"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.
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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)
Superbly Acted Reading
The Russian engineer/adventurer who has so totally fallen under Kurtz's sphere of influence and is willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of "this great man," is a character I have never really noticed before. Branaugh brings him to full vigorous life and his coversations with Marlowe become a key to the book.
Magnificent acting of every sentence. Nothing is thrown away or "phoned in." Branaugh lives and breathes the character of the narrator, Marlowe,and through him, all the other characters.
The death of the native helmsman and Marlowe's reaction to it, compared to his reaction to the death of Kurtz is a high point of the book.
Such a difficult novella, I have read it so many times, and there is something new in every reading, and yet the final essence, like Kurtz himself, is in the end, undefinable. I think that those who see "Heart of Darkness" as a simple indictment of colonialism, or the Belgians or the ivory trade, or whatever, are somehow missing a large part of the story. And yet, what is that story? Who, really, is Kurtz, or for that matter, Marlowe? I think the answer is as elusive at the answer to Conrad's other great story of identity, "The Secret Sharer." We can never really know. But this reading by a master actor, like the tides of the Congo River itself, brings us closer to an answer. Worth listening more than once.
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.
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.
A Traveling Listener
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.
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.
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.
Love to read, and Audible has made the two-hour daily commute enjoyable!
"Apocalypse Now" was based on this. Yes, that movie put it into a more modern view with Vietnam instead of the Congo, but after reading the V.S. Naipaul's book, "A Bend in the River" plus the Kingsolver book, "Poisonwood Diary", I think the Congo is more horrifying. The confusion, the darkness, "the Horror".
Marlowe's telling of this tale makes it an amazing ghost story. The listener characters melt away as Marlowe tells the horrific story of madness that he seems to still be dealing with. The end, when Marlowe is faced with the profound grief of Kurtz' intended and lies to her about his last word is moving. Was Marlowe true to the memory of Kurtz? I believe so.
Branaugh's narration was just as brilliant as I had expected.
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.
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.........
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
"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.
"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.
"Only read it you have to for a degree course etc"
I read (listened to) this because I had to for a degree course. There is nothing to recommend it. I have read other 'slave' narratives before and they were of some interest, showing life from both the colonial and the local or slave perspective. This one though was solely from one 'white' persons perspective and gave us no reasons for his views (which seemed to have some empathy with the locals if not with the elephants whose ivory they plundered) and referred constantly to some godlike white called Curts who we never got to really know. Also the only female appeared right at the end which made it very one sided from a gender point of view. I will not be re-reading it and will avoid this book in the exam in case I fall asleep. Would also like to say that Kenneth Branagh's narration was not as good as you would expect from his reputation and acting ability-or maybe it was hard to achieve a good 'telling' in view of the dire writing and content.
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