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Our Famous Guest: Mark Twain in Vienna

Domeltsch, Carl

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ISBN 10: 0820314587 / ISBN 13: 9780820314587
Published by Univ of Georgia Press, 1992
Condition: Fine Hardcover
From Trilby & Co. Books (San Jose, CA, U.S.A.)

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About this Item

First printing. Inscribed and SIGNED by Carl Domeltsch on the half title page. Fine volume in a mylar sleeved, unpriced, dust jacket which has trace edge wear. Bookseller Inventory # 15101551

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Our Famous Guest: Mark Twain in Vienna

Publisher: Univ of Georgia Press

Publication Date: 1992

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Near Fine

Signed: Signed

Edition: First Edition.

About this title


Fin-de-siecle Vienna was a special place at a special time, a city in which the decadent abandon of the era commingled with dark forebodings of the coming century. The artistic and intellectual ferment of the Austrian capital was extraordinary and included Sigmund Freud, Gustav Mahler, Arthur Schnitzler, Theodor Herzl, Gustav Klimt and Ludwig Wittgenstein - but a few of figures who lived and worked there. And, in September 1897, into the very midst of this milieu, came Mark Twain. Although most of Twain's biographers have mentioned his Viennese sojourn (occasioned by his daughter Clara's musical studies), it has remained an unexplored hiatus in his career. Partly because of impressions created by Twain himsef, the 20 months he spent in Vienna are often dismissed as uneventful and unproductive. In "Our Famous Guest" Carl Dolmetsch believes the truth to be otherwise. According to this book, Twain imbibed freely of Vienna's atmosphere, and the result was a final surge of creativity. Among the 30 works that came, either whole or in part, from Twain's Austrian visit were the Socratic dialogue "What is Man?" , sections of his autobiography, Book 1 of "Christian Science", the short story "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg", the polemical essay "Concerning the Jews" and a major portion of the manuscript cluster known as "The Mysterious Stranger". A Dolmetsch notes, conventional wisdom attributes the "bitter pessimism" of these late writings to such factors as his personal bereavements and financial reversals. Rejecting this view as oversimplified, Dolmetsch argues that the transformation in Twain's outlook and writing style owe much to the cultural currents he encountered abroad, above all in Vienna. He suggests that Twain was especially responsive to a peculiarly Viennese blend of nihilism and hedonism and to the "impressionistic" style favoured by its writers. In locating these influences, Dolmetsch portrays a Mark Twain more cosmopolitan than some other studies. Through research in Viennese newspaper reports and Twain's own journals and writings, Dolmetsch reconstructs the writer's visit. The narrative includes stories of Twain's manipulation of the Viennese press, his involvements in the city's musical and theatrical life, the attacks he endured from anti-Semitic journalists and even his futile attempts to obtain marketing rights to two inventions by a polish engineer. One chapter ponders the riddle of Twain's association with Freud (who was then virtually unknown outside of Vienna) and their congruent facination with the relationship between dreams and "reality".

From Library Journal:

This meticulously researched and detailed account of Twain's 20-month stay in fin-de-siecle Vienna offers convincing evidence that the pessimism and despair of his late, now mostly neglected, work spring not from personal misfortune but from his immersion in that city's cultural nihilism. Portraying a legendary Vienna in a legendary time, Dolmetsch offers a Twain who was not, in the last decade of his life, simply a soured and artistically failing victim of circumstance but a mentally active, productive writer whose late works are worth reevaluating. This is no innocent, buffoonish American abroad but a thoughtful world-class writer on a European stage. Recommended for most libraries.
- Charles C. Nash, Cottey Coll., Nevada, Mo.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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