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LONDON — When I resorted to Mark Twain’s writings, I attempted to escape, at least temporarily from my often distressing readings on war, politics and terror. But his “The Mysterious Stranger,” although published 1916, left me with an eerie feeling. The imaginative story calls into question beliefs that we hold as a “matter of course” — a favorite phrase of his. It summons the awful tendencies of “our race”: our irrational drive for violence, be it burning “witches” at the stake or engaging in wars that only serve the “little monarchs and the nobilities.”

As the Iraq war rages on, Twain’s words ring truer by the day.

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