Part satire, part allegory, part hoax, The Confidence-Man is a slippery metaphysical comedy set on April Fool's Day aboard the Mississippi steamer Fidele. Through the conversations of his confidence men Melville explores America and American values, plays with theories of trust and finds form for the idea that, if our beliefs are shifting and uncertain, we at least have fiction. 351 pages. Softcover.
Onboard the Fidèle, a steamboat floating down the Mississippi to New Orleans, a confidence man sets out to defraud his fellow passengers. In quick succession he assumes numerous guises - from a legless beggar and a worldly businessman to a collector for charitable causes and a 'cosmopolitan' gentleman, who simply swindles a barber out of the price of a shave. Making very little from his hoaxes, the pleasure of trickery seems an end in itself for this slippery conman. Is he the Devil? Is his chicanery merely intended to expose the mercenary concerns of those around him? Set on April Fool's Day, The Confidence-Man (1857) is an engaging comedy of masquerades, digressions and shifting identity, and a devastating satire on the American dream.
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Herman Melville, though not appreciated in his own time, is now regarded as one of America's greatest novelists. Much of the material for his novels was drawn from his own experience as a seaman. He wrote his masterpiece Moby-Dick in 1851 and died in 1891
“The great transcendental satire.” —Carl Van Vechten
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