Mark Twain traveled the world and wrote about it in several of his books. When I went to Hawaii, I learned that Twain had long ago beat me to it, back when the Hawaiian Islands were still better known as the Sandwich Islands. I also knew he had been to Europe and Germany, but I didn’t really know about his time in Berlin, along with his family.
Recently I wrote a review of a book about the Berlin Wall produced by Eva Schweitzer’s Berlinica publishing house. Now Dr. Schweitzer has announced a new book about an interesting but little known topic: Mark Twain in Berlin in the early 1890s. In an unusual twist for publishing, she is inviting potential readers to help fund the book, with an intended publication date of June 2012.
But first, let’s look at a bit of obscure history concerning America’s most famous humorist author. Quoting from the book’s funding site:
Mark Twain spent half a year of his life in Berlin, Germany, in winter 1891-1892, together with his wife, Olivia, and his three daughters, where he wrote various articles. This is the first book to tell of this journey and to print these stories. For Twain, being in Berlin was an exciting experience. The author quickly became a local celebrity, met fellow American writers and diplomats, was the subject of news stories, was invited to festivities, and socialized with famous Berliners. But he also got into trouble with the police, suffered from his apartment in a rough neighborhood, and nearly died of pneumonia, while his 17-year-old daughter, Clara, became popular among young officers and musicians. Near the end of his stay, he had dinner with the Kaiser and witnessed a near-uprising in front of the castle. While in Berlin, Twain did research for a number of books, and he wrote three newspaper stories about Berlin. But only one of them, “Berlin – the Chicago of Europe,” was ever published — in the Chicago Tribune in 1892.
Eva and Berlinica are running a fundraiser at Kickstarter for donations. Everybody who participates will get a reward, starting with a button with Twain’s famous quote: “Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.” The most valuable prize is a day-long guided tour in Berlin to places where Twain spent time. Other “rewards” include: (1) A button with Twain’s picture and a quotation (donation of $7.00 or more), (2) a preview softcover edition of Mark Twain in Berlin ($25.00 or more) and (3) a preview hardcover edition of the book, or a T-shirt with a picture of Mark Twain and a Twain quote ($55.00 or more). There are even better rewards for higher contributions.
At the Kickstarter site you can also view a short video about Twain’s Berlin experiences and where they took place. Until now, most of this information has been hidden away in archives. But “…with your help, every American can experience this hidden history concerning Mark Twain. Your donation will help pay for the acquisition of story and photo rights, for the translation of German articles about Twain, and for general research in Berlin. By helping this book come to life, you can be a part of America’s most famous author.”
To view the video and learn more about this fascinating book project, please visit the Berlinica Kickstarter page. I hope you will join me in supporting Eva’s project, because I’m looking forward to this book!