Rachel Redford

To appreciate Finnegans Wake you must hear its sounds and rhythms

‘How good you are in explosition!’ The first ever unabridged recording of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake is a monumental achievement by Naxos AudioBooks. Before its publication in 1939, Joyce had spent 17 years on this notoriously impenetrable work. Since then it has sparked dedicated study — and derision. Many serious readers have abandoned attempts to

Benjamin Disraeli — inventor of English political fiction

For our fractured times, the release of Disraeli’s Sybil in unabridged audio, narrated with the respect it deserves by Tim Bentinck, is timely as, despite its title being familiar, these days it is seldom read. Published in 1845, 23 years before Disraeli’s first premiership, the story, rich in the minutiae of then contemporary political conflict,

A rake’s progress

This monumental unabridged audio production of Casanova’s memoir The Story of My Life in three volumes covers his first 49 years. He was born in 1725 into a struggling theatre family in Venice, the carnival centre of Europe, and masks, masquerades and music were so much in Casanova’s blood that a glorious, effervescent theatricality lights

Lust for life | 20 August 2015

We all know about Samuel Pepys witnessing the Great Fire in his Diaries, but how many have read the definitive Latham and Matthews nine-volume edition, published between 1970 and 1983, complete with Pepys’s coded sections and his inconsistent and archaic spellings? Certainly the only person in the world to have read it aloud in its

An epic performance that brings a lost novelist back to life

Hugh Walpole, now almost forgotten, was a literary giant. Descended from the younger brother of the 18th-century prime minister Robert Walpole, he was a prodigiously fast writer who seldom revised his work, producing at least a book a year between 1909 and his death in 1941. But who reads him these days? His books sold

Granta Best of Young British Novelists 4 – a review

This year marks the fourth Granta ‘Best of Young British novelists’, begun in 1983, but it is the first time that an audio version has been produced. Granta’s American editor, John Freeman, introduces the collection:  three complete stories and 17 excerpts from work-in-progress from all 20 novelists, half of them read by the authors themselves.

The Spoken Word: Short Stories, Volume II – review

Largely unheard since their original performances or BBC broadcasts between 1939 and 2011, these readings of 12 short stories by their authors are a treasure trove. * E.M.Forster’s 1948 reading definitely conjures up a past era. His philosophical debate in ‘Mr Andrews’ concerning two souls in ‘interspace’ — of a righteous Englishman and a Turk

Length and quality

The final volume of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, released at the end of last month, is a landmark in audio publishing. The seven volumes — over twice the length of War and Peace — are narrated unabridged by the actor Neville Jason: at a staggering 150 hours, it is the longest audiobook in existence.