Exclusive: Hear Benedict Cumberbatch read aloud from Moby Dick

The Sherlock star is just one of many high-profile names including Stephen Fry and Tilda Swinton to support the Moby Dick Big Read project


Ever wanted to hear Benedict Cumberbatch read a chapter from your favourite book? Well, if your favourite book happens to be Herman Melville’s 1851 great American novel Moby Dick, then you’re in luck. 


That’s because the Sherlock star is one of many famous names to lend their voices to the Moby Dick Big Read project, which will see all 135 chapters of the “sprawling, magnificent, deliriously digressive” novel read aloud and released in sequence to the public over the coming months. 

The idea for the readings and accompanying artworks came from a 2011 whale symposium and exhibition, Dominion, convened and curated by artist Angela Cockayne and writer Phillip Hoare at Peninsular Arts at Plymouth University. 

Such was the popularity of the three-day exhibition amongst artists, writers, musicians, scientists and academics that the creators decided to unleash the “deeply subversive” book that is “ripe for reinterpretation in this new world of media” on the Internet. 

At present, the project has reached chapter ten, which is read by Stephen Fry (listen to it here). In fact, Benedict Cumberbatch’s reading of chapter 58, “Brit”, will not be publicly available until 2 November, but RadioTimes.com is able to exclusively share a clip from the reading with you now.

Philip Hoare told RadioTimes.com: “As co-curator of the Moby-Dick Big Read, along with Angela Cockayne and Peninsula Arts, I was delighted that Mr Cumberbatch came onboard. He joins an eclectic crew – from Tilda Swinton to Sir David Attenborough, fishermen, a vicar, and a 12-year-old schoolboy named Cyrus!

“It is particularly intriguing to have him along, given the fact that, as a 20-year-old student, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself embarked upon a whaling voyage. Hence the mysterious scene in the last episode of Sherlock, when Benedict made an entrance brandishing a harpoon.

“But more than anything, we hope that this starry array of celebrities, and many ordinary people, brings the plight of the whale to public attention once more. The project is entirely free, but we are inviting donations to Whale and Dolphin Conservation, at www.wdcs.org.”   


Check back to the Big Read every day to hear new chapters from the book and see new artwork