Verne, Jules

Tagged: Author

(1828-1905) French playwright and author, one of the two pre-eminent nineteenth-century figures in what was not yet called sf – the other being H G Wells – though neither claimed a dominant status for himself or for the other in the popular literature of the time, nor did either of them claim to be fathering a new genre. The importance of Wells's early Scientific Romances was soon recognized, and it has never plausibly been suggested that they were not his greatest – certainly his most intense – works. A similar sagacity did not, on the other hand, characterize until recently French scholarship on Verne, who even in his own country was sidelined as an author for children, which he both was and patently was not. Even more damningly – unlike Wells, who was deprecated for abandoning his early genius – he was described as an author who could not write (that he was not a "stylist" is obvious, but that he was a careful and penetrating manipulator of writerly tools, some of them now understood as sophisticatedly metafictional, has now become widely understood). English-language appreciation of Verne was of course crippled until recently by the wide-spread badness of translations of his work, many of them silently expurgated, most of them abridged, and on some occasions actively misrepresented by the insertion of passages not written by him; literal errors in transcribing his numerous figures and calculations were also frequent, leading to a condescending assumption on the part of English-language critics that Verne himself was either slovenly or innumerate or both. It is not surprising, therefore – though hardly a commendation of critics so indifferent to textual issues that they did not bother to consult original versions – that for a hundred years Verne was inadequately appreciated by non-francophones. A similar obtuseness on the part of French critics, on the other hand, was not easy to commend.

Fortunately the discovery of the complexity and grasp of his huge oeuvre in France during the later twentieth century finally cast into serious doubt Verne's long exclusion from the canon of great nineteenth-century French authors; and for readers in English, a range of serious critical studies of Verne has proliferated since about 1980 [see about the author below], along with the publication of a growing number of competent complete translations. Readers and critics are now beginning to understand Verne's enterprise, relentlessly promulgated over dozens of long novels, as more than an attempt to entertain children while teaching them facts about the measurable world; more than composing mission-statement Baedekers to territories either under the sway of the European empires (see Imperialism), or about to be; more than creating directional hoardings for the March of (French) Progress; more than catechizing, over-excitedly, the physics and metaphysics of Transportation. That the full complexity of his oeuvre can be understood as having some generative relationship to sf – to the various genres and clusters of concern that would eventually be understood as fathering the twentieth-century form – seems more obvious now than a century ago.

Sadly, in their belated discovery of Verne, French critics have shown a tendency to "rescue" him from being thought of as an sf writer in any significant sense, some going so far as to suggest that he should not be thought of as a "father of science fiction" because so many of his novels stayed strictly within "realistic" bounds and were not set in the future and could not therefore be sf at all (it is certainly true that a significant portion of French sf or the roman scientifique was set in the future); even some English-language critics have followed suit, including William Butcher, who has claimed strangely that Verne did not write sf because "most of his books contain no innovative science". This and other eccentric representations of the nature of sf have been used in this campaign to save Verne from the onus of having written the form, most of these arguments dodging his deeply sf-like focus on world-encompassing mechanisms of change, whether or not he could be described as utilizing sf topoi within a frame of literal anticipation. As he set relatively few of his works in the future, for it is space not time that usually arouses his imagination, Verne's essential project (it was claimed) turned out therefore to be something more respectable, or at least graspable: a great life-long promotion of nineteenth-century attempts to decipher and negotiate with and ultimately to conquer the given world. That this analysis is insufficiently acute to do either Verne or sf much good seems obvious. In any case, from the broad-church point of view of this encyclopedia – and without any need to settle on a prescriptive Definition of SF in order to special-plead his case, or to harp on the seminal Vernian sf "gaze" upon the workable world – it is easy to think of a substantial number of his works as being obviously science-fictional predictions of and contributions to the SF Megatext as it began to take shape during his lifetime.

A simplistic iteration of sf elements in his works might be useful here. Space Flight, by gun and by Comet, to instance the most transparently iconic sf device of all, is conspicuous in the oeuvre. Throughout his work can be found elaborate dramatizations of how to access the world, conspicuously making use of forms of Transportation not possible at the time of writing: another sure marker of nineteenth-century sf being its dramatization of the marriage between transportation and conquest. Inventions – usually based directly on contemporary Power Sources like electricity, but often extrapolated far beyond the immediately possible, as in the early 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1870) [see below] – are found throughout the work. Though the theory of Evolution conspicuously underlies Verne's thinking about race (see Race in SF; Imperialism), he does not in fact accept the Darwinian version, and Apes as Human cultures feature in more than one tale. The floating Islands featured in several novels are not only impossible in terms of the science of the time, but provide a deeply Verne-like venue for a typically claustrophobic inside-versus-outside display and examination of Utopias and Dystopias, as do his Robinsonades. The Hollow Earth is explored more than once. Weapons far more powerful than possible at the time of writing, and other Near Future innovations auguring Disaster, threaten the future stability of Europe and the world [see Politics]. There are Mad Scientists gazing at the future in order to own it. There is an invisible man (see Invisibility), and a non-mundane Mysterious Stranger. There is at least one instance of Time Travel.

It is, of course, possible to err by an excessive inclusiveness; to search out subtle tints of the near future, or for technologies arguably not yet quite possible; most of Verne's extremely large oeuvre is not sf, and will not be discussed here in terms that imply it should have been. Nor should the focus here on Verne's obvious use of sf be seen as deprecatory of other approaches, even to the same work, for he is clearly a legitimate object of pluralistic study. It does remain the case, however, that along with H G Wells Jules Verne is indeed the "father of science fiction", not only for the reasons iterated above, but because, like Wells, he was so deeply influential on other writers whose work has always been understood as sf. In France alone a short sample of Verne's immediate children would include among others Louis Boussenard, André Laurie, Albert Robida, J-H Rosny aîné, and indeed his own son, Michel Verne, even though the latter wrote only in his father's name; for other authors, see the Incoming Links Report in Incoming/Citations [see button at head of entry]. Verne never truly abandoned his readers, or those who wrote sf because he had shown the way, even though his later novels were significantly darker in texture and more pessimistic in implication than the tales for which he remains, not entirely unjustly, best remembered.

After an insecure start Verne soon became a pragmatic, middle-class provider of what was understood to be a reliable product, and at least during the first decade or so of his career seemed wholeheartedly to espouse a clear-eyed optimism about Progress and European Man's central role in the world typical of high nineteenth-century culture. Moreover – unlike Wells, who never seemed to write under the control or influence (even benign) of anyone, certainly none of his twenty-five or so separate publishers – Verne wrote under significant constraints, as has been shown by recent studies of the literary and marketing environment in which his books appeared, as well as of his original manuscripts (and the publication in France of scholarly editions based on these original sources). It is clear that, under incessant pressure from his publisher, Jules Hetzel, he edited and toned down his manuscripts before submitting for them for publication. When this seemed insufficient,, Hetzel himself expurgated and softened the final manuscripts before releasing them. His now notorious refusal to publish Paris au XXe siècle (written circa 1860-1863; 1994; trans Richard Howard as Paris in the Twentieth Century 1996) (see below) was merely his usual behaviour taken to an extreme, though in fact the full extent of his interventions in early Verne texts has not yet been entirely understood. William Butcher's Jules Verne inédit: les manuscrits déchiffrés ["The Unpublished Jules Verne: The Manuscripts Deciphered"] (2015), which is restricted to the first twenty novels, contains much information not yet fully assimilated into Verne criticism; but it already seems clearly confirmed that Hetzel very extensively censored his most prominent author's most popular books, certainly those in whose initial drafts Verne may have spoken his mind about nationalism, Religion, the state of France, and Politics in general. If Wells led from the front, Verne is only really becoming visible in hindsight.

He was born and raised in the port of Nantes, and it is probably no coincidence that the sea appears in a large number of his best and most romantic novels. His father was a successful lawyer and assumed that Verne would eventually take over his practice, but from an early age the child rebelled against this form of worldly success (though, true to his time, his rebelliousness did not express itself in disdain for the things of the world). It seems that his first declaration of independence was an attempt to switch places with a ship's cabin-boy, and that he was extricated only after the vessel had actually left harbour; but recent scholarship has suggested that the incident was invented by Verne's first biographer. By young adulthood, in any case, Verne's romantic flamboyance took a more productive course. He went to Paris on an allowance and, under the influence of such writers as Victor Hugo (1802-1885) and Alexandre Dumas fils (1824-1895), wrote a good deal of drama (at least twenty plays, only now most of them reaching publication), romantic verse and libretti, several of which were produced, and fiction of variable quality in more than one nonfantastic genre [see translations identified as belonging to the Palik Series in Checklist]. He soon made the significant discovery of Edgar Allan Poe, whose solitary flyting melancholy he somewhat misread as a kind of romantic adventurousness, and under this influence published his first tale of sf interest, "La science en famille. Un voyage en ballon. (Réponse à l'énigme de juillet.)" (August 1851 Musée, seconde série; trans Anne T Wilbur, May 1852 Sartain's Union Magazine,as "A Voyage in a Balloon"); this tale was eventually republished in Le Docteur Ox. Maître Zacharius. Un drame dans les airs. Un hivernage dans les glaces. Quarantième ascension française au mont Blanc (coll 1874; part trans George H Towle as Doctor Ox and Other Stories 1874), the only collection of stories Verne published in the Voyages extraordinaires (see below). Also in this volume appeared the more interesting early story "Maître Zacharius" ["Master Zacharius"] (April 1854 Musée, seconde série), an allegory about time, a clockmaker and the Devil. Both stories demonstrate from how early a date Verne developed his characteristic technique of embedding speculative quasiscientific explanations into seemingly straightforward adventures imbued with the romance of fact-based geography.

[NB: As with Doctor Ox above, we list in the text of this entry only the first English translation of any Verne title. For a full breakdown of variously entitled translations, many of them with vts – variant titles – in tow, see Checklist.]

Despite early hints of the course he was to follow, Verne felt himself only marginally successful as a writer, and with his father's help he soon turned to stockbroking, an occupation he maintained until 1862, when his singularly important association with Jules Hetzel began. Having abandoned the 1859-1860 manuscript of his first full-length work, the fictionalized travelogue Voyage à reculons en Angleterre et en Ecosse (1989; trans Janice Valls-Russell as Backwards to Britain 1992), Verne had come to Hetzel with a narrative about travelling in Balloons (it too was apparently couched in semi-documentary form); when Hetzel suggested that he properly novelize his story, Verne did so eagerly and swiftly, and the renovated tale, published as Cinq semaines en ballon: Voyage de Découvertes en Afrique par trois anglais (1863; trans "William Lackland" as Five Weeks in a Balloon, or Journeys and Discoveries in Africa, by Three Englishmen 1869), began the long series of what would not formally be designated the Voyages extraordinaires ["Extraordinary Journeys"] until the publication of Voyages et aventures du capitaine Hatteras (1866 2vols; trans anon as A Journey to the North Pole 1874), though Hetzel retrofitted subsequent reprints of the first three novels into the series; almost all Verne's works from 1866 until his death were published as Voyages extraordinaires. In this first tale, which was still comparatively episodic, colleagues in the very Near Future decide to try to cross Africa in a self-steering balloon, discover the source of the Nile (months before John Speke [1827-1864] identified it as Lake Victoria), have numerous adventures as they proceed, and learn a great deal about Africa. But Five Weeks in a Balloon lacks some of the hectic, romantic intensity of Verne's best work, those stories whose displacement from normal realities allowed him to transcend the element of illustrated travelogue which occasionally domesticated – in a negative sense – his fiction.

His next novel, Paris au XXe Siècle (written circa 1860-1863; 1994; trans Richard Howard as Paris in the Twentieth Century1996), caused a considerable stir on its eventual discovery in manuscript form and subsequent publication. Set in 1960, and depicting a Dystopian corporate/market-based hegemony in surprisingly grim terms, the tale is remarkable on several counts, certainly for the wide range and accuracy of its Predictions – 1960 Paris boasts automobiles, pneumatic tube-trains, Computers and faxes – all the more surprising, given the wide assumption that Verne's almost total refusal to set any of the Voyages extraordinaires in the future demonstrated his inability to make proper sf extrapolations (it now seems clear, however, that Hetzel did not wish to publish works not safely grounded in the present or near past). But the novel closes on a panorama of Paris that severely undercuts any signals of technological progress that may be laid down: the city is frozen shut, and the now virtually invisible protagonist – his job long gone – sits in a cemetery gazing from a height upon the mute city. This ending contradicts any sense that Verne's cultural pessimism came from the disappointments of old age, or that it was the whole-cloth creation of his son, Michel Verne, who was indeed wholly or partially responsible for stories like In the Year 2889 (February 1889 The Forum; 2007 chap), originally published in English and variously modified, as described by Arthur B Evans in "The 'New' Jules Verne" (March 1995 Science Fiction Studies). The 1994 publication of Paris in the Twentieth Century also roused some suspicions about the date and actual authorship of the text; these suspicions are acutely analysed by Evans, who treats them as natural but, in this case, unfounded.

Verne's next published novel, Voyage au centre de la terre (1864; exp 1867; trans anon as Journey to the Centre of the Earth1872), abandons futurity, and the revised version, which intensifies the action and expands the protagonists' debate over Evolution, is the first to convey what became the trademark Vernean frisson, in the early books at least (certainly in the versions Hetzel allowed): a sense of moral clarity and even compassion (villains are very rare); the safety of numbers (multiple protagonists were usual); and a sense of coming very close to but never toppling over the edge of the known. In this novel three protagonists take part variously in an expedition into the core of a dormant volcano which leads them eventually into the dark Hollow Earth itself. There are sightings of Dinosaurs and cavemen. Verne's engaging wonderment at the world's marvels in tales of this sort goes far to explain the success he was beginning, almost immediately, to achieve; and was conveyed with a childlike exuberance and clarity that gave evolving sf tropes and topoi like the fabulous Underground caves of this tale, an intensely memorable shape. His tripartite division of protagonists (one a Scientist, one an intensely active, athletic type, the third a more or less ordinary man representative of the reader's point of view) sorted out didactic duties and narrative pleasures remarkably well.

In the meantime, Hetzel was planning a magazine for young readers, and in 1864 founded Le Magasin d'Education et de Récréation. Verne was central to the enterprise – the first issue began with his serialization of Les adventures du Capitaine Hatteras (20 March 1864-5 December 1865 Magasin d'Éducation et de Récréation as "Les Anglais au pôle Nord: Le désert de glace"; 1864 2vols; vol 1, Les Anglais au pôle nord [1864], trans anon as The English at the North Pole 1874) – and most (though by no mean all) of his novels were first published there. The years of his greatest public success, and of his most intense use of the instruments of sf, had arrived. Hatteras itself, a brilliant novel conspicuously not described as sf by its critical admirers, tracks an unrelenting hunt for the North Pole by the obsessed Hatteras, who himself has proto-Superman characteristics (including an immunity to cold), but puts himself and his colleagues at profound risk; the explorers succeed all the same in reaching a mild circumpolar sea, which Lost-World-like abounds with prehistoric Monsters. The North Pole itself is an active volcano, though it does not – as in any Hollow Earth novel written according to the Symmesian hypothesis (see John Cleves Symmes) – lead Hatteras into the heart of the world. George Méliès based his À la Conquête du pôle ["Conquest of the Pole"] (1912) on this novel, though the whole iconography of the Voyages extraordinaires was drawn upon.

Verne gained further renown with the first volumes of his first series, the Around the Moon sequence comprising De la terre à la Lune: Trajet direct en 97 heures 20 minutes (14 September-14 October 1865 Journal de Débats politiques et littéraires as "De la Terre à la Lune. Trajet direct en 97 heures"; 1865; trans J K Hoyte as From the Earth to the Moon, Passage Direct in 97 Hours and 20 Minutes 1869); Autour de la Lune: Seconde partie de: De la Terre à la Lune (4 November-8 December 1869 Journal de Débats politiques et littéraires1870; both vols trans Lewis Mercier and Eleanor King as From the Earth to the Moon Direct in 97 hours 20 minutes, and a Trip Around It 1873); and Sans dessus dessous (1889; trans anon as The Purchase of the North Pole 1890), the latter set in the Near Future 1890s, when the original Baltimore Gun Club reunites to purchase the North Pole. The choice of a gun to fire the members of the Gun Club around the Moon was not, perhaps, a good anticipation of Space Flight; but the epic exudes a natty exhilaration, and in the end the Moon, once safely circumnavigated, is left to its own resources. The Gun Club's later plan, to profit from its ownership of the Pole by shifting the Earth's axis, is unsuccessful.

Of greater sf importance was his second series, the Captain Nemo sequence comprising Vingt mille lieues sous les mers (20 March 1869-20 June 1870 Magasin d'Éducation et de Récréation1870 2vols; rev 1871; cut trans Lewis Mercier as Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Seas 1872) and L'île mystérieuse (1 December 1874-5 December 1875 Le Temps; 1874-1875 3vols) [for further details on titles, cuts and restorations see Checklist below]. Over and beyond their travestying of Verne's scientific descriptions of the world, the editing of both titles removed any imputation that Nemo had just cause to take revenge on the British who had invaded and corrupted his native India [see Imperialism]. In modern restored translations, the Nemo of the first tale – which is generally thought to be Verne's most inspired and sustained novel – can be recognized as an Antihero both enigmatic and obscured, a Byronic figure who ultimately bewilders the tale's narrator, despite his growing sympathy for Nemo's search for Transcendence through revenge against an easily identified Britain; later generations of readers have found him easier to empathize with, and his animus against the British Empire easier to understand, than Hetzel could have anticipated.

The Nautilus, Nemo's exceedingly-advanced electricity-powered submarine – electricity being a favourite anticipatory Power Source in the sf of the time – is capable of making long luxurious voyages at 25 knots (higher in bursts), mostly submerged, including a visit to the ruins of the great City at the heart of the sunken continent of Atlantis, a stop which makes a short episode in the tale's extended Fantastic Voyage through the great {ARCHIPELAGO} that comprises planet Earth, seen from below, each island being approached from Under the Sea (the Bahamas, for instance, are great cavern-haunted mountains with insignificant caps of dry land perching flatly above them). The geography is sometimes fantastic, including the Underground "Arabian Tunnel" which connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, and the arrival at the South Pole, which turns out to be a mountain peak thrusting out of a strangely clement ocean. These events, and the narrator Professor Aronnax's elated absorption in oceanic fauna, are usually conveyed through clearly tagged, frequently inspired Infodumps. The Nautilus's isolation from the outside world is signalled by its crews' use of a private language (see Linguistics) that only they understand. Though his lower-class colleagues are given spartan accommodation, Aronnax is amply and comfortingly coddled in a chamber that exudes Second Empire plushness; this presentation of ornate luxury enabled by advanced Technology is one of the central iconic images (see Icons) of the romance of nineteenth-century sf, and prefigures Steampunk. The sequel, The Mysterious Island, which takes place something like a decade later and is less prolific in sf imagery, unpacks a long, engaging Robinsonade whose band of brotherly castaways is haunted (and eventually saved) by Nemo in Mysterious Stranger guise. Adam Roberts's Twenty Trillion Leagues Under the Sea (2014) explicitly homages the first tale in the sequence.

Equally well known as a novel, Le tour du monde en quatre-vingt jours (6 November-22 December 1872 Le Temps; 1873; trans Geo M Towle as Around the World in Eighty Days 1874) is not sf, for Verne conceived his protagonist's journey around the world entirely in terms of travel arrangements then existing, basing Fogg's trip on a real journey by the US entrepreneur, traveller and eccentric George Francis Train (1829-1904). Philip José Farmer rectified this mundanity in his Sequel by Other Hands, The Other Log of Phileas Fogg (1973); the Videogame adaptation of Verne's novel, 80 Days (2014), moves the action into Steampunk territory.

There are several further tales of sf interest, including the title novel assembled in "Une Ville flottante" suivi de "Les Forceurs de blocus" (9 August-6 September 1871 Journal des Débats politiques et littéraires; coll 1871; trans anon as The Floating City and the Blockade Runners 1876), the first of the floating Island novels, the most extreme of these being the much later L'Île à hélice (1895) [for publication details see discussion three paragraphs below], in which the human race is implicitly anatomized as incapable of making even a microcosm of the world work. The protagonists of Le Pays des fourrures (20 September 1872-15 December 1873 Magasin d'Éducation et de Récréation1873 2vols; trans N D'Anvers as The Fur Country; or, Seventy Degrees North Latitude 1873) discover a clement Lost World at 70 degrees north latitude; an earthquake seems to alter the Earth's position in the solar system, but the team discovers that their settlement has become a floating island, from which they are rescued in due course. Hector Servadac: voyages et aventures à travers le monde solaire (1 January-15 December 1877 Magasin d'Éducation et de Récréation1877 2vols; trans Ellen Elizabeth Frewer as Hector Servadac 1877) is perhaps the most remarkable of Verne's mid-period works: a fragment of the planet is knocked into space by a huge Comet, along with a microcosm of humanity, which survives vacuum and other tribulations, circumnavigates the Sun, and returns two years later to an Earth magically untransformed (as in The Fur Country) by the Disaster. In the introduction to his translation of this work [see Checklist], Adam Roberts shows that Hetzel would not permit Verne to close a novel in the midst of a transformed world (indeed, Verne's protagonists normally brings their gifts of travel back to an unchanged Europe).

On the other hand the title novel assembled in Les Cinq Cents Millions de la Bégum: suivi de Les Révoltés de la "Bounty" (title novel: 1 January-15 September 1879 Magasin d'Éducation et de Récréation as "Les 500 Millions de la Bégum": 1879; title novel trans anon as The 500 Millions of the Begum 1879) seems to have escaped serious censorship (though the initial translation is very bad), perhaps because the mogul who has created a quasi-Underground, hellish Dystopia – at the heart of which a super-Weaponself-propelled flying bomb is aimed at the heart of civilization – is in fact German. The huge steam-driven mechanical elephant on wheels featured in La Maison à vapeur: Voyage à travers l'Inde septentrionale (1 December 1879-15 December 1880 Magasin d'Éducation et de Récréation1880 2vols; trans Agnes D Kingston as The Steam House (The Demon of Cawnpore and Tigers and Traitors) 1880 2vols), and which criss-crosses India dragging two mobile houses behind it, seems to have directly influenced Dime-Novel SF authors like Luis Senarens. The eponymous Ray in Le Rayon Vert (1882; trans Mary de Hautville as The Green Ray 1883) though of natural origin has the capacity of intensifying physical and psychic Perceptions for those who catch sight of it. The eponymous revenge-seeking hero of Mathias Sandorf (6 June-20 September 1885 Le Temps; 1885 2vols; trans G W Hanna Mathias Sandorf 1885 2vols) much resembles the protagonist of Alexandre Dumas's The Count of Monte-Cristo (1844-1845 18vols), including the disguise, the enormous fortune, the Fortress of Solitude, and only moving beyond his model through his advanced Weapons.

There is some doubt that Verne's late Robinsonades are as toothless as nineteenth-century translations have made them seem. The better-known titles are L'école des Robinsons (1 January-1 December 1882 Magasin d'Éducation et de Récréation: 1882; trans W J Gordon as Godfrey Morgan: A Californian Mystery 1883) and the late, nostalgic Deux ans de vacances, ou un pensionnat de Robinsons (1 January-15 December 1888 Magasin d'Éducation et de Récréation1888 2vols; trans anon as Adrift in the Pacific 1889). Both exploit the romantic implications of being cast alone or with a few companions into the bosom of a bounteous Nature, and the didactic possibilities inherent in the project of re-creating a civilized life; Verne's robinsonades are carefully socialized, and their small groups of protagonists always make do very well together, as far as English readers are aware.

All the same, the surface of his more significant later sf novels increasingly reveals a grimmer palette. That, and their inescapable pessimism about the enterprise of European imperial civilization, may have impeded their full acceptance – this, ironically, at a time when Verne had become an Icon of the European imperium at its most triumphant. The 1889 World's Fair in Paris featured, for instance, rides in which customers could go around the world in eighty days, or 20,000 leagues under the sea, a techno-fetishism far distant (Roger Luckhurst argues, see about the author below) from Verne's own "internationalist rejection of nationalism" as represented by Captain Nemo (certainly in the original text of Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea). The negative impact of Verne's later assaults on Progress may perhaps account for his exclusion, just eleven years later, from the Exposition Universalle in 1900. Le Château des Carpathes (1 January 1892-15 December 1892 Magasin d'Éducation et de Récréation1892; trans anon as The Castle of the Carpathians 1893) darkly associates Inventions with psychopathology, as the owner of the Chateau recreates through an advanced phonograph and magic mirror tricks the ghostly presence of the diva whose death has unbalanced him. More significantly, the Robur the Conqueror sequence – comprising Robur-le-Conquérant (9 June-18 August 1886 Journal des Débats politiques et littéraire1886; trans anon as Robur the Conqueror; Or, A Trip Round the World in a Flying Machine 1887) and Maître du monde (1 July-15 December 1904 Magasin d'Éducation et de Récréation (seconde série); 1904; trans anon as The Master of the World 1911 US) – reads almost as a black parody of Captain Nemo. It is true that in the first tale the steely, megalomaniacal Robur, inventor of an impressive flying machine (see Airships), even though he is rendered less favourably than an earlier romantic figure like Nemo, is still allowed by Verne to represent the march of scientific progress as he forces the world to listen to him; but any hints of a budding Pax Aeronautica are scanted by Verne, whose distrust of technocratic elites places him in stark contrast to late Wells, whose "United Airmen" so unmistakably date The Shape of Things to Come (1933). Consistent with this deep-held distrust, in The Master of the World, Verne's last work of any significance, Robur has become a dangerous madman, a Mad Scientist fatally detached from the darkening world, blasphemous and uncontrollable as he uses his Invention, a 200mph airplane cum submarine, to attack his enemies; his excesses – like those of Wells's earlier Dr Moreau – are easy to read as representing the excesses of an unfettered development of science. Science and a subservient, bounteous Nature are no longer seen – in late Verne or early Wells – as benevolently united under Man's imperious control.

Even more savage, L'Île à hélice (1 January-15 December 1895 Magasin d'Éducation et de Récréation (seconde série); 1895 2vols; trans W J Gordon as The Floating Island; or, The Pearl of the Pacific 1896) is an unremitting Satire on the pretences of Western Civilization to govern the world: in the moderately distant Near Future, a string quartet (see Arts) is abducted from North America – now completely under American rule – and deposited on Standard Island, a huge Island Keep which, driven by vast propellers around the Pacific, serves as a "paradise" for extremely wealthy capitalists. The string quartet, offered vast sums, makes some music, and there are Inventions galore; but unfortunately, schisms amongst the presiding owners of the West – plus an invasion of wild beasts – ensure the sinking of the island, and all it stands for (see Ship of Fools). Contemporary critics who accept William Butcher's attempts to "save" Verne from sf typically ignore or misrepresent this novel, an example being Rosalind Williams's truncated and unilluminating references to the text in her otherwise astute study [for titles by Butcher and Williams see about the author below]. Hector Servadac (1877), not mentioned at all by Williams, is also typically sidelined.

The French protagonist of Face au drapeau (1 July-15 December 1896 Magasin d'Éducation et de Récréation (seconde série); 1896; trans Mrs Cashel Hoey as Facing the Flag 1897) is forced by pirates housed inside a secret Island – pirates always representing for Verne the kind of international chaos created by blindly competitive national bodies – to aim his Invention, a new Weapon of unprecedented power called the Fulgurator, at an approaching fleet, sinking several battleships; but when a French warship unfurls its flag, he refuses to betray his company, and instead blows up the island, the pirates, the weapon, and himself. William J Hypperbone's will, in Le Testament d'un excentrique (1 January-15 December 1899 Magasin d'Éducation et de Récréation (seconde série); 1899; 2vols; trans anon as The Will of an Eccentric 1900), bequeaths his enormous fortune to the winner of "The Noble Game of the United States of America", based on a Board Game of his devising which requires competitors to traverse America transformed into squares, their moves made in accordance with an intricate series of rules based on throws of the dice.And in Le Village aérien (1 January-15 June 1901 Magasin d'Éducation et de Récréation (seconde série); 1901; trans I O Evans as The Village in the Tree Tops 1964), Verne now accepts Darwinian Evolution sufficiently to grant the survival into modern times of the Waggids, a subhuman species (see Apes as Human; Prehistoric SF) which has fallen under the sway of a Mad Scientist; lacking Religion, the Waggids can never be fully human.

From Le Phare au bout du monde (1905 2vols; trans Cranston Metcalfe as The Lighthouse at the End of the World 1923) to L'Étonnante Aventure de la mission Barsac (1920 2vols; trans I O Evans as The Barsac Mission 1960 2vols), Verne's posthumous novels present a serious problem for the scholar and the reader. [For bibliographical comments, see general explanatory notes under Voyages extraordinaires below, and individual titles under Voyages extraordinaires: Posthumous.] For the non-specialist reader, two suggestions should be taken into account regarding Michel Verne's editing and rewriting of these novels, and of the stories assembled in Hier et demain [see comment below]. One: it is clear that Michel Verne actually improved some of his father's manuscripts, all of them written in his last years, when his energies were at times seriously depleted. Le Volcan d'or (1906; 2vols; restored text 1989; trans Edward Baxter of restored text as The Golden Volcano: The First English Translation of Verne's Original Manuscript 2008) seems to be a case in point. Two: it is clear that Verne's original manuscripts, as published and translated in recent years, should take precedence over the modified versions, whether or not they are rough or feeble, and that in fact Michel Verne habitually adulterated his father's pessimism about the twentieth century, softening his disaffection into bromides. It is certainly the case that the original version of Le Secret de Wilhelm Storitz (1910; restored version 1985; trans of original version Peter Schuman as The Secret of Wilhelm Storitz: The First English Translation of Verne's Original Manuscript 2011) is markedly superior to Michel Verne's redaction. It is, in fact, a tale of considerable grimness, in which the eponymous Antihero applies his Invention of an Invisibility Ray to render himself and the girl he lusts after both invisible; on his death, the secret of his invention still unveiled, the girl remains invisible, though she marries the narrator of the tale in this apparently permanent condition. In its original state, this novel very clearly works as a thematic pendant to H G Wells's The Invisible Man (1897).

Verne's later life had not been uneventful. Although he married, prospered mightily, lived in a large provincial house, yachted occasionally, unflaggingly produced his novels for the firm of Hetzel, and became an exemplary nineteenth-century French middle-class dignitary, his extended family was seriously dysfunctional. A nephew tried to murder him 1886, and his son Michel Verne was criminally profligate, leaving it to his father to pay his huge debts. These burdens clearly affected his work. While his early works certainly examine the boyish, escapist dream-life of French adolescents in 1865, they can also be read as an ultimate requiem for the dream of his astonishing and transformative century, that waking dream of the daylight decades so effectively fleshed in his early work. But long before 1900 that vision – that dream that the world was both illimitable and decipherable, unknown but obedient; and that Man could only improve upon creation – seemed to have begun to fade, as his own life seemed to show, and as demonstrated (see above) in his last novels, though perhaps most clearly in a remarkable Ruined Earth tale, "The Eternal Adam" from Hier et demain [for full title see Checklist] (coll 1910; trans I O Evans as Yesterday and Tomorrow 1965), in which a far-future historian (see Ruins and Futurity) discovers to his dismay that twentieth-century civilization was overthrown by geological cataclysms, and that the legend of Adam and Eve was both true and cyclical. No manuscript in Verne's hand exists of this story, which may have been written in large part by Michel Verne [see Checklist]; but it clearly reflects Verne's late state of mind, and has more than once been treated as a thematic summation of his career. That career is too vast to be rewritten in hindsight, or comprehended in terms of the pessimism of his last years. It contains much that is probably irretrievably distant for modern readers, his voice muffled by the century and a half of changes he did not quite allow himself to address. But there is also much in Verne that the last half century of critical study has begun to make audible. It is a voice that did, we increasingly understand, speak to the future.

Verne's work has always been attractive to film-makers, and as early as 1902 Georges Méliès loosely adapted From the Earth to the Moon to make Voyage dans la Lune, first of his Verne-based films. It was not until Verne's work came out of copyright in the 1950s, however, that the real rush started, beginning with Walt Disney's 20,000 Leagues under the Sea (1954). Other Verne adaptations were Around the World in 80 Days (1956), From the Earth to the Moon (1958), Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959), Mysterious Island (1961), Master of the World (1961), Valley of the Dragons (1961; vt Prehistoric Valley UK) – very loosely based on Hector Servadac – and Five Weeks in a Balloon (1962). The Czech film Vynález Zkázy (1958), released in the USA as The Fabulous World of Jules Verne, was a blend of live action and animation. Verne's characters have been revived in various, sometimes embarrassing guises, as in Captain Nemo and the Underwater City (1969); in Comics, Nemo and the Nautilus play an important role in the first volume of Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (six issues 1999-2000; graph 2000). The film adaptations here mentioned comprise a small fraction of the more than 300 versions issued worldwide; Brian Taves's Hollywood Presents Jules Verne (2015) [for fuller details see about the author below] analyses in depth a very wide range of adaptations, both Cinema and Television, made in English. [JC]

see also: Anthropology; Astronomy; Austria; Benelux; Biology; Boys' Papers; Children's SF; Fantastic Voyages; France; Gothic SF; History of SF; Machines; Music; Optimism and Pessimism; SF Music; Scientific Errors; Spaceships; Urban Legends.

Jules Gabriel Verne

born Nantes, France: 8 February 1828

died Amiens, France: 24 March 1905

works

series

Voyages extraordinaires

Given the wide range in quality and accuracy of early translations of Verne – many of them, as already stated, cut, mutilated and rewritten – and given the difficulty of tracing these changes in detail, no serious attempt has been made to register specific deformations of the original novels, especially those committed in the nineteenth century. To compensate, at the beginning of the relevant comment fields below, a pilcrow – ¶ – marks translations selected from a range of specific recommendations provided in Arthur B Evans's essential "A Bibliography of Jules Verne's English Translations" (March 2005 Science Fiction Studies: vol 32, part 1: whole #95); an examination of Evans's precisely graded recommendations as a whole makes it clear that, for the more obscure titles, nineteenth-century translations are often recommended faute de mieux. Where Evans cannot find recommendable translations for the period before 2005, none are inserted here. Pilcrows for relevant translations published from 2005 on have, however, been added.

The actual size of the oeuvre initiated by Five Weeks in a Balloon has, it might seem oddly, been subject to various estimates. This seems primarily due to the varying formats in which the Voyages extraordinaires were issued; and upon a misunderstanding of the contract between Verne and Hetzel, the terms of which (for a considerable period) required him to produce three volumes a year (this was eventually reduced to two), as can be seen by counting individual volumes registered below. The misunderstanding may arise when "volumes" are confused with "titles" by scholars whose grasp of bibliographical context is remote, especially in cases where one and two volume versions of individual titles may have been issued almost simultaneously. The Voyages extraordinaires consists of fifty-four novels published before Verne's death; these were variously released in one or two or three volumes, sometimes with shorter works appended as makeweights. Two or three of Verne's few novels not published in the series are also of sf interest. Of the approximately sixty novels in the oeuvre, about a quarter could be described without qualification as sf.

Eight posthumous titles in the Voyages extraordinaires appeared by 1920, seven of them modified to some degree by Verne's son Michel Verne, and one of them – L'Agence Thompson and C° (1907) (see Checklist below) – entirely by him. The extent to which these texts could be described as inauthentic became a serious issue in the 1980s, when the Société Jules Verne in France began to republish Verne's original manuscripts, ostensibly unmodified (though some redemptive copy-editing, similar to that conducted by Michel on his father's drafts before and after his death, was in fact imposed). Seven of these novels, therefore, now exist in two distinct versions, see Checklist below, under Voyages extraordinaires: Posthumous.

We have not attempted to penetrate the arcana surrounding first editions of Verne in the Voyages extraordinaires, though we feel the editions listed below are probably correct as regards the proper year of first book publication (Hetzel seems to have issued possibly variant texts in differing bindings, often but not always simultaneously), and do not attempt here to unpack bibliographical connections between Hetzel's "in-18" and "grand in-8" versions of individual texts. Though we do not indicate the presence or absence of cover illustrations, we do however attempt to credit illustrators whose work appears in at least some version of the initial text. Some inconsistencies may ensue, where for instance the prior "in-18" versions do (or perhaps do not) contain illustrations. No attempt moreover has been made to trace origins of illustrations in English language publications; it is likely that uncredited illustrations were taken from one or another iteration of the original French publication. We are aware that textual differences between the two (or more) main Hetzel versions may exist for more titles than we are currently able to register.Though the Voyages extraordinaires sequence was not formally so named until 1866, we follow common usage and apply the designation as well to the three novels published before that date. The three subseries contained in the Voyages extraordinaires are listed initially, followed by individual titles in the overall series, and then by posthumous titles, none of them by Verne alone.

One translation whose insertion within the Checklist at any particular juncture would be confusing, for obvious reasons; the English versions of all titles in this omnibus, some previously published as separate volumes and here (possibly) revised, are recommended:

  • Amazing Journeys: Five Visionary Classics (Albany, New York: State University of New York Press/Excelsior Editions, 2010) [¶ omni: trans by Frederick Paul Walter of Journey to the Center of the Earth, From the Earth to the Moon, Circling the Moon, 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas and Around the World in 80 Days: titles as given by Walter: Voyages extraordinaires: Around the Moon: Voyages extraordinaires: Captain Nemo: Voyages extraordinaires: pb/]

The Checklist below has been corrected and augmented by Mike Ashley, with a specific focus on magazine versions.

Voyages extraordinaires

Voyages extraordinaires: Around the Moon

  • De la Terre à la Lune: Trajet direct en 97 heures 20 minutes (Paris: J Hetzel et Cie, 1865) [first appeared 14 September-14 October 1865 Journal de Débats politiques et littéraires as "De la Terre à la Lune. Trajet direct en 97 heures": Voyages extraordinaires: Around the Moon: illus/de Montaut: hb/]
    • "From the Earth to the Moon" (26 January-30 March 1867 New York Weekly Magazine; ?1867) [trans anon of the above: the putative 1867 edition by Gage seems not to have been released: Voyages extraordinaires: Around the Moon: hb/]
    • From the Earth to the Moon: Passage Direct in 97 Hours and 20 Minutes (Newark, New Jersey: The Newark Printing and Publishing Company, 1869) [trans by J K Hoyt of the above: Voyages extraordinaires: Around the Moon: pb/nonpictorial]
    • The Baltimore Gun Club (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: King and Baird, 1874) [trans and expansion by Edward Roth of the above: Voyages extraordinaires: Around the Moon: hb/]
    • The American Gun Club (New York: Scribner, Armstrong and Co, 1874) [trans by Louis Mercier and Eleanor E King of the above: this volume comprises a revision of the first half of From the Earth to the Moon Direct, in Ninety-seven Hours Twenty Minutes, and a Trip Around it, see below under Autour de la Lune: excerpt trans Frank R Stockton first appeared January 1874 Scribner's Monthly as "The Great Air Line to the Moon": Voyages extraordinaires: Around the Moon: hb/]
    • From the Earth to the Moon (London: Ward, Lock and Tyler, 1876) [trans of the above: first appeared July-December 1873 St James' Magazine: Voyages extraordinaires: Around the Moon: pb/]
    • Rocket Flight to the Moon (Toronto, Ontario: Fireside Publications Limited, circa 1945-1950) [chap: cut recast vt of From the Earth to the Moon: translation used not established: pb/uncredited]
    • From the Earth to the Moon (New York: Bantam Pathfinder, 1967) [trans by Lowell Blair of the above: Voyages extraordinaires: Around the Moon: pb/]
    • From the Earth to the Moon (London: J M Dent, 1970) [trans by Jacqueline and Robert Baldick of the above: Voyages extraordinaires: Around the Moon: illus/hb/]
    • The Annotated Jules Verne: From the Earth to the Moon (New York: Thomas Y Crowell and Co, 1978) [¶ trans by Walter James Miller of the above: Voyages extraordinaires: Around the Moon: pb/Édouard Riou]
  • Autour de la Lune: Seconde partie de: De la Terre à la Lune (Paris: J Hetzel et Cie, 1870) [first appeared 4 November-8 December 1869 Journal de Débats politiques et littéraires: Voyages extraordinaires: Around the Moon: illus/Emile Bayard and Alphonse de Neuville: hb/]
  • Sans dessus dessous (Paris: J Hetzel et Cie, 1889) [Voyages extraordinaires: Around the Moon: hb/]
    • Topsy-Turvy (New York: Ogilvie, 1890) [trans anon of the above: Voyages extraordinaires: Around the Moon: hb/]
    • The Purchase of the North Pole: A Sequel to "From the Earth to the Moon" (London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington, 1890) [trans anon of the above: first appeared 1 March-5 July 1890 The Boy's Own Paper as "Barbicane & Co; Or, the Purchase of the Pole": Voyages extraordinaires: Around the Moon: illus/Georges Roux: hb/]
    • The Earth Turned Upside Down (London: Hesperus Press, 2012) [new trans by Sophie Lewis: Voyages extraordinaires: Around the Moon: pb/Steve Stone]

Voyages extraordinaires: Captain Nemo

Voyages extraordinaires: Robur the Conqueror

  • Robur-le-Conquérant (Paris: J Hetzel et Cie, 1886) [first appeared 9 June-18 August 1886 Journal des Débats politiques et littéraires: Voyages extraordinaires: Robur the Conqueror: illus/Léon Benett: hb/]
  • Maître du monde (Paris: J Hetzel et Cie, 1904) [first appeared 1 July-15 December 1904 Magasin d'Éducation et de Récréation (seconde série): Voyages extraordinaires: Robur the Conqueror: illus/George Roux: hb/]
    • The Master of the World (New York: Vincent Parke, 1911) [trans anon of the above: Voyages extraordinaires: Robur the Conqueror: hb/]
    • The Master of the World: A Tale of Mystery and Marvel (London: Sampson Low, 1914) [¶ trans by Cranstoun Metcalfe of the above: first appeared November 1913-April 1914 The Boy's Own Paper: Voyages extraordinaires: Robur the Conqueror: illus/hb/uncredited]
      • Master of the World (London: Arco, 1962) [cut by I O Evans: vt of the above translation: Voyages extraordinaires: Robur the Conqueror: hb/Jozef Gross]

Voyages extraordinaires: individual titles

Voyages extraordinaires: Posthumous

individual titles (selected)

about the author

links

Previous versions of this entry

Website design and build: STEEL

Site ©2011 Gollancz, SFE content ©2011 SFE Ltd.