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Heart of Darkness: A Signature Performance by Kenneth Branagh | [Joseph Conrad]

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.
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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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  •  
    C.B.E. Colorado, United States Minor Outlying Islands 05-17-13
    C.B.E. Colorado, United States Minor Outlying Islands 05-17-13 Member Since 2014

    Claywise

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    "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
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    "Absolute joy"

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

    8 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Die Falknerin 12-06-13 Member Since 2008

    Painter, musician, bibliophile...

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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 Oak Ridge, NJ, United States 04-26-13
    Teadrinker Oak Ridge, NJ, United States 04-26-13 Member Since 2014
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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 Member Since 2014
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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
  •  
    Stuart New York, NY, United States 07-28-11
    Stuart New York, NY, United States 07-28-11 Listener Since 2004

    Sailor52

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    "One of the best"

    I've been buying books from Audible for about 7 years now, and this performance is arguably the best. I put it along side Jeremy Irons reading of Lolita, as one of the seminal performances of an artist, for this medium.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Phoebe Rockville, MD, United States 02-09-11
    Phoebe Rockville, MD, United States 02-09-11
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    "Lovely!"

    I'm a high school senior and we're about to read Heart of Darkness in a few weeks, so I figured I'd download this to help me out a bit. It's been an interesting listen. I thought it was pretty humorous that Kenneth Branagh is narrating, as we recently saw him perform in Hamlet after reading the play a few months ago (he was excellent) and he's also the narrator for the documentaries we're watching in History class. What a coincidence! His voice is lovely, enticing almost, so I'm glad that he narrated this. Now, I'll be just about fully acquainted with Kenneth Branagh's voice.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    p 02-06-11
    p 02-06-11 Member Since 2014

    A Traveling Listener

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    "Love, Love, Love Branagh"

    I'd read Heart of Darkness prior to listening to Kenneth Branagh read - what a wonderful experience - listening to him! His concise enunciation and style are perfect to the book.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Calliope 01-12-14
    Calliope 01-12-14
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    "wonderfully written, wonderfully read"

    I've read this novella a few times in the past, and Kenneth Branagh's reading only adds to the pleasure. He does a wonderful job of bringing complexity and humanity to the words, and Conrad has written some wonderful words. Not everyone like's Joseph Conrad's work and I can't say Heart of Darkness is one of my favourite novels (or novellas), but there are parts of it that are truly wonderfully written. There is a lot to ponder in the book, and the combination of author, story, and narration create an enjoyable and interesting listening experience.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
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  • Thomas Furneaux
    7/21/15
    Overall
    Performance
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    "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
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    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
  • Karen
    4/7/15
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    "I would have rather have gone to the dentist"

    A waist of precious hours and to have to find more words is an insult
    Still not enough words why doe so have to give an essay on such a boring story


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • SnapWriter
    London, UK
    1/7/15
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    "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
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    "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
  • Brendan
    Ballinasloe, Ireland
    10/31/12
    Overall
    "Unexciting"

    I did not find Branagh's narration in any way stimulating. He sounded bored to me.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful

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