An engaging blend of satire, humour and loyal friendships, “Is he dead?” presented by Mark Twain in his signature style, is a delightful comedy which gives an ironical view of the world’s art market.
The play revolves around a young painter, Jean Francois Millet who is heavily in debt with an unscrupulous picture dealer Bastien Andre. Taking advantage of his poor financial position, Andre threatens to ‘ruin’ Millet if he doesn’t pay up his debt in 48 hours. However, Millet’s best friend ‘Chicago’ hatches a brilliant plan and stages the death of ‘Jean Francois Millet’ to inflate the prices of his paintings. A series of events follow, that comprise of cross dressing, a grand full scale funeral of a living person and a mockery of the elite class. With a range of characters coming from all parts of the world, this play is a refreshing read for all Mark Twain admirers.
Though the play was originally written in 1898, it remained a neglected manuscript till Shelley Fisher Fishkin; a professor of English at Stanford University discovered and published it in 2003. The play itself only occupies half of the book, the rest being dedicated to a detailed foreword and afterword by Fishkin. Personally, I as a reader, being too eager to lay my hands on the story itself, am too impatient to read the foreword or afterword. However in this case, I would advise you to go through both, as Fishkin presents an eye – opening analysis of how Mark Twain’s personal and social life affected his writing, interspersed with copies of the play’s original manuscript and Millet’s art work. She equips this with a well researched comparison of this play with Twain’s other literary works. Though belonging to the Victorian era, the play is as enjoyable for contemporary readers as are his other literary works.
Overall Rating: 9/10
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Seema dreams of working as a full-time journalist. She believes that the stories which she writes will help bring about a positive change to the world. A voracious reader, she is also equally interested in photography, cooking, travelling, tennis and basketball; not in any order though.