"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.
Listen to more Audible Signature Classics.
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)
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Avid reader and high school English teacher. Kindle, book, audio - if they could implant books directly into my brain, I'd probably sign up.
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.
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.
Eclectic mixer of books of my youth and ones I always meant to read, but didn't.
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"!
I read this thirty-five years and didn’t get much out of it. After hearing Branagh’s reading, I think what I missed was not the obvious message, but the art. There is nothing like a great actor giving a great reading to bring a great work of literature to life. I’m not going to write much else. I can’t do much just now besides drool and fawn. Anyhow, if you are a literate person born after 1899, you don’t need to be told much about the definitive literary attack on the West’s great civilizing mission. I wonder which writer hasn’t been influenced by this (expect for that Russian ass) and I wonder why politicians haven’t read it.
I'd wanted to read this for a while but the text was difficult to read. When it was read to me it made sense. Kenneth Brannagh is brilliant. His performance is remarkable.
"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.
Superb narration by Kenneth Branagh - he injects such realism into the narrative. He must be my favourite male narrator of all time!
Not my usual choice of book, but I was gripped from the beginning. Kenneth Brannagh really brought it to life
"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.
"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.
"Prepare to never be the same"
A story that speaks to the hearts of all men. Branagh brings the dense and conversational prose of the old sailor and adventurer Marlow to fantastic and awful life in this excellent reading of Conrad's classic tale. Darkness is timeless, placeless, it is within us and those of us who have seen and felt it wear it like a veil, walk with it as a companion whose shadow stretches out around us and casts a horrible shade over us.
A mellifluous romp through the darkest recesses of the human soul, beautiful and bitter in equal measure... Branagh's reading is unsurpassable and captures every subtlety of the text. Unmissable!
"Not what I expected"
I found this book to be much more of a drag than I would've thought. Slow and full of xenophobic and racist comments (queue the cry of "but it's meant to be!"), this wouldn't have bothered me so much, given it's from another time, if the story had actually been engaging. I might have "gone native" too if I had to listen to this more than once.
I was intrigued by the character of Kurt, obviously, but other than that, I wasn't that engaged. Especially during the boat scenes where the natives are spear-chucking away, and I had no idea what was going on. Besides that, we take an awful long time to get anywhere.
I know, I know, this is meant to be literary and claustrophobic, and while it is certainly the latter, I struggle to see how it is the former. Yes, some of it is successfully feverish, but some is just bland, and while I love Kenneth Branagh, not even his narration could inject energy into it.
Narration stiff and cadence unnatural, hard to follow. Not what I was expecting from Kenneth Branagh.
Superb narration, having read the book myself I can't believe how Branagh's performance modernises the book. He also closes the gap between Apocalypse Now and the novel that inspired it. More signature performances please
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