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Benito Cereno

3.6  ·  Rating Details ·  4,851 Ratings  ·  312 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, 124 pages
Published May 1st 2006 by Melville House (first published 1855)
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Jan 25, 2012 karen rated it really liked it
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
Bill  Kerwin

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, the flow of blood, surprises, astonishment, a hairbreadth escape, and a last minute rescue. Yet somehow it has never been a favorite with the average reader.

Perhaps this is because bo
Paquita Maria Sanchez
Feb 15, 2011 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
Jan 15, 2014 Algernon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 23, 2013 ·Karen· added it
Shelves: 19th-century, usa
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
Evripidis Gousiaris
Με κάθε σελίδα που περνούσε ένιωθα το κλίμα να είναι όλο και πιο περίεργο και επικίνδυνο. Μια νουβέλα όπου απόλαυσα με το παραπάνω (όπως κάθε έργο του Melville) και όπου σε πολλά σημεία ένιωσα ένα περίεργο αίσθημα απειλής.

Πολλοί το χαρακτήρισαν στην αρχή ρατσιστικό και στην συνέχεια άλλοι το αποκάλεσαν αντιρατσιστικό. Προσωπικά θα το αποκαλέσω ανθρώπινο. Κυρίως λαμβάνοντας υπόψιν ότι ο Melville βασίστηκε σε πραγματικές μαρτυρίες.
Mar 11, 2015 Fernando rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 26, 2008 Teresa rated it really liked it
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
Jul 21, 2013 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
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
Mar 10, 2014 Andrew rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Every year, there's that one "classic" where you're the only person of color in the room and you have to cringe through a professor just narrowly catching themselves on every slur and instance of racist depictions possible. This is that classic for this year.
Edward Rathke
Oct 13, 2012 Edward Rathke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 08, 2014 Anita rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Delano knows Cereno's name, not his story
Jan 01, 2013 Sitanta rated it liked it
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
Aug 14, 2014 Heidi'sbooks rated it really liked it
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
Jun 02, 2017 Jessy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: italiano, consigli
Este libro me sorprendió mucho, no esperaba que me fuera a gustar, pero lo disfruté de principio a fin, y además no me esperaba para nada ese final. Excelente libro.
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  ·  review of another edition
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
May 05, 2015 Brianne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dec 05, 2016 Michelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I actually really enjoyed this. I think many could benefit from a second read, just because you'll actually be able to recognize and pick up the clues easier the second time around (in reference to the ending).
Maya Day
Dec 01, 2016 Maya Day rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is some wild shit. It's a giant knot that Melville just hands you unresolved.
John Mccullough
Apr 19, 2017 John Mccullough rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a short novel/novelette or a very long short story. It is based on an actual historical event that took place in the first decade of the 19th century. It involves the interactions of two sea captains – the Spaniard (or Chileño) Benito Cereno and the US captain from Duxbury, Massachusetts, Amasa Delano. Oddly, names of the ships were changed, although at least one as a pun to placate Herman Melville’s sense of humor.

It is impossible to present the story outline or basic plot without divul
míol mór
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 c
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
J. Galobich
Typical overly florid Melville prose. Difficult to read, however I stuck with it hoping it would resolve, since it was only about 150 pages. It did resolve to a quite interesting story.
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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.” 8 likes
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