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Far Tortuga (Panther) [Paperback]

Peter Matthiessen
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 April 1997 Panther
Nine men aboard an old Caribbean schooner drift in search of the fishing grounds of their forefathers, to find only a modern world in which they have no place. This powerful story of the sea is also a resonantly symbolic account of the relations between man and nature.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: The Harvill Press; New Ed edition (3 April 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1860463142
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860463143
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 13 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 706,958 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly memorable 31 Jan 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a book which will linger and linger in the mind provided you can stick with the opening chapters - the time it takes to get used to the patois in which the book is written. But five stars if you can stay the course.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This might be perfect. 1 May 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
From the first pages this book creates not only a perfect tone but one which is entirely original and its own. Matthiessen uses every resource (you'll be surprised when you flick through the pages) to tremendous effect in this multi-layered and heartbreaking story of losing and finding. The characters are developed with genuine truth and empathy and it's a mark of the writer that you'll never find yourself wondering if they're believable. Everything is intergrated here, every word is the right one and in the right place. You will not regret reading this book, I doubt very much if you'll only read it once.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  47 reviews
93 of 98 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Sea, Matthiessen and Far Tortuga 21 Sep 2002
By John Paul Morgan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
One can speak easily of Hemingway, Joyce, Orwell or Fitzgerald in terms of the greatest authors of the twentieth century. But what what of these others? What of a man like Peter Matthiessen who wrote a book like "Far Tortuga?"
"Far Tortuga" is unquestionably one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century. History will bear out this assertion. In "Far Tortuga" we are presented with reality painted in dreamlike intensity. All of the the minor aches, pains and idiosyncracies of day to day life are there, yet they are drawn against a backdrop of unforgiving, almost monumental, natural power.
In the final analysis, though the details are subject to change, is this not the world that each of us faces on a day to day basis?
In his stark and almost poetry-like portrayal of life aboard a small turtle vessel, Matthiessen is able to address everything that is meaningful in all of our lives. There is jealousy, there is random hatred, there is competition for its own sake, there is hunger and there is solitude. There is anger, there is pride, there is shame and there is repentance. What doesn't Matthiessen touch upon in this great novel? There is sorrow, there is fear, there is unreasoning hatred and greed. There are moments of selflessness, there are moments of joy, there are moments of doubt and there are moments of ambition.
It is a rare novel that is able to pack the sum of human experience into one tale. Matthiessen does it in "Far Tortuga."
The novel has not recieved the glory it deserves, yet. One day it will.
One day it will be known for the work of genius that it is.
93 of 99 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Far Tortuga: A Materfully Told Sea Tale 6 July 2000
By James D. Eret - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Peter Mattiessen is one of my favorite writers. You know, if you pick one his many books and open them,whether fiction or non-fiction, that you will be entertained, and see something through fresh eyes, and behind the writing a man concerned deeply for the suvival of our planet. Far Tortuga is a strange, other-worldly book. Mattiessen creates a new style, with word paragraphs of beautiful descriptions of the natural world and the sea, then the emphasis on the dialect spoken in the Bahamas, so deeply felt and understood that it is poetry, the natural rythums of speech and nature captured. Matthiesen has risked much but has succeeded on every creative level. One keeps going back to relish a passage and say "How did he do it, so deeply understand the native speech and blend it into a thrilling adventure story?" He has done this and more, this adventure story about turtle fishing, the sea, human nature under the stress of the elements, and wonderful imagination for names like the name of the turtling ship, the "Lillias Eden," place names like Misteriosa Reefs, and the characters like Raib Evers, Byrum, Speedy, and my favorite: Will Parchment. It is a story of adventure and meditation, of a deceptive simpicity. I think of Joseph Conrad mixed with the wonderful Bahama watercolors of Winslow Homer and Mattiessen in his imagery is easily their equal. It is a zen meditation on the sea and deep regret of things lost and hope of things that may be there, a "Far Tortuga" that may not be on a map but lies out there, home of wide-winged seabirds, pirates, and adventure. "Far Totuga" is a one of a kind masterpiece that throws its readers headfirst into the vision and never lets go.When I read it,I hear the sea surge,feel the author's deep love of nature and of the blue watery planet,where most of our natural paradises and magical places are disappearing.
53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a unique tone-poem of a novel of sea and men 28 May 2005
By Craig Bleakley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Let's begin low-brow: "Far Tortuga" is the ultimate beach read. Read this while the sun strikes the sand and the waves crash and you'll practically hallucinate yourself into a full blown virtual reality. But even if you're landlocked, Matthiessen does a masterful job of evoking the sights, smells, and sounds of the Carribean. His success is due largely to the pungent, poetic, shorthand style of writing, unique to Matthiessen's ouevre, and perhaps American literature. I'd guess it'd be more obvioulsy an "experimental" style if the author didn't pull it off so adroitly. Visually, there's lot of white space on the pages of this book. Near the end, there are pages that might contain as little as a phrase, a name, or less--all for reasons that seem more organic than experimental. Much dialog between the crew of the Lillius Eden is unattributed, and not set off by quotation marks. Any initial confusion this creates is short-lived, as it is through the character's talk that we learn to distinguish them (it's also how Matthiessen reveals their seperate dreams, ambitions, sins, etc.). I can't over-emphasize that these stylistic oddities are more then mere quirks, but truly seem to be the best, most organic (and maybe only) way to tell the tale.

And what a tale. Though what exactly is so gripping about it is hard to say. The turtle-hunting voyage of the "Lillias Eden" seems ill-fated from the start: the turtles have already been over-hunted into scarcity and it's mighty late in the season to cast off. But that doesn't stop the ragged, largely reprobate crew of from embarking--for most, it's the best chance they have in a working-class third world life of dwindling returns. There's likely to be a lot of cultural distance between these guys and the people reading about them, so it's all the more remarkable how Matthiessen manages to make these characters unique individuals whislt also making them universally identifiable Everymen. This is no mean feat.

Lo, there are still some turtle left in the sea--but there are also pirates (the unromantic modern ones), reefs, wrecks of ships and wrecks of men. To say much more would be to tresspass on too many potential delights.

This is a multi-faceted, multi-leveled work. Thomas Pynchon's blurb (strange but true) on the original hardcover suggests while "Far Tortuga" is a "masterfully spun yarn" it's also a "deep declaration of love for the planet." But this is the ecological concern of a lifelong naturalist, really only witnessed by the book's always-evocative poetic descriptions of nature. And for "poetic," don't dare read "mushy." This is a supple, muscular poetry (indeed a masculine poetry, as befitting it's subjects), a whole lot closer to Homer than Rod McKuen. It's a book Conrad would have embraced, maybe even championed. Maybe Robert W. Service, too. It's a book of unique delights, one of my all-time faves, and I really envy anyone their first reading.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely brilliant, a book to treasure 28 Oct 2000
By Dave Shickle - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The poetry of his writing is amazing - no one has written this well about the ocean since Conrad and Melville. He succesfully creates the feeling of being at sea, the loneliness, the exhilaration, with subtlety and economy.
Every one of the characters is vividly drawn - this is truly a book where you can immerse yourself in another world - every detail is convincingly rendered. You can tell that this is man who understands the lives of his characters, down to the rhythms of their speech.
With a style this original, it is amazing that there is not a single trace of fakery or affectation. Matthiessen writes the book this way because that is the way the material needs to present itself - honestly, one never feels the intrusion of the author; it is as if the world - a world that one feels a deep appreciation for - is writing itself.
28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite book 11 May 2001
By Karl Rahder - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Far Tortuga is one of the finest works of fiction I have ever read. Had this book been written a hundred years ago, we wouldn't be comparing Matthiessen to Conrad today (as happens often), because Matthiessen's writing is so much better. This book's prose is mytho-poetical, gorgeous, and shorn of everything that is not necessary (unlike Conrad's heavy-handedness). Even though we (ironically) live in an age of some fine writing, the frenzy of life and the vulgarity of taste of most people is such that a book like Far Tortuga comes along, gains some readers, gets some good reviews, and is forgotten. It's not Matthiessen's fault; it's just that anything today of real quality is noticed by fewer and fewer people. Far Tortuga is a dream. Please read it, you won't be disappointed.
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