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21 April 2008 @ 05:53 pm
Joan of Arc, Mark Twain, 1896  
Joan of Arc, Mark Twain, 1896.

"I like Joan of Arc the best of all my books; and it is the best; I know it perfectly well. And besides, it furnished me seven times the pleasure afforded me by any of the others; twelve years of preparation and two years of writing. The others needed no preparation and got none." - Mark Twain.

Never heard of Mark Twain's Joan of Arc? Not surprising. Critics have hated it for over a hundred years. One reason is because it's so incredibly different from his other books. Fans and critics who loved his comedic works weren't interested in swallowing a serious historical novel. He also got huge criticism from English reviewers, who were indignant at Mark Twain's presentation of Joan's trial. They suggested that he had intentionally villainized English justice in order to heroize Joan, but later scholarly research would show that Mark Twain's version was actually highly accurate.

Twain published Joan of Arc anonymously, because he knew that he (and Joan) would be judged on the basis of his previous works. He was right. I found my copy in a used bookstore, a 1989 reprinting, and it's been one of my favorite books ever since. I recommend it most highly to anyone who's ever loved the story of Joan of Arc, even if--maybe especially if--you've never liked Mark Twain. I don't believe that anyone has written or ever will write a better Joan of Arc.

"Consider this unique and imposing distinction. Since the writing of human history began, Joan of Arc is the only person, of either sex, who has ever held supreme command of the military forces of a nation at the age of seventeen." - Louis Kossuth.