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Mardi and a Voyage Thither

3.36  ·  Rating details ·  171 ratings  ·  33 reviews
Presented as narratives of his own South Sea experiences, Melville's first two books had roused incredulity in many readers. Their disbelief, he declared, had been "the main inducement" in altering his plan for his third book, Mardi: and a Voyage Thither (1849). Melville wanted to exploit the "rich poetical material" of Polynesia and also to escape feeling "irked, cramped, ...more
Paperback, 681 pages
Published October 14th 1998 by Northwestern University Press (first published 1849)
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Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, 2018
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 that it's actually insufficient.

The novel presents its own struggle by providing the reader with the ways in which it can be read - as poetry, as story, and as philosophy - how it does this I will not
Jun 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
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 Melville's critics didn't think that it did--but the novel, for me, represents a remarkable achievement. Someone remarked that the novel's use of the boy-meets-girl-boy-loses-girl-boy-goes-after-girl ...more
Aug 07, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
my least favorite melville, he worked so hard on the allegory, he forgot to add a PLOT.
Jul 26, 2019 rated it it was ok
A historian, poet, philosopher (and others) set sail for adventure, romance, allegory. Vol. 1 is dull. Vol. 2 is intermittently amusing.
Dec 11, 2011 rated it it was ok
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 latter paroxysms, which, regrettably, occurred far too often, were brought on by the following:

- The lack of any sort of compelling plot to drive the narrative forward. While I wasn't expecting a
Ivan Stoner
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 point on characters are more symbolic than human. While there is a skeleton of a plot (boy meets, then loses, then searches for girl), it's only the barest gesture to allow the narrator to continue
Oct 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
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 this.
In the authors own words
"...And so is Mardi itself: nothing but episodes; valleys and hills; rivers, digressing from plains; vines, roving all over; ...and here and there, fens and moors.
...Ay, plenty of dead-desert chapters there; horrible sands to wade through."

I've previously read Moby-Dick but i really don't remember it being written so archaically as this is. This felt so old fashioned in its writing almost shakespearean. It also has a lot of dry humour and witty back and forth repartee
Oct 21, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"Ay, plenty of dead-desert chapters there; horrible sands to wade through." - chapter 180; spoken of a 'fictional' book that sounds suspiciously similar to Mardi itself.

Mardi has many good things. It has an interesting sea story for the first 1/4th of the text. It has some very astute and thought-provoking philosophical dialogues. It has some brilliant allegories. And it even has a surprisingly potent essay against democracy in chapter 161.

What went wrong? Quite a bit, unfortunately.

- Critics
Apr 09, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This one is for Melville completists only. I may have had ambitions to fit in that category myself, but I just couldn't finish Mardi. I made it about halfway out of devotion to Melville and a personal interest in some potential parallels to the Book of Mormon, but neither factor was enough to carry me through. The descriptive landscapes are beautiful, and there are some truly remarkable passages like this:

"Yet if our dead fathers somewhere and somehow live, why not our unborn sons? For backward
Oct 25, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow this is a pretty difficult work, much elevated from Typee and Omoo. The critiques of the book, boring, unreadable, ponderous, are valid to an extent. However there are several areas which merit further study, and perhaps have already been picked apart by the Melville industry.
First, the book is very science fictional. From the creation of the alternate world of Mardi for the purpose of satire to several extended rhapsodies about the worlds beyond the stars, the book has a very speculative
Sep 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Melville's third novel leaps from his earlier pseudo-biographies like a man from a burning building. Many critics question the duality of the book, and the discordant note it thus strikes with many readers. The first third of the book is strcit sea-going adventure, with the last two-thirds a reflection of human character and human thought. It seems our author was always a philosopher at heart only without the rigid learning to ground him in that discipline. Some have wondered why Melville just ...more
Jerry M
Aug 05, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Melville fans
I read this in the Library of America edition. I like Melville, but I felt this was one of his weaker entries. The book starts out well, with a simple tale of 2 sailors jumping ship near what sounds like Polynesia.

The story loses its connection with reality once they rescue the maiden, Yillah. The story becomes a fantasy and, in parts, an allegory. The language and references can be obscure. The book is worth reading if you are willing to spend time with it, but I would not recommend it for
Mar 19, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, fiction
I can't recommend this book although I am glad I read it. A combination of "Gulliver's Travels" and "Candide", what little plot there is didn't hold my interest and, while some of the philosophy was interesting, the book was a very slow slog to get to the end. Do I hear notes of Emerson and the transcendentalists in this book? I feel I will understand Melville's later works better after having read "Mardi". But, when you throw everything, including the kitchen sink, into a novel an author needs ...more
I tried. I made it a little more than 200 pages in. I’ll see if I can pick off some more of it now and then, but, frankly, this book ceased to be fun. The younger Melville is giving himself more creative elbow room here, after Typee and Omoo. Still, it’s hard going. Very hard. The plot is inane, despite occasional flashes of rhetorical brilliance. It may be that Moby Dick is present in germ form, but you’d need a microscope to find it.
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: epub
I slogged through this one, just so I could say I finished it. I liked Omoo and Typee. I liked Moby Dick. This one, I just couldn't get into. it starts off OK, like the travelogues, but then it just goes off on a ton of tangents (a few of which are interesting). I stopped caring about what happens to the characters entirely around halfway through.
Mar 16, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: own
Had Melville not gone off on a massive, unforgivable tangent around page 200 - one that lasts for the rest of the novel - this would probably have been a GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL. The first chapters are great and combine everything that's good about TYPEE and MOBY-DICK. The rest reads like a drug-addled imitation of Hawthorne.
Jul 24, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
quite a deception after Typee and Omoo!... after the autobiographical novels Melville tries to entertain... didn't work for me.
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel, melville
I think it would take me a year to extol the virtues of this epic creation by the author of MOBY-DICK. All I can say is:
Find the version edited by Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker and G. Thomas Tanselle. That should not be difficult to find, because it is included in the Library Of America's Herman Melville. It's also known as the Northwestern-Newberry edition.

Published in 1849, this was Herman Melville's third book and the first which may be termed, unquestionably, a novel. It is prose poetry
David Campbell
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 ship from their whaling vessel in the South Pacific in search of freedom but quickly find themselves emotionally press-ganged into the service of man’s oldest captain: love. Their pursuit carries them ...more
This novel, though not great, shows marked improvement in Melville's writing (it was his third book) and is an awe-inspiring exercise in literary experimentation. Reading it is akin to wrestling a grizzly bear, so unless you're a student of Melville or you just love him as a writer, you probably wouldn't enjoy it. I would add that if you like philosophical musings, then maybe _Mardi_ would be up your alley.
Devin Curtis
May 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First like 1/4 is literally garbage basically. He literally kills off essentially every character from the first like 2/3 of the book by the late middle. Second half is a little un-even, but pretty awesome anti-novel.
Patrick Murtha
Jan 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the mad, majestic oddities of world literature. A certain type of reader (well, me) will adore it, and everyone else will be, like WTF?
Feb 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm really in two minds about this book so I have decided to break down my review into three sub-reviews: 1) style/beauty of language, 2) philosophy/depth of thought and 3) narrative/plot.

My preliminary scores (as I haven't finished this book yet)

1) Style/beauty of language: 5/5
2) Philosophy/depth of thought: 5/5
3) Plot/narrative: 2/5

Total: 12/15 (i.e. 4/5)

Style/beauty of language: Overall, this book is incredibly well-written, in a beautiful and elegant hand which even approaches (but not quite
Mar 13, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Following Melville's 'true' adventures recounted in his first two books, Mardi is fiction. The preface indicates that what is to follow is a tale whose germ is the same South Seas experiences that were previously rendered as non-fiction; what follows is undeniably fiction, but it is a fiction that undermines the promise of its beginning. Just as in the end the earlier tales cannot be accounted as objectively true—despite the author's protestations to the contrary—Mardi fails to deliver the ...more
Tom Hardy
Apr 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: OWEN HARDY, LARRY HARDY
Overall, I liked the book. Melville's prose is as always mesmerizing. But it is overly long and at times tedious to read. Mardi is set in a fictitious island archipelago which is an allegory for the western world during the mid-nineteenth century in which the different islands visited by the protagonist, Taji, represent contemporary nations. Thus, Great Britain is a belligerent island constantly at war with other islands and trying always to gain territory. The narrative device that drives the ...more
Shane Pennell
Nov 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, wh
Mellville's most misunderstood novel. I'll admit, there are parts of it that annoy me a bit too. But anyone who is a fan of Moby Dick needs to read this precursor. And if you haven't read Moby Dick, I imagine it would be quite wonderful to read this book first and then read the masterpiece. I wish I had had the opportunity to read them in that order.
"I am intent upon the essence of things; the mystery that lieth beyond; the elements of the tear which much laughter provoketh; that which is beneath the seeming; the precious pearl within the shaggy oyster. I probe the circle's center; I seek to evolve the inscrutable."
Justin Paszul
Oct 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
one of the best things i have read in years
Sep 27, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is sort of the Homo erectus to Moby Dick. The incomplete precursor to the finished production. A very worthwhile book, had it's offspring seen the light of day, or not.
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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
“Are not half our lives spent in reproaches for foregone actions, of the true nature and consequences of which we were wholly ignorant at the time?” 14 likes
“The stillness of the calm is awful. His voice begins to grow strange and portentous. He feels it in him like something swallowed too big for the esophagus. It keeps up a sort of involuntary interior humming in him, like a live beetle. His cranium is a dome full of reverberations. The hollows of his very bones are as whispering galleries. He is afraid to speak loud, lest he be stunned; like the man in the bass drum.” 8 likes
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