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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.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

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Long considered the author's strangest novel, The Confidence-Man is a comic allegory aimed at the optimism and materialism of mid-eighteenth-century America. A mysterious shape-changing Confidence-Man approaches passengers on a Mississippi steamboat and, winning over the (not quite innocent) victims with his charm, urges them to implicitly trust in the cosmos, in nature, and even in human nature-with predictable results.

The Confidence-Man represented a departure for Melville, a satirical and socially acute work that was to be a further step away from his sea novels. Yet it confused and angered reviewers who preferred to pigeonhole him as an adventure writer. Some have argued the book was a joke on the readers loyal to his sea stories, but if so, it backfired. Dismissed by critics as unreadable, and an undoubted financial failure, The Confidence-Man's cold reception undermined Melville's belief in his ability to make a living writing works that were both popular and profound, and he soon gave up fiction. It was not until the mid-twentieth century that critics rediscovered the book and praised its wit, stunningly modern technique, and wry view that life may be just a cosmic con game.
From the Inside Flap:
"In "The Confidence-Man," writes John Bryant in his Introduction, "Melville found a way to render our tragic sense of self and society through the comic strategies of the confidence game. He puts the reader in the game to play its parts and to contemplate the inconsistencies of its knaves and fools." Set on a Mississippi steamer on April Fool's Day and populated by a series of shape-shifting con men, "The Confidence-Man is a challenging metaphysical and ethical exploration of antebellum American society. Set from the first American edition of 1857, this Modern Library paperback includes an Appendix with Bryant's innovative "fluid text" analysis of early manuscript fragments from Melville's novel.

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  • PublisherPenguin Classics
  • Publication date1991
  • ISBN 10 0140445471
  • ISBN 13 9780140445473
  • BindingPaperback
  • Number of pages400
  • EditorMatterson Stephen
  • Rating
    3.62 avg rating
    ( 3,203 ratings by Goodreads )

Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

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ISBN 10:  ISBN 13:  9780393979275
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9781731702494: The Confidence - Man

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9780192837622: The Confidence-Man (Oxford World's Classics)

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9780199554850: The Confidence-Man (Oxford World's Classics)

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9781718827363: The Confidence-Man

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Book Description Paperback. Condition: new. Paperback. In his introduction, Stephen Matterson discusses Melville's literary career, the role of the trickster in American literature, and themes of satire and religious allegory in this unusual novelOnboard the Fid le, 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. Written by the author of "Billy Budd, Sailor" and "Moby-Dick", this novel is unfinished, although published in his lifetime. Set on April Fool's Day aboard a Mississippi steamer, the novel is a gloomy satire on American life and the state of distrust that exists between human beings. Shipping may be from multiple locations in the US or from the UK, depending on stock availability. Seller Inventory # 9780140445473

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