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The Sharks, The (Series B: English Translations of Works of Scandinavian Literature) [Paperback]

Jens Bjorneboe , Esther Greenleaf Muerer , Esther Greenleaf Murer

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Book Description

Nov 1992 Series B: English Translations of Works of Scandinavian Literature (Book 11)
Set at the end of the last century, a thrilling tale of mutiny and shipwreck, which bears comparison with Melville's Moby Dick or Conrad's Typhoon in its suspense and evocation of seafaring. It is also the story of mankind's voyage into the twentieth century, suspended between the empty skies and bottomless depths, dreadfully aware of the potential for self-destruction, but clinging to a belief in the preservation of a fragile humanity.

Product details

  • Paperback: 250 pages
  • Publisher: Norvik Press; First Thus edition (Nov 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1870041208
  • ISBN-13: 978-1870041201
  • Product Dimensions: 19 x 14 x 1.6 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,388,530 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rousing sea adventure with a social conscience 4 Nov 1997
By A Customer - Published on
A sea adventure worthy of comparison to Conrad and Melville, The Sharks tells the tale of "the last, meaningless, incomprehensible voyage" of the bark Neptune. The novel is set in the year 1899; the issues of diversity, violence, oppression, love, and interdependence presented are familiar concerns for contemporary readers at the end of this century. The narraator is Neptune's second mate Peder Jensen, a sailor who is afraid of the sea and yet can not leave it: "This is my fate and my curse: to love what I hate." The polarity, and ultimate union, of opposites is a theme which runs throughout this allegorical book. A white European, Jensen is in a privileged position as officer aboard a British ship. He gains our sympathy by being aware of his privilege and resisting the role of oppressor. He feels a revulsion toward his sometimes cruel and greedy fellow-officers and is supportive of the crew, "that strange assemblage of folk from every corner and edge of the globe, of every colour and race, denizens of the whole world's docks and ports." As the crew moves toward mutiny, Jensen is caught in the middle of the power struggle betweeen groups. Throughout the book, Bjorneboe acknowledges the inextricable connections between people and the mixture of good and bad in all of us. Jensen learns that he can not truly be as independent as he imagines himself, free of all ties: "One's every act toward another -- help included -- brings obligations and creates fate. One is caught in the net." Love and hate are two sides of the same coin; Jensen reflects that "of course destruction dwells in us all. In each there lives a murderer. But there also dwells a saviour and rescuer in us." The surprising and uplifting ending of the book brings out the best in each of the characters, and leaves the reader with a sense of hope for the uncertain future. Sensitively rendered into English by translator Esther Greenleaf Murer, this book represents a significant contribution to world literature, as well as being "a good read."
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It goes deeper. 12 Sep 1999
By A Customer - Published on
The first time I read this book was for my own pleasure, and I thought the story was an exciting adventure. The second time I read it was in school when we analyzed it. Then I suddenly saw the allegories this book is packed with. Now this book is one of my favorites and I have read it several times.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SHARKS OF TWO KINDS 14 Feb 2006
By Gary Kern - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
THE SHARKS concludes Bjorneboe's great series of novels, an achievement that someday perhaps will be ranked with the work of Kafka, Camus and Bellow, to mention but three distinctive novelists of the twentieth century who come to mind. Following the trilogy known as THE HISTORY OF BESTIALITY, all three novels of which are narrated by a man weighed down with the misery of the world, obsessed with human cruelty and injustice, and psychologically deformed by rage, hatred and alcoholism, the narrator-protagonist of THE SHARKS will come as a surprise. He is clear-headed, steady-handed and to a certain extent at peace with the world. One senses that the author cleaned himself up, went on the wagon and took on a project intended to prove that he could write a conventional novel accessible to any literate and sensitive soul. The result is a sea-story that deserves in every respect to stand alongside Melville and Conrad, and were it not for their precedence would be the best one of all.

Which is not to say that the hero, Peder Jensen, second mate and ship's doctor by default, is a well-adjusted socialite. Rather, he has "Neptune of the blood" and is driven away from society out to sea, though he dreads its roar and consuming depths. Yet when he stands at the helm of the ship he adores and calls Sancta Venere, steering it through the night, he reflects on humankind with a measure of hope. He sees it poised like himself on a point between the infinite universe of stars above and the immeasurable depths of the ocean below, yet imbued with a life-spirit, a world-soul, that pervades and encompasses everything. As it happens, the ship, which has set sail in October 1899, is doomed, and the century toward it and its crew are headed is the very same that inspired the author of the previous novels with recoiling horror. That he maintains such mastery of himself and his subject in this novel demonstrates great nobility of will and spirit.

The crew is filled with desperados, cutthroats and every kind of ethnic rabble, plus a capitalist slavedriver for capitan and a religious fanatic for first mate; the action is violent, explosive and unpredictable; there is also a tender story of a lost boy reminiscent of Mikhail Sholokhov's "The Fate of a Man." The sharks of the title are present not to eat everyone but rather to be eaten: when cut and bleeding in the water they are attacked by their kin, yet in the frenzy of feeding and thrashing turn to chomp on their own innards streaming from their guts. These bloodied sharks are hurled in the water after the men have sliced off their fins for soups and gauged out their livers for medicines. So the more hopeful Bj'rneboe has not lost his critical eye. His last novel is escapist literature of a high order, providing much food for thought and a tour de force of artistic prose in Murer's unfailingly vigorous translation.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars from its birth shark is driven by a unique instinct.. Hunger 2 Oct 2000
By Jarkko Yfantidis - Published on
I could never write a review about a jens bjernebö book.... He left to the world his masterpieces to read and comprehend and love. A hypersensitive book about brutality. A hymn to human heart.
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