One Hundred Years Of Huck Finn


1931 Harper & Brothers publishes an edition of Huck specially prepared to let “Huck. . . step down from his place on the library shelf and enter the [upper grade and junior high] classroom.” This expurgated edition was prepared by two teachers who “scientifically” compiled thousands of reports from “young people everywhere.” They created a book they believed unequaled “in providing wholesome happiness for boys and girls, and in stimulating even the most apathetic and difficult pupils.” The final question on the twenty-four-page study guide asks: “As you close the book do you feel you have finished a great classic? Why?”

First edition of Huck sold at auction in New York City for $205.

Another movie version from Paramount, this time with sound.

1932 First Estonian translation of Huck published.

1934 First Portuguese translation of Huck published.

1935 Ernest Hemingway in Green Hills of Africa : “All modern literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn . All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since.” F Scott Fitzgerald: “Huckleberry Finn took the first journey back. He was the first to look back at the republic from the perspective of the west. His eyes were the first eyes that ever looked at us objectively that were not eyes from overseas. There were mountains at the frontier but he wanted more than mountains to look at with his restless eyes—he wanted to find out about men and how they lived together. And because he turned back we have him forever. ”

A first edition of Huck sold at auction in New York City for $400. 1937 James Joyce sends a copy of Huck to David Fleischman and, in the accompanying letter, dated August 8, Paris,writes: “I need to know something about it. I never read it and have nobody to read it to me. . . . Could you perhaps refresh your memory by a hasty glance through and then dictate to your mother … an account of the plot in general. . . . After that I should like you to mark with blue pencil in the margin the most important passages of the plot itself , and in red pencil here and there wherever the words or dialogue seem to call for the special attention of a European.... If you can then return it to me soon I shall try to use whatever bears upon what I am doing.” Finnegan’s Wake was published two years later: Joyce played not only with the name Finn but also with the theme of a river journey.


1939 Mickey Rooney stars as Huck in a movie version from MGM.

1940 The copyright for Huck expires, and the book enters the public domain; a large number of popular editions are published—among them the first of three Everyman editions.

1948 Latvian, Slovene, and SerboCroatian translations published. The noted critic, Leslie Fiedler, ignites a controversy by claiming in Partisan Review that there is a homoerotic subtext in the relationship between Huck and Jim.

1950 Greek, Indonesian, and Rumanian translations published. T. S. Eliot, in his introduction to a London edition, writes: “ The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is the only one of Mark Twain’s various books which can be called a masterpiece. I do not suggest that it is his only book of permanent interest; but it is the only one which creates its own category. . . . Huck Finn is alone: there is no more solitary character in fiction. The fact that he has a father only emphasizes his loneliness; and he views his father with a terrifying detachment. So we come to see Huck himself in the end as one of the permanent symbolic figures of fiction; not unworthy to take a place with Ulysses, Faust, Don Quixote, Don Juan, Hamlet and the other great discoveries that man has made about himself.”

1956 William Faulkner in a Paris Review interview: “He [Sherwood Anderson] was the father of my generation of American writers and the tradition of American writing which our successors will carry on. He has never received his proper evaluation. Dreiser is his older brother and Mark Twain the father of them both.”

1957 New York City Board of Education takes Huck off the list of approved textbooks for elementary and junior high schools. The book is called “racially offensive” by the NAACP.