The Literary Discover of the Century
Jules Verne was born in France in 1828 and died in 1905. His collaboration with the publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel was wildly successful, producing many brilliant novels in the burgeoning genre of science fiction: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and Around the World in 80 Days, among others. Verne is the second most translated author in the world, after Agatha Christie and before Shakespeare.
In 1863, Jules Verne was a young writer with one published novel under his belt and a new multibook contract with a prominent French publisher in hand. The publisher, however, rejected Verne's second manuscript, opting to bring out his Journey to the Center of the Earth instead. That manuscript apparently disappeared into a drawer, not to see the light of day again until it was rediscovered and published in 1994. Now it has been rendered into English by the eminent poet and translator Richard Howard. Verne's early books tend to feature adventure plots and a positive attitude towards technology. This novel, however, shows Verne in a darker, frankly dystopian mood. His mid-20th century Paris is an enormously wealthy society, a place of technological wonders, but, like Huxley's Brave New World, it is also a society without meaningful art. Engineering and banking are the prime industries of this civilization and, as the book's protagonist discovers, not even the most talented poet can find a place for himself unless he's willing to produce odes to blast furnaces or locomotives. While the narrative contains many startling predictions‘among them fax machines, electronic calculators, automobiles and elaborate subway systems‘there is little here in the way of either plot or character development. It's clear, in fact, that in opting for Journey to the Center of the Earth, Verne's publisher chose the better book. Drawings not seen by PW. (Dec.)
Verne is well known as an early science fiction writer; this novel, which was lost for 125 years, is remarkably prescient in its predictions about the technology that is omnipresent now. Set in the 1960s, though written a century earlier, the novel depicts Michel Dufrenoy as a poet and humanities scholar at sea in a crass commercial world that has strong overtones of Soviet realism. He befriends a young musician with whom he works; reconnects with his long-lost uncle, a literature professor; and even falls in love with the professor's granddaughter. But despite the kindnesses of his friends, Michel fails to succeed with the technological culture around him. Notable are the predictions about the subway, electric lights, and electronic music. A curiosity; recommended for public and academic libraries.‘Ann Irvine, Montgomery Cty. P.L., Md.
"Jules Verne was the Michael Crichton of the 19th century."--The New York Times
"For anyone interested in the history of speculative
fiction . . . this book is an absolute necessity."--Ray
"Verne's Paris is a bustling, overcrowded metropolis teeming with starving homeless and 'vehicles that passed on paved roads and moved without horses.' Years before they would be invented, Verne has imagined elevators and faxmachines. It was a vision Verne's editor flatly rejected. Contemporary readers know better."--People
"An excellent extrapolation, founded on 19th-century technical novelties, of a future culture."--The Washington Post Book World
"Verne published nearly seventy books, many of them now considered classics. But this little jewel catches him just reaching stride as a writer of science fiction, a genre that he, of course, helped put on the literary map."--The Denver Post