In June 1867, Mark Twain set out for Europe and the Holy Land on the paddle steamer Quaker City. His enduring, no-nonsense guide for the first-time traveler also served as an antidote to the insufferably romantic travel books of the period.
“Who could read the programme for the excursion without longing to make one of the party?”
So Mark Twain acclaims his voyage from New York City to Europe and the Holy Land. His adventures produced The Innocents Abroad, a book so funny and provocative it made him an international star for the rest of his life. He was making his first responses to the Old World—to Paris, Milan, Florence, Venice, Pompeii, Constantinople, Sebastopol, Balaklava, Damascus, Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Bethlehem. For the first time he was seeing the great paintings and sculptures of the Old Masters. He responded with wonder and amazement but also with exasperation, irritation, and disbelief. Above all he displayed the great energy of his humor, more explosive for us now than for his beguiled contemporaries.
Public Domain (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“A classic work…[that] marks a critical point in the development of our literature.” (Leslie A. Fiedler, literary critic)
The hasty, ragged reporting by an American who is estranged from both Europe and highfalutin society of his time still has a compelling quality, observing the absurdities of both his compatriots and the people and places visited. Plus, an amazing offhand visit with the Tsar's family in Odessa.
I did not love this story to be certain. The narrator was awesome but the story itself was too long and tiresome, our main character was much too much of a complainer. I understand that this irony is not loss in the story in whole and is to add to the final humor but it was a story I did not enjoy.
Tell us about yourself!
While the telling is a little dated, and not everything translates, Mark Twain never ceases to entertain with amusing vignettes of ordinary people and things they do.
As he describes each new stop - I found myself wishing I could have traveled the world back then, when things were newer and less "developed".
I didn't enjoy this book as much as I was hoping. Twain is a terrific storyteller but the pace and tons of the narrative made me feel like I was being scolded.
A school administrator and avid reader and listener of books. At least an hour of every day is spent in the car, and that's where the bulk of my listening is done. I tend to listen to books on "faster" mode so I can get through more books!
I found it fascinating to hear the details about Twain's grand Mediterranean cruise that was months long and involved numerous overland adventures. I especially enjoyed hearing about places I had been and comparing my experience with his. Twain's witticism comes through, but in the end, I just wish he'd stop talking. He was soooooo wordy. And then the end of the book came and, oddly enough, he just stopped talking. They spent seven days in Spain doing an overland adventure and all we got out of it was two sentences saying that went there and went to several places, but he didn't have time to write about it. That made me giggle after wishing most of the way through the book that he would be more succinct. That was a bit much.
Lover of history, travel, and MP3 players (to distract me from things I'd really rather not have to do)!
This was a romp! As a traveler myself, and to many of the places on the "innocents'" itinerary, it was a kick to hear Twain's take on the people and places and various travel annoyances, many of which haven't changed in the past 150 years. It was also great fun to get a picture of how international travel took place in those days, and left me wishing I had 5 months and a sponsor to send me following in their wake.
Twain was not immune to the ethnic stereotypes and prejudices of the period, which can certainly make the more culturally sensitive among us cringe; however, I often suspected that many of his more outrageous and condescending remarks were just his way of satirizing their own (and our) ignorance of how the rest of the world lives. In any case, it was easy to just consider the source and appreciate the cleverness, if not always the content, and bear in mind that it is in fact possible to encounter the embodiment of our stereotypes from time to time.
I very much enjoyed Grover Gardener's narration, as his tone sounded to me like what I would expect Mark Twain to sound like. In sum, a good time was had by all!
Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.
As mentioned in previous essays, Mark Twain is an acquired taste for some. “… Innocents Abroad” fascinates those who are travelers, either for fun or vocation. It is a joy to hear Twain’s reminiscence of a mid-nineteenth century voyage to Europe, Egypt, and the Holy Land. There is added pleasure to a Nevadan because of Twain’s comparisons to Nevada’ open spaces, Lake Tahoe, and the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
To this listener’s ear, “...Innocents Abroad” is an irreverent primer on travel to foreign countries; not because everything is the same but because some 21st century world travels are similar; and all world travels are given perspective by Twain’s observation.
Grover Gardner's performance makes "The Innocents Abroad" an entertaining experience.
This is a journal of his trip in 1867 to France, Italy, and the Holy land, missing a few due to plague and quarantine. Twain is sometimes surprisingly biased and it's often not clever or funny. He is unfailingly credulous about Christianity, albeit critical of Roman Catholicism, and dismissive of all Arabs, most Italians, and many other foreigners. His cleverness surfaces describing himself and fellow travelers, but too rarely. Overlong.
From a modern perspective, Mark Twain's cultural attitudes are dated. In fact, to me he comes off as a but of an arrogant a**hole, but one who could write amusingly and engagingly about his travels.
I have loved other things written by Train, but it seems like his personality shone through this work, and it is a personality I didn't much care for.
That said, It is a fascinating look at 19th century travel in Europe, the Holy Land, and the Black Sea area (Where he has lunch with the czar!)
Worth a listen, but be prepared for a bit of 19th century racism and a myopic perspective.
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