In a little while we were speeding through the streets of Paris and delightfully recognizing certain names and places with which books had long ago made us familiar. It was like meeting an old friend when we read Rue de Rivoli on the street corner; we knew the genuine vast palace of the Louvre as well as we knew its picture... A brand new selection of Mark Twain’s views on Europe (and the Europeans), taken from two volumes of travelogues which recounted his journeys across the continent. On Europe relates daily activities, the sights that the author saw and the people he met but the humour lies chiefly in his anecdotes. In particular, Twain’s enthusiastic search for an authentic European shaving experience, the apparently constantly perplexing intricacies of foreign languages and the complicated art form of dealing with local guides. Following the tradition of new-world travellers returning to the old world, Twain’s account features the usual blend of awe and disillusion which Americans experienced in equal measure when confronted with lands so steeped in history and legend and yet now in the grip of modernity. Twain’s trademark wit leaves few fellow travellers, locals or ideologies unscathed. Uproariously funny at times, then suddenly bordering on xenophobia, Twain’s writings always seem to pull back from the brink and err on the side of humour rather than offence. Whether he was enthusing about the railways, the food or the local beauties or denigrating the locals for the scarcity of soap, no subject escapes analysis of the most amusing kind.
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