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Ship of fools by Katherine Anne Porter
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Ship of fools (original 1962; edition 1963)

by Katherine Anne Porter

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6821014,002 (3.68)41
Member:jburlinson
Title:Ship of fools
Authors:Katherine Anne Porter
Info:Signet, 1963.
Collections:Your library
Rating:**1/2
Tags:A merry can literature

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Ship of Fools by Katherine Anne Porter (1962)

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English (9)  Spanish (1)  All languages (10)
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Extremely insightful about particularly miserable behavior - few characters are likeable but all are very detailed characters. ( )
  lisahistory | Feb 22, 2014 |
A group of passengers (who remain more national and economic "types" than actual people) cross the Atlantic in 1931. There are so many characters that Porter provides a detailed listing at the beginning. There is no arc of narrative, and the ending, in which everyone arrives at their various destinations is unsatisfying. Porter's prose and her descriptions of persons and places at first seem vivid and lively until you start to realize that, for all her efforts, the people and places never really come alive. Clearly trying to deal with the Big Issues, the novel is too often trite or peachy. A long book that seemed longer to me than it actual is; it is certainly adds up to less than its sometimes skillfully amusing parts. Perhaps the kaleidoscopic structure, switching back and forth, among several interwoven subplots contributes to this. I was reminded of an especially high-toned episode of the The Love Boat, or one of those 70s disaster epics in which dozens of stars make cameos. ( )
  sjnorquist | Feb 13, 2014 |
It's a long book, and some of the philosophical bits are a bit tedious to get through, but I still liked it, for what it was.

There were a lot of characters to keep track of throughout, but it did feel like you were in each of their heads as the perspective switched. The writing would shift so well, portraying each person's thoughts and feelings, so I felt like their true character came through.

I did feel like the story petered out a little, especially towards the end, with regards to the gala, but it also felt true to what such a long voyage would be like. ( )
  digitalmaven | Mar 6, 2013 |
The year is 1931, and the action of the book takes place on or within sight of the Vera, a ship departing from Veracruz, Mexico for Europe, with its ultimate destination being Bremerhaven, Germany. The majority of the upper-deck passengers are German, as is the crew, and we follow along with quite a number of the people aboard. Among the Germans, we have an alcoholic professor and his long-suffering wife, a timid woman recently widowed (she is returning to Germany with her husband's body, in fact), a hunchback, a Jew, and an old dying man who is being angrily cared for by his nephew. Of other nationalities, there are Cuban students, a Spanish company of dancers, a disgraced Spanish Contessa who is being transported as a prisoner, an uncouth American man, an 18-year-old Swiss girl made miserable by her parents, and a couple of Americans who have been living together in Mexico and spend most the voyage arguing over where they should go next. At first, the array of characters is a little dizzying, and there is a useful list of everyone at the front of the book, including who they are cabin-mates with. Eventually though, you get to know them and their personalities.

Wikipedia says, "The ship of fools is an allegory that has long been a fixture in Western literature and art. The allegory depicts a vessel populated by human inhabitants who are deranged, frivolous, or oblivious passengers aboard a ship without a pilot, and seemingly ignorant of their own direction." And indeed, deranged, frivolous and oblivious are apt descriptors for the passengers of the Vera. A passage where a character thinks, "You might learn something about one or two persons, if you took the time and trouble, but there was not time enough and it was not worth the trouble..." clearly extends beyond the confines of the ship to castigate the world at large for its indifference. As humans, we are often careless with each other and too self-involved to see the consequences our actions (or more often inactions) are likely to have, and the undercurrents that shaped World War II are apparent in passengers' attitudes and in events on board. Generalizations and assumptions based on nationality and appearances run rampant; few are challenged or corrected through the course of the book.

I'm not usually a big fan of allegory, as I often find it heavy-handed, and this book is no exception. I was interested in a number of the characters and quite liked the close quarters as a means for forcing confrontation, but I found the overall effect to be ponderous as your choices in reading didactically are between a story that doesn't really go anywhere (even though the ship does) and being preached to.

Recommended for: fans of Orwell's Animal Farm, people who believe Lord of the Flies tells the truth about human nature, non-claustrophobes, anyone who thinks "hell is other people."

Quote: "We will go on for a while, and it will be worse and worse, and we will say and do more and more outrageous things to each other, and one day we will strike the final death-giving blows. There is nowhere to go back and begin again with this...there is no place to go. The past is never where you think you left it: you are not the same person you were yesterday -- oh where did David go, I wonder? The place you are going towards doesn't exist yet, you must build it when you come to the right spot." ( )
4 vote ursula | Jan 19, 2013 |
In Ship of Fools Porter created and managed dozens of detailed, utterly flawed characters engaged in the tedious everyday minutiae of lives in suspension. This is a nuanced portrait of a time and its people, largely ignorant of the future into which they are cornering themselves. There is as much or more between the lines as there is in the words and minds of each passenger and staffperson on the ship. This is a writer's novel, a tough read but recommended. Anyone with a gift for or a love of fiction will recognize the exquisite craft of the author. ( )
3 vote plenilune | Jul 27, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Katherine Anne Porterprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Đekić, OlgaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bati︠u︡k, ViktorTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Blomkvist, TorstenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dlouhý, KarolTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gal, NoraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Greiff, TrygveTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hansen, HagmundTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kauppi, KaijaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kōstelenos, D. P.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kudō, AkioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lu, JinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marian, Eugen B.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Motti, AdrianaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Porta, BaldomeroTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rademacher, SusannaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Róna, IlonaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schmitter, ElkeAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sibon, MarcelleTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Šuklje, RapaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Studená, ZoraAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tarnowska, KrystynaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vallandro, LeonelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Quand partons-nous vers le bonheur?
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For Barbara Wescott, 1932: Paris, Rambouillet, Davosplatz, Salzburg, Munich, New York, Mulhocaway, Rosemont :1962
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August, 1931 - The port town of Veracruz is a little purgatory between land and sea for the traveler, but the people who live there are very fond of themselves and the town they have helped to make.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316713902, Paperback)

The story takes place in the summer of 1931, on board a cruise ship bound for Germany. Passengers include a Spanish noblewoman, a drunken German lawyer, an American divorcee, a pair of Mexican Catholic priests. This ship of fools is a crucible of intense experience, out of which everyone emerges forever changed. Rich in incident, passion, and treachery, the novel explores themes of nationalism, cultural and ethnic pride, and basic human frailty that are as relevant today as they were when the book was first published in 1962.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:48:47 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

The 48 first-class passengers and the 900 Spaniards in steerage on a passenger-freighter crossing from Mexico to Germany in 1931 are traveling on a voyage of life.

(summary from another edition)

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