MARK TWAIN: The Man With the Texas Drawl (Satis Shroff
‘Mark Twain’s pith and wit are phenomenal in American literature,’ says Michael Shelden in his book Mark Twain: Man in
White(Random House 522pp.,$30). The author of Adventures of Huckleberry
Finn was a man named Samuel Langhorne Clemens and he used a psydonym: Mark
Twain, which has become a household name in all English speaking countries.
Drawing from his own boyhood experiences, he wrote the story of a journey along the Mississippi river on a raft with his
companion Jim, an Afro-American runaway. The two travellers encounter robbers,
murderers, fighting families, tricksters and a motley of characters. And all
that deepens the friendship between the pale Huck and Jim. Jim learns, at the
end of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, that he is no longer a slave but a free
man. A new vista opens up for Jim, for he can now work to buy his wife and
children. How would Twain have reacted, or Jim for that matter, if he knew that
Barak Obama is the US President now. I can see tears of joy and disbelief
rolling down his cheeks. Thick friends they were: Tom, Huck and Jim, eh?
The story published in 1884 has become a classic. In Twain’s work, even mundane
things in life are blown up and given importance. Mark Twain, excuse me, Sam
Clemens was born in 1835 in a small community in Florida (Missouri). The family
moved to a hamlet called Hannibal which had a port, and there began his
life-long love with the Mississippi. His parents had four other children. The
port town of Hannibal was made famous by Sam Clemens and he gave it the name
St. Petersburg where his fictitious protagonists live. Mark Twain is actually
the water depth measurement for the possibility of boat-passage. Mark One was 1
fathom deep (1,8m) and Mark Twain measured two fathoms (3,6m). If the depth of
the river had no bottom it was certainly over 5 fathoms deep.
Samuel’s father was a Justice of Peace but when he was eleven years old his father died, which meant the end of Sam’s formal
schooling. Since he had to earn money for the family, he started as a printer’s
apprentice, which was the beginning of his close association with set types
with words on them.
The US won a war in 1812 against the troops of Great Britain which resulted in a great immigration movement of pioneers from
the east side of the US to the west. In six years after the war six western
territories became states and slavery was still rampant in those days. In 1817
there were eleven (slave) free states and eleven slave states. The US Congress
passed a law in1808 making it illegal to bring slaves into the US. However, the
slaves and their children born before 1808 were still sold by slave traders.
Sam gathered his experience as a printer in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Washington DC an finally landed in the year 1850 in
Iowa where he worked under his brother Orion. He began writing stories and
humorous sketches for local newspapers and mags. He acquired his own style
because he’d set and printed the works of many other writers. Even though he worked
as a printer, he had his developed his ideas, dreams and fantasy. As a child
Sam had always wanted to run a steamboat. Since there were no nautical maps,
the beginners were taught by the river, and they had to learn the currents of
the Mississippi during the different seasons, the pitfalls and changes brought
on by the long river during floods and droughts. Sam made good use of his
knowledge in Huck Finn’s adventures, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and Life on
We know that Mark Twain had a wonderful sense of humour, wrote biting satire and was also a bitter cynic. He had serious
doubts about the stupidity of humans and was broken through his own tragedy.
Nevertheless, he was a humanistic visionary and was ‘ahead of the rest’ like
his protagonist Huckleberry Finn in a different and better society.
In 1853 Sam Clemens decided to leave for the US east coast since he was a qualified
journeyman printer. In the year 1860 there were 3,000 different newspapers in
the US. An illustration of the power of the written word can be witnessed in
the story of Samuel Langhorne Clemens when he was working as a journalist as he
spoke to a lady who was running his household. Young Samuel commented about the
forthcoming harvest and said it’d be a poor one. She differed in her opinion.
After that Sam wrote an article about an expected bad weather.
On the next day, the lady said to him, ‘You were right. It’s going to be a bad harvest, it was in the newspaper today.’
Samuel travelled the world. He went with his family to Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France and England to gather material
for a humorous travelogue. He wrote, lectured and did book readings and was one
of the greatest figures in America’s literary life. After the success of Tom
Sawyer’s Adventures, he embarked on a journey per ship to Hamburg in April 1878
and undertook a trip to the middle mountains of Germany and the Black Forest.
He loved to collect bombastic German words and wrote a travelogue with the
title A Tramp Abroad in 1880. He had a southern drawl and could make the
audience laugh their guts out. He had the dead pan technique for his humorous
tales. His tales were tall at times.
Despite all the love, admiration and recognition from the society, he was very critical about it. He wanted to write
out of his heart and spare no feelings and prejudices. Was Sam Clemes tired of
Mark Twain towards the end? Samuel Langhorne Clemens died at the age of 74 on
April 21, 1910.
Satis Shroff ist Dozent, Schriftsteller, Dichter und Kunstler und außerdem Lehrbeauftragter für Creative
Writing an der Albert Ludwigs Universität Freiburg.yes""> Er hat sechs Bücher geschrieben: Im Schatten des Himalaya
(Gedichte und Prosa), Through Nepalese Eyes (Reisebericht), Katmandu,
Katmandu (Gedichte und Prosa mit Nepali autoren) Glacial Whispers
(Gedichtesammlung zwischen 1997-2010).
Er hat zwei Sprachführer im Auftrag von Horlemannverlag und Deutsche
Stiftung für Entwicklungsdienst (DSE) geschrieben, außerdem drei Artikeln über
die Gurkhas, Achtausender und Nepals Symbolen für Nelles Verlags ‚Nepal’ und
über Hinduismus in „Nepal: Myths & Realities (Book Faith India). Sein
Gedicht „Mental Molotovs“ wurde im epd-Entwicklungsdienst (Frankfurt)
veröffentlicht. 12.0pt;mso-ansi-language:EN-GB"">Seine Lyrik sind in Slow Trains, International
Zeitschrift, World Poetry Society (WPS), New Writing North, Muses Review, The
Megaphone, Pen Himalaya, Interpoetry publiziert worden. Er ist ein Mitglied von
Writers of Peace, poets, essayists, novelists (PEN), World
Poetry Society (WPS) usw.
Satis Shroff lebt in Freiburg (poems, fiction, non-fiction) und schreibt über ökologische,
medizin-ethnologische und kultur-ethnische Themen. Er hat Zoologie und Botanik
in Nepal, Sozialarbeit und Medizin in Freiburg und Creative Writing in Freiburg
und UK studiert. Da Literatur eine der wichtigsten Wege ist, um die Kulturen
kennenzulernen, hat er sein Leben dem Kreatives Schreiben gewidmet. Er arbeitet
als Dozent in Basel (Schweiz) und in Deutschland an der Akademie für medizinische Berufe (Uniklinik
Freiburg). Ihm wurde der DAAD-Preis verliehen.