Mark Twain is an “Exemplary American” in Germany

Mark Twain is popular in America, mostly because he is an iconic American author, and many Americans have read his books and essays in school.  In Germany though, people are still fascinated by Mark Twain solely because of his writings and ideology about America.

Even 103 years after Twain lived in Heidelberg, he is popular with young and old German readers. Like many other countries, Twain’s books have undergone professional translation into dozens of different languages, but German remains one of the most popular after English.

Mark Twain Spent Time in Germany

To escape his growing success and popularity in America, Twain decided to tour Germany for a while so that he could write his next book in peace. A Tramp Abroad detailed the months he spent living in southwestern Heidelberg in 1878. In the book, Twain described the Heidelberg castle and called it “a view which had such a serene and satisfying charm.”

The book is accredited as a compliment to Germany by the German people, even though Twain has been recorded calling German “that awful language.” Visitors to Heidelberg can enjoy a tour of the places Twain frequented to revisit his impressions of the town. The tour is offered in many languages, but the German translation is the most requested.

Twain also lived in Berlin during the 1890’s, and he described the city as being like the Chicago of Germany. His books impressed a lot of Germans because Twain was very critical of America and wasn’t afraid to point out the country’s faults. Twain was also one of the few authors available in communist East Germany. This was because of the social commentary on life in America and because Twain freely criticized the imperialism in the United States.

Recently, Twain’s unfinished book, The Mysterious Stranger, was published in Germany. The professional translator for the book also had a contemporary German artist do illustrations to go along with the novel.

New Twain Film Recently Released in Germany

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was recently made into a children’s movie in Germany, as well. At the end of the show, the director included a clip of Mark Twain talking to one of his characters.

The director says that Twain is often more recognized than his characters in Germany, and he is the first person people recall when they think of American figures. During the movie, some background history had to be given about 19th Century America because not all German children are familiar with the concept of slavery, which is widely referenced in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

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