Herman Melville’s final masterpiece, found unpublished on his desk at his death, and the book in which he discusses homosexuality most openly.
Herman Melville’s career as a bestselling author collapsed after he wrote Moby-Dick and Bartleby the Scriviner (and essentially created American modernism). Dropped by his publishers and reduced to a life of poverty, he toiled in obscurity for thirty years before passing away … and leaving this unpublished book in manuscript behind. Finally published in 1924, Billy Budd, Sailor is Melville’s final masterpiece.
In it, Melville returns to the sea to tell the story of Billy, a cheerful, hard working, and handsome young sailor, conscripted to work against his will on another ship, where he soon finds himself persecuted by Claggart, the paranoid master-at-arms. As things escalate beyond the naive Billy’s control, tragedy looms on the horizon like Melville’s great white whale, and the story become Melville’s final, sublime plunge into the classic tussle between civilization and chaos, between oppression and freedom, as well as the book in which he discusses homosexuality most openly.
A major work of American literature.
“The most studied and admired of Melville’s works except for Moby-Dick.” —John Updike
“[A] late-life masterpiece.” —The New York Review of Books