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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

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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 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
  •  
    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.

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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
  •  
    Ian C Robertson South Australia, Australia 12-04-11
    Ian C Robertson South Australia, Australia 12-04-11 Member Since 2010

    Eclectic mixer of books of my youth and ones I always meant to read, but didn't.

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    "A Fitting Addition to the Series"

    When one starts with an iconic narrative and a classy narrator, there might be some fear of disappointment. If such a fear existed, it should exist no more for this production. It is a fitting addition to a series that promises many treats to come.

    The amazing narrative meanders in long slow bends and bolts along the rapids of that infamous Congo river. From the Thames to the ivory hunters retreat the word pictures that populate Conrad's novels carry us away with Marlow to meets Kurtz. From T.S. Eliot to F.F. Coppola we are drawn into the madness, seduced by the unsound methods and appalled by the consequences. How does she love him, Kurtz? What happened inside Marlow's head, so carefully measured before he set out on his fateful expedition? We can only imagine.

    Meanwhile, Kenneth Branagh provides us with an insight. His clear and concise diction, so much mother England in the midst of the Darkness, is well paced. The Russian an Kurtz are wonderfully realised. I am less keen on his Swede, but, let's face it, there's not much to like about the Swede on paper, either. Overall, his is a sterling interpretation.

    I look forward to others in the series; bring on "Of Mice and Men"!

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrew Loma Linda, CA, United States 09-14-16
    Andrew Loma Linda, CA, United States 09-14-16 Member Since 2014

    Andrew the Cook

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    "A great performance"

    I'd tried to fill my sacred obligation as an English major, to read Heart of Darkness, several times. I failed, till this great version came along.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MWitmer 09-05-16
    MWitmer 09-05-16
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    "Difficult to get into..."
    What did you like best about Heart of Darkness: A Signature Performance by Kenneth Branagh? What did you like least?

    The narrator was the best thing about the book. I just didn't find the story as appealing as I thought I would. I listened to the end simply because it was the polite thing to do.


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    Far be it for me to figure out where the writer went wrong. I just thought it was rather boring.


    What about Kenneth Branagh’s performance did you like?

    The performance went a long way to saving the books long winded descriptions of what was going on. I could picture the character quite clearly just based on the voice alone. The sense of humor of the character came through quite well in the narration.


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    Nope ~ the movie is never as good as the book...sooo


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Thomas Furneaux
    7/21/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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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    "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
  • SnapWriter
    London, UK
    1/7/15
    Overall
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    Story
    "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
    Overall
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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
  • Karen
    4/7/15
    Overall
    Performance
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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 1 people found this review helpful

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