Audiobook Review: Heart of Darkness

Audiobook Review: Heart of DarknessHeart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Narrator: Kenneth Branagh
Length: 3 hrs, 51 mins
Published by Audible on November 23, 2010
Genres: Classics
Format: Audiobook
Source: Gifted

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.

Back in high school, senior year I believe, Heart of Darkness was one of the instrument so torture with which the teachers gave us great pain. I hated it. It’s nothing that I’m interested in. The writing is pompous, but I don’t find it beautiful. The narrative is racist, as it would be, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

I’m going to be entirely truthful here and say that I don’t get this story. In class, we sat and analyzed it. I even remember some of our analyses, but, still, the story has little meaning to me. I just can’t relate to it or enjoy it in any way.

If you have to read Heart of Darkness, I heartily recommend letting Kenneth Branagh read it to you. Actually, this is not the first time I have listened to this book. In high school, I read it out loud to myself, because that was the only way I could make the page-long sentences resolve into meaning for me at the time. While I am one of the best narrators ever, I probably preferred Branagh.

I mean, his voice is amazing! The editing of this audiobook was unfortunately not perfect. They didn’t do a great job with the breathing, but that’s pretty easy to tune out. More disconcerting were the constant changes in volume. I would realize that Branagh had gotten very quiet and would be thinking about turning up the volume when suddenly Bam! it would be all extra loud. Do not turn up the volume or it will be REALLY loud. You have been warned.

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