Friday, 22 February 2013

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn 3/100

by Mark Twain

Flammarion - 1994
Collection : Garnier Flammarion / Littérature étrangère
344 pages - 15.95 $

En français ici

Why this book

During my undergraduate degree in international studies and foreign languages, I took courses in English literature. It was one of the mandatory books (the other one was Life of PI). And also, like so many, I followed Tom Sawyer and Huck's adventures on TV when I was a child so it was a pleasure to immerse myself again in their story. And Hey! It's part of the 100!


Wild child Huck has to get away. His violent drunk of a father is back in town again, raising Cain. He won't rest until he has Huck's money. So the enterprising boy fakes his own death and sets out in search of adventure and freedom. Teaming up with Jim, an escaped slave with a price on his head, the two fugitives go on the run, travelling down the wide Mississippi River. But Huck finds himself wrestling with his conscience. Should he save Jim, or turn his friend over to a terrible fate? 

What I think of it 

I've read it in English and it was quite difficult. Mark Twain wrote in languages spoken by the different social classes of the time which  makes the book more authentic, certainly, but also quite difficult to understand. However, I can't blame him for the linguistic details that make the book so interesting.

The tone of the book is still quite light, it is written in an autobiographical point of view and the narrator, Huck is a young boy uneducated and quite candid, but also very clever. That said, his candidly description of the people he encounters makes an even more cynical portrait of the society that Mark Twain criticizes. This is a pessimistic and realistic  novel and it puts us in the presence of samples of different social classes (bourgeois, bandit, trapper, etc..) all more cunning or hypocrites than the others.

I liked less how the book treats Black people and the endless questioning of Huck as to whether or not he will return Jim to his life as a slave. After all that Jim had done for him, I did not like that he can still ponder. However, I understand that this is a painting of the society at that time and that such questioning could actually arise.

This book was the precursor of American literary style that uses dialects spoken during the period. The theme of good and evil is very present, but distilled humor makes the book enjoyable to read. This is a realistic and fierce critic of Southern society before the Civil War and that it is very interesting. Just as it is interesting to see how the notion of good and evil could be reversed for the interests of the wealthy (eg, slavery is good).

Let's be brief

A book less known than Tom Sawyer, but very nice to read. A book I recommend for those who want an overview of the society at the time and the evils of slavery. If you like Charles Dickens, you should like Mark Twain.

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