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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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  •  
    Harold San Angelo, TX, United States 12-11-10
    Harold San Angelo, TX, United States 12-11-10 Member Since 2007

    Tell us about yourself! Just a cynical and tired, retired English professor.

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    "From Civilization into Darkness"

    The enigmatic narrator Marlowe tells his dark story of madness and despair from the deck of a ship anchored in the Thames in the harbor of London, the then world's center of commerce and civilization. It ends in the heart of madness and despair, the Congo river deep in Africa. In this short novel, which has been called one of the most important works in modern literature, Marlow's voice is that of Kenneth Branagh, one of the finest of actors today. His voice gives a complete new dimension with an interpretation on a richer more meaningful level that is impossible with just the printed word.

    28 of 29 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 11-21-12
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 11-21-12 Member Since 2011

    A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.

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    "Conrad's Brilliant & Wild Novella"

    The novella is literature's most compellingly roaming form and Conrad absolutely owns it with Heart of Darkness. I first read Conrad in high school, with throngs of other pimply kids. I liked it sure, but didn't understand all of the conflciting currents of this brilliant story. I was re-introduced to Heart of Darkness when I recognized it in Francis Ford Coppola brilliant Apocalypse Now. During the last few years I've been on a huge Conrad kick, listening or reading to Lord Jim, Victory, The Secret Agent, Nostromo, etc.

    The man is simply amazing. It is incredible to think that he could write better in his 3rd language (English) than most writers could ever hope to write in their first. In this way, he shares a lot with Nabokov.

    Anyway, this is one of those few works I constantly return to for its humanity and for its inspiriation. Kenneth Branagh's reading of HoD is amazing in both its depth and nuance.

    23 of 25 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jefferson Jonan-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Japan 10-31-11
    Jefferson Jonan-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Japan 10-31-11 Member Since 2010

    I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.

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    "The (Beautiful and Appalling) Horror!"

    Kenneth Branagh gives a mesmerizing reading of Heart of Darkness, bringing out all the darkly beautiful surfaces and bleakly existential undercurrents of Joseph Conrad???s novella, as well as convincingly voicing all the characters, from the sensitive and scarred British Marlow to the slimy Belgian trading company men, creepy Russian disciple, and charismatic and appalling Kurtz and his ever-grieving fianc??e.

    The book has been criticized for portraying Africans as sub-human, and it is true that Conrad (and hence Branagh) gives almost no voice to the native population, but I find in Heart of Darkness less racist condescension towards the Africans and more moral outrage towards their European colonial exploiters.

    The nearly four-hour audiobook, during which Marlow recounts his journey into the Congo to find the ???genius??? trading agent Kurtz, quickly caught me and carried me inexorably towards ???The horror! The horror!??? and its haunting aftermath. It left me stunned and grimly impressed (though somehow not depressed) by its disturbing depiction of the raping of Africa by colonial powers like Belgium (taking countless tons of ivory in exchange for worthless glass beads and shabby fabrics, imposing incomprehensible laws onto the native peoples and brutally punishing them for the slightest infractions, and so on), and by its timely application to the developed world???s current exploitation of the Congo (???conflict minerals???) and of Africa in general (diamonds, oil and other resources). But the greatness of the novella lies in its transcending specific examples like Africa and universalizing the heart of darkness to include England in the time of the Romans and all human beings in any time, exposing the heart of darkness in all of us.

    12 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    12-07-10
    12-07-10 Listener Since 2009
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    "Highly enjoyable."

    This was my first time reading Heart of Darkness. It was highly gripping, and Kenneth Branagh does a great job at narrating. I listened to the entire book in one sitting. There's not much more for me to add, because it is such a classic novella.

    30 of 34 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Utah 11-05-11
    Amazon Customer Utah 11-05-11 Member Since 2009

    tired teacher

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    "Dark story, much to ponder"

    This book is so full of symbolism that I had to listen to it twice to get the most out of it. I checked out sparknotes in between listens so as to get as much as I could out of the second listen, and it was a smart move on my part. If I had been satisfied with one time through, I would have missed the whole point of the story. It is a short book, more of a novella, which might help entice me to read it again in the future. It is a great allegory and commentary on human nature. Conrad is a great writer. I think I will ponder on this story for a long time and try to determine which character I am most like at an given time. I will also use it to analyze (not judge) those around me. It is inevitable, I think. Read this book if you enjoy stories that make you think, dig deep for hidden meanings, and analyze. It will stay with you for a long time. However, keep in mind that it was written for another era and much of the structure should not be considered or evaluated according to modern standards. It is a classic and will stand up to the test of time if the reader remembers that fact. The story itself is timeless.

    I can't say enough good about narrator Kenneth Branagh. Fabulous!!

    16 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ki Seattle, WA 12-10-10
    Ki Seattle, WA 12-10-10 Member Since 2008
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    "Great narration"

    This is where I wish we could give two scores, one for narration and one for writing.

    I was assigned The Heart of Darkness in high school and despised every minute of it. In fact, I have often referenced it as my most-abhorred book.

    As an adult, I wanted to give the book a second chance, and I figured if I didn't like it with Kenneth Branagh narrating it, there was no hope for reconciliation. I figured that four hours was short enough a time to devote to this experiment.

    Branagh gets an A+. The narration is impeccable. If you like this story, you're in for a treat.

    Unfortunately, I still can't stand the book. I didn't agree with Conrad's premise as a kid and nothing has changed in the interim.

    But, that's just me. If you like this story or want to experience it for the first time, this is in the upper echelon of audiobooks.

    37 of 43 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nathan T 04-12-11
    Nathan T 04-12-11 Listener Since 2009
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    "A wonderful listen"

    Kenneth Branagh's reading of this classic is truly wonderful, perfectly suited for Conrad's most famous story. I've listened to it twice now and found myself smiling at just how nuanced Branagh's reading can be. This is a great listen, both in terms of the narration and Conrad's timeless writing. Find a quiet spot and enjoy!

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Daniel Chesapeake, VA 23322 02-18-11
    Daniel Chesapeake, VA 23322 02-18-11
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    "GREAT AUDIOBOOK!"

    It is tempting to see Heart of Darkness as a masterfully constructed parable on human nature (witness Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola's film adaptation, in which the action was transposed to south-east Asia) but as historian Adam Hochschild has pointed out in King Leopold's Ghost, about the king's rape of the Congo, Conrad himself was quite clear that it was based on specific events he had witnessed, saying it was "experience… pushed a little (and only very little) beyond the actual facts of the case". Despite his protestations, this is undeniably an invaluable historical document offering a glimpse into the horrific human consequences of the imperial powers' scramble for Africa as much as it is a compelling tale.

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Press Lyndhurst, NJ, United States 01-09-11
    Press Lyndhurst, NJ, United States 01-09-11
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    "Brilliant Performance"

    Kenneth Branagh has shared his prodigious talent with the world of audiobooks for more than 20 years. THE HEART OF DARKNESS for Audible, Inc. is his first foray into the latest medium of downloadable literature. Like his previous recordings, THE HEART OF DARKNESS is presented as a performance rather than a mere narration of this turn-of-the 20th century, English classic. Branagh uses his musical voice to transform into multiple characters, male and female, as well as individuals of various nationalities, within the story as it evolves. For most of the near 4 hour running time of this unabridged edition, Branagh plays the part of the main storyteller, Marlowe, an introspective sailor, leisurely relaying the tale of his long journey in a battered steamboat, up the Congo River to find Mr. Kurtz, the renowned company agent at the inner station.

    It is easy to empathize with Marlowe’s experiences as he decribes: his encounters with widespread inefficiency and brutality by civilized men in the Company’s stations; his growing fascination with Kurtz; the intimidating nature of the vast jungle and its peoples; and the realization of the amoral depths to which a man can sink.

    THE HEART OF DARKNESS is an absorbing story with the metaphor of darkness at its center, told by a patient and poetic author. Listening to Audible, Inc.’s production of THE HEART OF DARKNESS read by Kenneth Branagh adds another dimension to this multi layered tale of real and perceived darkness.

    13 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul Gilroy, CA, United States 02-24-11
    Paul Gilroy, CA, United States 02-24-11 Member Since 2010

    Cosmic Dreamer

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    "Great Performance"

    Branagh gives a masterful performance and, yes, it is a performance. His confident portrayal of the characters, even the female ones, is so spot on. This is the kind of book that I joined Audible for. My education left me with a few holes literature-wise and Audible is how I'm going to plug those holes. I can only hope that other books will be given the bravura effort that Branagh gives here. I can not think of any reservation although it might be interesting to see the movie "Apocalypse Now" before or after hearing this book.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 108 results PREVIOUS1211NEXT
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  • 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.

    11 of 11 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.

    5 of 5 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.

    3 of 3 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.

    2 of 2 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.


    1 of 1 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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Anton
    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!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Steph B
    in a caravan somewhere
    10/25/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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
  • 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.

    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 2 people found this review helpful
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