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- Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle
The Story of Robinson Crusoe may be the first independent novel ever written, and for that invention alone we have Daniel Defoe to thank. Inspired by the account of the castaway Alexander Selkirk (of which this edition includes appended) it nevertheless deviates completely from Selkirk's account to tell a moralistic story of high adventure.
The story begins with Crusoe at 19, coming from a well-to-do family with an education and prospects, who nevertheless shuns his fortune to risk his life at sea. His subsequent misfortunes are carefully designed by Defoe to both educate Crusoe in those skills necessary for a life of abject solitude, and to variously spare him and deliver him into the fortunate circumstance where he can learn particular moral lessons.
The moral lesson that Defoe is most interested in conveying (sometimes ad nauseum) is that Protestant interpretation of Christianity which promotes the beneficial relationship with God, whereby His divine providence clearly rewards those who sufficiently attend to their worship, are sufficiently thankful in their contemplations and content with the gifts and opportunities with which they have been provided. Those who do not, are adequately punished.
As such, it reads like the Old Testament Book of Job. The story runs as if the entire world is set up expressly to teach Robinson Crusoe particular lessons. This would be fine, if not for the fact that countless other innocent souls are incidentally condemned to death just to set up Crusoe for redemption. Even accounting for the fact that God should be able to manipulate all the threads of life in the Universe to a just end, it really does appear in the book that several of those who come to the "period" of their lives seem quite innocent of any sufficient iniquity to justify the loss of their existence, merely to contribute to Crusoe's theological betterment.
As such, the story is distinct from Selkirk's in that where Selkirk had a rough time of it on an almost uninhabitable island, Crusoe met with every bit of good fortune possible, with abundant space, fertility, food, water and animal life, and any tribulations he encountered were invariably of his own making or due to his own shortcomings.
Despite all this, and despite that fully half the book feels like it is given over to sermonising, the story remains absolutely fascinating. In spite of the almost literal deus ex machina that Defoe continuously employs to move the story along according to his design, despite the sometimes fantastic luck that Crusoe undeservedly gets, and the dramatic exaggerations Defoe sometimes employs concerning his hero and the forces arrayed against him, it's still a captivating (if you'll pardon the reference) castaway story that has me hooked every time I read it.
Even the endless sermonising, the assumed cultural superiority, the casual acceptance of slavery and the often disgusting racism didn't phase me. The book is merely a product of its times (and for all that is reasonably progressive given that context) and in any case, serves to illustrate the unenlightened, negative attitudes and assumptions of the people who lived in the 18th Century. On the positive side, it does reflect the progressive attitude of the reformation versus the primitive superiority of the Catholics of those times, comparing the terrible way in which the Spanish used (and destroyed) the natives of America, with Defoe's own ideas on how those 'less blessed' should be treated (forcibly converted and enslaved, apparently, though he eschews wanton cruelty).
I love this book, both as a landmark in human story telling and in being a moral stepping-stone on the way to modern ethical (and even economic) discourse. The aged language is a pleasure to read. The shame of it is that so many present-day Christians have regressed in their attitudes to the point where their prejudices would bring a blush to the cheeks of even the semi-enlightened Defoe.
This Kindle edition is perfectly acceptable, though it is unfortunate that several pages are missing (I can but hope this will be rectified at some point in the future) but for a rock-bottom price of nothing dollars, we can't complain too much. Further, there are a few OCR-related mistakes on occasion, over and above those differences between Defoe's spelling and modern English, but neither of these harm the reading experience. I cannot recommend it enough.
Very Brown Bear
- Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle
Crusoe (the family name corrupted from the German name "Kreutznaer") sets sail from the Queen's Dock in Hull on a sea voyage in August 1651, against the wishes of his parents, who want him to pursue a career, possibly in law. After a tumultuous journey where his ship is wrecked in a storm, his lust for the sea remains so strong that he sets out to sea again. This journey, too, ends in disaster as the ship is taken over by Salé pirates (the Salé Rovers) and Crusoe is enslaved by a Moor. Two years later, he escapes in a boat with a boy named Xury; a Captain of a Portuguese ship off the west coast of Africa rescues him. The ship is en route to Brazil. Crusoe sells Xury to the captain. With the captain's help, Crusoe procures a plantation.
Years later, Crusoe joins an expedition to bring slaves from Africa but he is shipwrecked in a storm about forty miles out to sea on an island (which he calls the Island of Despair) near the mouth of the Orinoco river on 30 September 1659. (The date was left blank in the first edition. The years added up after 1651, or, his total of years reckoned backwards from 1686 yield 1658 so the 1659 is an error. The story claims that he swam ashore on his 26th birthday.) The details of Crusoe's island were probably based on the Caribbean island of Tobago, since that island lies a short distance north of the Venezuelan coast near the mouth of the Orinoco river, in sight of Trinidad. He observes the latitude as 9 degrees and 22 minutes north. He sees penguins and seals on his island. (However, there are no seals and penguins living together in the Northern Hemisphere, only around the Galapagos Islands.) As for his arrival there, only he and three animals, the captain's dog and two cats, survive the shipwreck. Overcoming his despair, he fetches arms, tools, and other supplies from the ship before it breaks apart and sinks. He builds a fenced-in habitat near a cave which he excavates. By making marks in a wooden cross, he creates a calendar. By using tools salvaged from the ship, and some he makes himself from "ironwood", he hunts, grows barley and rice, dries grapes to make raisins, learns to make pottery, and raises goats. He also adopts a small parrot. He reads the Bible and becomes religious, thanking God for his fate in which nothing is missing but human society.
More years pass and Crusoe discovers native cannibals, who occasionally visit the island to kill and eat prisoners. At first he plans to kill them for committing an abomination but later realizes he has no right to do so, as the cannibals do not knowingly commit a crime. He dreams of obtaining one or two servants by freeing some prisoners; when a prisoner escapes, Crusoe helps him, naming his new companion "Friday" after the day of the week he appeared. Crusoe then teaches him English and converts him to Christianity. After more natives arrive to partake in a cannibal feast, Crusoe and Friday kill most of the natives and save two prisoners. One is Friday's father and the other is a Spaniard, who informs Crusoe about other Spaniards shipwrecked on the mainland. A plan is devised wherein the Spaniard would return to the mainland with Friday's father and bring back the others, build a ship, and sail to a Spanish port.
Before the Spaniards return, an English ship appears; mutineers have commandeered the vessel and intend to maroon their captain on the island. Crusoe and the ship's captain strike a deal in which Crusoe helps the captain and the loyal sailors retake the ship and leave the worst mutineers on the island. Before embarking for England, Crusoe shows the mutineers how he survived on the island and states that there will be more men coming. Crusoe leaves the island 19 December 1686 and arrives in England on 11 June 1687. He learns that his family believed him dead; as a result, he was left nothing in his father's will. Crusoe departs for Lisbon to reclaim the profits of his estate in Brazil, which has granted him much wealth. In conclusion, he transports his wealth overland to England to avoid travelling by sea. Friday accompanies him and, en route, they endure one last adventure together as they fight off famished wolves while crossing the Pyrenees.