How do you recall? Was it love at first sight or a penchant built up over time? For many of us, to see the water is, naturally, to cross a border. Lucky ones are born on the riverbank, some others on the seashore. Some like to see it on vacation, some feel wistful on high hills. Isak Dinesen once wrote: ‘The cure for anything is salt-water – sweat, tears, or the sea.’ If you love the sea, it never leaves you. Becomes your everlasting partner, an indispensable destination.
Maritime novels help to articulate and to understand the passion for the seas. Besides, discovering others, the ones who have the same feelings yet different attitudes make us more and more humane. Here are some of the most salient examples from nautical fiction. Maybe, you consider including them on your reading lists.
AGANTA BURINA BURINATA BY CEVAT ŞAKİR KABAAĞAÇLI
Cevat Şakir Kabaağaçlı, also known as the Fisherman of Halicarnassus, reveals the longing and passion for the sea with a poetic expression. In the book, the reader becomes a guest in the life of Mahmut, who grows up with the love of the sea in him. Mahmut, a sailor, is separated from the sea for a while in the course of his life. The author’s descriptions and Mahmut’s thoughts and feelings of longing make the novel distinctive in Turkish Literature.
The title of the book is a word used to express the moment of a ship’s sailing and the use of sails when the ship needs to gain speed.
THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA BY ERNEST HEMINGWAY
‘Everything about him was old except his eyes, and they were the same colour as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated.’
An elderly Cuban fisherman’s continuous and agonizing battle with a massive swordfish off the Gulf Stream forms the subject of Ernest Hemingway’s renowned novel The Old Man and the Sea.
The author’s style is relatively simple but skillfully constructed. The main subject of the text is the patience and determination of the fisherman Santiago in his lonely struggle against his prey after his unlucky days at sea. The book explores our conflict with the natural world and even our own doubts in addition to a gripping adventure.
The 1952 publication of the brief novel earned it the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It also significantly contributed to Hemingway’s 1954 Nobel Prize in Literature victory.
SHOGUN BY JAMES CLAVELL
John Blackthorne, an Englishman who was shipwrecked at sea, wakes up in Nippon, a country that only a few of his fellow Europeans are familiar with and even fewer have been to before. When Blackthorne finds himself thrust into the confined society of seventeenth-century Japan, where the difference between life and death is thin, he must not only grapple with unfamiliar people and their odd language, but also with his personal concepts of morality, truth, and most importantly freedom. Blackthorne’s commitment and courage have to be tested by both passion but also grief, and he is caught between two universes
Shogun is one of the most dramatic, fascinating, and critically praised books of all time. It conveys both the opulent splendor and the harsh realities of life in feudal Japan. Despite its complicated plot, Shogun, the first book in Clavell’s Asian Saga, a collection of six books published between 1962 and 1993, is an outstanding epic literature example. By 1990, Shogun had sold 15 million copies worldwide, making it an established best-seller.
MOBY DICK BY HERMAN MELVILLE
‘Call me Ismael’ – and one of the greatest journeys of literature began.
The plot of Moby-Dick centers on a very alluring madman who is waging an unholy war against a creature that is as colossal, treacherous, and mysterious as the ocean itself. The book can be recognized as a part of the author’s lifelong reflection on America. Moby Dick offers more than just an adventure tale or an encyclopedia of whaling lore and tradition. It is a serious story about character, faith, and the nature of perception that is also written with a marvelous sense of redemptive wit.
D. H. Lawrence once referred to Moby Dick as “the greatest book of the sea ever written.”
THE SEA WOLF BY JACK LONDON
‘My mistake was in ever opening the books…’
Jack London’s psychological thriller The Sea-Wolf revolves around literary critic Humphrey van Weyden – a doughy, soft-spoken trust-fund man with aspirations to become a writer -. He is seen in the opening scenes of the narrative riding the Martinez ferry in San Francisco as it collides with another vessel in the mist and sinks. He is abandoned in the Bay and later found by Wolf Larsen. Larsen is the master of the Ghost, a schooner used for seal hunting. Larsen is brutal and very cynical yet he is also exceptionally talented and intellectual. Besides, he uses his extraordinary physical power to govern his ship and intimidate the crew.
Alongside the character of Wolf Larsen, you will encounter the embodiment of Nietzsche’s concept of “übermensch”, a book that you will read in one breath with its wonderful plot.
THE SAILOR WHO FELL FROM GRACE WITH THE SEA BY YUKIO MISHIMA
‘Living is merely the chaos of existence..’
The author Misjima focuses on the relationship and life of 13-year-old Noboru and his mother Fusako, and the sailor Ryuji who enters their lives unexpectedly in the novel. Ryuji, the sailor, is in a lofty place in the eyes of the boy, whereas after he decides to quit sailing and establish a family, he becomes smaller in the eyes of the boy. Noboru and Noboru’s friends and the gang that Noboru sets up with his friends, and the reader experiences their perspectives on life.
The book offers an unsettling yet compelling read. A haunting story about lust, death, and despair. It is daring, and harsh but elegant, as Mishima has inserted into almost every novel.
HEART OF DARKNESS BY JOSEPH CONRAD
Charlie Marlow tells a group of men on board an anchored ship about his trip in this story-within-a-story. His early years as a ferry boat captain are the subject of the narrative. Charlie gets an interest in investing in ivory procurement agent Kurtz, who works for the government, despite the fact that his job was to transfer ivory downriver. In “One of the darkest places on Earth,” Kurtz has become revered by the locals due to his reputation as a clever envoy of development. Marlow believes Kurtz has another motive, namely that he is insane.
‘Droll thing life is — that mysterious arrangement of merciless logic for a futile purpose. The most you can hope from it is some knowledge of yourself — that comes too late — a crop of inextinguishable regrets’
Born and raised in Poland, Conrad could not speak or understand the language he wrote his future novels for a long time. Though he did not speak English fluently until his twenties,
He was an exquisite pen stylist who infused a non-English sensibility into English literature. Heart of Darkness has been recognized as one of the finest pieces of English literature. Conrad is often described as the “first novelist of globalisation.”
MASTER AND COMMANDER BY PATRICK O’BRIAN
Jack Aubrey, an energetic and gregarious British naval officer, is overjoyed to be assigned his first command of the fourteen-gun ship HMS Sophie. After a contentious initial encounter that almost results in a duel, Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, a brilliant but unfortunate doctor, become an unexpected friendship. Maturin is given an unplanned invitation by Aubrey to join his team as Sophie’s doctor. And so, in the exhilarating setting of the Napoleonic Wars, the storied friendship that serves as the story’s central tenet is established.
The adaption of the novel is one of the most critically acclaimed epic drama films in the 21st century. Director Peter Weir won the BAFTA Award for Best Direction. The movie received 10 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, at the 76th Academy Awards. It was awarded Best Sound Editing and Best Cinematography.
CAPTAIN BLOOD BY RAFAEL SABATINI
In the 1680s, Peter Blood, an Irish physician and former soldier, is peacefully ensconced as the doctor in an English village when the Duke of Monmouth’s rebellion catches him by chance. He tries to save a guy’s life, but the man is a rebel, and Judge Jeffreys sentences him to ten years as an indentured slave in the Caribbean colonies. His knowledge as a physician is recognized once he arrives, and he meets and falls in love with the daughter of the man who owns his service. While the Spaniards celebrate their triumph, he steals their ship and sails off with his fellow convicts. However, no matter how heroic his exploits are, the woman he loves cannot be with a pirate and thief. Blood now had to fight for love too.
Rafael Sabatini’s Captain Blood is a page-turning, action-packed adventure book that vividly portrays pirates and life at sea. It is a story of love, bravery, loyalty, and friendship
THE STORY OF A SHIPWRECKED SAILOR BY GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ
The novel is Marquez’s account of a real-life incident, as opposed to the other fictional works on the list. The destroyer Caldas’ eight crew members were swept into the Caribbean Sea in 1955. The fact that Luis Alejandro Belasco, the only survivor, told Marquez the truth about what had happened at the time led to a significant public outcry.
The full title actually sums up the story itself: The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor: Who Drifted on a Liferaft for Ten Days Without Food or Water, Was Proclaimed a National Hero, Kissed by Beauty Queens, Made Rich Through Publicity, and Then Spurned by the Government and Forgotten for All Time