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Mysterious Stranger (Literary Classics) Paperback – 1 Sep 1995

4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 121 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (1 Sept. 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573920398
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573920391
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 0.7 x 21.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,158,932 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835-1910), best known to the world by his pen-name Mark Twain, was an author and humorist, noted for his novels The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), which has been called "the Great American Novel," and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876, among many others.

From the Back Cover

In his last years Mark Twain had become a respected literary figure whose opinions were widely sought by the press. He had also suffered a series of painful physical, economic, and emotional losses. The Mysterious Stranger, published posthumously in 1916 and belonging to Twain's "dark" period, belies the popular image of the affable American humorist. In this antireligious tale, Twain denies the existence of a benign Providence, a soul, an afterlife, and even reality itself. As the Stranger in the story asserts, "nothing exists; all is a dream".


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By Luc REYNAERT TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 7 Feb. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The four stories in this eminent Dover-Thrift-Edition are very typical for Mark Twain's style, farcical/cynical tone and iconoclastic themes.

A Jumping Frog, a Bank-Note and a Sack of Gold
`The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County' is a farce about betting and manipulation.
`The ₤1,000,000 Bank-Note' ridicules the awe of people for the `wealthy': `With a Bank-Note he had become one of the notorieties of the metropolis of the world.'
`The Man that corrupted Hadleyburg' has the same basic theme as `The Visit' by Friedrich Dürrenmatt. The honor and the honesty of the principal citizens of a town are severely shaken by a sack of gold offered by an anonymous person.

The Mysterious Stranger
This story is, by far, the most important one in this bundle: a highlight in Mark Twain's work. It reveals unambiguously his remarkable, but cynical, vision on mankind, its Moral Sense and its future, and on politics and religion. His mouthpiece is none other than Satan.
For Mark Twain (Satan), `Man is a museum of diseases; he comes to-day and is gone to-morrow; he begins as dirt and departs as stench. He has the Moral Sense, which should enable him to distinguish good from evil.'
But with their Moral Sense, `the holy proprietors (are) paying wages only enough to keep brothers and sisters from dropping dead with hunger with work-hours of fourteen per day, little children and all. What have they done, that they are punished so? Nothing at all, except getting themselves born into a foolish race.'
On the political front, `the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and everyman will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities.
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By A Customer on 19 Mar. 1999
Format: Paperback
I, having read Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, picked up "No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger" expecting yet another light-hearted romp.
I got a masterpiece instead.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I re-read this book periodically and marvel each time anew at Twain's artful insights. Not just as a writer, but a deep thinker.
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this book was recommended by serial killer Richard Ramirez didn't think id be able to get into it but I did and loved it
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x91ec7d44) out of 5 stars 53 reviews
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x91edb8dc) out of 5 stars subversive & thrilling 28 Jun. 2007
By xtina - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Provocative and subversive, if you've ever had issues with Christian theology, you will certainly be drawn to this novella. At the end of the story, the character Satan manages to sum up, in one paragraph, with biting eloquence, some of the most serious theological problems with Christianity. It is the sort of passage that you read and then immediately bang your head against the wall because it's exactly what you always wanted to say and you wish YOU had been the one to write it down:

"Strange, indeed, that you should not have suspected that your universe and its contents were only dreams, visions, fiction! Strange, because they are so frankly and hysterically insane -- like all dreams: a God who could make good children as easily as bad, yet preferred to make bad ones; who could have made every one of them happy, yet never made a single happy one; who made them prize their bitter life, yet stingily cut it short; who gave his angels eternal happiness unearned, yet required his other children to earn it; who gave his angels painless lives, yet cursed his other children with biting miseries and maladies of mind and body; who mouths justice and invented hell -- mouths mercy and invented hell -- mouths Golden Rules, and forgiveness multiplied by seventy times seven, and invented hell; who mouths morals to other people and has none himself; who frowns upon crimes, yet commits them all; who created man without invitation, then tries to shuffle the responsibility for man's acts upon man, instead of honorably placing it where it belongs, upon himself; and finally, with altogether divine obtuseness, invites this poor, abused slave to worship him!..."
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x91edb930) out of 5 stars A different face for Twain 10 Jan. 2010
By Luxx Mishley - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In 1590 three Austrian boys - Nikolaus, Seppi, and Theodor (the narrator) - meet a mysterious stranger in the countryside near their small village. This stranger possesses strange powers, and delights the boys not only with his magic tricks (such as lighting their pipe with a breath or creating a miniature civilization from dust), but with his stories and observations regarding the human race. Though he identifies himself as an angel by the name of Satan he assures the boy that he is merely the nephew of the more famous figure, and gains their trust and their friendship. The boys continue a strange and often taxing relationship with the supernatural individual, and though they are unnaturally sedated by his physical presence his influence on their thoughts and morality creates a kind of lasting damage to their individual psyches.

Mark Twain's narrative views on religion, faith, and humanity can be found in any number of his works, though I myself am only familiar with those presented in The Diaries of Adam and Eve, Helpful Hints for Good Living, and Letters from Earth. However, his critical presentation in The Mysterious Stranger is much darker than any I have read by him before. Although the story is told by Theodor, the narrative itself revolves around Satan and Satan's view of humanity. Much of the narrative itself is occupied with the sermons he delivers to the boys, which are aggressive and critical towards humanity, and often towards the morality the boys themselves are taught to respect. The kinds of ideas presented can leave readers wondering whether the character of Satan is really the nephew or the dominant figure, and allows them to question the motives of the foremost character in the novel. Is he truly a benevolent spiritual figure? Is he an evil entity set on wreaking havoc in the small community? And why, in light of their own doubts and misgivings about him, do the boys continue to associate with - indeed, seek out if possible - Satan?

The Mysterious Stranger is not the Mark Twain of Huck Finn, or even the Mark Twain of Helpful Hints; here is a much darker Twain intent not on amusing his audiences, but on expressing feelings of aggression and anger towards a mass that so often seems to perpetuate its own misery. While I found Satan's frequent aggrandizing sermons to be incredibly tedious I appreciated the glimpse of Twain that I had not seen before.
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x926d16b4) out of 5 stars Three supreme masterpieces, one ornery let-down. 2 Aug. 2001
By darragh o'donoghue - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
this volume spans the length of Mark Twain's career, and contains some of his most famous shorter works, which all centre on the subject of Money. 'The Celebrated jumping frog of Calaveras County' is the most perfect tall tale in the English language, three flawless pages about Jim Smiley and the bizarre sidelines he would investigate to win a bet, any bet, written in a miraculous mid-19th century California vernacular. If that isn't enough, Twain tops it with the best closing paragraph of any work I have ever read ever.
'The $1,000,000 Bank note' is almost surreal, or Marxist, the story of a derelict made an unwitting guinea pig by two elderly millionaires, curious to see what would happen to an honest but poor man in the possession of such an impractible note. The frightening fetishistic power of currency structures a somewhat creepily benevolent narrative, and the opening paragraphs audaciously cram a novel's worth of misfortune.
'The Man who corrupted Hadleyburg' is the masterpiece here, at once an unforgiving morality tale about the temptation of money on an incorruptible town, and a satire on the crippling effect of bogus social respectability. Twain's irony is at its most relentless here, mixing anger at elite hypocrisy with distaste for the savage mob mentality. The scenes of public justice are hilarious but terrifying; the unnamed man taking monstrous revenge on a whole town for a personal slight, exposing its shams by an experiment, could well be Twain himself.
The same could be said of the hero of his novella 'The Mysterious Stranger', Twain's last, posthumously published work. In this, an angel, Satan, nephew of his infernal namesake, comes to a late 16th century Austrian mountain village and systematically exposes the murderous herd instincts, moral deceptions and shabby pretensions of the human condition. Everything - war, religion, society, justice, family, human aspiration, childhood innocence - is ground down with misanthropic, sub-Swiftian satire.
'Stranger' is not an easy book to like. As an historical novel, it is an utter failure, with no attempt to understand the mindset, never mind the language, idiom or customs of an alien culture. As an allegory for the contemporary America in which Twain was writing, the book is indispensible, insightful, brave, bracing, honest, incredibly prescient, but monotonous, flatly written and exhausting. As a supernatural fable, the book has little sense of wonder or of the unknown, but in its story of a devil wreaking subversive havoc on a socially repressive culture by playing on their hypocritical terms, 'Stranger' does look forward to Bulgakov's more successful 'The Master and Margarita'.
27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x91edbbb8) out of 5 stars The Mysterious Stranger is Essential Today 24 Mar. 2002
By Karl Rosenquist - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I have taught this book at the college level for a few years now; it definitely sheds Twain's unfortunate Americana image, and it reveals the darker genius of this "beloved" author. Twain's greatest work, The Mysterious Stranger will enrage fundamentalist Christians, several of whom have dropped my course because of this novella. Asking people to think about what is real, what is behind existence, though, is no crime and should be inoffensive. Young people who are harmed by systematic thinking will react to this book like people being deprogrammed from a cult: they will hate it. But Twain, who was in anguish when he wrote this, had the honesty to ask difficult questions. Read The Mysterious Stranger as a guide to Twain's futuristic thinking, his tribute to the mind above all other things.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x91edbdf8) out of 5 stars The bitter reality of human nature realized 3 Aug. 2011
By Mike Sheehan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
To me, I think problems can only begin to be solved once they're recognized as such; this could work on a societal level too. And so it genuinely saddens me that one-hundred years after Mark Twain's railing against human nature and its major institutions (government and religion), practically nothing has changed, because the things he speaks of truly are a part of human nature, as it seems. The most damning one of all is Satan's speaking of the nature of war, a conversation which could've taken place yesterday, or any time in the past hundred years, which Twain hits the nail on the head with in a way that takes great will power to not quote the whole passage here. But I truly think that if someone, especially in America (or any country that has fought like 20 wars in the past 100 years) read this passage on war, they'd either have an enlightening, epiphanic moment and/or feel something akin to oppressive shame. Chapter's 7, 9, and 11 contain Satan's most potent critiques of humanity; an absolutely scathing, misanthropic mostly-one-sided dialogue, where Twain's Satan speaks truths that anyone will, should, realize the moment it's read. Twain is very clever and does an excellent job articulating all his misanthropic feelings. Another thing that's really great about this book is Twain's idea of Satan. Satan is an omniscient being where everything he does seems bad on surface level (killing and causing insanity), but he actually does what's best for each person (though the closing dialogue may alter our perception on this a bit). I haven't gotten to reading the Adventures of Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn, but I'm assuming The Mysterious Stranger doesn't get nearly as much attention because those two aren't even on the same plateau of philosophical significance that the latter holds, although I hope I'm wrong. To me, this novella is a masterpiece and may as well be a treatise on human nature... or a basis for a manifesto to fix ourselves.
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