I absolutely love this book! Katherine Anne Porter was a Southern writer who wrote tons of short stories with only one or two characters set in her own distinctive world, but in this epic novel she creates a huge cast of characters from all nationalities and races and shows all of their turbulent adventures aboard a cruise ship just before World War II.
Many, many talk-show wonks will offer up such bromides as “The Founding Fathers never envisioned this.” So, what? The “Founding Fathers” didn’t envision a country as large as the United States populated by three hundred million plus people under a unitary despotic national government. They could not have envisioned the partisan and hateful Ship of Fools now running the deep state.
It has been argued that the work also resembles later emblem books, particularly the English version which provides a verse "motto" as well as a Latin title and summary. The book has been variously labelled as satire, allegory, sermon and complaint, incorporating themes such as the dance of death, memento mori and the wheel of fortune. The Ship of Fools may be thought of as a blend of tradition and innovation. Edwin Zeydel sees it as a move away from traditional concepts like allegory, and towards drama, the essay and the novel.
The theme of the novel is the passengers' unavailing withdrawal from a life of disappointment, seeking a kind of utopia, and, "without knowing what to do next", setting out for a long voyage to pre–World War II Europe, a world of prejudice, racism and evil. Mrs. Treadwell, a nostalgic American divorcee, hopes to find happiness in Paris, where she once spent her youth. Elsa Lutz, the plain daughter of a Swiss hotelkeeper, thinks heaven might be in the Isle of Wight. Jenny, an artist, says the most dangerous and happiest moment in her life was when she was swimming alone in the Gulf of Mexico, confronted with a school of dolphins. And at the end of the novel, one of the ship's musicians, a gangly starving boy, feels overjoyed to finally be off the ship and back in his home country, as if Germany were a "human being, a good and dear trusted friend who had come a long way to welcome him". Thus Porter manages to convey that salvation is reality, and evil can be overcome.
There may be temporary political advantage in exploiting identity politics. But the long-term results could be disastrous. “In a country where virtually every nonwhite group reaps advantages from being racially conscious and politically organized, how long before someone asks the obvious question: why can’t white people organize and agitate along racial lines, too?”
The more you think about Ship of Fools the more interesting it is. A ship bound from Mexico to Germany in 1931 is filled with passengers, mostly Germans who've been living in Mexico running businesses and returning home, a few Americans on vacation. They have about seven days to spend and within hours they start to make themselves and each other miserable. Their rampant sexism, racism, classism etc is so patently absurd. For one example, a German man passionately in love with his Jewish wife waiting for him when he arrives is seated at the captain's table. He mentioned to a lady he met that he was married to a Jewish woman and she tells the captain. The next he is moved to a table with the one Jewish man on the boat. Furious at the indignity the German commissariats with the Jewish man who responds to the effect, "Why would a nice Jewish girl marry a Goy like you?"
Renaissance men developed a delightful, yet horrible way of dealing with their mad denizens: they were put on a ship and entrusted to mariners because folly, water, and sea, as everyone then "knew," had an affinity for each other. Thus, "Ship of Fools" crisscrossed the sea and canals of Europe with their comic and pathetic cargo of souls. Some of them found pleasure and even a cure in the changing surroundings, in the isolation of being cast off, while others withdrew further, became worse, or died alone and away from their families. The cities and villages which had thus rid themselves of their crazed and crazy, could now take pleasure in watching the exciting sideshow when a ship full of foreign lunatics would dock at their harbors . . .
In Ship of Fools, Tucker Carlson offers a blistering critique of our new overlords. Traditional liberals are gone, he writes. The patchouli-scented hand-wringers who worried about whales and defended free speech have been replaced by globalists who hide their hard-edged economic agenda behind the smokescreen of identity politics. They’ll outsource your job while lecturing you about transgender bathrooms. Left and right, Carlson says, are no longer meaningful categories in America. “The rift is between those who benefit from the status quo, and those who don’t.”