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A tramp abroad (The writings of Mark Twain)

4.1 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Unknown Binding
  • Publisher: Gabriel Wells; Definitive ed edition (1923)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0006EXIXQ
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 8,343,626 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
America's post-Civil War years brought a renewed interest in the European scene. Journeys known as Grand Tours led tourists to take ship to the Continent. They fanned out across the landscape with the intent to "know Europe." Their return home resulted in a flurry of published accounts. Twain here satirizes both the tourists and their writings with delicious wit. Ever a man to play with words, his "tramp" refers to both himself and the walking tour of Europe he purports to have made. By the time you've reached the end of the account of the "walking tour" incorporating trains, carriages and barges, you realize that the longest "walk" Twain took occurred in dark hotel room while trying to find his bed. He claims to have covered 47 miles wandering around the room.
Twain was interested in everything, probing into both well-known and obscure topics. His judgments are vividly conveyed in this book, standing in marked contrast to his more reserved approach in Innocents Abroad. A delightful overview of mid-19th Century Europe, Tramp is also interlaced with entertaining asides. Twain was deeply interested in people, and various "types" are drawn from his piercing gaze, rendered with acerbic wit. Some of these are contemporary, while others are dredged from his memories of the California mines and other journeys. He also relished Nature's marvels, recounting his observations. A favourite essay is "What Stumped the Blue-jays." A nearly universal bird in North America, Twain's description of the jay's curiosity and expressive ability stands unmatched. He observes such humble creatures as ants, Alpine chamois, and the American tourist. Few escape his perception or his scathing wit. This book remains valuable for its timeless rendering of characters and the universality of its view. It can be read repeatedly for education or entertainment. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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If you wish to experience the full range of Mark Twain's prolific story telling capabilities then this is the book for you. It recounts his trip round Europe in the 1870's (when he was in his mid thirties), but is it much more than a mere travelogue.

He does of course cover many factual elements, for example a particular town in Germany which I was able to look up on Google. The photographs show that it has not changed much since Mark Twain was there and his description still applies. Later in the book he cites a famous large painting (in a city in Italy) which again I was able to find on Google and I could follow his account of the various portions of the canvas.

Mixed in with the travelogue are stories of what has happened to him along the way, exaggerations of what may have happened to him, and downright tall stories of what is most unlikely to have happened to him. It is up to the reader to determine which is which. Added to this are acknowledged myths and legends from the current locality. It all makes for a rich and entertaining tapestry of wonderful narrative.

Mark Twain has the ability to make me laugh out loud. He describes in comical detail his excruciating experience of German Opera, his delight in hearing a piano played really badly in a hotel lounge, his infuriation at suffering from insomnia, and his fascination with the behaviour of the common ant - to name but a few instances.

Do not overlook the appendices when you reach the end of the main part of the book. His analysis there of the eccentricities of the German language is glorious and a gem in its own right.

This eBook version has some curiosities. There are the usual handful of printing errors that one might expect to have been eliminated by good proofreading.
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After 'Innocents Abroad', this was Mark Twain's second foreign travel book. Both books have 'laugh out loud' moments, and dull passages. The art of 'skipping' bits is particularly useful when reading Mark Twain! To be fair, he was writing in the latter part of the nineteenth century, and his descriptions of European scenery would have been necessary to readers without access to visual media. We might find them boring today, even though they are brilliantly written! I must confess I often used Google Maps and Wiki to check out places he had mentioned! Sometimes just to verify his information, as the book is full of deliberate misinformation and hoaxes! We always have to remember that he is trying to entertain! He can be very serious, but trying to establish if the 'serious' passages are just 'send-ups' is part of the fun in reading Mark Twain! For example, his 'rant' on European and American food, with that extremely long list of American ingredients. Is he serious here? I found it helped to always keep in mind the fact that the book was written in 1879. On a personal note, I have also stayed in Interlaken, and that big hotel is still there, and I can just imagine the dull evenings spent there listening to terrible pianists! Now you can go to the top of the Jungfrau by train! No need to go by telescope! He would have loved that!
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I have mixed feelings about this one.Sometimes it made me laugh out loud and certain paragraphs are absolute gold - like the one about trying to leave a room without waking up a sleeping friend or climbing a tiny mountain in few days even though it should take few hours max. Unfortunately in between those really funny stories the author takes on a challenge to make you suicidal. The worst parts are those dreadful legends he has to torture us with every so often. Just thinking about them makes me feel a bit down. Also the entire description of university duel clubs was so painfully boring it made me want to abandon the book. But then on the other hand whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger and the good bits are like I said phenomenal. And I was shortly rewarded with a chapter on the french duel which was fantastic. The only inconsistent thing is that towards the end author's attitiude changes and he becomes quite a stereotypical American he despises - that's when he has quite a lenghty rant about how you can't eat a decent meal in Europe. It didn't match the personality we got to know in the book and seemed a bit hillbilly, but I guess it was supposed to be funny.
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