Home > Magazines > Mark Twain and travel writing
Mark Twain and travel writing
One of American history’s major men of letters, Mark Twain, developed the genre of travel writing with best-selling books such as Innocents Abroad and A Tramp Abroad. Twain went beyond descriptions of the places that he saw and applied his unique brand of humor to the people and cultures that he visited. The following except from A Tramp Abroad is part of his critique of the German language:
I think a description of any loud, stirring, tumultuous episode must be tamer in German than in English. Our descriptive words of this character have such deep, strong, resonant sound, while their German equivalents do seem so thin and mild and energyless. Boom, burst, crash, roar, storm bellow, blow, thunder, explosion; howl, cry, shout, yell, groan; battle, hell. These are magnificent words; they have a force and magnitude of sound befitting the things which they describe. But the German equivalents would be ever so nice to sing the children to sleep with, or else my awe-inspiring ears were made for display and not for superior usefulness in analyzing sounds. Would any man want to die in a battle which was called by so tame a term as a Schlacht?