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Bartleby by Herman Melville

Bartleby (original 1853; edition 1997)

by Herman Melville, Benjamin Orteski (Postface)

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1,477495,061 (3.91)68
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 (38)  French (3)  German (2)  Italian (2)  Danish (1)  Spanish (1)  Catalan (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (49)
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
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.” ( )
1 vote gbill | Aug 9, 2015 |
Great story, but this edition is more of a magazine than a book. ( )
  unclebob53703 | Jun 3, 2015 |

There’s absolutely nothing under the sun that compels me to review Herman Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener except the sheer brilliance of both (the star, that is, as well as the novella). The ghost of one of America’s greatest writers may be grateful for the attention—especially since Melville lived the last decades of his life in near obscurity—but I don’t believe in ghosts except as they appear in certain plays.

I picked this novella out of the stacks one afternoon at the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library while awaiting my turn at one of the computers. Ten minutes later, I’d forgotten all about computers and my desire to use one of them. Yes, it was that good!

It’s been years since I last read any of Melville’s work. And the truth is that even now, at the age of sixty-two, I have yet to read Moby Dick. Why this novella isn’t at the top of the list of required reading for high school sophomores is a mystery to me. The language is simple, the plot compelling. And who doesn’t love a mystery—especially when it’s as well written as this one?

I can only encourage you to run right out to your local library and pick it up. If you’re lucky enough to find a copy of the novella on its lonesome, it won’t cost you much more than a buck—which, if you live in the great State of New York, is about 1/13 the price of a pack of cigarettes. Today. (The price of cigarettes will certainly have increased by this time next month to something approaching obscenity.)

But back to Melville. The man is a marvel. And although I’m no real fan of his poetry (in which he more than dabbled the last thirty years of his life), his prose turns cartwheels.

Bartleby the Scrivener,apart from being downright funny in parts, ends on a note that would rival Poe’s imaginative machinations. No teasers here, but trust me: if you ever again come across the expression “dead letter” (no, not dead French letter!), don’t be surprised if your mind and memory turn immediately to Melville and Bartleby the Scrivener.

N. B.: I gave this novella five stars only because I can’t give it a perfect ten.

Brooklyn, NY
( )
1 vote RussellBittner | Dec 12, 2014 |
I honestly don't know what to say about this. It was engaging and I liked it. I think to get deeper I'd have to write perhaps another thousand or so words. It makes me greatly look forward to more of this author! ( )
  wjmcomposer | Nov 5, 2014 |
I honestly don't know what to say about this. It was engaging and I liked it. I think to get deeper I'd have to write perhaps another thousand or so words. It makes me greatly look forward to more of this author! ( )
  wjmcomposer | Nov 5, 2014 |
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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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