Allan Corduner’s voice sweeps listeners into classic books by Wilkie Collins and Franz Kafka as well as those by popular fantasy YA writers like Angie Sage, Neil Gaiman, Cornelia Funke, and Garth Nix. “Producers seem to like me for books that have a fable, fantasy, or fairy-tale tone,” he says. “I love going into worlds of make believe. Any actor’s imagination is entranced by things that are less common. You get drawn into these wonderful esoteric worlds that somehow relate to our everyday experience and then find a way of lifting them from the page to the listener.”
Corduner’s father used to tell bedtime stories from his imagination. “So imaginative storytelling started early in my life--hearing stories and then creating my own little private worlds, as children do.” As a child, Corduner’s first ambition, “based in nothing other than hope,” was to be a concert pianist. He didn’t have the single-mindedness to achieve that goal but believes “being musical gives you a good ear. And I’ve always been a bit of a mimic. Both of my parents were foreign, so I heard different voices in my head from a very early age. Music is very tied up with language.”
The music of language and a World War II setting figure strongly in his recent recording of Gavriel Savit’s ANNA AND THE SWALLOW MAN as well as his earlier narration of Marcus Zusak’s THE BOOK THIEF. For both, Corduner had an instinctive understanding about their World War II setting as his mother had to leave her home in Berlin “because of Mr. Hitler. If you have something like that in your history, there is an emotional shorthand that is helpful; at the same time it could be very upsetting, so you’ve got to navigate those waters carefully.”
Both books have the kind of layered characters Corduner is fond of. “Isn’t it a reflection of life? We’re all incredibly complicated, and we have astonishing degrees of opposites. People don’t generally behave in a linear way, so it’s great when a writer gives characters complexity. I try to get into the head of the characters so that I’m not making a judgment as an outsider.”
By the time Corduner enters the studio, he has read the book he’s going to narrate twice, his notebook is full of annotations, and he has an instinctive sense of the story’s pacing and characters so he doesn’t have to think on the fly. “It takes time, of course, but there’s great freedom in being prepared.”
Corduner is cautious not to indulge himself in his readings. “Sometimes you hear things on the radio or in audiobooks where people are enjoying themselves too much and they’re not honoring the story and the pace, which are there in the writing. You have to be sensitive to releasing a story’s music.”--Susie Wilde[APRIL/ MAY 2015]
© AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine
Photo courtesy of the narrator
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