I've tried numerous spoken-word Joseph Conrads, and time after time failed to find myself gripped. But Brian Cox's reading of Youth and Heart of Darkness (Naxos, c 4hrs, pounds 9.99 tape, pounds 13.99 CD) had me spellbound. My only cavil was that Youth is so short and so exquisitely turned a tale that it seemed a shame to abridge it at all.

Abridgement is also a challenge in Victory, Conrad's masterly story of how the motiveless drifter Axel Heist experiments with compassion and learns to love. The HarperCollins version (3hrs, pounds 8.99) makes a rough Malayan Archipelago yarn of the story, with Simon Callow brilliantly caustic as the villains who shatter Heist's island paradise; preferable in my view is the Penguin version (3hrs, pounds 8.99), very well read by Michael Pennington, which carves the early parts of the narrative in order to leave in the fragile growth of understanding between the lovers and the terrible suspense of their last few days together.