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A Century After His Death, Mark Twain’s Autobiography to be Published

Samuel Clemens—also known as Mark Twain, or the Great American Novelist—who died a century ago this year, has a new book coming out next month.

The University of California Press will release the first of three volumes of Twain’s previously unpublished autobiography, “Autobiography of Mark Twain: The Complete and Authoritative Edition, Vol. 1,” on Nov. 15.

According to the book’s introduction (you can preview the first chapter here) Twain spent 35 years—between 1870 and 1905—haphazardly piecing together the stories that comprised his life, not necessarily in chronological order, but as he felt like telling them. In 1906 he worked more deliberately on the task, regularly dictating stories to a stenographer, Josephine S. Hobby. He completed his autobiography in 1909, just four months before his death.

But it would be another century before readers would get a chance to see the novelist’s memoirs. Twain stressed that the book would not be published in its entirety until 100 years after he died. “A book that is not to be published for a century gives the writer a freedom which he could secure in no other way,” he is quoted as saying in the book’s introduction. “In these conditions you can draw a man without prejudice exactly as you knew him and yet have no fear of hurting his feelings or those of his sons or grandsons.”

The book’s eventual, official publication was orchestrated by Robert Hirst, who leads a team of editors at UC Berkeley’s Mark Twain Papers and Project. The project, housed in the Bancroft Library, is an extensive archival resource for many Twain-related photos, writings and letters. The MTP claims to have in its archives almost every known surviving piece of writing by the author, either in original or photocopied forms.

Hirst will talk about the work that went into the book’s approaching release and read excerpts from the first volume Nov. 1 at 7:30 p.m. at the Hillside Club, located at 2286 Cedar St. in Berkeley. Free for members, $5 for guests.