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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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  •  
    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.

    15 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jefferson 10-31-11
    Jefferson 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.

    14 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nathan T 04-12-11
    Nathan T 04-12-11 Member Since 2017
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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 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    JimmyC 09-20-15
    JimmyC 09-20-15
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    "Finally!"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Heart of Darkness: A Signature Performance by Kenneth Branagh to be better than the print version?

    I have loved this story for a very long time, but for some reason it never resonated and moved me until I listened to Kenneth Branagh bring it to life! 'nuff said!


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J 09-10-15
    J 09-10-15
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    "Not the stuffy classic I was expecting"
    What made the experience of listening to Heart of Darkness: A Signature Performance by Kenneth Branagh the most enjoyable?

    I wasn't assigned to read this in school, but it was a good whispersync deal. Learning that the film "Apocalypse Now" was based on the story also inspired me to listen.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Kurtz is a mysterious and intriguing real big baddie. So much of the book examines him, though he is present in the story only a brief time


    What about Kenneth Branagh’s performance did you like?

    His voice acting displays many emotions as the tone of the story changes. It is easy to understand which characters speak. He is excellent!


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Aaron Margulies Knoxville, TN 09-08-15
    Aaron Margulies Knoxville, TN 09-08-15

    Ani Rotseh Likroh

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    "Kenneth Branagh is amazing"

    Kenneth Branagh does an amazing job reading this most difficult of books. He brings it to life so that it can be understood. Listen to this book. Then read the book.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rob M. 07-15-15
    Rob M. 07-15-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Great book! "

    it was my first foray into Audible and not one to be regretted. highly recommended

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Die Falknerin 12-06-13

    Painter, musician, bibliophile...

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    "A book made to be heard"

    "Heart of Darkness," for me, is a book meant for listening. The language, the economy of description, and the brevity of the story are all the more engrossing when read aloud. Phrases ring in the memory: "My ivory, my intended..." So many more.

    Conrad's characters continue to live in the imagination: the now world-weary Marlow, the mad charismatic Kurtz, the odd little "Harlequin," the innocent fiancée. Africa itself is a character larger than life. Who could ever forget these people, or these places?

    I came to this book later in life, long after reading Hochschild's "King Leopold's Ghost" and studying African politics at university. So I did not come from an educational system that assigned this for college prep. But when I did read it, it began a long love affair with Conrad and his "voice," if you will, that spins the English language into gold.

    I truly think Conrad is someone it takes a bit of life experience to appreciate fully. "Heart of Darkness," like Hesse's "Steppenwolf," is often read very early in life, but both improve on acquaintance. I read each one at least once every five years and find new insights every time. I hope you'll re-read Conrad if he was "forced upon you." There isn't a writer quite like him, and few are as rewarding.

    Branagh's narration surprised me. I love him as an actor but didn't know if he would be right for old Marlow the storyteller without a little more age on him! I was wrong. His narration was all it should be.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Teadrinker Newark, NJ, United States 04-26-13
    Teadrinker Newark, NJ, United States 04-26-13 Member Since 2015

    World Champion Parallel Parker

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    "Excellent Rendition"

    Very, very good. It's better read aloud than read in a book, I think, at least by Kenneth Branaugh. It aided my understanding and retention.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Genevieve Arcata, California, United States 09-07-11
    Genevieve Arcata, California, United States 09-07-11
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    "A masterpiece throughout"

    K. Branagh renders this masterpiece its due - moves to my favorite performance of this great work.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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  • S. Goodyear
    Bradford, West yorks
    4/13/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Haunting and beautiful"

    This classic text was beautifully narrated and evoked such vivid images of the events taking place that you could imagine yourself part of the story each time you listened.
    Anyone who enjoys a well written and decadent story should listen to this recording. I have read the story many times but to hear it read to you by such a well spoken and emotional voice is fantastic. Kenneth Branagh is amazing as the story teller and with his perfect diction and English accent transports you back in time to the setting of the tale without affectation or pretence.
    Although the subject matter is dark it is a joy to hear the tale told.
    A must listen!

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • fishfanatic
    4/6/16
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    "Very deep."

    Fantastic story that formed the basis for the film Apocalypse Now. Far better than the film and vastly more expansive in scale.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • David
    UK
    2/27/16
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    "Excellent book"

    Lovely performance from Mr Branagh. The story has a beautiful sense of vagueness, as of memories of the distant past. Though, like memory, some specific events are in crystal-clear focus. The ending, out of Africa, suffers slightly for the very same vagueness that worked so beautifully up to then.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • petitbilbo
    Brussels
    1/30/16
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    "Excellent performance by Kenneth Branagh"

    Yes, this was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. A masterpiece of world literature read by Sir Kenneth, no doubt a master of his art.

    But, although it really is well done, very well read and even the music is well chosen, I have a problem with the concept of "signature performance". As flawless as was Kenneth Branagh's performance, I'm sure I've had the same quality by other, less well known readers...

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Cathy
    9/29/15
    Overall
    Performance
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    "So long as you are not offended by dated language of 'savages' and such , well worth it"

    Some of the language, though very much of the era of publication sits a little awkwardly for a contemporary audience, but well worth it.
    I had forgotten how much quality narration can add to the enjoyment of an audiobook.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • 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.


    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • SnapWriter
    London, UK
    1/7/15
    Overall
    Performance
    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.

    3 of 3 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.

    10 of 12 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.

    10 of 12 people found this review helpful
  • Stephanie Jane
    a caravan somewhere in Europe
    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!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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