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Mardi: and A Voyage Thither, Vol. II

Herman Melville

Book Overview: 

Mardi is Melville's first purely fictional work. In it he contemplates man's beliefs, and questions whether or not one faith has value over another--or is it all simply a sham? Mardi is a poetically existential analysis of religious truths as told through the protagonist's allegorical wanderings across the South Pacific. But is this all that Mardi is?

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .In Oro's name, what ails you, philosopher? See you Paradise, that you look so wildly?"

"A Happy Life! a Happy Life!" cried Babbalanja, in an ecstasy. "My lord, I am lost in the dream of it, as here recorded. Marvelous book! its goodness transports me. Let me read:—'I would bear the same mind, whether I be rich or poor, whether I get or lose in the world. I will reckon benefits well placed as the fairest part of my possession, not valuing them by number or weight, but by the profit and esteem of the receiver; accounting myself never the poorer for any thing I give. What I do shall be done for conscience, not ostentation. I will eat and drink, not to gratify my palate, but to satisfy nature. I will be cheerful to my friends, mild and placable to my enemies. I will prevent an honest request, if I can foresee it; and I will grant it, without asking. I will look upon the whole world as my country; and upon Oro, both as the witness and the judge of m. . . Read More

Community Reviews

MEDIA (to Abrazza).--Be not impatient, my lord; he'll recover presently. You were talking of Lombardo, Babbalanja.

BABBALANJA.--I was, your Highness. Of all Mardians, by nature, he was the most inert. Hast ever seen a yellow lion, all day basking in the yellow sun:--in reveries, rending droves of ele

This is a strange one. Like "Moby Dick" (but much longer), it includes many digressions into philosophical, metaphysical, and religious matters. Unlike "Moby Dick," these digressions are not hung onto an inherently interesting plot. Instead "Mardi" starts out like Melville's previous books, "Typee"

American novelist Herman Melville’s cryptic third work about uncontrollable waves of human desire and their ability to set a person adrift in a sea of spiritual, philosophical, and artistic chaos. An unnamed narrator, U.S. sailor (and thinly-veiled Melville), and his Norwegian side-kick Jarl jump sh

For once, reviews contemporary with a book’s publication are right even now: it starts well, but sinks into obscure philosophical unreadability less than half way through. The prose may be elevated, the thoughts may be deep, but who really cares? I love Melville so I will simply pretend I never read

my least favorite melville, he worked so hard on the allegory, he forgot to add a PLOT.

I struggle in categorizing Mardi, still less reviewing it.

The conventional wisdom is that it's a mess. Melville started it out as a South Seas seafaring adventure, but only so his publisher would bite. Then he transformed it into a fantastical voyage through imaginary Polynesian Islands. From that

A historian, poet, philosopher (and others) set sail for adventure, romance, allegory. Vol. 1 is dull. Vol. 2 is intermittently amusing.

Peaks and troughs abound in this one. At times, I found myself deeply engaged by Melville's ruminations on metaphysics, religion, and politics--mainly through his philosopher character Babbalanja--yet at others, I was inclined to either nod off at best, or tear the book to pieces at worst. These lat

When I decided to read all of Melville's novels, this stood out as a great and tedious hurdle to be crossed: long and long-scorned. But the more material I read on it, the more it seemed to be waiting for its proper audience. I approached it with low hopes, but this last thought proved so correct th

Beginning as another of Melville's traditional Polynesian tales--and thus picking up where Typee and Omoo left off--Mardi transforms after the first one hundred pages into something philosophically symbolic (think Gulliver's Travels) and then something politically allegorical. It shouldn't work--and

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