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The Ship

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  98 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
The Ship is a unique book. Reading it is like listening to the silence in the public squares painted by Giorgio de Chirico. Like Chirico, Jahnn is a master of the eerie and the inexplicable. It would be presumptuous to explain the fable contained in these pages; its meaning will differ from reader to reader. Yet it is obvious that the author intended us to know that our ho ...more
210 pages
Published 1961 by Charles Scribner's Sons (first published 1936)
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Nate D
Oct 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: sleepless nights over unknown cargo
Recommended to Nate D by: spaces unseen between the walls
Man is born with a demand for justice, as he understands it. Since his demand remains unfulfilled, a broad understanding of the arbitrary course of events gradually begins to develop in him. He makes the decisions of others his own. He hardens his thoughts to inflexible ideas and consoles his inner powers with a later or a beyond.

Experience, given the capricious and incomprehensible forces of the universe, can only lead to the subordination of certainties and logic to an unremitting irrational u
May 08, 2012 rated it liked it
Already I am at a disadvantage: Jahnns is from a shipbuilding family, so he is in the know. I am oblivious to all maritime references, lores, symbols and sayings, bar one: when the eponymous ship sinks and the unexpected and hitherto unseen figurehead of Venus Anadyomene flashes across the horizon, I’m in on the joke.

The ship, then carries an unidentified cargo to an unknown destination. Amongst a mutinous crew, fuelled by ancient superstitions and prejudices, a quartet of protagonists clash and
Jun 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: international
Though a slim novel it is extremely finely-crafted in its prose. Without a doubt this is one of the oddest novels you will ever encounter.

The 'surface premise' is highly intriguing, inventive, and startling in the way that so many of these German expressionist & French surrealist projects are. It is part horror story; part suspense; part Gothic romance. There are touches of espionage and adventure. There are unidentifiable elements of sexual perversion.

Yet as weird as it is; all this sham-s
Feb 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
Few of Jahnn's writings have been translated into English. Fewer of them have stayed in print. "The Ship" is demanding, aggressive and unsettling. For every sentence of actual happening there are three pages of obsessive thought and speculation pervaded by the Expressionist's fixation on despair, decomposition and fear. Everything is psychologized to an attenuated, untrustworthy degree that would verge on madness if the circumstances of the book weren't a suitable justification for the breakdown ...more
May 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of eastern European post-modern literature.
A nameless four masted sailing ship with blood red sails, constructed and fitted without a single piece of iron on board. A mysterious secret cargo of oblong boxes that no one except the supercargo, George Lauffer knows contains; sealed in the hold. Are these coffins, empty boxes, firearms, or packed with "women's flesh" as the crew believes? Why is the first crew dismissed at the last minute and replaced? Why is the ship's owner a stowaway? Why does the ship only get it's sailing orders by wire ...more
Jun 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
the intro namechecks both melville and giorgio de chirico and the book indeed is an odd combination of nautical metaphysics and surrealism's insidiously creepy emptying out.

an intense mystery story, not unlike the slow build-up of a bela tarr movie. in places it moves at a wild pace like a murder story's final confrontation or a chase scene; other times it lingers endlessly over each character's neurotics and guilt and anxiety--everyone in it an active raskolnikov. (and maybe the book is one lo
But this frankness was like a clean cloth in the dark; no one could tell if anything had been spilled on it.
I had to check this book out of a nearby college library because it is out of print. I think nearly everybody on Goodreads who has read this neglected book was turned on to it initially by A Journey Round My Skull blog.

The book alternates between mysterious goings-on aboard a ship carrying coffin shaped cargo and circuitous thoughts within the characters' heads... "agonizing exertions" as
Dec 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Haunting. Comparisons to Soupault, Blackwood and de Chirico could be made.
Jul 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lit
rly enjoyed this. dark and gloomy atmosphere spiked with some cosmic pessism a la Schopenhauer; also has some rly gorgeous prose passages - def recommended.
Ronald Morton
Feb 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
In their opinion extraordinary things were about to take place on the quay
Hans Henny Jahnn was “the grandson of a shipbuilder, the son of a ship’s carpenter” so it is unsurprising that he managed to create such an awe-inspiring ship himself. The title gives away the importance of the ship, but it does nothing, in its simplicity, to indicate the presence that the ship will have, the monumental sense of malicious mystery that will enshroud it, and the dominating – crushing – impact it will have
Rob Adey
Jan 01, 2016 added it
Shelves: abandoned
This was a recommendation in Steve Aylett's Heart of the Original. You can see why as it's deeply weird and has a chef in it. The rhythm of the writing is very similar to Aylett's; maybe it was a big influence.

It's a sort of House of Leaves/Sapphire and Steel episode at sea, which in theory I'd love but in practice is way too cryptic to grab me. I ditched it halfway.
Thomas Hübner
Sep 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

The wooden ship is the talk of the town. When the beautiful large three-master arrives at the unnamed port (maybe Hamburg, the author's home city), the citizens are more than a bit puzzled. The wooden ship is all teak and oak and it looks much too elegant to be an ordinary freighter. (Hans Henny Jahnn, the author of The Ship, was not only a famous organ-builder but also the son of a ship carpenter, which helped him to make the description of the ship so convinc
Roger Boyle
Dec 15, 2017 rated it liked it
I don't know how I came by this - perhaps Ginger John sent it to me (seems very plausible).

It's hard to rate this; it's a difficult book to read but getting from page to page is easy enough. What's it about? It's an allegory for ... something. The role(s) of men as they interact? The only woman in the book "disappears" and may have been murdered and may have been raped, and may not. As the preface says: "reading this book is like listening to the silence in public squares".

I'm glad I read it: if
Apr 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
“Træskibet” !!!!!!!!!
Jul 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
You can listen to an in-depth conversation about Hans Henny Jahnn's 'The Ship' on Sherds Podcast:
Dec 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Oct 20, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-novel
Not many people know that Hans Henny Jahnn recorded a Death Metal album influenced by the work of H. P. Lovecraft. It was so evil that it went back in time and wiped out the dinosaurs, before jumping into the future and wiping out the human race.

It was probably titled Organ Builder, Organ Grinder or something, idk...
Jacob Wren
Oct 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Hans Henny Jahn writes:

After all, guilt and innocence are terms that tell nothing of evil.

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  • Mount Analogue
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  • The Seventh Horse And Other Tales
  • Death to the Pigs and Other Writings
  • The Book of Monelle
  • The Trumpets of Jericho
  • Recollections of the Golden Triangle
  • Julia and the Bazooka and Other Stories
  • Nachlaß zu Lebzeiten
  • Repetition
  • Insel
  • The Other Side
  • Island People
  • Microscripts
  • The Maimed
  • Valerie and Her Week of Wonders
  • The Lime Works
  • The Marbled Swarm
Hans Henny Jahnn (17 December 1894, Stellingen – 29 November 1959, Hamburg) was a German playwright, novelist, and organ-builder.
As a playwright, he wrote: Pastor Ephraim Magnus (1917), which The Cambridge Guide to Theatre describes as a nihilistic, Expressionist play "stuffed with perversities and sado-masochistic motifs"; Coronation of Richard III (1922; "equally lurid"); and a version of Medea
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