Bartleby the Scrivener (1853), by Herman Melville, tells the story of a quiet, hardworking legal copyist who works in an office in the Wall Street area of New York City. One day Bartleby declines the assignment his employer gives him with the inscrutable "I would prefer not." The utterance of this remark sets off a confounding set of actions and behavior, making the unsettling character of Bartleby one of Melville's most enigmatic and unforgettable creations.
Herman Melville towers among American writers not only for his powerful novels, but also for the stirring novellas and short stories that flowed from his pen. Two of the most admired of these - `Bartleby` and `Benito Cereno` - first appeared as magazine pieces and were then published in 1856 as part of a collection of short stories entitled `The Piazza Tales`.
`Bartleby` (also known as `Bartleby the Scrivener`) is an intriguing moral allegory set in the business world of mid-19th-century New York. A strange, enigmatic man employed as a clerk in a legal office, Bartleby forces his employer to come to grips with the most basic questions of human responsibility, and haunts the latter`s conscience, even after Bartleby`s dismissal.
`Benito Cereno`, considered one of Melville`s best short stories, deals with a bloody slave revolt on a Spanish vessel. A splendid parable of man`s struggle against the forces of evil, the carefully developed and mysteriously guarded plot builds to a dramatic climax while revealing the horror and depravity of which man is capable.
Reprinted here from standard texts in a finely made, yet inexpensive new edition, these stories offer the general reader and students of Melville and American literature sterling examples of a literary giant at his story-telling best.
When Billy, a handsome, unpretentious, stuttering young able-seaman, is falsely accused of inciting mutiny, he lashes out, kills his accuser and is condemned to die. Written in allusive and beautiful prose, many-layered, resonant with ideas and meanings, Billy Budd has inspired drama, films and opera and continues to elude interpretation.
The main theme of the novel, however, is generally considered to be the vulnerability of innocence in a fallen world. Billy, a victim of one man's unnatural hatred, is the embodiment of goodness destroyed by evil, but as "the criminal pays the penalty of his crime", a greater justice comes into play.
The original source for this text has not been identified. The text has been checked for italics against Harrison Hayford and Merton M. Sealts, Jr., eds, Billy Budd: Sailor (An Inside Narrative) (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962).
An ambitious and far reaching allegorical voyage which, though not exactly a success, was Melville's first attempt at a book on the scale of Moby-Dick. Here is a passage which is reflective of the style, and outlook, of Mardi:
So, if after all these fearful, fainting traces, the verdict be, the golden haven was not gained;-yet in bold quest thereof, better to sink in boundless deeps, than float on vulgar shoals: and give me, ye gods, an utter wreck, if wreck I do.-Herman Melville
Herman Melville’s classic masterpiece tells the story of the wandering sailor Ishmael and his voyage on the whaleship Pequod, commanded by Captain Ahab. Ishmael soon learns that Ahab seeks one specific whale, Moby Dick, a white sperm whale of tremendous size and ferocity. In a previous encounter, the whale destroyed Ahab's boat and bit off his leg and Ahab intends to take revenge. The first line—Call me Ishmael—is one of the most famous opening lines in American literature. Moby-Dick is considered one of the greatest novels in the English language and has secured Melville's place among America's greatest writers.
Redburn charts the coming-of-age of Wellingborough Redburn, a young innocent who embarks on a crossing to Liverpool together with a roguish crew. Once in Liverpool, Redburn encounters the squalid conditions of the city and meets Harry Bolton, a bereft and damaged soul, who takes him on a tour of London that includes a scene of rococo decadence unlike anything else in Melville's fiction.
A Fehér Bálna regénye az amerikai és az egyetemes világirodalom egyik legnagyobb remeke, a 19. század „amerikai nagy regénye". Az első kiadása 1851 januárjában jelent meg Londonban, ezt mintegy fél évvel követte az amerikai kiadás. A kor irodalmi közvéleménye értetlenül, sőt elutasítással fogadta a művet, amelyet csupán Melville halála után harminc évvel fedeztek fel újra, azóta viszont népszerűsége töretlen, számtalan nyelvre fordították le, alapján több film készült, megjelentek rövidebb, átírt változatai gyermekek számára stb. Thomas Henry Huxley, a neves író, Aldous Huxley nagyapja, aki a 19. század egyik neves angol bölcselője volt, korát megelőzve így írt a könyvről: „Könyvtáramban külön polcon gyűjtöm azokat a titáni műveket, amelyeket magasröptű szellemiségük és fenségességük tesz oly becsessé". Aldous Huxley említi, hogy nagyapja halála után az ominózus polcon mindössze három könyv volt: Dosztojevszkij „Karamazov testvérek"-e, Nietzsche Zarathustrája és a Moby Dick.