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Bartleby, the Scrivener by Herman Melville

Book cover for Bartleby, the Scrivener
When a New York lawyer needs to take on another copyist, it is Bartleby who responds to his advertisement, and arrives "pallidly neat, pitiably respectable, incurably forlorn." At first a diligent employee, he soon begins to refuse work, saying only "I would prefer not to." So begins the story of Bartleby—passive to the point of absurdity yet paradoxically extremely disruptive—which rapidly turns from farce to inexplicable tragedy.