'New Yorker' To Publish Mark Twain Essay
JACKI LYDEN, host:
For our parting words today, we turn to a writer we haven't heard from in a while. He has a never-before published essay in the New Yorker this week. His pen is still dipped in satiric acid, though his topic is earnest freedom of speech.
Mr. PAUL AUSTER: (Reading) As an act of privilege of ranks with a privilege of committing murder, we may exercise it if we are willing to take the consequences. Murder is forbidden both in form and in fact. Free speech is granted in form, but forbidden in fact. By the common estimate, both are crimes. They're held in deep odium by all civilized people. Murder is sometimes punished, free speech always when committed, which is seldom.
LYDEN: You may have remembered this writer, a fellow named Mark Twain. His words today are read by the novelist Paul Auster. Twain died almost a century ago, and scholars don't really know why the essay hasn't been published before. The title, though, appropriately, is called "The Privilege of the Grave."
Mr. AUSTER: (Reading) Free speech is the privilege of the dead, the monopoly of the dead. If they should speak, what revelations there would be. For it would be found that, in matters of opinion, no departed person was exactly what he had passed for in life. That out of either fear or out of calculated wisdom or out of reluctance to wound friends, it long kept to himself certain views, not suspected by his little world.
LYDEN: And just five years before his death, Twain's passion was still barely controllable.
Mr. AUSTER: (Reading) Sometimes my feelings are so hot that I have take to the pen and pour them out on paper to keep them from setting me afire inside. Then all that ink and labor wasted because I can't print the results. I've just finished an article of this kind, and it satisfies me entirely. It does my weather-beaten soul good to read it and admire the trouble it would make for me and the family. I will leave it behind and utter it from the grave.
LYDEN: That essay, "The Privilege of the Grave" finally finds its way into print this week after more than a century on the shelf. It's in the New Yorker, and our reader today was Paul Auster, whose latest novel is called "Man in the Dark."
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LYDEN: And that's All Things Considered from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.
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