Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc by Mark Twain

   When most people think of Mark Twain, they think of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, Tom Canty and Prince Edward, or perhaps the Connecticut Yankee that found himself in Camelot.

But not many people know that he also wrote a biography - about Joan of Arc. It's true! Mark Twain was fascinated by her. When he wrote the book, he did not want to mar her with his name, and, if I remember right, wrote it under another, but I don't remember what it was. When I first read that he had written a book about her, I knew I wanted to read it, and I considered being assigned to read a book about her in school as good an excuse as any.

According to the book, it is told from the point of view of her page and secretary, Louis, who had been one of only to in Joan's childhood village to know how to read and write. It is told in first person as a memoir. I do not know for certain if such a person existed.

Mark Twain was a master at making fun of the absurd, and he did so in this book - but to nowhere near what I have seen in his other works. It is never pointed towards Joan, although it was sometimes pointed towards Louis himself.

This covers Joan's entire life, with a brief overview as to what came after. Louis mostly writes what happened in true history, and he will let you know if it's something that is not recorded. He sometimes writes things were not personally observed by him, and he will let you know about them, too. He managed to go with her through most of her life, and, according to him, is the only person besides her who got to see the angels that visited her. He manages to go with her though most of her life. He was separated from her for a while during her imprisonment, but manages to sneak into the trials using his skill with the pen.

It was a fascinating read, and, as far as I could tell, very factual. I highly recommend it.

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