Bartleby

Although the story was not very popular at the time it was published, Bartleby the Scrivener has become among the most famous American short stories. It has been considered a precursor to absurdist literature, touching on many of the themes extant in the work of Franz Kafka, particularly in The Trial and A Hunger Artist. However, there exists nothing to indicate that the German-language writer was at all familiar with Melville, who was largely forgotten until after Kafka's death.

Albert Camus explicitly cites Melville as one of his key influences in a personal letter to Liselotte Dieckmann which was published in the French Review in 1998.

Spanish writer Enrique Vila-Matas wrote the award-winning novel entitled Bartleby & Co. that creates a catalogue of the many "bartlebys" in literature: writers who gave up writing, the "Literature of No", writers who sought denial.

In contemporary political thought, writers such as Michael Hardt, Toni Negri, and Slavoj Žižek (in The Parallax View) have posited examples, based on Bartleby, of the ideal revolutionary subject in the struggle against imperialism and capitalism. All those three writers got the hint to the story from Gilles Deleuze's essay Bartleby, ou la formule (originally published in 1989, translated in: Gilles Deleuze, Essays Critical and Clinical).

Genre
Fiction
Topics
absurdism, fiction, protest, psychology, short stories
Author
Herman Melville
Publisher
Dover Publications
Format
Paperback
ISBN
0486264734 (find on Amazon)

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