Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of all time, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness was originally published as a three-part serial story in Blackwood’s Magazine in 1899, then later as a novella in the 1902 collection Youth: A Narrative; and Two Other Stories. A complex and controversial “meditation on colonialism, evil, and the thin line between civilization and barbarity,” Heart of Darkness gained literary stature during the 1950s and 1960s, before peaking in the late 1970s–precisely around when Francis Ford Coppola released Apocalypse Now, a film loosely based on Conrad’s tale. What halted the novella’s momentum was a stinging rebuke from Chinua Achebe, father of modern African literature, who criticized the way it “projects the image of Africa as ‘the other world,’ the antithesis of Europe and therefore of civilization…”
Despite the controversies surrounding the text, Heart of Darkness remains widely read in American high schools and universities. And, notes Harold Bloom, it has “had a striking influence on writers, artists, and thinkers from all over the globe.” Below, you can listen to a reading of Heart of Darkness by British stage and voice actor Hayward Morse. It’s free on Spotify and will be added to our list, 700 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free. In November, Kenneth Branagh will release his own version–which you can download for free if you join Audible.com’s 30 free trial program. Other free readings of Conrad’s novella can be found on Librivox.