Happy birthday, Jules Verne
|Public domain photo of Jules Verne from Wikimedia Commons|
Not that Verne was always a great writer. An attempted sequel to Edgar Allan Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, Le Sphinx des Glaces, sucked all the mystery and majesty out of the story, discarding anything that didn't fit his rationalist leanings, and changing the plot facts to suit. Really, it would be like a sequel to Dracula where it's revealed that he wasn't really a vampire (Verne did do a similar novel, Castle of the Carpathians, where the seeming supernatural events were rationally explained) or to Frankenstein where we discover he didn't really give life to a creation (which Fred Saberhagen actually did in The Frankenstein Papers).
Verne became a hero in his own right in the TV series Secret Adventures of Jules Verne, which started out interestingly with Phileas Fogg and Passepartout (from Around the World in 80 Days) as secret agents fighting a secret cabal armed with inventions plucked from Verne’s imagination. Verne is first suspected of complicity, then enlisted as an ally in the fight. Unfortunately, after only an episode or two, they were facing vampires and the whole concept went out the window.
Among my latest book acquisitions is a compendium of new, accurate and respectful translations of Verne’s best known works, Amazing Journeys: Five Visionary Classics. It's the size of a phone book, and I intend to reacquaint myself soon with old friends such as From the Earth to the Moon and its sequel, as well as Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Around the World in 80 Days. I hope the new translations will make them as fascinating to the adult me as the earlier translations were to the youthful me.