WORLD TRAVEL

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

The Innocents Abroad: Or, The New Pilgrim’s Progress

By: Mark TwainThe Innocents Abroad

Narrated by Grover Gardner

MARK TWAIN (SAMUEL CLEMENS 1835-1910)
MARK TWAIN (SAMUEL CLEMENS 1835-1910)

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.

“…Innocents Abroad” is a historical document, having been published in 1869. What Twain experiences in the 1800s is both different and the same as travel in the 21st century.

THE QUAKER CITY - 65 TOURISTS AND 40 CREWMEN
THE QUAKER CITY – 65 TOURISTS AND 40 CREWMEN

Twain traveled on a ship, the Quaker City, frequently quarantined because of real concern about the spread of disease, and epidemic; a nearly unheard of experience today. MARK TWAIN AND PARTY ON THE QUAKER CITYTwain rides horses, camels, mules, and carriages in land forays; while today, it is planes, trains, buses, and cars.

MARK TWAIN DEPICTION IN EGYPT
MARK TWAIN DEPICTION IN EGYPT

Spain, Italy, Greece, and France are romantic ideals to Americans; just as they were in the 1800s, but Twain expresses frustration with European’ incommodiousness. Time does not diminish the romance of these countries; but now, few travelers are inconvenienced or disappointed with European’ amenities.MARK TWAIN'S TRAVELS

Travels to more obscure destinations like Turkey and Russia have become more desirable since Twain’s time. In MT’ time Turkey appears dirty, unsophisticated and backward; today Turkey is among the most modern countries of the Middle East.

MODERN ISTANBUL
MODERN ISTANBUL

Russia is a vast country and parts of it, like Siberia, are still written of as rustic. However, a refocus by modern government leaders has modernized major metropolitan areas. The building of a Winter Olympics at Sochi in 2014 show how far Russian modernity has come.

SOCHI, RUSSIA--HOME OF THE 2014 WINTER OLYMPICS
SOCHI, RUSSIA–HOME OF THE 2014 WINTER OLYMPICS

Twain’s description of Sevastopol reflects the horrendous destruction wrought by the Russo Turkish War of 1854 to 1856. Today, Sevastopol is rebuilt.

Sevastopol is in the throes of a possible secession from Russia as a part of the Ukraine, but it is a major modern port city on the Black Sea.PORT OF SEVASTOPOL UKRAINE

Twain reflects on the smallness of the real versus the imagined. Like seeing Mount Rushmore and the faces of four presidents for the first time, one is surprised by how small the Rushmore monument is in comparison to images in “North by Northwest” (the Cary Grant movie).

Twain expresses amazement at the smallness of Jerusalem. He wonders how such a small place becomes a symbol for so many. At the same time, he slyly marvels at how many parts of the crown of thorns and pieces of the Martyr’s cross appear in so many places; in so many countries; in so many churches and museums.

JERUSALEM IN THE 1800'S
JERUSALEM IN THE 1800’S

As an exception to his theory of the miniaturized size of symbols, Twain suggests St. Peters Basilica in Rome meets the gigantism of imagination.

ST PETERS BASILICA
ST PETERS BASILICA
MARK TWAIN PARTY NEGOTIATION IN PALISTINE
MARK TWAIN PARTY NEGOTIATION IN PALISTINE

Twain reflects harshly on Arab culture and religion with disparaging remarks about beggars, cultural habits of negotiation, female beauty and attire. He shows disdain for Arab legend with some ironic remarks about Christianity that will have different meanings to different readers. He disparages the looks of Arab women but notes that he rarely sees their faces. Twain is at once a Christian but remains ironic about tales told in the Bible. One wonders, is Twain being ironic or believing when he tells tales of Jesus, Joseph and Mary, and Mary Magdalene?

There are funny stories that enliven Twain’s narrative. Like the shying horse that can only walk in a straight line when there are streetlights on both sides of the road. There are interesting tales of sites that one would like to see if they travel to some of the places Twain describes.

MARK TWAIN AND THE SHYING HORSE
MARK TWAIN AND THE SHYING HORSE

Twain is irreverent about much of the great art of the world, particularly Renaissance art, but tempers his irreverence with claims of ignorance. He comically refers to Michelangelo as the artist that designed “everything” in Italy.

MICHELANGELO DETAIL-THE CREATION OF ADAM-SISTINE CHAPEL (1511)
MICHELANGELO DETAIL-THE CREATION OF ADAM-SISTINE CHAPEL (1511)
MICHAELANGELO'S DAVID (1501-04)
MICHAELANGELO’S DAVID (1501-04)

 

MICHELANGELO'S PLAN FOR ST. PETER'S BASILICA
MICHELANGELO’S PLAN FOR ST. PETER’S BASILICA

 

In this listener’s ear, “The 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.

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