Moby Dick [UNABRIDGED Audiobook]
It's been sixteen years since I first read Moby Dick and in the meantime I've gone back and forth reading it at least half a dozen times, in various translations and in the original.It always fascinated me, I was never quite sure why.Yes, it is a
Yes, it is a pretty damn good story.
Yes, it is written brilliantly.
Yes, it is a masterpiece.
But then again..., it wasn't just that, there was something more and different; after all there's plenty of pretty damn good stories written brilliantly adding up to masterpieces that I've read and never spent a second thought about.
Very well then, it must be the allegory, the OCD level of commitment Ahab shows in chasing the whale must be a clear reference to the struggle of mankind to find a meaning, to find a purpose, but then again you might argue, and with some reason, that the whole four-hundred-and-odd pages can be recapitulated in the few final verses of Dante's Comedy, XXVI Canto, ending with:
"Until the sea above us closed again"
[infin che ’l mar fu sovra noi richiuso]
But that's just unfair, if you really think about it, although the connection with Dante is real and is all but a coincidence.
I don't think that's just the literary relevance either, I rank this in terms of mere quality on the page at least in the top 100 works I've read, but not in the top 10.
And then one day, something reminded me of Matthew 6.19:
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
something that immediately triggered this passage in my mind:
"‘Well, Captain Bildad,’ interrupted Peleg, ‘what d’ye say, what lay shall we give this young man?’
‘Thou knowest best,’ was the sepulchral reply, ‘the seven hundred and seventy-seventh wouldn’t be too much, would it?—
’where moth and rust do corrupt, but LAY—’
LAY, indeed, thought I, and such a lay! the seven hundred and seventy-seventh! Well, old Bildad, you are determined that I, for one, shall not LAY up many LAYS here below, where moth and rust do corrupt.
It was an exceedingly LONG LAY that, indeed"
And then it came to me, it's at the same time the archetypal, the ultimate and the definitive American novel, it's the translation into literature of what makes the American Society tick, the stark contrast between high principles and bare pragmatism.
The Pequod is made of a crew of people from all over the world with any color and religion you can think of, it is run as a tight ship by tough but fair and loyal officers and by a capable but arguably insane captain, and finally is owned by bigots who think you should lay your wealth not on earth, where moth and rust do corrupt...., but nevertheless won't shy from screwing their neighbor over to make the extra buck.
You can easily take this out of the metaphor yourself.
Social commentary it is and quite a good one, so good that most, if not all, of it is pretty still relevant to these days.
You came for the great story, you stayed for the satire...