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The Mysterious Stranger [Paperback]

Mark Twain
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 1 1995 Literary Classics
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 affiable 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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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Twain's best March 18 1999
By A Customer
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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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mark Twain, an Internationl Spy Jan. 31 2001
Format:Paperback
In The Mysterious Straqnger complete manuscript, that includes rough draft and complete unedited notes, Mark Twain predicted World War I. Mark Twain died in 1910. World War I started in 1914.Mark Twain states that Germany was targeted for destruction because it as a nieve country, living in the age of faith, when the rest of the world was living in the age of reason.Mark Twain repeatedly mentions Father Adolph, and Marx.Mark Twain stated that a few rich bankers headquartered in the U.S.A. started World War I.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars "Mysterious Stranger": sick, bitter, and twisted Feb. 27 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Twain's bitter edge kept getting sharper and sharper as he grew older, till finally only the bitterness was left. "The Mysterious Stranger" was his last work, and Twain is full-bore in his hatred of man, God, and everything in between. He was so intent on spilling his bile that he didn't even bother to come up with an ending, which is one of the most sophomoric I've ever seen; Heinlein would say it's equivalent to ending a book by writing "and the little boy fell out of bed and woke up." It's a shame that Twain's writing should be forever tarnished by this final piece of literary drudge, a book so bad only English majors and prison inmates are consigned to reading it. Read some of his earlier work instead (e.g., "Innocents Abroad").
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  48 reviews
81 of 91 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Truly Great Story Dec 19 2010
By grozny - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a side of Twain unread by those who think Huckleberry Finn and Mark Sawyer are children's books. The satire is far from humorous; the condemnation of Man is damning and totally accurate. The picture of ignorant, brutal, and short lives captures the religiosity of the Middle Ages (and of much of the present). If only for its treatment of the "moral sense," this story is worth re-reading. Obviously, the human idiocy Twain describes still exists.
Obviously, we still operate in the darkness Twain portrays. Obviously, if angels existed, they would be more like the character in this story than in our common picture of them.
Should be required reading for every student of religion or good writing, especially for those who ponder the question of why bad things happen to good people.
Note that in my version, there are two other short stories that follow this one. They are somewhat inconsequential and neither add or detract from the value of this edition.
57 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Read April 5 2010
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I'm not a huge fan of Mark Twain and his works, but I do love this story. The religious overtones and distant settings blend to make a very good, witch trial/McCarthy feel that hits close to home. It is really a "can't put it down" read.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars subversive & thrilling June 28 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!..."
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A different face for Twain Jan. 10 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.
33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great classic story telling Jan. 13 2011
By Joe - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is what Mark Twain is all about great story telling, yet the subject matter is unique for him. It is a fairly quick read and worth 2 shots at it. It is entertaining as the pacing is fast and interesting and it is also mysterious which keeps you turning pages. It deals with the struggles of man and his existence which are still very relevant today and it all seems fitting as this as I understand his last piece of work.
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