Karina's Reviews > Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc by Mark Twain, Fiction, Classics

Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc by Mark Twain, Fiction,... by Mark Twain
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Apr 12, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: biography, christian, catholic, historical-fiction, saints
Read in June, 2010

This book is fantastic. Apparently, Mark Twain considered this his best work. It's the biography of Joan of Arc with a bit of fiction mixed in. It reads like an adventure. I knew of her story in broad strokes: I even researched it once for a school project I think. But this is much more detailed, and more interesting than the accounts I've read.

It's fun to read a few books at the same time and make connections to each other... Lately, anything I read reminds me of Saint Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox. This particular quote caught my attention in view of the criticism of Platonism: "When [nations:] love a great and noble thing, they embody it--they want it so that they can see it with their eyes; like Liberty, for instance. They are not content with the cloudy abstract idea, they make a beautiful statue of it, and then their beloved idea is substantial and they can look at it and worship it." (pp. 225-226) I was like "Exactly!" Well, I suppose you can go overboard either way: keeping things too abstract at a distance, or idolizing things; and I think in society today both are evident.

(Note: I'm reviewing a different edition than what I've selected -- this library book published in 1924 by Harper & Row Publishers has no ISBN number in it. It's hardcover with 288 pages.)


On page 224ff, Joan of Arc is threatened with torture and makes a response that just blows the witnesses away:

"I will tell you nothing more than I have told you; no, not even if you tear the limbs from my body. And even if in my pain I did say something otherwise, I would always say afterward that it was the torture that spoke and not I."


No, there was no crushing that spirit, and no beclouding that clear mind. Consider the depth, the wisdom of that answer, coming from an ignorant girl. Why, there were not six men in the world who had ever reflected that words forced out of a person by horrible tortures were not necessarily words of verity and truth, yet this unlettered peasant-girl put her finger upon that flaw with an unerring instinct. I had always supposed that torture brought out the truth--everybody supposed it; and when Joan came out with those simple common-sense words they seemed to flood the place with light. It was like a lightning-flash at midnight which suddenly reveals a fair valley sprinkled over with silver streams and gleaming villages and farmsteads where was only an impenetrable world of darkness before. Manchon stole a sidewise look at me, and his face was full of surprise; and there was the like to be seen in other faces there. Consider--they were old, and deeply cultured, yet here was a village maid able to teach them something which they had not known before. I heard one of them mutter:

"Verily it is a wonderful creature. She has laid her hand upon an accepted truth that is as old and the world, and it has crumbled to dust and rubbish under her touch. Now whence got she that marvelous insight?"

I mean nowadays everyone knows this truth, but I guess I didn't realize how they had no inkling of it at all.

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc by Mark Twain, Fiction, Classics.
Sign In »

No comments have been added yet.