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Bartleby by Herman Melville

Bartleby (original 1853; edition 1997)

by Herman Melville, Benjamin Orteski (Postface)

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1,533534,792 (3.9)69
Authors:Herman Melville
Other authors:Benjamin Orteski (Postface)
Info:Mille et une nuits (1997), Poche, 80 pages
Collections:Your library

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Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street by Herman Melville (1853)



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English (42)  French (3)  German (2)  Italian (2)  Danish (1)  Spanish (1)  Catalan (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (53)
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An old classic, listened to this on audio and thoroughly enjoyed it. Laughed out loud in fact, says something for a book when that happens. Would recommend to just about anyone. ( )
  KathyGilbert | Jan 29, 2016 |
Melville hammers on the same idea for way too long in general. He even manages it in such a short piece! ( )
  Jen.ODriscoll.Lemon | Jan 23, 2016 |
Melville hammers on the same idea for way too long in general. He even manages it in such a short piece! ( )
  Jen.ODriscoll.Lemon | Jan 23, 2016 |

"That Herman Melville has gone 'clean daft', is very much to be feared; certainly, he has given us a very mad book...The sooner this author is put in ward the better. If trusted with himself, at all events give him no further trust in pen and ink, till the present fit has worn off. He will grievously hurt himself else - or his very amiable publishers."

This grotesque reaction of a reviewer of a new work of Herman Melville, the author of "Bartleby the Scrivener", shows that something went indeed wrong with Melville. But he didn't go mad - he did something even more unforgivable: he disappointed the expectations of his readers!

After his adventurous youth as a sailor and living on Pacific islands with cannibals, he became famous with adventure novels like Typee and Omoo. But instead of staying in this line of work and becoming a bestselling author, he delivered Moby Dick, an already very difficult to swallow piece of literature, too dark and too philosophical for the biggest part of the 19th century audience. And as if this was not already enough, he came up finally with one of the strangest literary heroes of all times: Bartleby.

What hasn't been written about this story! Especially since the 1920s, when psychoanalysis and the publication of Franz Kafka's (and Robert Walser's with its countless office clerks) works lead to a Melville renaissance,

Melville's oeuvre and especially Bartleby has been interpreted again and again - Bartleby, the psycho-pathological case study; Bartleby as a criticism of Thoreau's flight from civilazation; Bartleby as a self-portrait of Melville (who had to work as a customs officer after the publication of this story due to his falling out with the reading public of his time); Bartleby as a parable concerning the life of the artist in a world dominated by business interests (the story takes place mainly at Wall Street); Bartleby as a predecessor of Camus and existentialist philosophy; Bartleby as a modern Hiob or even Jesus (the story is full of biblical references). - And this is just a small choice of possible interpretations!

But this is not my main point here - Bartleby is one of the few cases in literature that is open to such a big variety of possible interpretations. So read it - in case you haven't done it so far. Or re-read it again: it is just 60 pages, and at least for me one of the most unforgettable literary works ever.

Dont expect a longer review here: "I would rather prefer not to", as Bartleby used to say...Just read it! ( )
1 vote Mytwostotinki | Dec 14, 2015 |
In deciding simply not to perform tasks he doesn’t want to do anymore at work, to the point of scorn and later absurdity, it seems to me that Bartleby (1853) is one of the first existential heroes in literature, and Melville was well ahead of his time.

Spoiler alert...

After eventually being let go in the most humane way possible, Bartleby doesn’t leave the office, and when he’s put into prison, he sits on his own, refusing food, sitting quietly and doing nothing. One wonders throughout the short novel, what has led Bartleby to this state? On the last page it’s revealed that he had worked in the Dead Letters Office in Washington. Seeing all of those correspondences burned, which had possibly meant so much when they were penned, seems not only dehumanizing and severely depressing, but such an outright expression of man’s transience and the ultimate meaninglessness of our lives that it leads to Bartleby’s debilitating angst. “Ah, Bartleby! Ah, humanity!” indeed.

Just this quote, on pity:
“My first emotions had been those of pure melancholy and sincerest pity; but just in proportion as the forlornness of Bartleby grew and grew to my imagination, did that same melancholy merge into fear, that pity into repulsion. So true it is, and so terrible too, that up to a certain point the thought or sight of misery enlists our best affections; but, in certain special cases, beyond that point it does not. They err who would assert that invariably this is owing to the inherent selfishness of the human heart. It rather proceeds from a certain hopefulness of remedying excessive and organic ill. To a sensitive being, pity is not seldom pain. And when at last it is perceived that such pity cannot lead to effectual succor, common sense bids the soul be rid of it.” ( )
2 vote gbill | Aug 9, 2015 |
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I am a rather elderly man.
Imagine my surprise, nay, my consternation,
when without moving from his privacy, Bartleby
in a singularly mild, firm voice, replied, “I would prefer not
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0974607800, Paperback)

"I prefer not to," he respectfully and slowly said, and mildly disappeared.

Academics hail it as the beginning of modernism, but to readers around the world—even those daunted by Moby-DickBartleby the Scrivener is simply one of the most absorbing and moving novellas ever. Set in the mid-19th century on New York City’s Wall Street, it was also, perhaps, Herman Melville's most prescient story: what if a young man caught up in the rat race of commerce finally just said, "I would prefer not to"?

The tale is one of the final works of fiction published by Melville before, slipping into despair over the continuing critical dismissal of his work after Moby-Dick, he abandoned publishing fiction. The work is presented here exactly as it was originally published in Putnam's magazine—to, sadly, critical disdain.

The Art of The Novella Series

Too short to be a novel, too long to be a short story, the novella is generally unrecognized by academics and publishers. Nonetheless, it is a form beloved and practiced by literature's greatest writers. In the Art Of The Novella series, Melville House celebrates this renegade art form and its practitioners with titles that are, in many instances, presented in book form for the first time.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:23 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Wall Street is turned upside-down when Bartleby, a copier, decides he is no longer willing to do it.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 7 descriptions

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