- Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: Grove Press (January 20, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 080213548X
- ISBN-13: 978-0802135483
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #878,614 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Ordinary Seaman Paperback – January 20, 1998
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The story begins with Esteban and his fateful boarding of the doomed ship. He is a 19-year-old veteran of the war in Nicaragua, still grieving the death of La Marta, his first love, recently lost to a violent death in the jungle. There is Bernardo, the Viejo, hired on as the ship’s waiter, who at first is confident, assuring Esteban, “The archbishop has personally blessed our voyage, patroncito.” But when Bernardo first sees the ship, he whispers, “It’s an eggshell” and “No lights. No electricity. And the mooring lines don’t even have rat guards, ve?” And later in their first night on the ship Esteban hears the Viejo crying on his dirty mattress. When the scope of the novel opens out, we meet Elias, the sociopathic ship owner, reckless with the lives of the men he’s enslaved. And the Ship Visitor, grappling with his turbulent romantic life and the crew he discovers in tattered grimy clothes, starving and trying to stay warm, their image haunting him everywhere he goes.
This is the contemporary literary novel I’m always searching for, usually can’t find. After reading this author’s non-fiction books Say Her Name and Interior Circuit, I had high expectations for this one. Goldman’s voice is genuine and true, without a trace of vanity or pretense. This is such a great novel it’s puzzling that it isn’t better recognized. In time expect this one to be a classic.
It's a deeply moving, fascinating and compelling story of hope and despair and the promise of love.
This is one of those novels that should be wildly popular, that should have been heralded by trend-setters in the media. But alas, they never got the word. If they had, the novel would be in its rightful place as one of the 100 best of the 20th Century.
Francisco Goldman is one of the virtually unknown treasures of letters. Such a fine writer! Such a beautiful sensibility and sensitivity.
Well, I think you get the idea.
Read it for pleasure, as I did. Enjoy it fully. You'll be glad you did.
Mr. Goldman has done a truly remarkable job and this work should be widely read. His story line, the travails of a desperate group of dirt-poor Nicaraguans, is dispensed in calculated doses. I learned just enough about each helpless participant that I was always felt tuned for more information. Mr. Goldman links the civil war so carefully into his novel that it never intrudes, instead it adds constant, new dimensions. While seemingly effortless, the author's construction is beautifully coordinated.
Masterful blending of each character yields an astonishing, cleaver plot. Although Estaban appears to be the protagonist, he is always balanced and never intrudes on the whole. He acts much like the anchor line of the Urus, the ill-fated boat, which itself appears to be Mr. Goldman allegory of life. Or is this simply too much a stretch, beyond the author's intentions? I think not. Mr. Goldman succeeds where so many others fail; this is a terrific, powerful, carefully crafted, interesting novel.
At first I was distracted by the colloquial Spanish Mr. Goldman includes in dialogue and descriptions. It was a trial for my two years of college training. I soon understood many of the words, much of them if only from the situations described. In time they became actually pleasurable and added to the authenticity. I think this is a remarkable feat and the author deserves to be congratulated on his successful technique.
I do not read books to find faults. However, sometimes they appear as deficiencies that distract from the effects authors set out to achieve. In Mr. Goldman's cases there are none. This book is a fine effort and very interesting, well worth the time spent reading, and it is highly recommended.