Huckleberry FinnToday I ‘read’ a much-abridged audio version of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The obvious disadvantage of this version is that it has been so very heavily abridged. The advantage is that the reading, by Trevor White, brings Twain’s vernacular language wonderfully to life. Part-farce, part satire, part social commentary, The Adventures is a colourful, elegiac depiction of a world that had already all but disappeared when Twain wrote about it. Who could not warm to such characters as Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer and the noble Jim? And who, but Dickens, perhaps, could invent such wonderful characters as the con artists, the duke and the king? Underlying all of this there is Huck’s constant tussle with his conscience, which is in opposition to the mores of the society he lives in, particularly regarding slavery. As Twain himself put it, Huckleberry Finn is a story where ‘a sound heart and a deformed conscience come into collision and conscience suffers defeat.’ Surely Twain intentionally juxtaposed the enslavement of a non-slave (Huck) with the struggles to free a slave who was in fact already free (Jim). Although Ernest Hemingway was critical of the ending he nevertheless considered that ‘All modern American literature comes from Huck Finn’ and he declared it to be ‘the best book we’ve ever had’. Even in the abridged version I heard today the book’s freshness and energy is still much in evidence.