In Leviathan, or The Whale, the acclaimed writer Philip Hoare explores his own passion for whales and charts the troubled history of their relationship with man. He seeks to discover, on his own journey from the north of England to Cape Cod - and finally into the middle of the Atlantic - exactly why these strange, beautiful, and mysterious animals still exercise such a hold on our collective imaginations.
Moby Dick is a book made mythic by its whale; but the reverse is also true. After Melville published his book in 1851, no one saw whales in quite the same way again. Melville created a modern myth out of an already legendary beast. But what is the true nature of the whale? Why does it fascinate us? All his life, Philip Hoare has been obsessed with these creatures, from the huge skeletons in London’s Natural History Museum to adult encounters with the wild animals themselves. Whales haunt him, as they seem to elide with dark fantasies of sea-serpents and other antediluvian monsters that swim in our collective unconscious.
In ‘Leviathan’, he seeks to locate and identify that obsession. Why does the whale so vividly inhabit our imaginations? Is it a symbol of Edenic innocence in a time of threatened species and climate change? Or an older emblem of evil, the grotesque fish which swallowed Jonah? Travelling around the globe in search of the whale, Philip Hoare sheds light on our perennial fascination with the strange creatures of the sea, whose nature remains tantalizingly undiscovered.
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