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Benito Cereno

3.6  ·  Rating Details ·  4,630 Ratings  ·  289 Reviews
"What has cast such a shadow upon you?"
"The Negro."

With its intense mix of mystery, adventure, and a surprise ending, Benito Cereno at first seems merely a provocative example from the genre Herman Melville created with his early best-selling novels of the sea. However, most Melville scholars consider it his most sophisticated work, and many, such as novelist Ralph Ellison
Paperback, 160 pages
Published December 19th 2006 by Bedford/St. Martin's (first published 1855)
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Feb 24, 2016 karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: littry-fiction
melville! in a melville house edition!
crazy, right?

this is a nice taut little thrill-ride of a book. okay, it's got a lot of description of boat-architecture, so it isn't a complete thriller - melville does tend to go overboard (GET IT??) with the descriptions sometimes, but regardless, it is more emotionally engaging than, say, that book about the whale. and i haven't read a book more full of seamen since reading Torn.

to a modern reader, the situation is pretty apparent from the get-go, but th
Paquita Maria Sanchez
Feb 02, 2015 Paquita Maria Sanchez rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
Whew. Gut-punch. I'm going to attempt to tread lightly here, as any real down-and-dirty analysis of this story would be a worse spoiler of the plot's resolution than the Barton Fink DVD menu screen (and if you haven't seen this so-awesome-there-are-no-words-movie and you decide to watch it on DVD, do yourself a favor and mute the sound, insert the disk, close your eyes, press play, and only then un-mute and enjoy. You will thank me later.)

So, yeah...foray into the realm of the audio book! I lis
Bill  Kerwin
Nov 19, 2016 Bill Kerwin rated it it was amazing

This novella—in which Amasa Delano, an American captain, visits a mysterious Spanish slave-ship captained by Benito Cereno--is my favorite of Melville’s short works. It is not only as profound as Bartleby and Budd but also more pleasing. A first-rate adventure, it features an innocent in peril, the flash of steel and flow of blood, surprises, astonishment, a hairbreadth escape and a last minute rescue. Yet it has never been a favorite with the average reader.

Perhaps this is because both its tre
Jan 15, 2014 Algernon rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014

I'm still dancing around the big white whale, putting off a re-read of Moby Dick by approaching it at a tangent, tackling other, shorter books by Melville. Benito Cereno does a great job in showcasing the talent of the master, combining a sea-tale with a moving account of human souls pushed to the limits of endurance and beyond.

Using a similar tehnique to Bartleby, The Scrivener , the main character is revealed indirectly, through the eyes of a benevolent witness. In this case the narrator i
Everything was mute and calm; everything gray. The sea, though undulated into long roods of swells, seemed fixed, and was sleeked at the surface like waved lead that has cooled and set in the smelter's mould. The sky seemed a gray surtout. Flights of troubled gray fowl, kith and kin with flights of troubled gray vapors among which they were mixed, skimmed low and fitfully over the waters, as swallows over meadows before storms. Shadows present, foreshadowing deeper shadows to come.

And come they
Sep 07, 2016 Fernando rated it it was amazing
Gran nouvelle de Melville donde "nada es lo que parece". El Capitán Delano encuentra al Benito Cereno y su tripulación en malas condiciones. Pero algo no cierra en toda esta historia. Es fácil hacer spoiler de este libro, pero lo interesante es leerlo ya que su final sorprende...
A thought-provoking novella by Herman Melville, master of multi-layered stories and convoluted sentences. In Benito Cereno, an American merchant ship, The Bachelor's Delight, stumbles upon a more battered and worn-down ship, the San Dominick. Captain Delano, leader of the American ship, soon learns about how the San Dominick got into such a horrid condition, and he gets in close contact with the Spanish captain Benito Cereno as well as his slave Babo. Delano realizes though that this situation h ...more
Apr 29, 2008 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novella takes a bit of patience to get into, but once you do, you are greatly rewarded. There's suspense, there's ambiguity (ambiguity galore!). There's much to think about, I suspect, for quite a long time after you're finished.

The reader probably understands what has happened long before the American captain (we see most of the story through him) does, but there is plenty enough in the revelation that has you paging backwards and stopping yourself from paging forwards. Only once is the r
May 18, 2014 Christopher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit-fiction
Melville is a genius. This short Gothic novella begins ploddingly and quite dull but builds in tension and horror almost imperceptibly (unless you already know the story) to a sudden and all-encompassing tragic climax. Based on a true story, it was written and left by Melville as an exposition of facts seen from all sides and leaves all the uncomfortable questions in a bloody lump on your lap, "here, you answer them."

There was unfortunately one thing I couldn't get past, one bias that I brought
Mar 10, 2014 Andrew rated it it was ok
Unreadable. Probably good if you have the patience for it, which I do not. After reading a page three or four times without understanding anything, smoke starts coming out of my ears. I turn green, double in size, don a pair of tight ripped purple shorts and reduce texts of "classic literature" to public-domain wood pulp. Okay, I have to stop writing this review now, I'm getting mad just thinking about it.
Edward Rathke
Oct 15, 2012 Edward Rathke rated it really liked it
This is a tricky book to rate. In some ways it seems explicitly racist and at other times seems the exact opposite. Also, the first half is a sort of mystery and the second half is sort of a meta-examination of the first.

It's a confounding text and I don't really know what to think of it. In regard to race: I've always read Melville as being more generous to minority groups than many and so I'm inclined to think this is more a tale of mutiny without any real regard to race. The africans are give
Jul 25, 2011 Laura rated it really liked it
A Massachusetts whaling ship is anchored off the island of Santa Maria when another ship, looking listless and forlorn, drifts toward the island. When the captain and a few men head over to investigate, they find Spanish sailors and black slaves desperate for water and supplies. The captain of this hapless lot, Benito Cereno, seems weak, aloof, and entirely unqualified to command a ship. What’s the deal?

Don’t read the back of the book or descriptions of the plot, as knowing anything about the e
Fascinating and deeply unsettling nineteenth century tale about race, slavery, crime and deception at sea. Although Melville’s motives on these issues—if even he knew what they were—are not clear, that in itself is what makes the story so enduring and timeless. However, what earns five stars from me is Melville's skillful handling of his real objective which was to show the reader how his/her own prejudices and biases (especially concerning race and slavery) affect perceptions.

Benito Cereno is
Oct 08, 2014 Anita rated it it was amazing
Delano knows Cereno's name, not his story
I read my first Melville novella at the end of last year, Bartleby the Scrivener, and loved Melville’s use of antique language and his highly wrought sentence structures. However initially I found Benito Cereno tough going for the same reasons. It was only in retrospect I realised crafty old Melville is employing circumlocution as a means of heightening the sense of confusion in which the book abounds.

The book has to be read twice, once from the perspective of the unreliable narrator, the ‘good
Syahira Sharif
"Benito Cereno" were never meant to be read only once. However, it took me some multiple reads into this short novel to make sense of the plot as the book need to be absorbed more than its meant to be read. Based on a true story, "Benito Cereno" was narrated by a very gullible unreliable narrator about a mysterious Spanish slave trade ship and its strange occupants. Like most thing in history about that time, the story basically centered about imperialism, slavery, white man burden, prejudices e ...more
Mike Jensen
I’m probably not capable of receiving this book in the way that its first readers did. Race and racial sensitivity were not issues to be bothered with then, so the racial issues, which are pretty much all I see, would not have cluttered the story for them. The older Melville criticism I have read sees this as a story about good and evil, with (not to give too much away) one faction representing evil and the other innocence.

This is turned on its head today. Oh, the same side is evil, but in a way
Sep 28, 2010 Bruce rated it really liked it
In this novella, Melville creates an atmosphere of mystery and ominous foreboding, persisting and intensifying as Captain Delano tries to understand the enigma of an apparently ill-fated ship with its debilitated captain, Cereno, his handful of Spanish crew, and hoard of black slaves. Delano is by turns suspicious and credulous, uneasy and seemingly gulled, convinced of sinister and ulterior designs and then reassured by his own optimism. The intense strain this places on the reader is artful, h ...more
Aug 14, 2014 Heidi'sbooks rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wowza. I don't even know what to say about Benito Cereno. This is my first Melville, believe it or not. I've never read his other works, and this is quite the introduction.

Melville House says, "Based on a real-life incident--the character names remain unchanged--Benito Cereno tells what happens when an American merchant ship comes upon a mysterious Spanish ship where the nearly all-black crew and their white captain are starving and yet hostile to offers of help. Melville's most focused politica
Nov 19, 2015 Brianne rated it liked it
Shelves: books-2015, school
I liked this book well enough. I enjoyed a lot of Melville's descriptions, but the style of the story was kind of different.

I actually might go back and reread the book after finding out what happened. I won't spoil anything, but it'd be interesting to reread it know what happens.

Ultimately I would recommend it because it's a different read. If you're curious about Melville, I think this is a good way to get your toes wet because it's less than 100 pages long.
J. Trott
Aug 25, 2007 J. Trott rated it it was amazing
So this is one of the first treatments of slavery by a white man in America that is willing to totally subvert the whole tradition. Melville is relentless in his exposure of the injustice of slavery, and the humanity in the emotion and intelligence, of the victims of slavery. It's only novella length, so check it. There were voices in that wilderness, crying out.
míol mór
Jul 06, 2012 míol mór rated it it was amazing
I titoli in neretto sono altrettante canzoni (e un album) di Bob Dylan.

As I Went Out One Morning
Una mattina dell'agosto 1799 una nave statunitense, ancorata in una sperduta isola cilena per rifornirsi d'acqua, avvista un'altra nave, in pessime condizioni di manutenzione, che si rivela carica di schiavi neri quando il capitano yankee decide di salire a bordo in visita. Cpt. Delano incontra cos cpt. Cereno, suo collega cileno, che gli racconta di tempeste, bonacce prolungate, epidemie. Ma il com
No Books
The Yankee, the Spaniard and a shipload of negroes.

As I Went Out One Morning
Una mattina dell'agosto 1799 una nave statunitense, ancorata in una sperduta isola cilena per rifornirsi d'acqua, avvista un'altra nave, in pessime condizioni di manutenzione, che si rivela carica di schiavi neri quando il capitano yankee decide di salire a bordo in visita. Cpt. Delano incontra così cpt. Cereno, suo collega cileno, che gli racconta di tempeste, bonacce prolungate, epidemie. Ma il comportamento di Cereno
Alyssa Skvarla
Oct 17, 2016 Alyssa Skvarla rated it it was ok
To paraphrase a girl from my lit class: "if I didn't know this was written by Melville, I would think the author sucked."
Yeah, Melville's writing style was not for me. Did have some good snippets but for the most part did not find pleasure in reading this at all
Lisa (Harmonybites)
I've read both Moby Dick and Billy Budd, but of the Melville works I've read, it's this novella I find most impressive. There's none of the windy digressions in Moby Dick or the heavy-handed allegory of Billy Budd or The Confidence-man here. This is as close as I've found in Melville to taut, subtle writing. If I have any criticism it is that it comes dangerously close to the "idiot plot." (For this to work, one of the characters has to act like an idiot.) From here on end though, to explain wha ...more
Benito Cereno is a surprisingly wordy and action-packed novella by Melville, who seems to have the element of sea voyages down-pat. It is only the third work I have read by him, and I must say that it is quite a lot to take in. Melville's language isn't too hard to follow, but this work can be a bitter pill to swallow because it deals with historical race issues combined with a plethora of other issues.

My main gripe with Benito is that sometimes Melville gets a bit sidetracked in his descriptio
Apr 28, 2016 Selin rated it really liked it
Yazarın sembolleri kullanışı anlatımı kurgusu karakterleri derim ve geçerim.

Öncesinden tüm spoilerlarımı yiyerek başlasam dahi beni bitirdiğimde büyülenmiş bıraktı. Okurkenki zevkten çok ardından düşünmesi ve bulmaca çözer gibi sembollerini karakterlerini tartması güzeldi.

Melville romanında benliğinin temelini yitiren bir adamın öyküsünü anlatıyor. Her şey Cereno için tersine dönerken iyi ve kötüyü doğru ve yanlışı pek çok kez sorguluyoruz. Söylemek istediklerini tansiyonu yüksek bir gerilimin
May 01, 2010 Jessica rated it liked it
Melville masterfully handles the ambiguous relationship between slavery, race, and class, putting the reader in the shoes of a white Christian do-gooder who is unable to imagine blacks taking control of whites. That said, no one is going to accuse Melville of getting to his point too quickly. Even though this novella is relatively short, it feels much longer. I think many modern readers will have little problem solving the "mystery" by the opening pages, and will therefore find the subsequent re ...more
Emily McLean
Dec 30, 2010 Emily McLean rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classic
Highly disturbing. Some of the images are incredibly vivid, but the unwritten ones, the ones that Melville leads the readers to imagine for themselves, are even worse. I loved it, after I finished it-in the beginning it's hard to get into, but after Melville drops the first few clues, it starts to get really interesting. There's a surprise ending that I won't spoil here, but if you pay attention it's fairly easy to guess. After you finish reading it, I would recommend reading it again, and pieci ...more
Elena AmaranthineMess
Benito Cereno è un racconto che, per certi versi, potrebbe essere considerato un distillato di Moby Dick: infatti tutto il pathos, la rarefazione, il simbolismo che ho conosciuto in Moby Dick l'ho ritrovato anche in Benito Cereno.
Il capitano Delano, a bordo della sua nave attraccata, avvista una nave in avvicinamento. E' la nave - poi scoprirà - del capitano Benito Cereno e sembra in difficoltà, così Delano decide di andargli incontro con delle scialuppe. Non appena arriva vicino alla nave vede
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Herman Melville was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet. His first two books gained much attention, though they were not bestsellers, and his popularity declined precipitously only a few years later. By the time of his death he had been almost completely forgotten, but his longest novel, Moby-Dick — largely considered a failure during his lifetime, and most responsible for ...more
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“But the past is passed; why moralize upon it? Forget it. See, yon bright son has forgotten it all, and the blue sea, and the blue sky; these have turned over new leaves.

Because they have no memory . . . because they are not human.”
“This slavery breeds ugly passions in man.” 7 likes
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