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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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  •  
    mark blackburn VIC, Australia 01-09-11
    mark blackburn VIC, Australia 01-09-11 Member Since 2012
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    "Absolute joy"

    Kenneth Branagh must have been born to read this book. He is mesmerizing. Don't wait, get this!

    10 of 13 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.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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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
  •  
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 06-11-17
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 06-11-17 Member Since 2017

    I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.

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    "God is Dead (for the first time)"

    I had not read any Conrad until recently, and was mildly surprised Conrad had four novels on Modern Library's Top 100 list (more than any other author). Having now completed the four Conrad novels on that list (Nostromo, Lord Jim, The Secret Agent, and The Heart of Darkness) I definitely enjoyed this version of the Heart of Darkness the most, yet I did not find any of these "must reads" except to gain, first hand, a historical perspective on modernist literature.

    Conrad's writing of around 1900 is essentially modern and the earliest novels I have found in which "God is dead". This is not at all explicit, but is subtly, yet distinctly, implicit. In the 1880's Nietzsche declared "God is dead" but it took a while before novels began to explore this viewpoint. I was not expecting this outlook when I started Heart of Darkness, I was expecting a dark adventure novel. I found the writing excellent, but was surprised by the modernist outlook and style elements.

    Some have considered Heart of Darkness racist, as the novel clearly objectifies native Africans. I would contend that Conrad objectifies everybody in his novels. There is racism, but it is the racism of the the society and characters, not of the author. The author seems to point out the absurdity, and mindless conformity, of racism (and many other social constructs). The novels are not about story, or about character, but instead are impressionistic interpretations of the author's nihilistic existentialist world view. The author's language is rich and powerful with exaggerated and non-linear descriptions.

    Sometimes a book makes a "best" list because it is truly great, sometimes because it is very good and was a creative first. I think the latter applies to these Conrad novels.

    There is a strong similarity of fundamental outlook between these four novels. I am happy to have read them all, but won't recommend them all to my daughter...I will recommend Heart of Darkness.

    The narration by Branagh is wonderfully perfect and this narration makes this a really wonderful first Conrad.

    2 of 2 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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  • 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.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Howler
    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!

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • John Paul Jones
    5/20/16
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    "Too ambiguous to enjoy as a story"

    I found the story utterly lacking in detail and therefore ambiguous throughout.

    For example we're told that Kurtz is an astonishing man of near unsurpassed brilliance, but we're given no detail whatsoever as to why. Consequently I found myself unable to share the deep respect and interest that every other character in the book seems to have for this man, at all.

    Granted there may be a number of individual sentences or passages that have great value to the English language for their construction, but in my opinion this is no good if they don't also serve to provide the detail necessary to convey a compelling story, which they don't.

    The narrator whispered too much and was over dramatic in places for my taste.

    About me, for reference: I love classic fiction for two reasons: first is the originality of the stories which are usually compelling, and second is the vocabulary and construction of language, which is so much more eloquent and attractive to me than modern prose.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Mr J.
    4/20/15
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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

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • LorLor
    1/27/15
    Overall
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    "Unforgettable!"

    Not my usual choice of book, but I was gripped from the beginning. Kenneth Brannagh really brought it to life

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • chris
    12/8/16
    Overall
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    "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.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Emmanuel Zakebam
    Buenos Aires
    11/28/16
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    "Unmissable!"

    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!

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Russell
    5/21/16
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    "Amazing!"

    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

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • dot_stockport
    5/20/16
    Overall
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    "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.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Fiona
    5/13/16
    Overall
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    "Just bliss"

    Such a strange eerie story. So beautifully read - Kenneth Branagh has such a rich, expressive voice. Highly recommended.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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