Jules Gabriel Verne (February 8, 1828–March 24, 1905) was a French
author who pioneered the science-fiction genre. He is best known for
novels such as Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea (1870), Journey
To The Center Of The Earth (1864), and Around the World in Eighty Days
(1873). Verne wrote about space, air, and underwater travel before air
travel and practical submarines were invented, and before practical
means of space travel had been devised. He is the third most translated
author in the world, according to Index Translationum. Some of his books
have been made into films. Verne, along with Hugo Gernsback and H. G.
Wells, is often popularly referred to as the "Father of Science
Jules G. Verne was born in Nantes, France, to Pierre Verne, an attorney,
and his wife, Sophie. The eldest of five children, Jules spent his early
years at home with his parents in the bustling harbor city of Nantes.
The family spent summers in a country house just outside the city, on
the banks of the Loire River. Here Jules and his brother Paul would
often rent a boat for a Franc a day. The sight of the many ships navigating
the river sparked Jules's imagination, as he describes in the autobiographical
short story Souvenirs d'Enfance et de Jeunesse. At the age of nine,
Jules and Paul, of whom he was very fond, were sent to boarding school
at the Saint Donatien College (Petit séminaire de Saint-Donatien).
As a child, he developed a great interest in travel and exploration,
a passion he showed as a writer of adventure stories and science fiction.
His interest in writing often cost him progress in other subjects.
At the boarding
school, Verne studied Latin, which he used in his short story Le Mariage
de Monsieur Anselme des Tilleuls in the mid 1850s. One of his teachers
may have been the French inventor Brutus de Villeroi, professor of drawing
and mathematics at the college in 1842, and who later became famous
for creating the US Navy's first submarine, the USS Alligator. De Villeroi
may have inspired Verne's conceptual design for the Nautilus in Twenty
Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, although no direct exchanges between
the two men have been recorded.
French biographer, Marguerite Allotte de la Fuye, formulated the rumor
that Verne was so fascinated with adventure at an early age that he
stowed away on a ship bound for the West Indies, but that Jules's voyage
was cut short when he found his father waiting for him at the next port.
After completing his studies at the lycée, Verne went to Paris
to study for the bar. About 1848, in conjunction with Michel Carré,
he began writing librettos for operettas. For some years his attentions
were divided between the theatre and work, but some travellers' stories
which he wrote for the Musée des Familles revealed to him his
true talent: the telling of delightfully extravagant voyages and adventures
to which cleverly prepared scientific and geographical details lent
an air of verisimilitude.
father discovered that his son was writing rather than studying law,
he promptly withdrew his financial support. Verne was forced to support
himself as a stockbroker, which he hated despite being somewhat successful
at it. During this period, he met Alexandre Dumas, père and Victor
Hugo, who offered him writing advice.
met Honorine de Viane Morel, a widow with two daughters. They were married
on January 10, 1857. With her encouragement, he continued to write and
actively looked for a publisher. On August 3, 1861, their son, Michel
Jules Verne, was born. A classic enfant terrible, Michel would marry
an actress over Verne's objections, had two children by his underage
mistress, and buried himself in debts. The relationship between father
and son did improve as Michel grew older.
Hetzel front cover for a Jules Verne book. The edition is Les Aventures
du Capitaine Hatteras au Pôle Nord, type "Aux deux éléphants".Verne's
situation improved when he met Pierre-Jules Hetzel, one of the most
important French publishers of the 19th century, who also published
Victor Hugo, Georges Sand, and Erckmann-Chatrian, among others. They
formed an excellent writer-publisher team until Hetzel's death. Hetzel
helped improved Verne's writings, which until then had been repeatedly
rejected by other publishers. Hetzel read a draft of Verne's story about
the balloon exploration of Africa, which had been rejected by other
publishers for being "too scientific". With Hetzel's help,
Verne rewrote the story, which was published in 1863 in book form as
Cinq semaines en balloon (Five Weeks in a Balloon). Acting on Hetzel's
advice, Verne added comical accents to his novels, changed sad endings
into happy ones, and toned down various political messages.
point to years after Verne's death, Hetzel published two or more volumes
a year. The most successful of these include: Voyage au centre de la
terre (Journey to the Center of the Earth, 1864); De la terre à
la lune (From the Earth to the Moon, 1865); Vingt mille lieues sous
les mers (Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, 1869); and Le tour
du monde en quatre-vingts jours (Around the World in Eighty Days), which
first appeared in Le Temps in 1872. The series is collectively known
as "Les voyages extraordinaires" ("extraordinary voyages").
Verne could now live on his writings. But most of his wealth came from
the stage adaptations of Le tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours (1874)
and Michel Strogoff (1876), which he wrote with Adolphe d'Ennery. In
1867 Verne bought a small ship, the Saint-Michel, which he successively
replaced with the Saint-Michel II and the Saint-Michel III as his financial
situation improved. On board the Saint-Michel III, he sailed around
Europe. In 1870, he was appointed as "Chevalier" (Knight)
of the Légion d'honneur. After his first novel, most of his stories
were first serialised in the Magazine d'Éducation et de Récréation,
a Hetzel biweekly publication, before being published in the form of
books. His brother Paul contributed to 40th French climbing of the Mont-Blanc
and a collection of short stories - Doctor Ox - in 1874. Verne became
wealthy and famous. According to the Unesco Index Translationum, Jules
Verne regularly places among the top five most translated authors in
On March 9, 1886, as Verne was coming home, his twenty-five-year-old
nephew, Gaston, with whom he had entertained lengthy and affectionate
relations, shot him with a gun. One bullet missed, but the second entered
Verne's left leg, giving him a limp that would not be cured. The incident
was hushed up by the media, and Gaston spent the rest of his life in
deaths of Hetzel and his beloved mother in 1887, Jules began writing
darker works. This may partly be due to changes in his personality,
but an important factor is the fact that Hetzel's son, who took over
his father's business, was not as rigorous in his corrections as Hetzel
Sr. had been. In 1888, Jules Verne entered politics and was elected
town councillor of Amiens, where he championed several improvements
and served for fifteen years. In 1905, while ill with diabetes, Verne
died at his home, 44 Boulevard Longueville (now Boulevard Jules-Verne).
Michel oversaw publication of his last novels Invasion of the Sea and
The Lighthouse at the End of the World. The "Voyages extraordinaires"
series continued for several years afterwards in the same rhythm of
two volumes a year. It has later been discovered that Michel Verne had
made extensive changes in these stories, and the original versions were
published at the end of the 20th century.
Jules Verne wrote a novel called Paris in the 20th Century about a young
man who lives in a world of glass skyscrapers, high-speed trains, gas-powered
automobiles, calculators, and a worldwide communications network, yet
cannot find happiness and comes to a tragic end. Hetzel thought the
novel's pessimism would damage Verne's then booming career, and suggested
he wait 20 years to publish it. Verne put the manuscript in a safe,
where it was discovered by his great-grandson in 1989. It was published
in English-speaking countries
While Verne is considered in many countries such as France as an author
of quality books for young people, with a good command of his subjects,
including technology and politics, his reputation in English-speaking
countries suffered for a long time from poor translation.
of much of late 19th-century writing, Verne's books often took a chauvinistic
point of view. The British Empire in particular was frequently portrayed
in a bad light, and so the first English translator, Reverend Lewis
Page Mercier working under a pseudonym, removed many such passages,
such as those describing the political actions of Captain Nemo in his
incarnation as an Indian nobleman. Such negative depictions were not,
however, invariable in Verne's works; for example, Facing the Flag features
Lieutenant Devon, a heroic, self-sacrificing Royal Navy officer worthy
of any written by British authors.
subsequent British translators also had trouble with the metric system
that Verne used, sometimes dropping significant figures, at other times
keeping the nominal value and only changing the unit to an Imperial
measure. Thus Verne's calculations, which in general were remarkably
exact, were converted into mathematical gibberish. Also, artistic passages
and whole chapters were cut because of the need to fit the work in a
constrained space for publication. (The London author, Cranstoun Metcalfe
(1866–1938), translated most of Verne's work into English during
the first half of the 20th century.)
reasons, Verne's work initially acquired a reputation in English-speaking
countries for not being fit for adult readers. This in turn prevented
him from being taken seriously enough to merit new translations, leading
to those of Mercier and others being reprinted decade after decade.
Only from 1965 on were some of his novels re-translated more accurately,
but even today Verne's work has still not been fully rehabilitated in
the English-speaking world.
also reflect the bitterness France felt in the wake of defeat in the
Franco-Prussian War of 1870 to 1871, and the loss of Alsace and Lorraine.
The Begum's Millions (Les Cinq cents millions de la Begum) of 1879 gives
a highly stereotypical depiction of Germans as monstrous cruel militarists.
By contrast, almost all the protagonists in his pre-1871 works, such
as the sympathetic first-person narrator in Journey to the Centre of
the Earth, are German.
Hetzel substantially influenced the writings of Verne, who was so happy
to finally find a willing publisher that he agreed on almost all changes
that Hetzel suggested. Hetzel rejected at least one novel (Paris in
the 20th Century), and asked Verne to significantly change his other
drafts. One of the most important changes Hetzel enforced on Verne was
the adoption of optimism in his novels. Verne was in fact not an enthusiast
of technological and human progress, as can be seen in his works created
before he met Hetzel and after his death. Hetzel demand of the optimistic
text proved correct. For example, Mysterious Island originally ended
with the survivors returning to mainland forever nostalgic about the
island. Hetzel decided that the heroes should live happily, so in the
revised draft, they use their fortunes to build a replica of the island.
Many translations are like this. Also, in order not to offend France's
then-ally, Russia, the origin and past of the famous Captain Nemo were
changed from those of a Polish refugee avenging the partitions of Poland
and the death of his family in the January Uprising repressions to those
of an Indian prince fighting the British Empire after the Sikh War.
Enormously popular French author, the founding father of science fiction
with H.G. Wells. Verne's stories, written for adolescents as well as
adults, caught the enterprising spirit of the 19th century, its uncritical
fascination about scientific progress and inventions. His works were
often written in the form of a travel book, which took the readers on
a voyage to the moon in From the Earth to the Moon (1865) or to another
direction as in A Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864). Many of
Verne's ideas have been hailed as prophetic. Among his best-known books
is the classic adventure story Around the World in Eighty Days (1873).
- what a journey - what a marvelous and extraordinary journey! Here
we had entered the earth by one volcano, and we had come out by another.
And this other was situated more than twelve hundred leagues from Sneffels,
from that drear country of Iceland cast away on the confines of the
earth... We had abandoned the region of eternal snows for that infinite
verdure, and had left over our heads the gray fog of the icy regions
to come back to the azure sky of Sicily!" (from A Journey to the
Center of the Earth, 1864)
was born and raised in the port of Nantes. His father was a prosperous
lawyer. To continue the practice, Verne moved to Paris, where he studied
law. His uncle introduced him into literary circles and he started to
published plays under the influence of such writers as Victor Hugo and
Alexandre Dumas (fils), whom Verne also knew personally. LÉONARD
DE VINCI, which he wrote at the age of 23, was not published until 1995.
The play, later renamed Joconde and then Monna Lisa was about the love
between Leonardo da Vinci and his beautiful model, the wife of a Florentine
gentleman. Verne's one-act comedy The Broken Straws was performed in
Paris when he was 22. In spite of busy writing, Verne managed to pass
his law degree. During this period Verne suffered from digestive problems
which then recurred at intervals through his life.
In 1854 Charles
Baudelaire translated Edgar Allan Poe's works into French. Verne became
one of the most devoted admirers of the American author, and wrote his
first science fiction tale, 'An voyage in Balloon' (1851), under the
influence of Poe. Later Verne would write a sequel to Poe's unfinished
novel, Narrative of a Gordon Pym, entitled The Sphinz of the Ice-Fileds
(1897). When his career as an author progressed slowly, Verne turned
to stockbroking, an occupation which he held until his successful tale
Five Weeks in a Balloon (1863) in the series VOYAGES EXTRAORDINAIRES.
Verne had met in 1862 Pierre Jules Hetzel, a publisher and writer for
children, who started to publish Verne's 'Extraordinary Journeys'. This
cooperation lasted until the end of Verne's career. Hetzel had also
worked with Balzac and George Sand. He read Verne's manuscripts carefully
and did not hesitate to suggest corrections. One of Verne's early works,
Paris in the Twentieth Century, was turned down by the publisher, and
it did not appear until 1997 in English.
gained soon a huge popularity throughout the world. Without the education
of a scientist or experiences as a traveler, Verne spent much of his
time in research for his books. In the contrast of fantasy literature,
exemplified by Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland (1865), Verne tried
to be realistic and practical in details. Arthur B. Evans has noted
in Jules Verne Rediscovered (1988) that Verne's novels contain little
of what the general reading public nowadays considers typical for science
fiction - for example E.T.s and bug-eyed monsters.
Well's invented in The First Men in the Moon 'cavourite,' a substance
impervious to gravity, Verne was not satisfied: "I sent my characters
to the moon with gunpowder, a thing one may see every day. Where does
M. Wells find his cavourite? Let him show it to me!" However, when
the logic of the story contradicted contemporary scientific knowledge,
Verne did not keep to the facts and probabilities too slavishly. Around
the World in Eighty Days was about Philèas Fogg's daring but
realistic travel feat on a wager, based on a real journey by the US
traveller George Francis Train (1829-1904). A Journey to the Centre
of the Earth is vulnerable to criticism on geological grounds. The story
depicted an expedition that enters in the hollow heart of the Earth.
In Hector Servadac (1877) a comet takes Hector and his servant on a
trip around the Solar System. In a tongue-in-cheek episode they discover
a fragment of the Rock of Gibraltar, occupied by two Englishmen playing
Thousand Leagues under the Sea, Verne introduced one of the forefathers
of modern superheroes, the misanthropic Captain Nemo and his elaborate
submarine, Nautilus, named after Robert Fulton's steam-powered submarine.
The Mysterious Island was about industrial exploits of men stranded
on an island (see: Robinsonade Daniel Defoe). In these works, filmed
several times, Verne combined science and invention with fast-paced
adventure. Some of Verne's fiction has also become a fact: his submarine
Nautilus predated the first successful power submarine by a quarter
century, and his spaceship predicted the development a century later.
The first all-electric submarine, built in 1886 by two Englishmen, was
named Nautilus in honor of Verne's vessel. The first nuclear-powered
submarine, launched in 1955, was named Nautilus, too.
version of Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea (1954), produced by
Walt Disney and directed by Richard Fleischer, won an Oscar for its
special effects, which included Bob Mattey's mechanically operated giant
squid. It fought with the actors in a special studio tank. Interior
sets were built as closely as possible to Verne's own descriptions of
Nautilus. James Mason played Captain Nemo and Kirk Douglas was Ned Land,
a lusty salor. Mike Todd's film Around The World in 80 Days (1957) won
an Academy Award as the Best Picture but it failed to gain any acting
honors with its 44 cameo stars. Almost 70,000 extras was employed and
the film used 8,552 animals, most of which were Rocky Mountain sheep,
buffalos, and donkeys. Also four ostriches appeared.
In the first
part of his career Verne expressed his technophile optimism about progress
and Europe's central role in the social and technical development of
the world. What becomes of technical inventions, Verne's imagination
sometimes contradicted facts. In From Earth to the Moon a giant cannon
shoots the protagonist into orbit. Any contemporary scientist could
have told Verne, that the passengers would be killed by the initial
acceleration. However, the idea of the space gun first appeared in print
in the 18th-century. And before it, Cyrano de Bergerac wrote Voyages
to the Moon and Sun (1655), and applied in one of his stories the rocket
to space travel.
is difficult to say how seriously Verne took the idea of this mammoth
cannon, because so much of the story is facetiously written... Probably
he believed that if such a gun could be built, it might be capable of
sending a projectile to the Moon, but it seems unlikely that he seriously
imagined that any of the occupants would have survived the shock of
takeoff." (Arthur C. Clarke in Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds!,
works were written by 1880. In later novels the author's pessimism about
the future of human civilization reflected the doom-ladden fin-de-siècle
atmosphere. In his tale 'The Eternal Adam' a far-future historian discovers
the 20th-century civilization was overthrown by geological catalysms,
and the legend of Adam and Eve becomes both true and cyclical. In Robur
the Conqueror (1886) Verne predicted the birth of heavier-than-air craft,
but in the sequel, Master of the World (1904), the great inventor Robur
suffers from megalomania, and plays cat-and-mouse game with authorities.
an uneventful, bourgeois life from the 1860s. He traveled with his brother
Paul in 1867 to the United States, visiting the Niagara falls. When
he made a boat trip around the Mediterranean, he was celebrated in Gibraltar,
North Africa, and in Rome Pope Leo XIII blessed his books. In 1871 he
settled in Amiens and was elected councilor in 1888. Verne survived
there in 1886 a murder attempt. His paranoid nephew, Gaston, shot him
in the leg and the authors was disabled for the rest of his life. Gaston
never recovered his sanity.
married at age 28 Honorine de Viane, a young widow, acquiring two step-children.
He lived with his family in a large provincial house and yachted occasionally.
To the horror of his family, he started to admire Prince Pyotr Kropotkin
(1842-1921), who devoted himself to a life as a revolutionary, and whose
character possibly influenced the noble anarchist of NAUFRAGÉS
DE JONATHAN (1909). Kropotkin wrote of an anarchy based on mutual support
and trust. Verne's interest in socialistic theories was already seen
in MATHIAS SANDORF (1885).
40 years Verne published at least one book per year on a wide range
subjects. Although Verne wrote about exotic places, he traveled relatively
little - his only balloon flight lasted twenty-four minutes. In a letter
to Hetzel he confessed: "I must be slightly off my head. I get
caught up in all the extraordinary adventures of my heroes. I regret
only one thing, not being able to accompany them pedibus cum jambis."
Verne's oeuvre include 65 novels, some twenty short stories and essays,
thirty plays, some geographical works, and also opera librettos. Verne
died in Amiens on March 24, 1905. Verne's works have inspired a number
of film makers from Georges Méliès (A Trip to the Moon,
1902), Karel Zeman (Vynález zkázy / The Fabulous World
of Jules Verne, 1958), and Walt Disney (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,
1954) to such Hollywood directors as Henry Levin (Journey to the Center
of the Earth, 1959) and Irwin Allen (Five Weeks in a Balloon, 1962).
Also the Italian painter Giorgio de Chiroco was interested in Verne
and wrote on him in the essay 'On Metaphysical Art': "But who was
more gifted than he in capturing the metaphysical element of a city
like London, with its houses, streets, clubs, squares and open spaces;
the ghostliness of a Sunday afternoon in London, the melancholy of a
man, a real walking phantom, as Phineas Fogg appears in Around the World
in Eighty Days? The work of Jules Verne is full of these joyous and
most consoling moments; I still remember the description of the departure
of a steamship from Liverpool in his novel The Floating City."