Mark Twain's "An Encounter with an Interviewer" (1874) has a rich history of translations, starting in 1885 at the latest. Though nobody can get ahold of, much less read, all of the collections for which this sketch has been translated, they are so varied and numerous as to arouse curiosity about the sketch's appeal. As a performer Twain quickly made "Encounter" one of his standard pieces, using it almost until his death. Since then it has kept its popularity, especially for oral delivery. Increasingly, biographers have read it as expressing Twain's impatience with interviewers; however, as of 1874 none had yet importuned him. Rather, Twain meant his sketch to burlesque the interview form itself as empty, celebrity-driven journalism; more generally, it follows Twain's strategy of mocking an audience disarmingly. Its transnational appeal depends-as usual in Twain's memorable writings-on several layers of humor. Most fundamentally, "Encounter" brings temporary release not only from the frame of rationality, of the mutual effort toward relevance that spoken exchange requires, but even from the constraints of making sense that coexistence in any society demands.
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