Mark Twain in India (Paperback)
Back in the mid-1980s when I was teaching in Warren College at the University of California, San Diego, we were required to use Mark Twain's famous book, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, in our classes. However, we were cautioned beforehand that certain words that were in common usage in the 19th century (such as the "N" word) were no longer acceptable either in speech or print today. But instead of editing out those offensive words, it was believed that keeping the older text in tact allowed us an historical and psychological glimpse into the mindset of the people living at that time, even if they contained only a partial glimpse of a certain class. I mention this because in re-reading Mark Twain's book, Following the Equator: A Journey Around the World (from which we have specifically excerpted his reminiscences of India), it becomes almost immediately apparent how dated the language is and how some phrases may be regarded as totally inappropriate to today's modern ear. But we have made no attempt here to alter Twain's words in any way, believing that it is important not to alter such since the document provides the interested reader with a fascinating social telescope into a time far gone. Having myself been to India nine times (and most recently in the Fall of 2014), much has changed in this wondrous country over the years even if many parts remain the same-so much so, in fact, that one imagines that Twain himself would acknowledge the semblance. The following book focuses only on Mark Twain's time in India during the first few months of 1896. He doesn't always looking kindly on the country that intrigued him so much and some Hindu scholars have questioned his objectivity. As Hinduism Today pointed out, "Twain's tales of his encounter with India and Hinduism are typical of the curmudgeonly essayist--witty, sagacious, exaggerated and cynical."Yet, Twain is such an exceptionally gifted writer (with a keen eye for the non obvious and a subtle if at times acerbic sense of humor) that he makes India come alive in a way that few writers can match. He is also skilled at revealing the ordinary in the midst of all the gala and pageantry. Reading Twain one gets a deeper feeling for all the multi-layered contradictions of human life. In any case, I think the reader is in for a treat, even if he or she may not agree with all of Twain's descriptions and insights.