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The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of…
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The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838)

by Edgar Allan Poe

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,673327,186 (3.62)90
After reading an 1836 newspaper account of a shipwreck and its two survivors, Edgar Allan Poe penned his only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, the story of a stowaway on a Nantucket whaleship who finds himself enmeshed in the dark side of life at sea: mutiny, cannibalism, savagery--even death. As Jeffrey Meyers writes in his Introduction: "[Poe] remains contemporary because he appeals to basic human feelings and expresses universal themes common to all men in all languages: dreams, love, loss; grief, mourning, alienation; terror, revenge, murder; insanity, disease, and death." Within the pages of this novel, we encounter nearly all of them. This Modern Library Paperback Classic reprints the text of the original 1838 American edition.… (more)
  1. 50
    At the Mountains of Madness and Other Tales of Terror {4 stories} by H. P. Lovecraft (ghilbrae)
  2. 20
    An Antarctic Mystery by Jules Verne (391)
    391: An Antarctic Mystery is Verne's response/sequel to Poe's book.
  3. 10
    The Purple Cloud by M. P. Shiel (hathaway_library)
    hathaway_library: This narrative hits its stride at sea, combining elements of the fantastic with a visit to a polar region.
  4. 00
    The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym and the Abyss of Interpretation by J. Gerald Kennedy (bluepiano)
  5. 00
    Moby Dick by Herman Melville (caflores)
  6. 00
    The Other Side of the Mountain by Michel Bernanos (bluepiano)
    bluepiano: Each is an account of a shipwreck whose survivors are heading for an unearthly sort of place. Poe's tale is mostly about the voyage and Bernanos's about what happens on landfall. Both are great reading.
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» See also 90 mentions

English (24)  Spanish (4)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (32)
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
A very strange book, of perhaps only historical interest. Certainly not entertaining. Unless you are the sort who is entertained by questions such as "Is this a subtle exercise in literary technique or a piece of trivial hackwork that acquires any literary merit it may have via Poe's later reputation?"

The only part I liked were the authorial games Poe plays with as a sort of framing device. Reminded me of Borges. But whereas Borges clearly does those sorts of things on purpose, Poe may (or may not) have stumbled upon them through a semi-fortuitous combination of commercial expediency and drunkenness.

Unless you are already a Poe fan, figuring out which would likely hold little interest.

(PS A perplexing side note: reading Poe seems to have had a rather desultory and enervating effect on my syntax and diction, which has quite inexplicably become rather vainglorious. Quite perplexing indeed....) ( )
  ralphpalm | Nov 11, 2019 |
Okay, I read this book for mostly two reasons: 1) I bought the book Pym by Mat Johnson, and figured I should read the book it is referencing first, and 2) Melville House published it in their novella series and you know I'm a sucker for Melville House.

Of course, in what should probably be embarrassing for someone in love with a publisher who has named themselves after Melville, I can't really stand nautical writing. I mean, there's nothing really wrong with books that take place at sea, but inevitably there are multiple scenes all about rigging the jib sail and something the mizzen deck and I have no reference for any of these things and can't be bothered and it makes me batty. My strategy for this book was basically just to cross my eyes and skim through all those sections, which was pretty okay for getting me the background I need in order to appreciate Pym.

This is a strange book. Of that tradition of adventure books filled with peril after peril and a few unlikely escapes. Rather different from Poe's horror, but there are some bits of dread that do feel more familiar. Then there is the frighteningly racist depiction of the "natives" discovered in the Antarctic region. I am so incredibly curious to see Pym's updated version.

Glad I read it, but not my fave. ( )
  greeniezona | Dec 6, 2017 |
Poe is dope. ( )
  jalbacutler | Jan 10, 2017 |
I must say--this one is a strange one. When I first started reading it, I was thinking how beautiful Edgar Allan Poe's writing style was. But, the story is a slog at times. Sorry. It took me a month to read this short tale. The middle drags with too many longitude and latitude references and descriptions of bizarre animals.

And Edgar Allan Poe--don't you just feel sorry for the guy? He had to be weird beyond measure. He is preoccupied with the human body, birds eating dead humans and people murdering and eating people. What is it with him and human flesh? (I'm thinking of the Telltale Heart, too, murdering and cutting up a body in small pieces and stuffing it under the floorboards.) Yuck.

He also has this decided paranoia. You always wonder if he is just freaking out or if he's really in danger. (I'm thinking of The Raven, too.) Paranoia abounds in this work too. He has a preoccupation with being buried alive. He has a preoccupation with black and white. I really should read it again and look for all the references of black and white--they abound. One really needs to look at race relations through this novella, since it was written in 1838.

So, why did I read it? I'm reading a series of 5 novellas from American authors to get a feel for the American writer and the development of American Literature. I've read Benito Cereno by Melville, Parnassus on Wheels by Morley and now The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket by Poe. Next up, Cather and Fitzgerald. Apparently, this little novel influenced American literature in a great way, including Melville and Lovecraft, and Jules Verne even wrote a sequel.

This is a story of a young boy who runs away to the sea, and it is a classic shipwreck story with mutiny, deaths, storms, islands, animals, and longitude. Essentially it is a survival story multiple times over--but the ending is abrupt and very strange. I'm still trying to figure it out. Why is the water hot in the antarctic? There were a lot of loose ends in this story--where did that come from? How is that possible? Is he paranoid or is something really freaky here? ( )
  heidip | Jun 2, 2016 |
Claimed to be Edgar Alan Poe’s only novel, but it reads to me like a collection of three, possibly four, short stories. It was published in 1838 before he had achieved significant sales as an author, he was making a living as a critic, reviewer and writer of articles and stories. A year later he published a two volume collection of his short stories: ‘Tales of the Grotesque and the Arabesque’ and the stories in The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym would not have been out off place had they been included.

The frontispiece to the “novel” gives the game away almost at once:

COMPRISING THE DETAILS OF A MUTINY AND ATROCIOUS BUTCHERY ON BOARD THE AMERICAN BRIG GRAMPUS, ON HER WAY TO THE SOUTH SEAS, IN THE MONTH OF JUNE, 1827

WITH AN ACCOUNT OF THE RECAPTURE OF THE VESSEL BY THE SURVIVORS; THEIR SHIPWRECK AND SUBSEQUENT HORRIBLE SUFFERINGS FROM FAMINE; THEIT DELIVERANCE BY MEANS OF THE BRITISH SCHOONER JANE GUY; THE BRIEF CRUISE OF THIS LATTER VESSEL IN THE ANTARCTIC OCEAN; HER CAPTURE AND THE MASSACRE OF HER CREW AMONG A GROUP OF ISLANDS IN THE

EIGHTY-FOURTH PARALLEL OF SOUTHERN LATTITUDE;

TOGETHER WITH THE INCREDIBLE ADVENTURE AND DISCOVERIES STILL FURTHER SOUTH TO WHICH THAT DISTRESSING CALAMITY GAVE RISE.


If this all sounds like a blurb to suck in readers to an adventure story which will titillate and excite then it would not be far wrong from my reading of the book. The titillation is provided by the reference to horrible sufferings and atrocious butchery, while the excitement is the fantasy of what lies beyond the eighty-fourth parallel which remained uncharted at the time. It would be another 60 years before Robert Falcon Scott in the ship Discovery got passed 82 degrees South and discovered the Polar plateau.

The continuity between the three stories is provided by Arthur Gordon Pym who in each of the tales is in danger of death by starvation; first on board the American Brig the Grampus where he is a stowaway locked in the hold and must survive a mutiny taking place above him and his reliance on a friend who can no longer get to him with food and water, then on the hull of the brig where he and three companions are marooned following the retaking of the vessel and its near destruction through violent storms, finally on an island in the warmer waters beyond the 84th parallel where he is trapped by hostile savages. Poe is at his best when describing the sufferings and and vicissitudes of people in a desperate situation and where there appears little hope of survival. He has a way of communicating the desperation of his characters plight that is both macabre and exciting.

The Cruise on the British Schooner the Jane Guy in little known waters and which visits some of the remotest known islands like The Kerguelen Islands and Tristan D’acuna reads like a travelogue, something that might appear in the National Geographical magazine and has given rise to some people thinking it could have been inspiration for Herman Melville’s style of writing in Moby-Dick. The final section/story in the novel is the discovery of a mysterious group of islands in the warmer waters that Poe tells us lie beyond the ice towards the South Pole. We are now reading a fantasy, a story that has led to this book being heralded as early science fiction. Poe provides us with a surprise ending that takes into consideration the events of the final section, but bears little relation to what has gone before.

This is a collection of nautical adventure stories that are well written and very readable. Poe is able to provide plenty of atmosphere in stories that kept me wanting to turn the pages (can you say that when reading on a Kindle?). I just don’t see it as a novel and so as a collection of short stories it is rated as 3.5 stars and as a novel 2 stars. ( )
4 vote baswood | Apr 7, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (209 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Poe, Edgar AllanAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Baudelaire, CharlesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
De Macedo, MarianiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Deilen, Bas vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Etzel, GiselaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kopley, RichardEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kubin, AlfredIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pollin, Burton R.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schmidt, ArnoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wölbing, JürgenIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Die Abenteuer des Arthur Gordon Pym: Als ich von der Südsee und anderswo nach einer Reihe merkwürdiger Abenteuer, über die ich in diesem Buch berichten werde, vor wenigen Monaten in die Vereinigten Staaten zurückkehrte, geriet ich zufällig in die Gesellschaft einiger Herren aus Richmond in Virginia.
König Pest: In einer Oktobernacht gegen zwölf Uhr - es war unter der ritterlichen Regierung König Eduards des Dritten - bemerkten zwei Seeleute, die der Mannschaft eines kleinen, augenblicklich in der Themse vor Anker liegenden Handelsschiffes angehörten, mit einigem Erstaunen, dass sie sich in einer Kneipe befanden, die im Kirchspiel Sanct Andreas lag und als Schild das Porträt einer "fidelen Teerjacke" trug.
Die Maske des Roten Todes: Der Rote Tod hatte schon lange schon im Lande gewütet; noch nie hatte die Pest grauenhaftere Verheerungen angerichtet.
Der Untergang des Hauses Usher: An einem dunklen stummen Herbsttag, an dem die Wolken tief und schwer fast bis zur Erde herabhingen, war ich lange Zeit durch eine eigentümlich trübe Gegend geritten und sah endlich, als sich schon die Abendschatten niedersenkten, das Stammhaus der Familie Usher vor mir.
Der Teufel im Glockenstuhl: Jedermann weiss, dass der holländische Marktflecken Spiessburgh der schönste Ort der Welt ist - oder ach! - war.
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