Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Latvian Canadian in Maoist China reads A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.

As I was saying I finished reading A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.  I decided to read it after reading this review of it.  I found a copy of the novel, for an affordable sixteen rmb, subsequently in Shanghai.  I liked the novel and I have a few thoughts about it. I will answer some questions the novel posed for me.

Did you enjoy it?
I enjoyed it very much.  It was funny.  The Yankee (Hank Morgan) combined the wit of Don Rickles and the practicality of many a businessmen.  Twain's choice of having a businessman make the time trip was excellent.  I could imagine a modern writer having an academic sociologist type making the journey.  I couldn't see the sociologist lasting the day in this world.  I couldn't imagine the novel with the Morgan, the academci, being interest or having anything to say.

Was the novel realistic?
Who knows for sure.  But, Mark Twain was a writer of tremendous imagination.  And whether or not Knights from King Arthur's time would engage in stock market activities is irrelevant.  The novel has a lot to say.  It is food for thought.  The incomprehension of the two cultures ring true from my experience here in China.

Does the novel contain messages for Neo-Cons, particularly about the invasion of Iraq?
The main character Hank Morgan's schemes to turn Arthurian England into a Republic result in a Civil War.  Superficially, the connection could be made to Iraq.  But there is a case to be made that Iraq was much more ready to be a Democratic Republic than Arthurian England.  I think the real lesson for Neo-Cons is that heroism and blood-thirstiness go together.  It was a pipe dream to think change could be brought to Iraq without some bloodshed.  Hank Morgan remarks on the brutality of Arthurian England but is equally impressed by the heroism of people from that age.  The modern sociologist probably wouldn't make that observation.  
Does the novel have parralels to your experience as a Canadian in China?
A few.  At the beginning of the novel, Morgan is stared at and made fun of by people who he thinks are from a mental hospital.  That parrallels my experience in China exactly.  Morgan sees the people of the Arthurian age as completely gullible - a feeling I sometimes have here in China.  Morgan remarks on the general goodness of the people he meets in Arthurian England while at the same left shaking his head at some of their attributes which seem so alien to him.
Will you read more Mark Twain?
Of course.  Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, here I come!
Does Culture make people seem alien to each other?
Twain's message in the novel is yes.  From my experience in China, I agree.

No comments: