Hear Moby Dick Read in Its Entirety by Tilda Swinton, Stephen Fry, John Waters & Others

Moby-Dick is the great Amer­i­can nov­el. But it is also the great unread Amer­i­can nov­el. Sprawl­ing, mag­nif­i­cent, deliri­ous­ly digres­sive, it stands over and above all oth­er works of fic­tion, since it is bare­ly a work of fic­tion itself. Rather, it is an explo­sive expo­si­tion of one man’s inves­ti­ga­tion into the world of the whale, and the way humans have relat­ed to it. Yet it is so much more than that.”

That’s how Ply­mouth Uni­ver­si­ty intro­duces Her­man Melville’s clas­sic tale from 1851. And it’s what set the stage for their web project launched back in 2012. Called The Moby-Dick Big Read, the project fea­tured celebri­ties and less­er known fig­ures read­ing all 135 chap­ters from Moby-Dick — chap­ters that you can start down­load­ing (as free audio files) on iTunesSound­cloud, RSS Feed, or the Big Read web site itself.

The project start­ed with the first chap­ters being read by Til­da Swin­ton (Chap­ter 1), Cap­tain R.N. Hone (Chap­ter 2), Nigel Williams (Chap­ter 3), Caleb Crain (Chap­ter 4), Musa Okwon­ga (Chap­ter 5), and Mary Nor­ris (Chap­ter 6). John WatersStephen Fry, Simon Cal­low, Mary Oliv­er and even Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron read lat­er ones.

If you want to read the nov­el as you go along, find the text in our col­lec­tion of Free eBooks. We also have ver­sions read by one nar­ra­tor in our Free Audio Books col­lec­tion.

Til­da Swin­ton’s nar­ra­tion of Chap­ter 1 appears right below:

An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in 2012.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

An Illus­tra­tion of Every Page of Her­man Melville’s Moby Dick

How Ray Brad­bury Wrote the Script for John Huston’s Moby Dick (1956)

Hear a Com­plete 24-Hour Read­ing of Moby-Dick, Record­ed at the South­bank Cen­tre in Lon­don (2015)

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  • John Herman says:

    I taught Moby Dick to senior high school stu­dents for many years,and while my advanced stu­dents all believed Ahab was mad, my gen­er­al stu­dents could relate to his intense feel­ing of being a vic­tim.

    After I retired in 1995, I lec­tured on world reli­gions and used Melville’s alliance with Fedal­lah as an exam­ple of Zoroas­tri­an teach­ing. When, dur­ing the great storm, Ahab says, “No fear­less fool now fronts thee, I own thy speech­less, place­less pow­er.” He reminds us of the dual­ism of two co-equal pow­ers, and by ally­ing him­self and his crew, (rep­re­sent­ing mankind), with the force of evil, he believes he will tri­umph, yet only destroys him­self and all who have fol­lowed him, save Ish­mael.

    Melville and the oth­er Tran­scen­den­tal­ists want­ed to place our democ­ra­cy on a firm spir­i­tu­al foun­da­tion. He writes: “The great God absolute, the cen­ter and cir­cum­fer­ence of all democ­ra­cy. His omnipres­ence, our divine equal­i­ty.”
    This under­stand­ing and belief in our in-dwelling uni­fy­ing spir­i­tu­al essence is some­thing we are still in dire need of today.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.