"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.
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.
"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)
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
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.
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!
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.
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
His voice acting displays many emotions as the tone of the story changes. It is easy to understand which characters speak. He is excellent!
Ani Rotseh Likroh
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.
Painter, musician, bibliophile...
"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.
World Champion Parallel Parker
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.
K. Branagh renders this masterpiece its due - moves to my favorite performance of this great work.
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.
"Not what I expected"
I found this book to be much more of a drag than I would've thought. Slow and full of xenophobic and racist comments (queue the cry of "but it's meant to be!"), this wouldn't have bothered me so much, given it's from another time, if the story had actually been engaging. I might have "gone native" too if I had to listen to this more than once.
I was intrigued by the character of Kurt, obviously, but other than that, I wasn't that engaged. Especially during the boat scenes where the natives are spear-chucking away, and I had no idea what was going on. Besides that, we take an awful long time to get anywhere.
I know, I know, this is meant to be literary and claustrophobic, and while it is certainly the latter, I struggle to see how it is the former. Yes, some of it is successfully feverish, but some is just bland, and while I love Kenneth Branagh, not even his narration could inject energy into it.
Narration stiff and cadence unnatural, hard to follow. Not what I was expecting from Kenneth Branagh.
Superb narration, having read the book myself I can't believe how Branagh's performance modernises the book. He also closes the gap between Apocalypse Now and the novel that inspired it. More signature performances please
as an artefact of the late nineteenth century this book, with its focus on a white mans fascination with another white man cannot do justice to collonialism. However, this is a fictionalised account of imperialism written by a witness and its not pretty. the prorangonist is a european who does not claim to understand the cultures that are being trampled over and from this position of disassociated ignorance there is no way that he can represent anything but his own view. but even from this problematic stance he starts to humanise a period in global history which by its very scale is apt to seem anonymous.
"Too ambiguous to enjoy as a story"
I found the story utterly lacking in detail and therefore ambiguous throughout.
For example we're told that Kurtz is an astonishing man of near unsurpassed brilliance, but we're given no detail whatsoever as to why. Consequently I found myself unable to share the deep respect and interest that every other character in the book seems to have for this man, at all.
Granted there may be a number of individual sentences or passages that have great value to the English language for their construction, but in my opinion this is no good if they don't also serve to provide the detail necessary to convey a compelling story, which they don't.
The narrator whispered too much and was over dramatic in places for my taste.
About me, for reference: I love classic fiction for two reasons: first is the originality of the stories which are usually compelling, and second is the vocabulary and construction of language, which is so much more eloquent and attractive to me than modern prose.
Such a strange eerie story. So beautifully read - Kenneth Branagh has such a rich, expressive voice. Highly recommended.
"Haunting and beautiful"
This classic text was beautifully narrated and evoked such vivid images of the events taking place that you could imagine yourself part of the story each time you listened.
Anyone who enjoys a well written and decadent story should listen to this recording. I have read the story many times but to hear it read to you by such a well spoken and emotional voice is fantastic. Kenneth Branagh is amazing as the story teller and with his perfect diction and English accent transports you back in time to the setting of the tale without affectation or pretence.
Although the subject matter is dark it is a joy to hear the tale told.
A must listen!
Fantastic story that formed the basis for the film Apocalypse Now. Far better than the film and vastly more expansive in scale.
Lovely performance from Mr Branagh. The story has a beautiful sense of vagueness, as of memories of the distant past. Though, like memory, some specific events are in crystal-clear focus. The ending, out of Africa, suffers slightly for the very same vagueness that worked so beautifully up to then.
"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...
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