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Day 19

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

Chapters 82-86

April 7, 2022 by Yiyun Li

It’s a good day to whale-hunt in ancient Chinese. Zuo Qiuming (~500 BC), a blind historian, compared a big nation that annexed a small nation to a whale. Erya, the first surviving dictionary (~300 BC), recorded detailed observations about whales.

Hercules “may be deemed a sort of involuntary whaleman; at any rate the whale caught him, if he did not the whale.” Perhaps he can be considered a whaleman, if these days people caught in history or politics consider themselves historians or politicians?

“Doubts of all things earthly, and intuitions of some things heavenly; this combination makes neither believer nor infidel, but makes a man who regards them both with equal eyes.” Shakespeare’s echo here. In heaven he would be Melville’s worthy friend.

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