a novel nor left his acting skills at the door. He inhabited his role—which was that of the narrator who brings the other characters to life.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I knew the text very well before I listened to this version. I don't recall that it make me laugh or cry, though it may have, but it did make the book completely fresh for me once again.


    Any additional comments?

    Narration is a special skill, and not all actors have it. Branagh does. I hope he can be persuaded to read more books. And if he an Alex Kingston could create an audio version of their Macbeth, that might be glorious.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rick Kintigh Chicago, IL USA 08-20-14
    Rick Kintigh Chicago, IL USA 08-20-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Great prose, lacking in the Kurtz department."
    Any additional comments?

    Conrad's prose is gorgeous. It has a lyrical quality and is hugely satisfying, but other aspects range from uneven to inadequate. There is such an imbalance between Conrad's progressive views against colonialism and treatment of indigenous people to his blatant dismissal of women. Similarly the attention to describing the exact circumstances and intentions of the narrator, but poorly rendering Mr Kurtz. This last is the most troubling because the character (Kurtz) is absolutely revered by all the of others characters, literally idolized by several. The physically and mentally diminished Kurtz we interact with is a shadow of legend and the deeds are too thinly detailed to engender similar awe in the reader.

    Side note: The value of ivory has always escaped me and shades the reading with a gaudy, gory connotation. I wonder how my experience would have been altered if the precious resource was sapphires or similar precious stones which while still not personally valued would carry less baggage.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jennifer 08-19-14
    Jennifer 08-19-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Darkness Indeed"

    Intense book. Not really to my taste subject-wise, but it was well written, certainly profound. Understandable why it was assigned reading in both high school and my college English classes (though I think I hardly managed more than a few pages and key quotes in both instances, shamefully, for such a short book). It was worth going back to now, and such a better undertaking in audiobook form. I have always liked Kenneth Branagh, and his performance style was perfect for this. His narration well-suited the tone of the tale unfolding, he matched cadence and intensity with the action- slow and weary during the trudge up river, fast and adrenaline-packed during an attack... Wonderfully done. I'd love to here more works narrated by Branagh.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Jill Matrix Pittsburgh, PA 07-14-14
    Jill Matrix Pittsburgh, PA 07-14-14 Member Since 2015
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    "Great performance of classic novella"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Heart of Darkness: A Signature Performance by Kenneth Branagh to be better than the print version?

    Yes.


    What other book might you compare Heart of Darkness: A Signature Performance by Kenneth Branagh to and why?

    Moby Dick, because it's one of those "man faces down his demons and rides them to the bottom" sorts of stories.


    Which character – as performed by Kenneth Branagh – was your favorite?

    The narrator.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Didn't matter.


    Any additional comments?

    I had forgotten what a shockingly racist story this is. Be warned.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Emily Bozeman, MT, United States 05-30-14
    Emily Bozeman, MT, United States 05-30-14
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    "Fantastic performance"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Absolutely would recommend. A classic story, brilliantly read.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    This is not a book where a character is a "favorite". That's not a bad thing


    What does Kenneth Branagh bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    I'm not usually a fan of Branagh, but his performance here is incredible. As someone else wrote, he tells this as if it's a ghost story. Completely compelling.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Just overall extreme pleasure in the telling


    Any additional comments?

    It's not a story that fills in every detail.... in some ways you want more.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    andrew Reserve, LA, United States 01-24-14
    andrew Reserve, LA, United States 01-24-14 Member Since 2013

    I enjoy history, biographys, and nerdy/ dorky things.

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    "Very good for its time"
    Where does Heart of Darkness: A Signature Performance by Kenneth Branagh rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Average, to below average. For its time I'm sure it was a great short story. By modern standards it falls short.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The comparison of going farther down river, symbolized the greed for wealth, and the darkness in a mans heart.


    What about Kenneth Branagh’s performance did you like?

    Mr. Branagh was exceptional. I am a fan of his, and would like to find more audio books he has narrated.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    When the boat was attacked in the dark by natives.


    Any additional comments?

    For a quick listen this book was ok. I wish I would have paid for this title, and not used a credit. It falls a bit short, and ends very dull.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Minnesota 01-08-14
    John Minnesota 01-08-14 Member Since 2014

    ?

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    "Beautifully Written. Dark adventure tale."
    Would you listen to Heart of Darkness: A Signature Performance by Kenneth Branagh again? Why?

    Yes and probably will. This was a great quick listen. The Branagh did a superb job.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    My favorite caracter was Manager Kurtz. He was just so intriguing. As soon as you meet him a million questions fill your head. It makes it even more fun to listen to when you picture him as Marlon Brando. (Coppola's Apocalypse Now was adapted after this story)


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Yes,
    I thought Conrad did an excellent job of depicting how mythical and mysterious equatorial Africa was, "It had become a place of darkness. But there was in it one river especially, a mighty big river, that you could see on the map, resembling an immense snake uncoiled, with its head in the sea, its body at rest curving afar over a vast country, and its tail lost in the depths of the land...but I could not shake off the idea. The snake had charmed me."


    Any additional comments?

    This was a great listen. It is written the way that adventure stories are supposed to be written. You really get inside the characters heads. The descriptions of the surroundings, the people, their interactions with each other and the mystery and intrigue are what make Heart of Darkness a tale for the ages.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Benjamin Silver Spring, MD, United States 12-30-13
    Benjamin Silver Spring, MD, United States 12-30-13 Member Since 2010

    Likes to listen while doing chores; likes to write reviews while he should be doing chores.

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    "Good Enough"

    Seeing how the book itself is a piece of the English literary canon, I doubt my insights will be that interesting and new. Briefly, the story comprises a boat captain's trek into the African interior during the British colonial period. He comes to hear stories about an exceptional colonial agent who has been living in the deep interior and who has become changed by the experience.

    Branagh's retelling is ok. I don't feel that his voice adds too much to the story. It is well done with good rhythm and enunciation. He is obviously a skilled actor and his voice is nice, but I wasn't blown away.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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