I picked this book up because this winter has been particularly gloomy and grey and rainy and wet and moldy here on the Oregon Coast and I thought maybe a little bit of Twain’s wit and humor would lighten things up. I probably should have read a review first…essentially, this is a story of Satan coming to a 17th century Austrian printshop and making friends with an apprentice and then teaching him about the futility of life and existence and the awfulness of humanity. Twain wrote this at the end of his life and it is essentially his version of Being and Nothingness – not an uplifting or funny story, but more of a rainy gray day book that you read just before you take out your shotgun and pull a Hemingway. Of course, if you are a Satanist or a fan of hating all of humanity, this tale might make you giddy.
A couple of things stand out – first of all the name Twain gives Satan which sounds more like a computer program or android name than that of the devil – are you ready for it: No. 44, New Series 864962 – the 44 part is partially understandable since Twain is partially exploring the idea of twofold or threefold selves Twain being two double twain would be 44 – so Twain is himself the devil revealing the ills of mankind – but the rest of it…no explanation was ever given. Twain wrote the book between 1890 and 1908 but never completed it nor published it. The other thing was Twain’s idea of there being a waking self, a dream self, and a soul self.
Here’s a trippy video about the name that I couldn’t manage to watch all the way through…
I think I’m going to go back to reading about economics and language…fiction has kind of bummed me out. Or maybe I’ll wait until there is sunshine. I started reading House of Sand and Fog and felt even more bummed out.