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Jim Zwick <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Sat, 6 Apr 1996 21:14:56 +0000
text/plain (61 lines)
larry marshburne  <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> I enjoyed both books. My question, finally, is what was the reception in
> East Germany or other communist countries to this view of Twain.

In _The Anti-Imperialist Reader_, vol. 2, _The Literary
Anti-Imperialists_ (NY: Holmes & Meier, 1986) Philip S. Foner cited
another German interpretation of Twain: Heimbrecht Breinig, "Mark
Twain--Anti-Imperialist?" _Gulliver_ (Deutsch-Englische Jahrbucher)
9 (1981): 178-198.  Foner summarizes: "Breinig argues that while Mark
Twain's reputation as an anti-imperialist 'is well-deserved,' it has been
'exaggerated seen in the context of his lifelong endeavor to formulate his
attitude with respect to such related concepts as savagism and
civilization, primitivism and progressivism, Manifest Destiny, and
imperialism in an extended sense.'"   This sounds similar to Martin
Green's interpretation in _Dreams of Adventure, Deeds of Empire_
(NY: Basic Books, 1979) which interprets Connecticut Yankee, Tom
Sawyer, and Huck Finn as imperialist novels.

While doing a bibliographic search a while back I also found references
to several additional articles on turn-of-the-century anti-imperialist literature
that probably include discussions of Twain (the library here doesn't have
these and I've worn out my welcome at the interlibrary loan office so
I haven't had a chance to look them up yet):

Wustenhagen, Heinz.  "American Literary Naturalism and
Anti-Imperialist Movement and Thought." Wiss. Zeits. der
Humboldt-Universitat zu Berlin.  Gesellschaftswissenschaftliche Reihe
[East Germany] 33:4 (1984): 381-384.

Ihde, Horst.  "Origin and Significance of Anti-Imperialist Tendencies
in the Literature of the USA."  Same journal, pp. 343-348

Foner, Philip S.  "Literary Anti-Imperialism in the United States at
the Turn of the Twentieth Century."  Same journal, pp. 349-355.

Charles Neider's _Mark Twain and the Russians_ (Hill and Wang, 1960)
is another interesting source on Communist interpretations during the
Cold War.  Howard Fast's novel, _Silas Timberman_ (NY: Blue Heron
Press, 1954), is also interesting in its portrayal of a college
professor who is forced to go before the House Un-American Affairs
Committee after a series of events that starts with him using "The
Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg" as the central text of an American
Lit. class.  Fast was then the Communist Party USA's leading literary
figure (he left the Party a couple of years later).

I wonder if the Cold War-era elevation of Twain's anti-imperialist
writings in Russia and Eastern Europe has stopped now.  Certainly
Twain's condemnation of the "Blessings-of-Civilization Trust" could
be given an interesting twist after Russia and the US both
participated in the Gulf War when George Bush claimed that "all the
civilized nations were arrayed" against Iraq -- portrayed as
"uncivilized" since Kuwait is not a democracy and we weren't "making
the world safe for democracy."  The rhetoric of that war was
remarkably similar to what Twain criticised during the
Philippine-American War 90 years earlier.

Jim Zwick
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