We are currently making improvements to the Audible site. In an effort to enhance the accessibility experience for our customers, we have created a page to more easily navigate the new experience, available at the web address www.audible.com/access.
Heart of Darkness: A Signature Performance by Kenneth Branagh Audiobook

Heart of Darkness: A Signature Performance by Kenneth Branagh

A Signature Performance: Kenneth Branagh plays this like a campfire ghost story, told by a haunted, slightly insane Marlow.
    • 1 audiobook per month
    • 180,000+ titles to choose from
    • $14.95 per month after free trial

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

4.2 (2393 )
5 star
 (1160)
4 star
 (694)
3 star
 (344)
2 star
 (132)
1 star
 (63)
Overall
4.1 (2062 )
5 star
 (942)
4 star
 (569)
3 star
 (366)
2 star
 (128)
1 star
 (57)
Story
4.5 (2054 )
5 star
 (1395)
4 star
 (424)
3 star
 (163)
2 star
 (41)
1 star
 (31)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    C.B.E. 05-17-13
    C.B.E. 05-17-13

    Claywise

    HELPFUL VOTES
    26
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    121
    15
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "One of English lit's finest works, finely rendered"

    I hadn't revisited "Heart of Darkness" for decades until I listened to this audiobook. My impressions are simple and intense.

    Regardless of the post-colonial critique of Conrad - he was, I believe, remarkably understanding of the wrongs of colonialism for a man of his time - the writing and the psychological depth of the novella are nearly unsurpassed in 19th- and 20th-century English language literature.

    In addition, Kenneth Branagh demonstrates here the difference between merely passable or even good dramatic reading, and true craftsmanship. I can't imagine how the publisher lured such an amazing acting talent into doing the narration of a book in the public domain, but Branagh's rendition is the finest of any audiobook I've ever listened to.

    I'm deeply impressed with both Conrad and Branagh.

    Thank you, Audible.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    mark blackburn VIC, Australia 01-09-11
    mark blackburn VIC, Australia 01-09-11 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    9
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    4
    1
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Absolute joy"

    Kenneth Branagh must have been born to read this book. He is mesmerizing. Don't wait, get this!

    9 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    JimmyC 09-20-15
    JimmyC 09-20-15 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    17
    5
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Finally!"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Heart of Darkness: A Signature Performance by Kenneth Branagh to be better than the print version?

    I have loved this story for a very long time, but for some reason it never resonated and moved me until I listened to Kenneth Branagh bring it to life! 'nuff said!


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Zhoodite 09-10-15
    Zhoodite 09-10-15
    HELPFUL VOTES
    15
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    30
    7
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Not the stuffy classic I was expecting"
    What made the experience of listening to Heart of Darkness: A Signature Performance by Kenneth Branagh the most enjoyable?

    I wasn't assigned to read this in school, but it was a good whispersync deal. Learning that the film "Apocalypse Now" was based on the story also inspired me to listen.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Kurtz is a mysterious and intriguing real big baddie. So much of the book examines him, though he is present in the story only a brief time


    What about Kenneth Branagh’s performance did you like?

    His voice acting displays many emotions as the tone of the story changes. It is easy to understand which characters speak. He is excellent!


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Aaron Margulies Knoxville, TN 09-08-15
    Aaron Margulies Knoxville, TN 09-08-15 Member Since 2013

    Ani Rotseh Likroh

    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    12
    5
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Kenneth Branagh is amazing"

    Kenneth Branagh does an amazing job reading this most difficult of books. He brings it to life so that it can be understood. Listen to this book. Then read the book.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rob M. 07-15-15
    Rob M. 07-15-15 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    3
    2
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great book! "

    it was my first foray into Audible and not one to be regretted. highly recommended

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    AudioAddict 06-22-15
    AudioAddict 06-22-15

    I can find a book to love in any genre -- a beautifully written classic, an interesting mystery or sci-fi, a trashy romance. Bring it!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    1346
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    293
    291
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    166
    3
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Awesome performance and imagery, but I'm not a fan"

    STORY (English classic) - Don't have much to say except that this story is for a totally different type of brain than mine. It is beautifully written with dark, descriptive imagery in an advanced vocabulary, but it seemed to go nowhere and in the end much seemed left unexplained. Whatever.

    The basic story takes place in colonial days and is the tale of a trip down the Congo River into the wilderness. The travelers encounter natives, which they describe and treat as savages. There's suffering and misfortune, but all in all I was left emotionless, unimpressed and was when glad it was over.

    PERFORMANCE - Kenneth Branagh's performance was great. I at least enjoyed listening to him, if nothing else. He reads a bit fast, but I didn't need to adjust the speed.

    OVERALL - There's no sex or cursing and the book is pretty mild in terms of violence. If you're a big fan of English classics, maybe you'll enjoy this book. Obviously, I did not.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Die Falknerin 12-06-13 Member Since 2008

    Painter, musician, bibliophile...

    HELPFUL VOTES
    599
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    761
    136
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    44
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A book made to be heard"

    "Heart of Darkness," for me, is a book meant for listening. The language, the economy of description, and the brevity of the story are all the more engrossing when read aloud. Phrases ring in the memory: "My ivory, my intended..." So many more.

    Conrad's characters continue to live in the imagination: the now world-weary Marlow, the mad charismatic Kurtz, the odd little "Harlequin," the innocent fiancée. Africa itself is a character larger than life. Who could ever forget these people, or these places?

    I came to this book later in life, long after reading Hochschild's "King Leopold's Ghost" and studying African politics at university. So I did not come from an educational system that assigned this for college prep. But when I did read it, it began a long love affair with Conrad and his "voice," if you will, that spins the English language into gold.

    I truly think Conrad is someone it takes a bit of life experience to appreciate fully. "Heart of Darkness," like Hesse's "Steppenwolf," is often read very early in life, but both improve on acquaintance. I read each one at least once every five years and find new insights every time. I hope you'll re-read Conrad if he was "forced upon you." There isn't a writer quite like him, and few are as rewarding.

    Branagh's narration surprised me. I love him as an actor but didn't know if he would be right for old Marlow the storyteller without a little more age on him! I was wrong. His narration was all it should be.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Teadrinker Newark, NJ, United States 04-26-13
    Teadrinker Newark, NJ, United States 04-26-13 Member Since 2015

    World Champion Parallel Parker

    HELPFUL VOTES
    60
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    108
    75
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    2
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Excellent Rendition"

    Very, very good. It's better read aloud than read in a book, I think, at least by Kenneth Branaugh. It aided my understanding and retention.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Genevieve Arcata, California, United States 09-07-11
    Genevieve Arcata, California, United States 09-07-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    54
    8
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    4
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A masterpiece throughout"

    K. Branagh renders this masterpiece its due - moves to my favorite performance of this great work.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Sort by:
  • petitbilbo
    Brussels
    1/30/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Excellent performance by Kenneth Branagh"

    Yes, this was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. A masterpiece of world literature read by Sir Kenneth, no doubt a master of his art.

    But, although it really is well done, very well read and even the music is well chosen, I have a problem with the concept of "signature performance". As flawless as was Kenneth Branagh's performance, I'm sure I've had the same quality by other, less well known readers...

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Cathy
    9/29/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "So long as you are not offended by dated language of 'savages' and such , well worth it"

    Some of the language, though very much of the era of publication sits a little awkwardly for a contemporary audience, but well worth it.
    I had forgotten how much quality narration can add to the enjoyment of an audiobook.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Thomas Furneaux
    7/21/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great performance from Kenneth Branagh"
    What did you like most about Heart of Darkness: A Signature Performance by Kenneth Branagh?

    Excellent reading that really captured the spirit of the story for me.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Very atmospheric.


    What about Kenneth Branagh’s performance did you like?

    Very emotive but subtle reading.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mr J.
    4/20/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "great narrator for a tedious classic"

    never have enjoyed this classic - well read but doesn't save the tedious prose but of you want to any version o recommend this one

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • SnapWriter
    London, UK
    1/7/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "The Definitive Performance"

    So lucky to have Branagh read Conrad. An actor of this caliber is a gift, and amazon's download the text service completes the experience,

    Branagh gives a haunting, mesmerising performance.

    I can't wait to find more of his readings.

    A must download.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Stephanie Jane
    a caravan somewhere in Europe
    10/25/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Wonderfully atmospheric audiobook"

    Kenneth Branagh narrated my audio version of this Conrad classic and he does an amazing job of the reading. It did take me a while to get into the story though which is why I have only given it four stars. Once we arrive in Africa, the writing takes off and I was totally engrossed. Conrad's description flows like the river itself and, together with the ominous approach towards the enigmatic Kurtz, it made for several wonderful commutes. Not much happens in the novel, but it happens with style!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Caroline
    Horsham, United Kingdom
    7/10/12
    Overall
    "Perfection"

    This is a great way to experience Conrad. Kenneth Branagh brings the work to life so that you can vividly picture the characters and that dark, menacing jungle. It's not too long, so settle down in a comfortable chair and listen to this while you watch the never ending 2012 summer rain.........

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Stewart Gibson
    South Africa
    7/3/12
    Overall
    "Essential listen"

    Movie Appolalypse Now was based on this.Read a summary of the layout and the character before the listen. Incredible use of the English language-but that was for a reason.Not a long book, but a classic indeed

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Margaret
    London, United Kingdom
    2/25/12
    Overall
    "Atmospheric and enthralling"

    This was a set text as background for an A level, and, like most of those things, something I have jibbed at (sorry about the pun) for a number of years. But when I heard the free first chapter, I knew I had to have it at some point. Kenneth Branagh voices it superbly, not a reading, but as someone telling a story without script and as if it were he that all this happened to. The opening couple of minutes with the description of the Thames and the light over it dragged me at in once. Marlow and Kurtz can be seen as representatives of many things (if you want to) but as a story, pure and simple, it is enough and one of my library that I shall listen to over and over. I don't know if Branagh was subconsciously influenced by Marlon Brando's Kurtz (Apocalypse Now) or if I am, but I could see and hear him every time Kurtz speaks. Definitely worth the money or a credit.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Caroline
    London, United Kingdom
    1/8/12
    Overall
    "Superb reading of a chilling book"

    I tried to read this years ago and didn't manage to get passed what seemed like overwrought language. This reading transformed the book for me, and brought it to life. A fantastic performance of a deeply disturbing narrative.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Report Inappropriate Content

If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.

Cancel

Thank you.

Your report has been received. It will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.