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Reader, I downloaded him: boom times for the literary long listen

Whether on Radio 4 or Amazon Audible, the appetite for classic works in audio form has never been greater

Four hours of Beatrix Potter, 10 hours of Marcel Proust, or 72 hours of Sherlock Holmes. How about every single word of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and George Eliot’s Silas Marner? Sound overwhelming? Radio bosses clearly think not – so much so they have commissioned a plethora of literary adaptations to delight growing numbers of fans of “the long listen”.

“There is an appetite for the epic that has simply surpassed our expectations,” says Celia De Wolff, who has produced and directed a marathon adaptation of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, to be broadcast over three days this bank holiday weekend on Radio 4. A seven-volume epic published between 1913 and 1927 may not seem an obvious choice for contemporary audiences short on time but rich in entertainment options, but a fast-growing audience is transforming the industry.

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