Herman Melville (1819 to 1891, New York City, USA) is most famous as the author of Moby Dick (1851). Moby Dick is on every list of world's greatest novels and might be the only 19th century American novel that can stand up next to the very best of European and English literature of the century. Moby Dick, like Gulliver's Travels, is known about by many more people than have read it. I first read it about 45 years ago, then I read it four years ago and I hope to read it again one of these days. Since I began The Reading Life in July 2009, I have read only his classic must read short story, "Bartleby the Scrivener". I loved it and I also love Moby Dick.
Two factors motivated me to read Benito Cereno. The first was the simple fact that I bought a remainder copy of the Oxford Classic edition of Billy Budd, Sailor and other selected Tales years ago which included it and secondly I was lead to read it by the Melville read through at one of the book blogs that inspired me to start my own blog, bibliographing. (OK and I also liked the fact that it was not terribly long.)
Benito Cereno is a nautical story centering around the revolt of the people on a slave ship. It is based on a true story. The prose is not as thunderous as Moby Dick but that requires a bigger stage. The moral or meaning of this story is a, I think, complex one. Of course Melville is against slavery but there is much more to this work than that.
I endorse this work to anyone who wants to expand their reading in Melville.