From Our Editors
The year is 1931,
and a cruise ship is bound for Bremerhaven, Germany. On board is a
delightfully eccentric cast of characters: a Spanish noblewoman, a
German lawyer, an American divorcee, and a pair of Mexican Catholic
priests. From the friction among the characters emerges a highly
compelling story, one that touches on themes of passion, love, and
nationalism, and one which will forever change the lives of its
participants. When it was first released in 1962, Ship of Fools was
an American classic, and it remains as great today.
From the Publisher
The story takes place in the summer of 1931, on board a cruise ship bound for Germany. Passengers include a Spanish noblewoman, a drunken German lawyer, an American divorcee, a pair of Mexican Catholic priests. This ship of fools is a crucible of intense experience, out of which everyone emerges forever changed. Rich in incident, passion, and treachery, the novel explores themes of nationalism, cultural and ethnic pride, and basic human frailty that are as relevant today as they were when the book was first published in 1962.
From the Jacket
The title of this book is a translation from the German of Das Narrenschiff, a moral allegory by Sebastian Brant. The author read it in Basel in the summer of 1932 when she had still vividly in mind the impressions of her fist voyage to Europe. She took for her own this simple almost universal image of the ship of this world on its voyage to eternity.
About the Author
Katherine Anne Porter is known for her subtle and delicate perception; her careful, disciplined technique; and her precision of word and phrase. She wrote slowly and with restraint but achieved an impression of ease and naturalness that is close to perfection. She was born in Texas, schooled in Louisiana convents, and, working as a newspaper reporter and freelance journalist, traveled to such places as Paris, Majorca, Berlin, Vienna, and Mexico. Her Collected Stories (1965), which won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award in 1966, was written over a long lifetime. It includes works that have been a standard part of high school and college literature courses for a half-century. Among the best are "Noon Wine,""The Jilting of Granny Weatherall," and "Flowering Judas.""Pale Horse, Pale Rider," long enough to be considered a novelette, is one of several stories about a character named Miranda who as a girl and young woman undergoes experiences not unlike those of Porter. Other Miranda stories are "Old Mortality" and a group of seven gathered under the title "The Old Order" that deal with her childhood. Her one and only full-length novel, Ship of Fools (1962), 20 years in the writing, "is the story of a voyage... . A novel of character rather than of action, it has as its main purpose a study of the German ethos shortly before Hitler's coming to power in Germany... ."Ship of Fools' is also a human comedy and a moral allegory" (New Yorker). To some critics, the book was a disappointment, but all recognized its importance and it appeared on the bestseller list for 28 weeks in 1962. "In my view," wrote Robert Penn Warren in a tribute published in Saturday Review after Porter's death in 1980, "the final importance of Katherine Anne Porter is not merely that she has written a number of fictions which have enlarged and deepened the nature of the story, both short and long, in our time, but that she has created an oeuvre---a body of work including fiction, essays, letters, and journals---that bears the stamp of a personality, distinctive, delicately perceptive, keenly aware of the depth and darkness of human experience, delighted by the beauty of the world and the triumphs of human kindness and warmth, and thoroughly committed to a quest for meaning in the midst of the ironic complexities of man's lot." Much of the nonfictional part of that body of work was gathered into The Collected Essays and Occasional Writings of Katherine Anne Porter.