The Mysterious Stranger
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The Mysterious Stranger

4.14 of 5 stars 4.14  ·  rating details  ·  4,110 ratings  ·  310 reviews
Written after the popular humorist author suffered a series of painful physical, economic, and emotional losses, the tale rebuts religion, denies the existence of a benign Providence, a soul, an afterlife, and even reality itself. The Stranger asserts "nothing exists; all is a dream."
Paperback, 121 pages
Published September 1st 1995 by Prometheus Books (first published 1916)
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S.A. Alenthony
A number of Mark Twain’s lesser-known stories remain virtually unheard of - not because they aren’t good – but because they’d offend too many people.

His short novel The Mysterious Stranger, published posthumously in 1916, certainly qualifies in this regard. It’s not going to be on any of the official reading lists of the various public schools named after him. And it’s an absolutely hilarious and caustic little paperback that you need to get familiar with.

This book will be of interest to anyone...more
Nathan
I swear Bulgakov got a hold of this and picked the best parts for transmogrification into The Master & Margarita. A gigantic parade of corpses, a talking cat (Mary Margaret Florence Baker G. Nightingale), and the appearance of a banjo-playing minstrel (who in my mind looks just like Koroviev, but African American...) in the narrator's medieval Austrian print-shop. In a disused castle. So much weirder, creepier, more moving, and existentially fraught than Letters From the Earth, but with all...more
Anca
May 03, 2009 Anca rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 10
Imi placu si asta, ca (aproape) tot ce-am citit 'existentialist' pana acum. Imi place franchetea, disperarea si pana ascutita din cartile astea, desi le contrazic majoritatea ideilor apoi. (Asa ca sa nu ma intrebati de ce le mai citesc)
Dupa ce-am citit celelalte povestiri ale lui Twain, nu ma asteptam sa-l gasesc asa intunecat si pesimist in asta (majoritatea celorlalte sint amuzante, scurte, ironice ca viata si au un clenci:) ). Oricum, sa vedem:

-nepotul lui Satan, (numit tot)Satan, un inger ne...more
Michael
Jul 04, 2013 Michael rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Michael by: who knows...maybe the Devil
This is a great little book. I agree with Twain's opinions to a large degree, but I cannot agree completely. I think Twain became an Atheist....I am not. I am not a believer but I still hope for a God that mankind cannot comprehend nor describe.

A very important and still timely idea expressed in this book is that humans are a lower order of animal than the wild beast because of his Moral Sense. Twain said that 95% of people are like sheep and cattle that stupidly follow the herd and are led by t...more
Eli
This review will contain spoilers.

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The Mysterious Stranger is a short novella, in which Mark Twain, (it would seem), embodies his hatred of Christianity, condemnation of mankind, and ultimate nihilism. The story takes place in a remote village in late 16th century Austria; the village of Eseldorf, which is situated in a valley surrounded by wooded precipices and cliffs, overlooked by a castle laying on one. The inhabitants of Eseldorf are simpletons; largely ignorant of the world beyond their...more
Mike Sheehan
To me, I think problems can only begin to be solved once they're recognized as such; this could work on a societal level too. And so it genuinely saddens me that one-hundred years after Mark Twain's railing against human nature and its major institutions (government and religion), practically nothing has changed, because the things he speaks of truly are a part of human nature, as it seems. The most damning one of all is Satan's speaking of the nature of war, a conversation which could've taken...more
Shari
This is said to be Mark Twain's least known work - and the last he had ever written. Reading the book, I finally understood why it never became as popular as the stories of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyers. This is a book of a silent yet profound contemplation of humanity. It is a comedy of sorts, and the object of the author's humor is the grotesque bigotry, self-importance, and logic of man. Twain portrays humanity here at its worst. It begins with a boy's encounter with an angel and ends with his bi...more
Ioannis Anastasiadis
κυνικος, σατιρικος, ωμος, αλληγορικος, σκληρος επικριτης του ανθρωπινου ειδους, βαθυτατα αθεος, ο Mark Twain στο τελ του βιβλιο κατεβαζει στα κεφαλια μας τον ανηψιο του Σατανα δια να αποδωσει την επι Γης διακαιοσυνη, να εξιστορησει τις 'υπεροχες' κατακτησεις του ανθρωπινου πολιτισμου κ να μας παραδωσει μαθηματα αυτογνωσιας σαν αυτα που μας εδωσαν συγγραφεις οπως ο Μπουλκακωφ στο αριστουργηματικο 'Μαιτρ και Μαργαριτα'..

..προτιμηστε την εκδοση του εκδοσεων 'Ζητρου' καθοτι εμπεριεχει κ αλλα 2 διηγη...more
Chris
Every Christmas, American television shows It's A Wonderful Life at least once. For many people, the movie is the Christmas must watch. (Note, not for me. That's Rudolph or Nestor the Long Eared Donkey or the Muppet Christmas Carol or Sim's Christmas Carol). In some ways, Life is the American Christmas Carol. It heavily colors views about angels too.

So, if you like It's A Wonderful Life, you shouldn't read this work.

This Kindle edition includes the title short novel as well as three short storie...more
Adriene
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Margaret Langstaff
A strange and "mysterious" unfinished manuscript Twain could never bring himself to polish off. I think it reflects his deep ambivalence about the book's serious themes: good v. evil, and the abiding question of an all-merciful, all-loving, almighty God per Christianity's received tenets. He, like Thomas Jefferson, and other plain-spoken, intellectually honest, rational American "souls," couldn't swallow whole the inherent contradictions. Why create humankind as an act of love and doom it to fai...more
D.M. Kenyon
It may seem nonsensical that I would rate my favorite book with only four out of five stars. The reason for this is because, the 1916 edition of Mark Twain's Mysterious Stranger is not entirely original to Twain. Twain died in 1910 with several versions of a manuscript for the Mysterious Stranger incomplete. The versions vary considerably in setting and in story line, although they arguably seek to make the same point.

The popular version of this story was completed by his editor and, therefore,...more
Sam Strong
For those of you who view Mark Twain as a humorist, "The Mysterious Stranger" can come as quite the surprise. Written later in life, this book demonstrates Twain's lack of faith in the human race by presenting a character named Satan. He claims not to be the one Satan we all think of; instead, he says that he is "the" Satan's nephew. But that doesn't stop him from winning the friendship of three boys, including protagonist Theodor. Satan showers them with gifts and shows them miracles, then proc...more
Bybee
As Mark Twain got older, his always-present BS detector grew keener and keener. By the time he began work on The Mysterious Stranger, his view of the human race -- especially clergy -- was quite bitter. The title character turns out to be Satan, who travels in time to a small village in Austria during the 1590s, and charms a trio of three young boys. Superstition and ignorance run rampant in this village. Things are so backward and hopeless that Satan's presence actually makes things better. At...more
Kira
A friend sent me a link to the entire book online. It's from Mark
Twain's dark period towards the end of his life. Don't look up
anything before you just read it, since it's so short. It really makes me want to read more Twain, because his just my "type" -- beautiful prose (very modern feeling) and heavy content. It starts off in a small
isolated village in Austria and tells about these three boys that
befriend a mysterious stranger with powers that end up causing a bit
of a ruckus in the remote and...more
Amelia
This is one of the unfinished work of Mark Twain which was written in his later years. The story is written in his characteristic style which made me want to continue reading it. He tries to express his philosophic and social musings through one of the main characters "Satan" (can be thought of as an alien) in quite an interestingly and creatively woven story. Even though I was raised as a Catholic and I do believe in God, I was not offended as he is trying to raise certain social issues as well...more
Mr. Noah Sturdevant
I never would have guessed this was by Mark Twain. It made me think more than many books on philosophy.
Christiane
Everything is a dream

Even when he was young and optimistic Mark Twain was never under any illusion about the nature of the human race. Towards the end of his life he was utterly embittered and in this work he paints a bleak picture of us and our „moral sense“. Looking at the world the way it is today his observations are as relevant now as they were 100 years ago.
In the voice of Satan’s nephew, an angel who befriends three young boys in an isolated Austrian village in 1590, Mark Twain passes jud...more
Josh
May 21, 2014 Josh added it
The Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain is an anti-spiritual journey through the insane and cynical, and it’s great. From the first person point of view of a child, Satan Is this strange and magnificent being who can perform miracles and change the fates of anyone in the village, however, he is cynical towards humanity, and sees them as nothing more than lesser, petty beings. The funny thing is, he really shows good reason for his pessimism. Twain—through this character—comments on the pettiness o...more
Laura
The story was interesting, but the ending was really bad.
Karen Chung
The Mysterious Stranger is Mark Twain's ode to Dostoevsky, Dawkins, Hitchens, Jacques Brel (see lyrics to song entitled "Ça va"), Zhuang Zi and Buddhism. There are some very nice passages in it, like this one from chapter 9:

(view spoiler)...more
My
I'll be honest, I didn't actually read it: I listened to the audiobook and then used the soft copy as guidance in case there were unintelligible words. *It's the first audiobook I finished! It's short and I shouldn't be proud but I AM.*

The good thing about this novel is that I didn't get bored at all. It gave me just enough images in my head without overusing flowery words that bore me to sleep. (I'm ashamed to admit I used Jane Eyre's audiobook as lullaby. Even until now, it remains unfinished....more
Tom
I set aside my four other books "to be read" because I became so engrossed in this one. I usually don't read a book in 4 days but it was short and interesting. I thought it was clever, timeless, a book for all times, a message for yesterday, today and tomorrow; offering insights into humanity, thought provoking. If only my reviews were as good as the books.....
Jill
Such a great twist on how your perception of happiness is not always what it seems. Reminds me of when people say "be careful what you pray for, because you just might get it." Vaguely reminiscent of The Screwtape Letters. You'll see why when you read it. Very unusual for Mark Twain - not at all comedic relief, but as always, fantastically written.
Shae
Thought provoking. Eye opening. Depressing. True!

In these days of commercial jet-liners being shot out of the sky by shoulder fired missiles, a large scale ground offensive mounting in Gaza, wars simmering and spiraling around the globe, it makes one wonder about the state of humanity, much as Twain did, more than a century ago.

Are humans essentially good, or are we truly closer to barbarians... of much lesser status than animals, self-obsessed, mean, brutal and out for ourselves at all costs? B...more
Kebrit !!!
شیطان گفت:
... هیچ حیوانی هرگز مرتکب عمل بی‌رحمانه‌ نمی‌شود، این عمل منحصر به کسانی است که" قوه تمیز اخلاقی" دارند. حیوان وقتی هم آزاری می‌رساند، در کمال معصومیت این‌کار را می‌کند. عمل او تباه نیست، برای آن آزار نمی‌رساند که صرف آزار رساندن لذت ببرد اینکار فقط از انسان سر می‌زند، موجب و مسبب آن هم همان قوه تمیز اخلاقی کذایی اوست
Brandi Carr
Amazing....but disturbing.

this is a far cry from the "Adventures of Tom Sawyer" that my mother forced me to read in the 7th grade that's for sure. This book was amazing, and I couldn't put it down despite my religious upbringing and twains blatant disregard for Christianity. The book was thought provoking and deeply philosophical, Satan disregards humans for their moral sense and insignificant existence, all the while I was yelling at Theodore to bring up Jesus love and empathy for humans,but th...more
Michael Gray
I first encountered a version of this tale in the 1985 claymation film The Adventures of Mark Twain. Growing up in an evangelical home, it was highly creepy when I first saw it. Stumbling across the novella now, and in a very different place in my life, I was curious to revisit it.

I won't give a spoiler-esque review as there are already a number of them on here. I will say that the story is, of course, well written - richly layered. And it could certainly be thought provoking at the very least,...more
Nicholas Williamson
Great story :) no reason not to read this short novel. About as much punch as 120 pages can pack. Well worth the time it took to read (which was less than a day)
Ryan
May 16, 2014 Ryan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Twain scholars
I feel obligated to review this, since no one else has taken the time to write anything about it.

This book is an amalgamation of three different stories Mark Twain was working on in the last decade or so of his life: "The Mysterious Stranger", "Schoolhouse Hill", and "no. 44". During this period both his wife and daughter died and his writing became increasingly bitter and nihilistic.

No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger is an incomplete book, but it's the closest you'll get to what Twain had in min...more
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1244
Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. He is noted for his novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), called "the Great American Novel", and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876).

Twain grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, which would later provide the setting for Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. He apprenticed with a printer. He also work...more
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“You are not you--you have no body, no blood, no bones, you are but a thought. I myself have no existence; I am but a dream--your dream, a creature of your imagination. In a moment you will have realized this, then you will banish me from your visions and I shall dissolve into the nothingness out of which you made me

In a little while you will be alone in shoreless space, to wander its limitless solitudes without friend or comrade forever—for you will remain a thought, the only existent thought, and by your nature inextinguishable, indestructible. But I, your poor servant, have revealed you to yourself and set you free. Dream other dreams, and better!

Strange! that you should not have suspected years ago—centuries, ages, eons, ago!—for you have existed, companionless, through all the eternities.

Strange, indeed, that you should not have suspected that your universe and its contents were only dreams, visions, fiction! Strange, because they are so frankly and hysterically insane—like all dreams: a God who could make good children as easily as bad, yet preferred to make bad ones; who could have made every one of them happy, yet never made a single happy one; who made them prize their bitter life, yet stingily cut it short; who gave his angels eternal happiness unearned, yet required his other children to earn it; who gave his angels painless lives, yet cursed his other children with biting miseries and maladies of mind and body; who mouths justice and invented hell—mouths mercy and invented hell—mouths Golden Rules, and forgiveness multiplied by seventy times seven, and invented hell; who mouths morals to other people and has none himself; who frowns upon crimes, yet commits them all; who created man without invitation, then tries to shuffle the responsibility for man's acts upon man, instead of honorably placing it where it belongs, upon himself; and finally, with altogether divine obtuseness, invites a poor, abused slave to worship him!

You perceive, now, that these things are all impossible except in a dream. You perceive that they are pure and puerile insanities, the silly creations of an imagination that is not conscious of its freaks—in a word, that they are a dream, and you the maker of it. The dream-marks are all present; you should have recognized them earlier.

"It is true, that which I have revealed to you; there is no God, no universe, no human race, no earthly life, no heaven, no hell. It is all a dream—a grotesque and foolish dream. Nothing exists but you. And you are but a thought—a vagrant thought, a useless thought, a homeless thought, wandering forlorn among the empty eternities!”
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“I have replaced his tin life with a silver-gilt fiction” 5 likes
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