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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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Performance
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  •  
    Diane Iron Station, NC, United States 08-03-11
    Diane Iron Station, NC, United States 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
  •  
    Lori Lindstrom, MN, United States 05-24-12
    Lori Lindstrom, MN, United States 05-24-12 Member Since 2006

    Avid reader and high school English teacher. Kindle, book, audio - if they could implant books directly into my brain, I'd probably sign up.

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    "Conrad rewritten"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Heart of Darkness: A Signature Performance by Kenneth Branagh to be better than the print version?

    Unfortunately, I was unable to fully enjoy Kenneth Branagh's performance because of the changes to Conrad's text. It is beautifully read, but I can't use it for class.


    Any additional comments?

    As a high school English teacher, using audiobooks sometimes makes my life easier. I use them to "reread" for class and sometimes in class to help students' comprehension. This version changes certain words and phrases to a more politically correct alternative. When one is trying to teach historical context and purpose along with the story, this is disappointing. While those unfamiliar with the text may not notice the substitutions, I found it quite glaring. As an introduction to the novel for students, I'll go back to the other audio version that I have and use that.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brian Abel Ragen St. Louis, MO USA 09-04-14
    Brian Abel Ragen St. Louis, MO USA 09-04-14 Member Since 2008
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    "The Ideal Teller for This Tale"
    Where does Heart of Darkness: A Signature Performance by Kenneth Branagh rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This is an excellent audiobook. Branagh realizes that the most important character in Heart of Darkness is not Mr. Kurtz, but Marlow, the narrator, He reads simply, but also shows that Marlow may understand more about the bizarre scenes he faces than he would ever say directly.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Marlow. Branagh makes you believe that men with better things to do would sit on a chilly deck for hours just to hear the rest of his story. And this is the first thing you have to believe if you are going to appreciate the story.


    What about Kenneth Branagh’s performance did you like?

    I liked it that he neither readi it like a Movie Star performing a novel nor left his acting skills at the door. He inhabited his role—which was that of the narrator who brings the other characters to life.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I knew the text very well before I listened to this version. I don't recall that it make me laugh or cry, though it may have, but it did make the book completely fresh for me once again.


    Any additional comments?

    Narration is a special skill, and not all actors have it. Branagh does. I hope he can be persuaded to read more books. And if he an Alex Kingston could create an audio version of their Macbeth, that might be glorious.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rick Kintigh Chicago, IL USA 08-20-14
    Rick Kintigh Chicago, IL USA 08-20-14 Member Since 2011
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    "Great prose, lacking in the Kurtz department."
    Any additional comments?

    Conrad's prose is gorgeous. It has a lyrical quality and is hugely satisfying, but other aspects range from uneven to inadequate. There is such an imbalance between Conrad's progressive views against colonialism and treatment of indigenous people to his blatant dismissal of women. Similarly the attention to describing the exact circumstances and intentions of the narrator, but poorly rendering Mr Kurtz. This last is the most troubling because the character (Kurtz) is absolutely revered by all the of others characters, literally idolized by several. The physically and mentally diminished Kurtz we interact with is a shadow of legend and the deeds are too thinly detailed to engender similar awe in the reader.

    Side note: The value of ivory has always escaped me and shades the reading with a gaudy, gory connotation. I wonder how my experience would have been altered if the precious resource was sapphires or similar precious stones which while still not personally valued would carry less baggage.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Jennifer ARDMORE, PA, United States 08-19-14
    Jennifer ARDMORE, PA, United States 08-19-14 Member Since 2011
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    "Darkness Indeed"

    Intense book. Not really to my taste subject-wise, but it was well written, certainly profound. Understandable why it was assigned reading in both high school and my college English classes (though I think I hardly managed more than a few pages and key quotes in both instances, shamefully, for such a short book). It was worth going back to now, and such a better undertaking in audiobook form. I have always liked Kenneth Branagh, and his performance style was perfect for this. His narration well-suited the tone of the tale unfolding, he matched cadence and intensity with the action- slow and weary during the trudge up river, fast and adrenaline-packed during an attack... Wonderfully done. I'd love to here more works narrated by Branagh.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Jill Matrix Pittsburgh, PA 07-14-14
    Jill Matrix Pittsburgh, PA 07-14-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Great performance of classic novella"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Heart of Darkness: A Signature Performance by Kenneth Branagh to be better than the print version?

    Yes.


    What other book might you compare Heart of Darkness: A Signature Performance by Kenneth Branagh to and why?

    Moby Dick, because it's one of those "man faces down his demons and rides them to the bottom" sorts of stories.


    Which character – as performed by Kenneth Branagh – was your favorite?

    The narrator.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Didn't matter.


    Any additional comments?

    I had forgotten what a shockingly racist story this is. Be warned.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Emily Bozeman, MT, United States 05-30-14
    Emily Bozeman, MT, United States 05-30-14 Member Since 2011
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    "Fantastic performance"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Absolutely would recommend. A classic story, brilliantly read.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    This is not a book where a character is a "favorite". That's not a bad thing


    What does Kenneth Branagh bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    I'm not usually a fan of Branagh, but his performance here is incredible. As someone else wrote, he tells this as if it's a ghost story. Completely compelling.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Just overall extreme pleasure in the telling


    Any additional comments?

    It's not a story that fills in every detail.... in some ways you want more.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    andrew Reserve, LA, United States 01-24-14
    andrew Reserve, LA, United States 01-24-14 Member Since 2013

    I enjoy history, biographys, and nerdy/ dorky things.

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    "Very good for its time"
    Where does Heart of Darkness: A Signature Performance by Kenneth Branagh rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Average, to below average. For its time I'm sure it was a great short story. By modern standards it falls short.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The comparison of going farther down river, symbolized the greed for wealth, and the darkness in a mans heart.


    What about Kenneth Branagh’s performance did you like?

    Mr. Branagh was exceptional. I am a fan of his, and would like to find more audio books he has narrated.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    When the boat was attacked in the dark by natives.


    Any additional comments?

    For a quick listen this book was ok. I wish I would have paid for this title, and not used a credit. It falls a bit short, and ends very dull.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J R B EDEN PRAIRIE, MINNESOTA, United States 01-08-14
    J R B EDEN PRAIRIE, MINNESOTA, United States 01-08-14 Member Since 2011

    ?

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    "Beautifully Written. Dark adventure tale."
    Would you listen to Heart of Darkness: A Signature Performance by Kenneth Branagh again? Why?

    Yes and probably will. This was a great quick listen. The Branagh did a superb job.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    My favorite caracter was Manager Kurtz. He was just so intriguing. As soon as you meet him a million questions fill your head. It makes it even more fun to listen to when you picture him as Marlon Brando. (Coppola's Apocalypse Now was adapted after this story)


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Yes,
    I thought Conrad did an excellent job of depicting how mythical and mysterious equatorial Africa was, "It had become a place of darkness. But there was in it one river especially, a mighty big river, that you could see on the map, resembling an immense snake uncoiled, with its head in the sea, its body at rest curving afar over a vast country, and its tail lost in the depths of the land...but I could not shake off the idea. The snake had charmed me."


    Any additional comments?

    This was a great listen. It is written the way that adventure stories are supposed to be written. You really get inside the characters heads. The descriptions of the surroundings, the people, their interactions with each other and the mystery and intrigue are what make Heart of Darkness a tale for the ages.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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