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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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  •  
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 11-21-12
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 11-21-12

    I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^

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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.

    40 of 45 people found this review helpful
  •  
    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.

    38 of 44 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sher from Provo Utah 11-05-11
    Sher from Provo Utah 11-05-11 Member Since 2015

    Tired teacher. That is, REtired 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!!

    24 of 28 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kyle Seattle, WA 12-10-10
    Kyle Seattle, WA 12-10-10 Member Since 2013
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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.

    53 of 65 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 12-07-10 Member Since 2015
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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.

    31 of 38 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul 02-24-11
    Paul 02-24-11

    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.

    8 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.

    11 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    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
  •  
    C.B.E. 05-17-13
    C.B.E. 05-17-13

    Claywise

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    "One of English lit's finest works, finely rendered"

    I hadn't revisited "Heart of Darkness" for decades until I listened to this audiobook. My impressions are simple and intense.

    Regardless of the post-colonial critique of Conrad - he was, I believe, remarkably understanding of the wrongs of colonialism for a man of his time - the writing and the psychological depth of the novella are nearly unsurpassed in 19th- and 20th-century English language literature.

    In addition, Kenneth Branagh demonstrates here the difference between merely passable or even good dramatic reading, and true craftsmanship. I can't imagine how the publisher lured such an amazing acting talent into doing the narration of a book in the public domain, but Branagh's rendition is the finest of any audiobook I've ever listened to.

    I'm deeply impressed with both Conrad and Branagh.

    Thank you, Audible.

    7 of 9 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.

    15 of 20 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
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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
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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
    Performance
    Story
    "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
    Performance
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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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