THE SHIP by Hans Henry Jahnn


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A ghostly, symbolic-mystery novel, The Ship is the work of a well-known German Expressionist. Though it belongs to an experimental school of literature, it is also, however, a highly polished and striking work of art. The ostensible story takes place on a peculiarly built ship, which carries an unknown cargo, and is sailing for an unknown destination. On board, are a last-minute, nervously-suspicious crew; the supercargo -- microphones and other instruments hidden about the ship; the Captain's beautiful daughter, Ellena, and her fiance, Gustave...and, possibly, concealed in a secret hold, the ship's owner. A sense of foreboding reaches a crisis when, midway in the voyage, Ellena disappears. Wild rumors spring up among the seamen: that the ship carries coffins, or a brothel, or the mad carpenter's mother; and Gustave, prowling in the blackness of the hold, finds a cargo of, indeed, coffin-shaped crates, and two secret passages. The fear-maddened crew mutiny, and in attempting to how open one of the secret chambers, sink the ship. She goes down, carrying all her unsolved mysteries, and revealing a hither to unseen figurehead. The mystery and terror is sustained by a marvellously intricate, arresting prose; and by working the symbolism (presumably, the Ship of Life, haunted by the twin mysteries of sex and death) into startling, highly visual scenes of panic amid a nightmare architecture. Intellectually interesting; but also as emotionally compelling as a murky, terrifying ghost story.

Publisher: Scribner