274 - Mark Twain 100 Years On

Mais que uma preciosidade literária, Mark Twain foi sobretudo um homem de espírito livre e um importante progressista. 100 anos depois de sua morte, fomos visitar sua casa em Hartford, Connecticut.
by Kathleen Becker.

This year marks the centenary of the death of Mark Twain, who has been called “the father of American literature.”
To honour the event, we visited the house in Hartford, Connecticut which Twain (whose real name was Samuel Longhorne Clemens) and his family called home for 17 years. There we met with the house’s curator, Craig Hotchkiss. In addition to his literary merits, Twain is also remembered for his great sense of humour. Craig Hotchkiss also emphasised Twain's political progressiveness:

Craig Hotchkiss
(Standard American accent)

{yootooltip title=[ He was way ahead of the envelope ]} he was way ahead of the envelope - (idiom) era muito avançado para sua época {/yootooltip} on many, many social reforming issues. He was an early supporter of women’s right to vote. He was an anti-imperialist, {yootooltip title=[ which ran against the grain of our country ]} which ran against the grain of our country - que ia contra o pensamento comum do nosso país {/yootooltip} at the turn of the century, but probably his most important {yootooltip title=[ legacy ]} legacy - legado, herança cultural {/yootooltip} is {yootooltip title=[ the seed that he sowed ]} the seed that he sowed - as sementes que ele semeou {/yootooltip} with regard to getting Americans to think differently about race. At a time when we were {yootooltip title=[ at a nadir of race relations ]} at a nadir of race relations - no nível mais crítico das relações raciais {/yootooltip} in America, in particular in the South, where Jim Crow segregation {yootooltip title=[had set in]} had set in - havia se instaurado {/yootooltip}: {yootooltip title=[mob violence, lynching was rampant]} mob violence, lynching was rampant - violência em massa e linchamento estavam aumentando muito {/yootooltip}, essentially enforcing white supremacy through terror. He watched that section of the country, which was his! His family had owned slaves and he had grown up understanding slavery to be just a normal part of life. He realised that {yootooltip title=[it was America’s great albatross that he had to bear]} it was America’s great albatross that he had to bear - "grande peso de culpa da América a ser carregado" {/yootooltip}. And he wanted to get Americans to think differently about race, and specifically about African-Americans, that they were something more than the un-human beings, as they were being treated. So he writes {yootooltip title=[ a sneaky little book ]} a sneaky little book - um pequeno livro despretensioso {/yootooltip} called Huckleberry Finn, which many people still think is a nice little tale about a boy and a man that go down a {yootooltip title=[ raft ]} raft - jangada {/yootooltip} on the Missisippi, and it’s high adventure; and indeed many youth read that book, not realising that there’s a {yootooltip title=[ hidden ]} hidden - escondida {/yootooltip} message in it. And it’s a book written to humanise – and thereby make equal – Jim, the {yootooltip title=[runaway African-American slave]} runaway African-American slave - escravo afro-americano em fuga {/yootooltip}.

And Craig Hotchkiss had more to say on the subject:

Craig Hotchkiss:

It’s a realistic portrayal of slavery at a time when slavery is being romanticised, when the Confederacy is being rehabilitated {yootooltip title=[in cultural settings]} in cultural settings - na esfera cultural {/yootooltip}. Movies like Birth of a Nation (D.W. Griffiths' famous film was released in 1915, five years after Twain's death – ed) are glorifying Jim Crow {yootooltip title=[viciousness]} viciousness - crueldade, malignidade {/yootooltip}. And he writes a book that shows that for what it is and asks, just like the little boy Huck, might we think about our situation a little bit differently? So I think it’s one of the first seeds to lead to more progressive race relations. I mean, we certainly have a lot of work to do, but without Huck Finn, I think {yootooltip title=[ we’d be much further back ]} we’d be much further back - estaríamos bem mais atrasados {/yootooltip} in the evolution of our racial engagement.

I never saw any place {yootooltip title=[ where morality and huckleberries flourish ]} where morality and huckleberries flourish - onde moralidade e mirtilos florescem {/yootooltip} as they do here," said Sam Longhorne Clemens – Mark Twain’s real name – when he visited Hartford. Twain was so impressed that in the early 1870s, he commissioned the construction of a spectacular house in this Connecticut town. Mark Twain wrote some of his most important works here, including The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, one of the great American novels.

The house is constructed of {yootooltip title=[ red brick ]} red brick - tijolos vermelhos {/yootooltip} in the "Picturesque Gothic" style, {yootooltip title=[with turrets and balconies, red and black painted tiles]} with turrets and balconies, red and black painted tiles - com torres e varandas, telhas pintadas em vermelho e preto {/yootooltip}, and much {yootooltip title=[delicately carved woodwork]} delicately carved woodwork - adornos de madeira delicadamente entalhados {/yootooltip}. The windows appear to have {yootooltip title=[ eyelashes ]} eyelashes - cílios {/yootooltip} of black brick. For Mark Twain, the house had {yootooltip title=[a personality of its own]} a personality of its own - personalidade própria {/yootooltip}, "a heart, and a soul, and eyes to see us with; approvals, and solicitudes, and deep sympathies." At the time, Nook Farm was outside the city, in a green pastoral river setting. This was a community of intellectuals. The house of world-famous author Harriet Beecher-Stowe was next door. Beecher-Stowe was the author of the abolitionist classic Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852). Mark Twain’s political ideas were equally progressive.

Entering Mark Twain’s house produces an immediate ‘wow!’ effect. The Hall has a colourful interior designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany. All rooms – the nursery, library, bedroom – have magnificent details. Twain worked up in the Billiard Room. But he was so easily distracted that he wrote at a table in the corner, looking at the wall! Mark Twain was a great family man, and there was a lot of theatre and storytelling in the house. He was also a modern man who loved inventions. Unfortunately, he lost a fortune investing in a {yootooltip title=[ typesetting machine ]} typesetting machine - máquina para composição tipográfica {/yootooltip} that had 18,000 moving parts and never worked. So in 1891, the Twains left for Europe to recuperate their {yootooltip title=[losses]} losses - perdas, prejuízos {/yootooltip}.

Today, the Mark Twain museum preserves one of his famous {yootooltip title=[white suits]} white suits - ternos brancos {/yootooltip}, which he called his {yootooltip title=["Don’t Give a Damn" suits]} "Don’t Give a Damn" suits - os ternos "estou me lixando", "não estou nem aí" {/yootooltip}. But Twain did give a damn about many social {yootooltip title=[ issues ]} issues - questões {/yootooltip} of the day: women’s suffrage, imperialism, race relations, religion...
Today, 100 years after the author’s death, Twain’s great novel Huckleberry Finn is still controversial. It is prohibited in many US schools for its use of the word "nigger" and the description of Jim the slave, {yootooltip title=[ perceived ]} perceived - vista, considerada {/yootooltip} as stereotypical. The Museum educates teachers {yootooltip title=[ how to contextualise ]} how to contextualise... - como "traduzir" a novela para o contexto atual {/yootooltip} the 1885 novel. It is also one of the first ecologically built museums in the U.S. Mark Twain would approve!

"Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself."
(Mark Twain: A Biography, Albert Bigelow Paine)

"The man with a new idea is {yootooltip title=[ a crank ]} a crank - um excêntrico, fanático {/yootooltip} until the idea succeeds."
(Following the Equator)

"Such is the human race. Often is does seem such a pity that Noah didn’t miss the boat."
(Christian Science)

"Put all your eggs in one basket and WATCH THAT BASKET."
(Puddn’head Wilson)

"The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated."

{yoogallery src=[images/stories/galery/materias/ed274/] thumb=[polaroid]}

Answer these questions after reading Mark Twain: 100 Years On.