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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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Sort by:
  •  
    mark blackburn VIC, Australia 01-09-11
    mark blackburn VIC, Australia 01-09-11 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Absolute joy"

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

    10 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jefferson 10-31-11
    Jefferson 10-31-11 Member Since 2010

    I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The (Beautiful and Appalling) Horror!"

    Kenneth Branagh gives a mesmerizing reading of Heart of Darkness, bringing out all the darkly beautiful surfaces and bleakly existential undercurrents of Joseph Conrad???s novella, as well as convincingly voicing all the characters, from the sensitive and scarred British Marlow to the slimy Belgian trading company men, creepy Russian disciple, and charismatic and appalling Kurtz and his ever-grieving fianc??e.

    The book has been criticized for portraying Africans as sub-human, and it is true that Conrad (and hence Branagh) gives almost no voice to the native population, but I find in Heart of Darkness less racist condescension towards the Africans and more moral outrage towards their European colonial exploiters.

    The nearly four-hour audiobook, during which Marlow recounts his journey into the Congo to find the ???genius??? trading agent Kurtz, quickly caught me and carried me inexorably towards ???The horror! The horror!??? and its haunting aftermath. It left me stunned and grimly impressed (though somehow not depressed) by its disturbing depiction of the raping of Africa by colonial powers like Belgium (taking countless tons of ivory in exchange for worthless glass beads and shabby fabrics, imposing incomprehensible laws onto the native peoples and brutally punishing them for the slightest infractions, and so on), and by its timely application to the developed world???s current exploitation of the Congo (???conflict minerals???) and of Africa in general (diamonds, oil and other resources). But the greatness of the novella lies in its transcending specific examples like Africa and universalizing the heart of darkness to include England in the time of the Romans and all human beings in any time, exposing the heart of darkness in all of us.

    14 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    JimmyC 09-20-15
    JimmyC 09-20-15 Member Since 2014
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    "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
  •  
    J 09-10-15
    J 09-10-15
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    "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

    Ani Rotseh Likroh

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "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
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    "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
  •  
    Die Falknerin 12-06-13 Member Since 2008

    Painter, musician, bibliophile...

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "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
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    "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
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    "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
  •  
    Diane 08-03-11
    Diane 08-03-11
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    "Great Story and Narrator"

    The narrator is excellent, of course, and that's why I purchased it. The story is good. Gets slow sometimes but very interesting and well written if a little subtle.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Sort by:
  • 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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