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Editorial 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.

Public Domain (P)2010 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"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 Ratings

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  • Genevieve
  • Arcata, California, United States
  • 09-07-11

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

  • Overall

Great Story and Narrator

The narrator is excellent, of course, and that's why I purchased it. The story is good. Gets slow sometimes but very interesting and well written if a little subtle.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Stuart
  • New York, NY, United States
  • 07-28-11

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

  • Overall
  • Phoebe
  • Rockville, MD, United States
  • 02-09-11

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

  • Overall
  • p
  • 02-06-11

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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  • petitbilbo
  • 01-30-16

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...

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Anonymous User
  • 04-13-13

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.

5 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Stewart Gibson
  • 07-03-12

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

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Margaret
  • 02-25-12

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.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Caroline
  • 01-08-12

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.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Cathy
  • 09-29-15

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 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Thomas Furneaux
  • 07-21-15

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 5 people found this review helpful

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  • SnapWriter
  • 01-07-15

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 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Brendan
  • 10-31-12

Unexciting

I did not find Branagh's narration in any way stimulating. He sounded bored to me.

4 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • dot_stockport
  • 05-20-16

interesting

as an artefact of the late nineteenth century this book, with its focus on a white mans fascination with another white man cannot do justice to collonialism. However, this is a fictionalised account of imperialism written by a witness and its not pretty. the prorangonist is a european who does not claim to understand the cultures that are being trampled over and from this position of disassociated ignorance there is no way that he can represent anything but his own view. but even from this problematic stance he starts to humanise a period in global history which by its very scale is apt to seem anonymous.

5 of 9 people found this review helpful