9780140430707 / 0140430709

Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life (The Penguin English Library)


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Publisher:Penguin Classics, 1972



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Typee is American writer Herman Melville's first book, partly based on his actual experiences as a captive on Nuku Hiva (which Melville spelled as Nukuheva) in the South Pacific Marquesas Islands and the title comes from a valley there called Tai Pi Vai. It was Melville's most popular work during his lifetime; for 19th century readers his career seemed to go downhill afterwards, but during the early 20th century it was seen as just the beginning of a career that peaked with Moby-Dick (1851).

At first Typee provoked disbelief among its readers until two years after its publication the events were corroborated by Melville's fellow castaway, Richard T. Greene, who appears in the story as the character Toby. Until the 1930s, it was seen as factually based tinged with romance, when Robert S. Forsythe and Charles R. Anderson exploded the myth showing there were no factual sources available to verify the details of the story. It is now generally accepted that Melville exercised his artistic license so much that Typee is properly considered a work of fiction: the three week stay on which he based his story is extended in the narrative to four months, and he drew extensively on contemporary accounts by Pacific explorers to add cultural detail to what might otherwise have been a straightforward story of escape, capture and re-escape.

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