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Far Tortuga: A Novel Paperback – January 12, 1988


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Vintage Books ed edition (January 12, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394756673
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394756677
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,227 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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An adventure story and a deeply considered meditation upon the sea itself.

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Customer Reviews

Far Tortuga is one of the finest works of fiction I have ever read.
Karl Rahder
His success is due largely to the pungent, poetic, shorthand style of writing, unique to Matthiessen's ouevre, and perhaps American literature.
Craig Bleakley
For those who rated this novel with one star: read it again...then again.
Gene Zweigler

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

92 of 96 people found the following review helpful By John Paul Morgan on September 20, 2002
Format: Paperback
One can speak easily of Hemingway, Joyce, Orwell or Fitzgerald in terms of the greatest authors of the twentieth century. But what what of these others? What of a man like Peter Matthiessen who wrote a book like "Far Tortuga?"
"Far Tortuga" is unquestionably one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century. History will bear out this assertion. In "Far Tortuga" we are presented with reality painted in dreamlike intensity. All of the the minor aches, pains and idiosyncracies of day to day life are there, yet they are drawn against a backdrop of unforgiving, almost monumental, natural power.
In the final analysis, though the details are subject to change, is this not the world that each of us faces on a day to day basis?
In his stark and almost poetry-like portrayal of life aboard a small turtle vessel, Matthiessen is able to address everything that is meaningful in all of our lives. There is jealousy, there is random hatred, there is competition for its own sake, there is hunger and there is solitude. There is anger, there is pride, there is shame and there is repentance. What doesn't Matthiessen touch upon in this great novel? There is sorrow, there is fear, there is unreasoning hatred and greed. There are moments of selflessness, there are moments of joy, there are moments of doubt and there are moments of ambition.
It is a rare novel that is able to pack the sum of human experience into one tale. Matthiessen does it in "Far Tortuga."
The novel has not recieved the glory it deserves, yet. One day it will.
One day it will be known for the work of genius that it is.
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93 of 99 people found the following review helpful By James D. Eret on July 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
Peter Mattiessen is one of my favorite writers. You know, if you pick one his many books and open them,whether fiction or non-fiction, that you will be entertained, and see something through fresh eyes, and behind the writing a man concerned deeply for the suvival of our planet. Far Tortuga is a strange, other-worldly book. Mattiessen creates a new style, with word paragraphs of beautiful descriptions of the natural world and the sea, then the emphasis on the dialect spoken in the Bahamas, so deeply felt and understood that it is poetry, the natural rythums of speech and nature captured. Matthiesen has risked much but has succeeded on every creative level. One keeps going back to relish a passage and say "How did he do it, so deeply understand the native speech and blend it into a thrilling adventure story?" He has done this and more, this adventure story about turtle fishing, the sea, human nature under the stress of the elements, and wonderful imagination for names like the name of the turtling ship, the "Lillias Eden," place names like Misteriosa Reefs, and the characters like Raib Evers, Byrum, Speedy, and my favorite: Will Parchment. It is a story of adventure and meditation, of a deceptive simpicity. I think of Joseph Conrad mixed with the wonderful Bahama watercolors of Winslow Homer and Mattiessen in his imagery is easily their equal. It is a zen meditation on the sea and deep regret of things lost and hope of things that may be there, a "Far Tortuga" that may not be on a map but lies out there, home of wide-winged seabirds, pirates, and adventure. "Far Totuga" is a one of a kind masterpiece that throws its readers headfirst into the vision and never lets go.When I read it,I hear the sea surge,feel the author's deep love of nature and of the blue watery planet,where most of our natural paradises and magical places are disappearing.
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52 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Craig Bleakley on May 28, 2005
Format: Paperback
Let's begin low-brow: "Far Tortuga" is the ultimate beach read. Read this while the sun strikes the sand and the waves crash and you'll practically hallucinate yourself into a full blown virtual reality. But even if you're landlocked, Matthiessen does a masterful job of evoking the sights, smells, and sounds of the Carribean. His success is due largely to the pungent, poetic, shorthand style of writing, unique to Matthiessen's ouevre, and perhaps American literature. I'd guess it'd be more obvioulsy an "experimental" style if the author didn't pull it off so adroitly. Visually, there's lot of white space on the pages of this book. Near the end, there are pages that might contain as little as a phrase, a name, or less--all for reasons that seem more organic than experimental. Much dialog between the crew of the Lillius Eden is unattributed, and not set off by quotation marks. Any initial confusion this creates is short-lived, as it is through the character's talk that we learn to distinguish them (it's also how Matthiessen reveals their seperate dreams, ambitions, sins, etc.). I can't over-emphasize that these stylistic oddities are more then mere quirks, but truly seem to be the best, most organic (and maybe only) way to tell the tale.

And what a tale. Though what exactly is so gripping about it is hard to say. The turtle-hunting voyage of the "Lillias Eden" seems ill-fated from the start: the turtles have already been over-hunted into scarcity and it's mighty late in the season to cast off. But that doesn't stop the ragged, largely reprobate crew of from embarking--for most, it's the best chance they have in a working-class third world life of dwindling returns.
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