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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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  •  
    Robin Åhman Spånga, Sweden 11-15-13
    Robin Åhman Spånga, Sweden 11-15-13 Member Since 2009
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    "Best narration ever"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes I think I would. It was relatively short and the narration was just wonderful.


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    The most interesting part was wondering if he would ever reach his goal, finding Kurtz. The least interesting part was what he saw along the way, I kind of zoned out during those parts.


    What about Kenneth Branagh’s performance did you like?

    Everything! I have listened to over 150 books on Audible, and this was by far the best narration ever. His tone of voice, his pace, everything was perfect.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men...


    Any additional comments?

    I could listen to anything Kenneth Branagh reads. He could read me the stock quotes and I would be riveted.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Steve Medina, NY USA 08-23-13
    Steve Medina, NY USA 08-23-13

    Eclectic and mindful. Enjoy literary forensics with an eye on how the effects of postmodern deconstruction shapes our worldview.

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    "Wonderful performance"
    Would you listen to Heart of Darkness: A Signature Performance by Kenneth Branagh again? Why?

    Yes, the story is riveting. Especially if one has spent time in remote areas of the world and experienced the lens of Conrad. Branagh's brings the story to life while keeping the connection while Conrad's Victorian cultural worldview.


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

    Stephen Mitchell's performance of the Tao Te Ching.


    What about Kenneth Branagh’s performance did you like?

    He is a professional storyteller.


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

    The indifference Conrad highlights that 'first-world' travelers have on other cultures and role of the expat that endures to this day.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    French Quarter 08-19-13
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    "Excellent! Best audiobook version!"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I absolutely recommend it. One, the story is one of the best. Two, it is finally done in audio.


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

    It is incomparable to anything else. It is one-of-a-kind.


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

    While I'm not a huge movie fan of his (he's overly dramatic when he acts)... But for an audiobook, he is perfect, he did an excellent job on this audiobook, far better than any other rendition on Audible. This is the one to get.


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

    All of it was great!


    Any additional comments?

    Get it!!!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joy O'Toole 07-20-13
    Joy O'Toole 07-20-13 Member Since 2015
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    "Amazing book"
    What did you love best about Heart of Darkness: A Signature Performance by Kenneth Branagh?

    Conrad's prose is incredible and Kenneth Branagh's reading draws the listener in so that you feel you are part of the story.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ray 06-03-13
    Ray 06-03-13 Member Since 2016
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    "Too Fast"

    Mr. Branagh delivered the story with a passion that made you feel the mood of the characters. However, I felt like our narrator was practicing speed reading.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jan Pierce 06-02-13
    Jan Pierce 06-02-13
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    "Branaugh & Conrad -- an inspired combination!"
    Where does Heart of Darkness: A Signature Performance by Kenneth Branagh rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Way up there!--for two reasons: (1) Conrad's suspenseful romana clef story is wildly compelling, which surprised me because I had avoided it for decades, thinking it was more or less just for guys. Published in 1899, near the end of The Victorian Age, perhaps it did attract more male than female readers at the time, but having just finished it, I can say it is timeless and will appeal to all sophisticated readers, male, female, or otherwise. One of my favorite aspects of the story was its insight into European colonialism and empire-building, in this instance...Africa.(2) But, as well as this dark, sinister tale was crafted and presented by Joseph Conrad, the characters and situations literally sprung to life with Kenneth Branaugh's superlative performance. I am convinced that **no-one** could have brought more realism and understated passion to Heart of Darkness than Branaugh. Hands down, his narration of a story of this type is THE BEST I've heard on Audible to date. He set the bar very high. Henceforth, for me personally, his performance has become the standard by which all others will be judged.


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

    I read "King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa (by Adam Hochschild), and that was a good look at the European power grabs for territory and the atrocities perpetrated on the people already living there. Joseph Conrad wrote about just such events at the time they were occurring. I might have to revisit my book by Hochschild now that I've heard Branaugh read "Heart of Darkness." I'm also reminded of "The Poisonwood Bible," a novel by Barbara Kingsolver that told of a misguided missionary who believed he was called to Africa to spread The Word. He moved his family from Georgia to the Congo in 1959, a time when that area was in considerable turmoil after foreign colonialism had broken down. The point being that when the Europeans gave up in that area, greed of a religious sort moved in to enlightened "the lost"--and the attempt to frighten Africans into submission continues.


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

    He did all of them so well, even the minor characters. For that reason, I couldn't single one out as the very best. I'm convinced he could read the back of soup cans and have my full attention.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    The depths to which man may sink if there are no checks and balances...


    Any additional comments?

    "Heart of Darkness" is not for light, casual readers -- say, readers who prefer romance novels, fantasies, etc. It IS for readers who would appreciate a foray into the psyche of man and empires--and the collapse of both.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Soo Lee Davis 06-01-13

    Soo Lee Davis

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    "Deliciously descriptive; better than theater!"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Heart of Darkness: A Signature Performance by Kenneth Branagh to be better than the print version?

    Absolutely!!


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    The narrator - rich vivid descriptions.


    What about Kenneth Branagh’s performance did you like?

    Take the journey with Marlow - Conrad's descriptions so rich and vivid; vocabulary so wonderfully precise; Branagh with perfect tone, inflection, and animation - you feel the story as much as read/listen to it. A classic that is short enough to be read again and again, just to relive the adventure.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Adventure


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    BigOleD 06-01-13
    BigOleD 06-01-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Powerful Book"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Heart of Darkness: A Signature Performance by Kenneth Branagh to be better than the print version?

    This is a powerful listen and Kenneth Branagh brings each character to gut-wrenching life. The passion and the heat of the strange and mysterious land comes out in his tone and cadence. I found myself going back and listening and re-listening to passages not because I didn't understand, but rather for the lyrical quality of this prose.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The brooding and simmering quality of the narrator's story as he muses upon the motives of others, but also his own thoughts, his own weaknesses. What happens to us when faced with culture, loneliness, avarice in a shockingly different and remote setting. Looking at "The Other' we can find those who look and talk like ourselves as strange and unfathomable as those who look and act nothing like us.


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

    It is the narrator's story, and while he met many singular people, his reactions and thoughts stayed with me.


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

    No. It should be taken in time, much like the journey he tells of. Let the story develop, build and grow just like the river boat's slow progress upriver. It is a powerful tale that should be savored and considered. Listen to this book.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Emily Portland, OR, United States 05-28-13
    Emily Portland, OR, United States 05-28-13 Member Since 2016

    Estate planning lawyer and mom to two boys. My older son liked audiobooks as an infant, and I've listened to a lot since then.

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    "The best way to experience a chilling classic"
    What did you love best about Heart of Darkness: A Signature Performance by Kenneth Branagh?

    Kenneth Branagh's performance is amazing. I could listen to the man read the proverbial phone book, but he did more than simply read, he inhabited the narrator character who is slowly going insane.


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

    It is a classic unreliable narrator story, and has influenced many succeeding works. In the ghost story vein, it reminds me a bit of Poe.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    It is hard to pick out one in particular, but as they go deeper in, the book (and the performance) just keeps getting better.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Well, clearly this book inspired Apocalpse Now, but I would call it An Imperialist Ghost Story.


    Any additional comments?

    I read this book in college about 30 years ago, but this performance gave a whole new dimension to the book. Frankly, it was a difficult book for me to focus on then, but this experience was riveting.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard Riverside, CA, United States 05-18-13
    Richard Riverside, CA, United States 05-18-13 Member Since 2007
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    "Opened new dimensions for an old text"
    What did you love best about Heart of Darkness: A Signature Performance by Kenneth Branagh?

    The feeling of ultimate mystery that Conrad obviously wanted to portray, not just of the jungle but of the darkness of the human heart, is stunningly well conveyed by the narration. This is a short but complex piece that I have read many times since I discovered it in college. One of the hallmarks of great literature, to me, is that you can re-read (or hear) the story again every few years and find new dimensions of understanding. I'm more sure than ever after hearing this presentation that this is one of those great books. Moreover, Kenneth Branagh is perfect as a presenter for a work of this magnitude.


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

    Strangely enough, it makes me want to go back and re-watch the last hour of "Apocalypse Now" (obviously the same story). I still think that Brando's performance really was up to the task of Kurtz, though the rest was flawed.


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

    This is a classic character portrait, not just of Kurtz but of the narrator himself, and of other more minor characters. Branagh's vocal nuances bring the characters into focus in a way that, for me, is more personal and instinctive than just reading the printed words on the page. Even Conrad's sketchy but evocative descriptions of the persons and action come across with moody impact in Branagh's spoken version. I suspect this wouldn't be true for just any performer, but only for one with the consummate skill of Branagh.


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

    Yes, though I didn't quite manage to do so. However, and this is almost unprecedented for me, I listened to it again as soon as I had finished it, and got even more from the second hearing.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Wras
    Kildonan
    3/6/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A reminder to question the conceits of culture"

    This is a story laden with history and the shame of that history , also a story that has metamorphosed into Apocalypse Now and Hearts of Darkness: A Film-makers Apocalypse A documentary of the making of the film that resembles some of the struggles in the book. This makes it hard to judge or criticize without those influences prejudicing the commentary.
    It is still a poignant story of the worst of colonial Africa, and the attitudes of the period. but at the beginning the narrator comments about how in the more distant past of Britain they had been the savages of the Roman empire giving us a glimpse that power and abuse are timeless.
    If you have ever wonder why so many animals are nearly extinct this book and its language is a very good example, the companies main interest is ivory but the one word never mention in the book is elephant and all that this men do is collect ivory. The casual and institutionalised abuse of the locals is I am sure described in a very sanitized way, I suspect that the HORROR was much larger. Conrad also describes and inefficient colonial force and wonder why the people of this lands never just wiped them out, it is ponder many writers have made about other conflicts the best reasoning and perhaps the saddest was by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago “ you surrender because you think “It’s a mistake! They will set things right!” but they is just you, the other "they" are not there to set things right but to implement the new regime and so it goes.
    Mr kurtz is not a truly well drawn character and the devotion felt by others seems strange to the modern reader; unlike Kurtz in Apocalypse Now who is charismatic and mad with modern Horror.
    A good book to look back and not forget the unlimited inhumanity of man in the pursuit of profit. A reminder to question the conceits of culture and ideology.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Mr
    Gloucester, United Kingdom
    12/23/12
    Overall
    "A treat for the senses"

    Ever since I first read this novella as part of my studies for A Level English Literature, Conrad's prose transported me to a radically different world where colonial Africa became an arena where mankind itself battled to remain uncorrupted and unaffected by the darker side of humanity. Branagh, as we would expect from a master actor of his calibre, captures this conflict for man's soul excellently as he assumes the character of Marlow and takes us through his journey to Africa, up the snake-like river and into the very heart of darkness.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Howler
    HYDE, United Kingdom
    4/7/12
    Overall
    "Five stars!"

    Superb narration by Kenneth Branagh - he injects such realism into the narrative. He must be my favourite male narrator of all time!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Anthony
    Sydney, Australia
    1/19/13
    Overall
    "Superb narration of a timeless classic"

    "The horror, the horror" ... timeless classic novel about colonial exploitation and oppression. Beautifully written, full of foreboding from the start. Difficult to switch off; probably best read/heard one uncluttered day from beginning to end as if you were sitting with Marlowe and listening to his tale via Conrad.

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • Amit
    Harrow, United Kingdom
    5/27/11
    Overall
    "Heart of Darkness - Read by Kenneth Branagh"

    I must confess I was initially put off by the "celebrity" author tag, but I am very glad I did get the audiobook. Branagh's reading verged on the lyrical in places - and he makes full use of his theatrical skills.

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • Tom
    Rickmansworth, Herts, United Kingdom
    4/13/11
    Overall
    "An Old Master Brought to Life"

    This is the story of a young man who takes on the role of ferry boat captain on an African river when Africa was both unexplored and a mystery to the civilised world. As a book it is both compelling and shocking. It has really been brought to life by Kenneth Branagh whose wonderful narration keeps the pace going and brings the personalities of people to life. It satisfies on multiple levels, firstly as a good story, then in the sense that it made me realise how the world had changed since this was written and actually I was listening to a social commentary on the time when Great Britain had an Empire and knowledge of the world was limited. Finally it is a book which variously amused me, made me angry and has left a mark on me unlike many books that are so easily forgettable.
    I will listen again and indeed seek out others from this genre. Well done Audible, good call.

    13 of 18 people found this review helpful
  • LorLor
    1/27/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Unforgettable!"

    Not my usual choice of book, but I was gripped from the beginning. Kenneth Brannagh really brought it to life

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • John
    Lisbellaw, United Kingdom
    4/13/13
    Overall
    "There's Methody in the Madness"

    Terrific performance by Sir KB (an alumnus of Methodist college, Belfast: AKA Methody). Felt dramatic and emotional as apprpriate. The novel is a retelling of a tale and mostly in the storytelling style, hence the appropriateness of the presnetational style.



    The story itself is an interesting story. The film Apocolypse Now, closely follows the story with phrases and even names reused. It clearly is an homage to the book.



    Whilst far from uplifting the story is a good study of morality and mental balance. It length is perfect if you have a long journey and can complete it in one day. It dropped a star because of the style of language of the book. This is unfair as it was written for a contemporary audience, I guess, and language has moved on since then.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • alesdair
    BALLYMENA, United Kingdom
    10/15/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Just great"
    Would you listen to Heart of Darkness: A Signature Performance by Kenneth Branagh again? Why?

    Branagh is a cut above any other reader I have listened to before


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Heart of Darkness: A Signature Performance by Kenneth Branagh?

    If you are a fan of Apocalypse now then you will particularly enjoy understanding where the source material was drawn from.
    No doubt a tale of its time but listened to in that context, massively enjoyable.


    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Ros
    Marlborough, United Kingdom
    4/13/13
    Overall
    "Brilliant rendition!"

    Conrad's prose in Branagh's voice is a wonderful combination. The power of this novel is enhanced by the actor's sensitive handling of mood and tone. I have found myself listening more than once to some passages, where the author's emotive descriptions reward further attention. The narrative is fast paced and gripping and the creation of atmosphere superb.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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