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If Melville had never written Moby Dick, his place in world literature would be assured by his short tales. "Billy Budd, Sailor," his last work, is the masterpiece before his death in 1891 in which he delivers the final summation in his "quarrel with God." It is a brilliant study of the tragic clash between social authority and individual freedom, human justice and abstracIf Melville had never written Moby Dick, his place in world literature would be assured by his short tales. "Billy Budd, Sailor," his last work, is the masterpiece before his death in 1891 in which he delivers the final summation in his "quarrel with God." It is a brilliant study of the tragic clash between social authority and individual freedom, human justice and abstract good....

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Number of Pages : 160 Pages
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billy budd sailor Reviews

  • Ahmad Sharabiani
    2018-12-27 13:31

    704. Billy Budd, Foretopman, Herman Melvilleعنوانها: بیلی باد؛ بیلی باد ملوان؛ نویسنده: هرمان ملویل؛ انتشاراتیها: (اردیبهشت، کوثر، قصه پرداز، جویا، فردا) ادبیات؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: دوازدهم ماه آوریل سال 2006 میلادیعنوان: بیلی باد؛ نویسنده: هرمان ملویل؛ مترجم: غلامحسین اعرابی؛ تهران، اردیبهشت، 1367؛ در 344 ص؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، کوثر؛ 1382؛ در 352 ص؛ شابک: 9647579217؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، قصه پرداز، 1393؛ در 140 ص؛ شابک: 978646916760؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، اردیبهشت، 1396؛ در 344 ص؛ شابک: 97896441713449؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان امریایی - قرن 19 معنوان: بیلی باد ملوان (روایتی درونی) به همراه دو داستان: زوال خاندان آشر؛ چلیک آمونتیلادو؛ از ادگار آلن پو؛ نویسنده: هرمان ملویل؛ مترجم: احمد میرعلایی؛ تهران، جویا، 1370؛ در 195 ص؛ چاپ دیگر: اصفهان، فردا، 1384؛عنوان: بیلی باد؛ نویسنده: هرمان ملویل؛ مترجم: محمد عبادزاده کرمانی؛ اصفهان، کیمیا، 1380؛ در 128 ص؛ شابک: 9647595182؛عنوان: بیلی باد؛ نویسنده: هرمان ملویل؛ مترجم: محمد عبادزاده کرمانی؛ اصفهان، کیمیا، 1380؛ در 128 ص؛ شابک: 9647595182؛بیلی باد ملوان؛ جوان زیبایی ست که همگان او را بسیار دوست میدارند. ایشان در یک کشتی نظامی انگلیسی به کار مپپردازد و رویدادها نیز در زمان جنگ رخ میدهد. بیلی پسری خوب است و کلاگارت معلم اسلحه کشتی مردی شرور و بسیار بدجنس که کوشش میکند برای بیلی دردسرها بیافریند. ا. شربیانی

  • Darwin8u
    2019-01-21 09:11

    “Truth uncompromisingly told will always have its jagged edges.” ― Herman Melville, Billy BuddReading 'Billy Budd' left me thinking of David Foster Wallace and his unfinished novel The Pale King. Both are unfinished literary works that -- despite their roughness (and yes incompleteness) -- seem to suggest or hint that if given time/space/temperament, etc., Melville and Wallace could have produced works equalling their respective magna opera. Both are full of a confident stillness that hint at a genius between the words and a soul and art floating just under the text. Is Billy Budd a greater work than Moby-Dick? Pshaw! Of course not, because perfection. But it shows that that damn book about an enigmatic, amelanist whale was not a fluke. Billy Budd's simplicity and shortness is deceptive -- the water here isn't wide, but it is deep with strong currents. At the end of reading this I was left with a dreamy visual of a giant wave which looks destined to break in a tremendous fashion against the ship I am sitting in. At the very last moment, however, the swell rolls under my lonely craft. While the ship survives, there is that one full-stop second; that heavy moment as the wave passes UNDER the portside where your bodymindandsoul recognizes the strength of the ocean and the power of that one beautiful wave that barely missed destroying you.

  • Rob
    2019-01-04 17:32

    Dear High School Curriculum Writers:I am positive that you can find a better novel than this one to use when introducing symbolism and extended metaphor to developing readers. "Christ-figure" is the most over-used of these extended metaphors; over-used to the point where its offensiveness ceases to be about the in-your-face religious aspect of it and becomes instead about the simple over-use of the symbols. If you want to "go there" with symbolism and metaphor and have high school age kids the ways in which literature can illuminate our experience not by representing it literally but by unhinging from it, try helping these students discover Garcia-Marquez or Allende.And that's just assuming you want to stay in the "safe" territory of the Western hemisphere.Ever your advisor,me.

  • Werner
    2018-12-27 16:31

    Herman Melville's place in the literary canon is secure today, mainly on the strength of his novel Moby Dick; but ironically, that work was largely panned by critics and regular readers alike when it was published, and in the last decades of his life (he died in 1891) the author turned away from trying to publish fiction to write poetry instead. But he didn't give up writing fiction privately; and this novella, begun late in 1888, is the testament to the fictional achievement of his later years. It was discovered and pieced together among his disorganized papers in 1919 by his first biographer, Raymond M. Weaver, who had been given access by the author's widow, and was published a few years later. (The current Wikipedia article makes the claim that it was unfinished at Melville's death; but there's no internal or external evidence to that effect, to my knowledge. As it stands, the text reads like a complete and coherent whole.) I read it in college for my American Literature class, and appreciated it from the get-go.Like much of Melville's work, this is set on the sea, and benefits from his experience as a sailor on sail-powered ships. Unlike his other maritime novels, though, this is set in a British milieu and in the generation before the author's birth: the British navy during the Napoleonic Wars. This is a setting much explored in subsequent fiction. Though Melville wasn't the first writer to do so --he had several 19th-century predecessors, especially if we consider age-of-sail naval fiction more broadly (and Melville's own earlier novel White Jacket or, the World on a Man-of-War, though dealing with the American navy, was part of that 19th-century tradition), I think it's arguable that he was a significant influence on both the authors of Mutiny on the Bounty and C. S. Forester.If you like later works of this type, by the above-mentioned authors or others such as Patrick O'Brian, and you aren't put off by 19th-century diction, this read might appeal to you as well. Much shorter than Moby Dick, it lacks the latter's info-dumps and wordy philosophical digressions, and the tighter narrative benefits from this. The three main characters are very well-developed, the plot is well-organized and absorbing, and the tone and approach serious. Nautical terminology isn't so thick that a modern-day landlubber like myself can't understand it well enough to follow the basic narrative. Without giving out any spoilers, though, readers should be warned that this isn't a feel-good story. That wasn't the author's intention.The ambiguity of Melville's message(s) here have been, IMO, greatly exaggerated by interpreters who like ambiguity. It's definitely an exploration of the possible conflict between genuine justice and the letter of the law, and (through the last two chapters especially) of the ways that people knowingly or unknowingly distort reality by seeing it through their own lenses or using it to serve their own agendas. Unlike some critics, I don't see any clear Christ symbolism in the protagonist; I think that's something that's more read into the text than deduced from it. (A victim of a Calvinist religious upbringing that repelled him, Melville's attitude towards Christianity, at least when he wrote his earlier works, wasn't particularly positive.)Critics tend to treat Moby Dick as Melville's masterpiece; but I personally rated this tale higher, and stand on that. (I can't say it's his masterpiece, because I haven't read any of his other novels --but I definitely want to, someday!) Although Goodreads is more concerned with books than film, it's also worthwhile to note that the 1962 movie adaptation starring Terence Stamp, Peter Ustinov and Robert Ryan is a top-notch production very faithful to the original, and highly recommended.

  • Marcus
    2019-01-13 13:12

    Billy Budd adds to the evidence in Moby Dick that Melville was a master of the English language and a master of all things nautical. It's a great, short tale of good, evil and the sometimes harrowing injustice of circumstance. It was fascinating to see in Melville's last work, the dramatic difference in his earlier writing and the style of Billy Budd. For example, comparing two completely random sentences, first from Typee:In the course of a few days Toby had recovered from the effects of his adventure with the Happar warriors; the wound on his head rapidly healing under the vegetable treatment of the good Tinor.And from Billy Budd:Nevertheless, to anybody who can hold the Present at its worth without being inappreciative of the Past, it may be forgiven, if to such an one the solitary old hulk at Portsmouth, Nelson's Victory, seems to float there, not alone as the decaying monument of a fame incorruptible, but also as a poetic reproach, softened by its picturesqueness, to the Monitors and yet mightier hulls of the European ironclads.The language in Billy Budd is remarkably more dense and lush. It makes for a more difficult read, but also makes the effort that much more rewarding. A DigressionThe other reviews of Billy Budd by high school kids and adults who read Billy Budd in high school are indicative of the overall quality of education in the US. This isn't to come across as condescending, if I had read it in High School, my review would have probably been equally dismal since I was in no way prepared to appreciate a book that wasn't as exciting as a Bond movie or that used sentences more complex than Lord of the Flies. Billy Budd definitely shouldn't be required reading in high school, at least not until high school provides a competent enough education for students to appreciate a great work, even if they don't "like" it. But again, I digress.The story of Billy Budd isn't the most moving that I've ever read, but the characters are good and it's interesting moral dilemma. I think the criticism that it is too blatantly a metaphor for Christ come from people who either don't understand Billy Budd or don't understand the basics of the life of Christ. Budd is probably a metaphorical character and maybe even for Christ, but it's naive to give up on the book and characterize him as simply a mechanical metaphor for Christ. There are enough differences, enough other issues raised and enough nuances to make Billy Budd stand on its own as a solid book and a precautionary tale of the harsh realities of justice and circumstance.

  • Jim
    2019-01-22 13:21

    Wrong edition. Mine is by Blackstone Audio & read by Stephen Rudnicki, one of my favorite narrators. I managed to get 1/4 of the way through before I gave up in disgust. Melville has a terribly obtuse writing style. The man couldn't find a point in a bag of pins. All that time & Billy barely got settled on the Navy ship. He was a nice kid & should have been named Sunshine. Got it. SMH

  • Alex
    2019-01-10 10:26

    Billy Budd, another in Melville's oeuvre of nautical tales of gay passion, is shorter than his masterpiece and not as rewarding. The problem is that it's kindof boring and not much happens.It was Melville's last work, and he never really finished it - he just left a ton of scribbles and sketches and conflicting drafts kicking around - and maybe that's why it feels like a bit of a mess: because it literally was, before various people tried to stitch it together.Your basic story is that there's this super-pretty guy, Billy Budd, and this other dude on the ship, Claggart, is deeply closeted and therefore confused and eventually enraged by his unstoppable attraction to him. So of course he (view spoiler)[accuses him of plotting mutiny, and then Budd punches him in the face and kills him, and then the also-possibly-closeted captain has Budd martyred. (hide spoiler)] And that's about it, and there are the usual Melvillian tangents into, like, the history of mutinies and whatever."But," you say, "What makes you so sure this is a story of gay unrequited love? Maybe Claggart just doesn't like the guy." Glad you asked. I underlined all the stuff that sounds kinda gay - what, you don't do that? - and I have a lot of underlines. Like when Claggart would gaze at Billy, his eyes strangely suffused with incipient feverish tears. Then would Claggart look like the man of sorrows. Yes, and sometimes the melancholy expression would have in it a touch of soft yearning, as if Claggart could even have loved Billy but for fate and ban.Just sayin'. "But," you say, "Melville goes out of his way, once or twice, to be like 'It wasn't a sex thing!'" For instance, in a long discussion of Claggart's "depravity according to nature," in which he's described as "a nut not to be cracked by the tap of a lady's fan," Melville specifically says "the depravity here meant partakes nothing of the sordid or sensual." And "well," I respond, "I said closeted."Melville is like Shakespeare in that if you suspect his words may have a double meaning, you'd be a sucker not to assume he knows what he's doing. He's a master of language; if he can mean two things, he generally does. And here, thanks probably in part to his natural desire to leave things open (he is a brilliant writer, after all, and the best books aren't easily defined), and in part to the fact that he himself was (I think) a closet case (whose own unrequited crush on Hawthorne ended up causing a rift between them), and of course also due to the obvious fact that back in 1824 one couldn't just run around writing gay love stories whether or not one wanted to - a fact that Oscar Wilde could still attest to 75 years later - he's written a book that never explicitly says it's a story about the thin line between closeted love and hate. But, I mean, let's be serious, that's definitely what it is. "A mantrap may be under the ruddy-tipped daisies," he says, optimistically.

  • Jason Koivu
    2018-12-24 13:28

    Melville, what are you about man? That's just too much telling for the story's own good!In Billy Budd, Sailor we have what could've been a grand, character-driven swashbuckling adventure. However, Melville apparently wanted to write about sailing and the early navy, and must have felt he needed to throw in a story to justify the book. The two subjects needed to merge more seamlessly for this to work. Otherwise two separate books should have been published, a treatise and a tale, for they are two entirely different ships passing in the night.

  • Jesse
    2018-12-28 15:22

    I had hoped that during the time that has lapsed between having had to read this and Moby-Dick or, The Whale as an undergraduate and now I would have warmed up a bit more to Melville, who along with Dickens holds the dubious distinction as being my least favorite "canonical" authors. No dice. I found this just as difficult to read and even more difficult to sustain any kind of interest in, and was most grateful for the relative brevity of Billy Budd, especially as Melville's writing style can charitably be described as impenetrable, if not at times actually unreadable. The thing is, I really, really WANT to like Melville. I love reading interpretations of Melville's writing, as they are of the type that fracture and fragment under postmodern analysis, bursting with utterly fascinating queer resonances. Certainly the all-but-slavering characterization of the titular character throughout the novella is one of the glories of homoerotic 19th century literature:"He was young; and despite his all but fully developed frame, in aspect looked even younger than he really was, owing to a lingering adolescent expression in the as yet smooth face all but feminine in purity of natural complexion but where, thanks to his seagoing, the lily was quite suppressed and the rose had some ado visibly to flush through the tan."Of course, Billy's corporeal beauty is rather problematically utilized by Melville as a symbol for purity, innocence, and moral as much as physical beauty, something that ultimately creates a rather blank and even unsympathetic cipher of a character. Not that, Claggart, his shadowy nemesis, is accorded any particularly interiority either that would help rationalize the hatred he develops that will eventually destroy Billy…But Melville's silence in regards to the character of Claggart is also one of the most evocative qualities of the novella, creating an opening that has often been interpreted as sexual in nature: that Claggart is motivated by an attraction that is almost inevitably one-sided, that his fateful claim against Billy is rooted in a self-hatred caused by this attraction, etc. One way or the other, what interests me about Billy Budd is that Melville's elusively was appropriated by director Claire Denis for her lyrical and (very) loose adaptation Beau Travail (France, 1999). In Denis's capable hands the bare bones of Melville's story is transformed into a beautiful meditation on postcolonialism, homoeroticism, the human (specifically male) body, marginality, movement, race relations, etc, etc, etc that in its own way is just as elusive and endlessly evocative as Melville's text. Only rendered, if you excuse my (very) biased opinion, with a masterfulness and density that Melville's text barely hints at.

  • Michael Finocchiaro
    2019-01-09 10:29

    The tragic story of Billy Budd is a captivating and interesting read. Melville is a master of physical and psychological description and an expert at ships at sea and this makes for a great story. I am all too familiar with rumor-mongering and how poisonous and destructive it can be and this posthumously published novella serves as a sort of naval parable about it. A must read after Moby Dick.

  • Judy
    2019-01-10 13:36

    I feel like I should ask forgiveness for allotting only two stars to a Melville, but I felt adrift while reading Billy Budd, Foretopman. Perhaps, children, for whom this book was written, were more acclimated to reading books awash with philosophy about working relationships aboard a Royal Navy vessel, but I see few children in today's world tuning into this story.I had a hard time tuning in until more than halfway through...Billy Budd aka The Handsome Sailor, orphan, and already a seasoned foretopman at the age of nineteen (I believe) finds himself conscripted to the Indomitable and away from his happy employment on a merchant vessel. As with his previous vessel, he is the perfect soul and well-liked by the officers and crew alike. There is a cheesy sense of too-perfect young man here. Of course, something upsets the apple cart in the form of an officer, Claggart, who is jealous of Billy's perfectness. He sets him up for a fall and that is where the book finally takes off and becomes somewhat interesting. Melville does an excessive amount of analyzing the motives of Claggart, the perception of people in regards to Billy, etc. Melville also obsesses about Billy's perfect appearance and how it made people love him. I felt this put undue emphasis on something that few children can change drastically. I almost put the book down and screamed, but it was only 126 pages with lots of illustrations of perfect Billy, so I went ahead and finished it.

  • Riku Sayuj
    2018-12-31 14:20

    I buy none of the characters Melville, and that is a first with you. The story is there though and it was a good adventure story - Sir Walter could have told it better, and that too is a first with you. But, despite the cribs, the foretopman and the motley crew will stay with me, but not for the telling.Adieu, Rights of Man! No irony intended, only Paine! Or not.

  • Matty-Swytla
    2019-01-13 09:22

    Boring and meandering - the writing style too, is not to my taste. Why is this a classic and on the 1001 book you need to read list?

  • Ashleysmith10
    2019-01-01 10:37

    This stands out as one of best punishments my parents ever doled out. We had to read this in high school over Christmas break. I just so happened to get grounded at the same time. My mom decided that I would be ungrounded when I finished this book. It's about 100 pages (so really short), and since we were on break from school I had literally nothing but time on my hands. It still took me 3 days--seriously--with nothing else to do to get through this. When we returned to school, I was one of 2 in the ENTIRE class who actually read it. Now, there's a chance that, as an adult, I appreciate classic literature. It left such a bad taste, though, I don't anticipate ever trying. Great punishment, mom, you sneaky woman!

  • Aslı Can
    2019-01-15 09:34

    Biraz garip bir kitap, hem deniz ve gemicilik içeriğinden dolayı Moby Dick'e, hem de Billy Budd'ın tutumlarındaki kayıtsızlıktan ve diğer karakterlerin tavırlarından dolayı Katip Bartleby'e benziyor. Ama analizlere ve tasvirlere o kadar ağırlık vermiş ki, hikaye minicik kalmış. Ben pek tat alamadım bu kitaptan. İki yıldız vermeye elim varmıyor ama ancak o kadar tat alabildim kitaptan.

  • Ana Rînceanu
    2019-01-13 12:19

    While the themes of justice and law were interesting, what really stood out to me was the gay subtext of the novella. The last 5 chapters were intense, filled with memorable passages and analysis from different perspectives.

  • David Stephens
    2018-12-30 12:37

    Melville's late masterpiece, Billy Budd, recounts the tragic tale of the eponymous sailor. That is, it recounts what little tale there is to tell. The narration and descriptions waver back and forth so much as if caught in a breeze at sea that, at times, it becomes difficult to tell whether there is any narrative at all. This, of course, isn't a bad thing as Melville's writing is superb: "In fervid hearts self-contained, some brief experiences devour our human tissue as secret fire in a ship's hold consumes cotton on the bale." And it goes on like this.While the book is pretty short, it makes up for what it lacks in length by what it contains in symbolic and philosophical depth. Each occurrence and each description seem like they might have double meanings. The fact that the narrator keeps insisting on his storytelling accuracy while portraying Billy Budd as a holy figure calls into question what is true and what is exaggerated.The central moral question of the novel asks whether people should follow the law as designated by institutional authorities or instead go with their moral intuitions. Billy is eventually put in a position where the law dictates one outcome for him while personal intuition suggests another. It is also questionable as to whether Captain Vere, the man in charge of Billy's fate, acts courageously in his decision to adhere to the law or cowardly in his decision to thoughtlessly hide behind it.And yes, Billy can clearly be called a Christ-figure and that seems to be a cliched symbol by this time. However, if anyone sees Billy's connection to Christ and wants to immediately put down the book, I feel that they are overlooking many other important aspects of the novel. For one thing, there are differences between Billy and Christ. I can't imagine this was a mistake on Melville's part, so already readers must decide why these differences exist: Does it suggest that Billy is so naive as to be amoral or so naive he doesn't understand he is actually committing sins?The depth of the book, the moral questions posed, and the narrator's shifting focus can all be a bit off putting, as they don't lend themselves to easy answers, but as soon as I finished this book, I was ready to pick it up and start again.

  • Sandra
    2018-12-24 11:11

    Una trama semplice e lineare: siamo nel 1797, a bordo di una nave militare britannica. Un giovane marinaio, Billy Budd, viene forzatamente arruolato al servizio di sua maestà britannica in un periodo di turbolenze e ammutinamenti conseguenti agli effetti della rivoluzione francese. Il giovane, benvoluto da tutto l’equipaggio per la sua indole allegra e pacifica, viene accusato dal maestro d’armi Claggart di ammutinamento. Il capitano Vere predispone immediatamente un tribunale militare che lo giudichi e Billy affronta il verdetto con forza d’animo e coraggio.Da un fatto così semplice scaturiscono molteplici interpretazioni simboliche, grazie alla raffinata narrazione che racconta accuratamente i tre personaggi , con particolare attenzione ai dettagli, come la descrizione fisica del malvagio Claggart e dei suoi occhi che cambiano colore ed espressione a seconda delle situazioni, giungendo ad una perfetta caratterizzazione dei medesimi. All’inizio mi aspettavo un romanzo di avventure marinare, e sono rimasta spiazzata perché non lo è, poi, arrivata al cuore del racconto, sono stata catturata dalla bravura di Melville e dalla bellezza della scrittura, ed ho cominciato a pensare al misterioso significato da dargli. Me ne sono venuti in mente diversi, alla fine ho tirato le conclusioni che non rivelo, altrimenti toglierebbe il gusto della lettura per chi volesse farlo. E vi consiglio di leggerlo, è breve ed è una piacevolissima lettura, soprattutto vi farà meditare (e vi pare poco!).

  • Laura
    2018-12-22 17:35

    A soul remains very pure.

  • Beth F.
    2019-01-15 11:36

    This book stunk.

  • John Pistelli
    2019-01-02 10:36

    (Note: I read the version of this book collected in The Norton Anthology of American Literature; I chose this edition on Goodreads for convenience's sake and because it also contains the text of the novella—that of Hayford and Sealts—the Norton uses.)It seems odd that this novella should ever have been required reading in American high schools and introductory literature courses. Its unfinished text remains in an uncertain state; its prose is maddeningly involuted, its sentences clogged with historical, religious, and mythological allusion and blunted by circumlocution and periphrasis; its theme is desire between men and the perversions created by that love's interdiction; its moral is either fascism—the necessity of order above all and at all costs—or revolution—the absolute primacy of man's natural right against all prohibition. It is a riddling novella; to teach it in a literature course is to feel that one is posing a word problem.The plot is simple enough. During the Napoleonic wars, a beautiful young sailor, a foundling of mysterious origin and indomitable innocence named Billy Budd, is impressed, forced from a ship called the Rights of Man to one called the Bellipotent. On the ship, he is beloved of all, except for the master-at-arms, one John Claggart. In the paranoid atmosphere of mutiny surrounding the French Revolution and its aftermath, Claggart schemes to get Budd accused of conspiring against order. When the aristocratic Captain Vere brings Budd before Claggart to answer the charge, the stammering Billy inadvertently kills Claggart with one blow. Vere hastily convenes a drumhead court, at which he is the only witness, and ensures that Billy is condemned. In short order, Billy is hanged, his dying words: "God bless Captain Vere!" Such a summary, though, does not account for the immense freight of allusion and suggestion with which Melville loads his novella. Billy Budd is compared to everyone from Christ to Apollo, Adam to Isaac, a rustic beauty to a vestal virgin, a Tahitian "barbarian" to an ancient Saxon. The upshot is that Billy represents unfallen nature, the best of humanity, albeit defective in those two postlapsarian arts of civilization: knowledge and language. As for Claggart, he desires pretty plainly to possess Billy Budd, as we learn in a passage of extraordinary eroticism:The ship at noon, going large before the wind, was rolling on her course, and he, below at dinner and engaged in some sportful talk with the members of his mess, chanced in a sudden lurch to spill the entire contents of his soup-pan upon the new scrubbed deck. Claggart, the Master-at-arms, official rattan in hand, happened to be passing along the battery in a bay of which the mess was lodged, and the greasy liquid streamed just across his path. Stepping over it, he was proceeding on his way without comment, since the matter was nothing to take notice of under the circumstances, when he happened to observe who it was that had done the spilling. His countenance changed. Pausing, he was about to ejaculate something hasty at the sailor, but checked himself, and pointing down to the streaming soup, playfully tapped him from behind with his rattan, saying in a low musical voice peculiar to him at times, "Handsomely done, my lad! And handsome is as handsome did it too!" And with that passed on. Not noted by Billy, as not coming within his view, was the involuntary smile, or rather grimace, that accompanied Claggart's equivocal words. Aridly it drew down the thin corners of his shapely mouth.Melville's narrator tries to explain "what was the matter with the master-at-arms," and ends up referring us to the Biblical "mystery of iniquity." I suspect many readers over the years (Cold-War-era high school teachers and students perhaps?) have taken the hint that Claggart's queer desire is the thing amiss, but Melville's language is precise, however difficult:In a list of definitions included in the authentic translation of Plato, a list attributed to him, occurs this: "Natural Depravity: a depravity according to nature." A definition which tho' savoring of Calvinism, by no means involves Calvin's dogmas as to total mankind. Evidently its intent makes it applicable but to individuals. Not many are the examples of this depravity which the gallows and jail supply. At any rate for notable instances, since these have no vulgar alloy of the brute in them, but invariably are dominated by intellectuality, one must go elsewhere. Civilization, especially if of the austerer sort, is auspicious to it. It folds itself in the mantle of respectability. It has its certain negative virtues serving as silent auxiliaries. It never allows wine to get within its guard. It is not going too far to say that it is without vices or small sins. There is a phenomenal pride in it that excludes them from anything mercenary or avaricious. In short the depravity here meant partakes nothing of the sordid or sensual. It is serious, but free from acerbity. Though no flatterer of mankind it never speaks ill of it.The narrator, attempting a credible impersonation of a conservative philosopher, leaves just enough clues in his labyrinthine rhetoric to allow us to find our way to the revolutionary meaning actually intended. To be clear, Claggart's desire to touch Billy, his sensual satisfaction in smacking the young man's bottom, is the only part of him not depraved. Later we hear that he "could even have loved Billy but for fate and ban." What, then, is the matter with Claggart? Precisely that he is over-civilized, over-intellectual, over-refined: everything that Billy is not. If I am reading this correctly, Melville here makes a stunning reversal, not only of homophobic culture but even of the Platonic homoerotics of the fin de siècle, whose gay writers were producing heavily idealized fictions in which there is much looking and no touching (The Picture of Dorian Gray, Death in Venice). According to Melville in this anti-Platonic mode, queer desire of the most sensual variety is as fresh and natural as unspoiled nature, pre-Christian tribes, Greek mythology, the body of Christ, while its proscription or even sublimation is the unnatural work of war-mongering civilization.Once we understand this, we are prepared to call into question the intellectual reactionary Captain Vere's courtroom speeches about the necessity of overlooking nature and sentiment to preserve order. And, schooled by the novella in the reading of desire, we can perceive Vere's own desire for Budd, perhaps the main secret concealed by his mystagogy of power. I came to this reading with the help of Caleb Crain's treatment of the novella as a false palinode in his American Sympathy; for Crain, the narrator "sets out all the lies that love must take back." A gravely ironic fiction, Billy Budd asks us to reverse its ostensible meanings until we see that what looked like tragic advocacy of the strictest realism is in fact a revolutionary romance, however foiled by the work of war and civilization. But irony is like a mercenary force: it is not necessarily loyal to the one who has hired it, and blowback is therefore always possible. Where does the narrator's unreliability end? The novella concludes with a ballad commemorating Budd's last night before his hanging, and it presents a mature, sophisticated, punning, and heterosexual sailor, not at all the "Baby Budd" we have known. If this is the view of the common sailor, of "the people," then how should we take the novel's queer thematics, which the people reject? Can the people be trusted after all? Moreover, is the novel's Rousseauism not rather at odds with its own manner? That is, how could a "natural man" have ever produced a text this cryptic, so cryptic as to be positively Decadent? Or are we to believe that we can find our way "back to the garden" through irony alone? That seems unlikely. Finally, it is not as if Budd does not commit violence, does not in fact substitute physical force for language. Is his unfallen person really a model for man as redeemed by revolution? A pun lurks in the ship's name, doesn't it? Bellipotent: war's power, yes, but also its beauty. Maybe this is a tragedy, after all: maybe revolutionary irony has slipped the leash and led us into a labyrinth from which there is no escape. I doubt there is any coming to the end of Melville's final fiction; it may not offer any liberation but the modernist freedom, equivocal indeed, of the reader in the maze of meaning. Needless to say, I am absolutely enamored of it.

  • Nick
    2018-12-23 09:30

    I am on the fence with this book. About halfway through I started to pick up on the rhythm of the language and become interested in the story. Melville's sentences are so labyrinthine and filled with archaic words that I struggled to understand what was going on, let alone enjoy it. By the end of the book though I see where Melville was going with it and can appreciate this story. I did not enjoy the telling of it, though, so I'm going to give it 2 1/2 stars.

  • Marcello S
    2019-01-19 10:35

    Letto per il mio GDL.Direi che non fa per me. Tutto molto semplice, iper-simbolico, poco appassionante. M'aspettavo di trovarci dentro almeno un po' di mare, invece niente. Io e te, Herman, ci rivediamo a bordo della Pequod. Prima o poi. [57/100]

  • Frank
    2018-12-29 14:41

    Well this is a short compact story for Melville. Great dialogue and setting. Billy Budd a good sailor in general who has a bad experience on board his ship and suffers the severe consequences of his acts.

  • Andrea
    2019-01-14 13:25

    So short, yet so very plump with taxing digressions, long-winded commentary, and mortal doses of Biblical references.A couple of examples:For what can more partake of the mysterious than an antipathy spontaneous and profound such as is evoked in exceptional mortals by the mere aspect of some other mortal, however harmless he may be, if not called forth by this very harmlessness itself? And here be it submitted that apparently going to corroborate the doctrine now popularly ignored, it is observable that where certain virtues pristine and unadulterate peculiarly characterize anybody in the external uniform of civilization, they will upon scrutiny seem not to be derived from custom or convention, but rather to be out of keeping with these, as if indeed exceptionally transmitted from a period prior to Cain's city and citified man. And while I'm at it, how about these :Cast in a mold peculiar to the finest physical examples of those Englishmen in whom the Saxon strain would seem not at all to partake of any Norman or other admixture, he showed in his face that humane look of reposeful good nature which the Greek sculptor in some instances gave to his heroic strong man, Hercules.Yes, Billy Budd was a foundling, a presumable byblow, and, evidently, no ignoble one. Noble descent was as evident in him as in a blood horse.Still, in the continuance of the "handsome is as handsome does" theme, I kind of liked the lavish (and homo-erotic) descriptions of masculine beauty: He was young; and despite his all but fully developed frame, in aspect looked even younger than he really was, owing to a lingering adolescent expression in the as yet smooth face all but feminine in purity of natural complexion but where, thanks to his seagoing, the lily was quite suppressed and the rose had some ado visibly to flush through the tan.If I were a high school student assigned with writing a paper on BB, I'm sure I'd go on about how Claggart was in fact so smitten with Billy's beauty that he resented the poor boy for stirring up unwanted feelings, etc. I'd probably mention that gee, who wouldn't, and hell, wasn't that thing rather common on the high seas? Maybe I'd include some references to S. Clay Wilson; at any rate, I'd leave Christ out of it!!

  • Nathan
    2019-01-21 14:18

    Some time ago I watched the 1962 production of this Melville novella. At the time I had no particular attachment to the story so felt no transgression seeing the film first. The opposite being the case with Bartleby to which I'd become attached via Zizek's lionization of The Big B's passive act of defiance. Let me put it this way ; no harm was done in seeing the film before reading Billy Budd. The film is quite well done. And since we're dealing with a novella rather than a novel, the film gets pretty much every duck into its line. And Melville was writing at a time prior to stories-as-film, so to accuse him of writing a film script is no accusation (the film being itself based on a play by some unknown). His novella is built out of clumsy baroqueisms which I'd never in a million years inflict upon high school sophomores ;; but I might with Moby-Dick because, well, you know.... But the Billy Budd film is really to be req'd. Here's the trailer and a link to purchase some form of viewing (nothing to disclose) ::http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0055796/?...Seriously, staring Peter Ustinov whom you will recall (and can't stop seeing him) as Lentulus Batiatus from Spartacus. Btw, I can't help but think that this is some kind of perfect fictional exemplar to include as an illustrative thing in some course on Hegel, like when, I dunno, the Beautiful Soul is found in contradiction with the needs of the State or something like this (or maybe the Antigone thing in which the domestic is in contradiction with the public). You'll also note to include it in that List of Innocents which will include such as The Sot-Weed Factor and The Idiot. If you're into that kind of thematic arrangement. [Yeah, I'm right -- totally Hegelian].

  • Laura
    2018-12-29 11:40

    From BBC Radio 3 - Drama on 3:The playwright Keith Dewhurst adapts Herman Melville's powerful story of persecution and retribution in the aftermath of the Naval Mutinies at Nore and Spithead in 1797. He also tells the story of the man who wrote it. Part of Radio 3's Britten centenary weekend, this play provides an alternative context to Britten's opera, which is also being broadcast on the station. Herman Melville was a man who himself had more than a passing acquaintance with mutiny. There was a history of it amongst his forebears and his own escapades as a sailor in the South Pacific involved him in a mutiny of his own. Starring Gerard Murphy, Robert Portal and Monica Dolan and with effects specially recorded off the Cornish coast, this is a story steeped in the naval history of two nations. It is also a touching account of creative aspiration, failed adventuring and a family haunted by misfortune.

  • Matthew
    2019-01-09 09:25

    Billy Budd is one of those extremely rare examples of a movie that is better than the book. Melville's original fails to take advantage of a book's natural ability to get inside the heads of its characters and, in so doing, gives up the advantage that books so traditionally have over their film adaptations. Instead, he wastes pages and pages on irrelevant physical descriptions which, of course, are taken care of in a split second when presented on screen. The details of the story are presented efficiently enough but the moral consequences and the "damned if you do, damned if you don't" quandry in which the lead characters (and, by implication, the audience) find themselves is far more central to Peter Ustinov's brilliant 1962 film than it is to this decent but overrated book. Nine times out of ten, I would advise you to read the book before you see the movie. This exception is number ten.

  • David
    2018-12-23 12:24

    My favourite bit is when the captain asks his hammock-boy to smuggle the handsome sailor to his cabin. And the hammock-boy looks at the camera and pulls a face like Frankie Howerd. "'Mr. Wilkes!' summoning the nearest midshipman, 'tell Albertto come to me.' Albert was the Captain's hammock-boy, a sort ofsea-valet in whose discretion and fidelity his master had muchconfidence. The lad appeared.'You know Budd the Foretopman?''I do, Sir.''Go find him. It is his watch off. Manage to tell him out of earshot that he is wanted aft. Contrive it that he speaks to nobody. Keep him in talk yourself. And not till you get well aft here, not till then let him know that the place where he is wanted is my cabin. You understand.'"https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fQyG...

  • J. Boo
    2019-01-19 13:21

    Guest review by sixteen-year old me. Me, what did you think? "Soooo boring. And will Mrs. Whateverhernamewas shut up about the symbolism? It's bad enough that she's making the whole class read the book without trying to push significance into every paragraph. At least there wasn't an omnipresent lurking Scarlet A."Haven't been back to re-read this. Probably should; Melville's been a recognized major force in American Literature for a long time.