The first of a four-part program on Herman Melville’s masterpiece of historical fiction, “Benito Cereno.” This American novella is based on a chapter from the memoir of the real-life Captain Amasa Delano, who during his voyages in 1805 encountered a mysterious merchant-ship carrying a skeleton crew of Spaniards, an ineffectual and perplexing captain, and 150 Africans for the slave trade. In changing some of the details from the original factual account, Melville creates a dark and suspenseful allegory of race and class, fraught with tragic irony, that appeared during the crisis years leading up to the American Civil War.
Listeners are advised that the story is told mainly from the point of view of Captain Delano, who harbors the racial stereotypes characteristic of most white Americans at the time. The novella raises such compelling questions about race that Ralph Ellison took his epigraph for Invisible Man from Melville.
Our reader is Doug Storm. Special music for the episode comes from River of Light by Richard Danielpour, performed by Tim Fain and Pei-Yao Wang. Produced and written by Cynthia Wolfe with Doug Storm.
Host: Sarah Torbeck
Announcer: Berklea Going
Executive producer: Alycin Bektesh
Theme music: The Impossible Shapes