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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

4.2 (2813 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Stuart New York, NY, United States 07-28-11
    Stuart New York, NY, United States 07-28-11 Member Since 2015

    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
  •  
    AudioAddict 06-22-15
    AudioAddict 06-22-15

    I can find a book to love in any genre -- a beautifully written classic, an interesting mystery or sci-fi, a trashy romance. Bring it!

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    "Awesome performance and imagery, but I'm not a fan"

    STORY (English classic) - Don't have much to say except that this story is for a totally different type of brain than mine. It is beautifully written with dark, descriptive imagery in an advanced vocabulary, but it seemed to go nowhere and in the end much seemed left unexplained. Whatever.

    The basic story takes place in colonial days and is the tale of a trip down the Congo River into the wilderness. The travelers encounter natives, which they describe and treat as savages. There's suffering and misfortune, but all in all I was left emotionless, unimpressed and was when glad it was over.

    PERFORMANCE - Kenneth Branagh's performance was great. I at least enjoyed listening to him, if nothing else. He reads a bit fast, but I didn't need to adjust the speed.

    OVERALL - There's no sex or cursing and the book is pretty mild in terms of violence. If you're a big fan of English classics, maybe you'll enjoy this book. Obviously, I did not.

    2 of 3 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
  •  
    John Isaacs Barre, VT 09-22-13
    John Isaacs Barre, VT 09-22-13
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    "A Brilliant Reading of a Troubling Story"
    If you could sum up Heart of Darkness: A Signature Performance by Kenneth Branagh in three words, what would they be?

    Superbly Acted Reading


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    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.


    What about Kenneth Branagh’s performance did you like?

    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.


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

    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.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lori 05-24-12
    Lori 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.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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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.

    5 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    M. Whaley Chatham, Massachusetts USA 06-23-16
    M. Whaley Chatham, Massachusetts USA 06-23-16 Member Since 2010
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    "Doesn't get any better👏👏👍👍"

    That says it.
    Literature verbalized as it was meant to be. Thank you. Marc W.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    pat lovett 06-20-16
    pat lovett 06-20-16 Member Since 2013
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    "Dull"

    The story is dull, and hard to follow, My mind would wonder and I would have to keep backing up to see what I missed.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    myrna gaidry 06-19-16 Member Since 2015
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    "struggled"

    Finished but this was not my type of tail. Totally disinterested in the story and kept waiting for something to occur that would capture my interest.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • 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.

    3 of 3 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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