Jules Gabriel Verne (February 8 1828 – March 24 1905) was a French author who pioneered the science-fiction genre. He is best known for his novels Journey to the Center of the Earth (written in 1864), From the Earth to the Moon (written in 1865), Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (written in 1870), and Around the World in Eighty Days (written in 1873). Verne wrote about space, air, and underwater travel before navigable aircraft and practical submarines were invented, and before any means of space travel had been devised. He is the second most translated author of all time, only behind Agatha Christie with 4021 translations, according to Index Translationum. Some of his work has been made into films. Verne, along with H. G. Wells, is often referred to as the "Father of Science Fiction".
Jules Gabriel Verne was born to Pierre Verne, and his wife, Sophie-Henriette Allotte de la Fuÿe (died 1887), in the bustling harbor city of Nantes
in Western France
. The oldest of five children, he spent his early years at home with his parents. The family spent summers in a country house just outside the city, on the banks of the Loire River
. Jules and his brother Paul, of whom Jules was very fond, would often rent a boat for a franc a day. The sight of the many ships navigating the river sparked Jules' imagination, as he describes in the autobiographical short story
"Souvenirs d'Enfance et de Jeunesse". When Jules was nine, he and Paul 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
, a passion he showed as a writer of adventure
stories and science fiction
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 Saint Donatien 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.
After completing his studies at the lycée
, Jules Verne went to Paris
to study law. 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 travelers' stories which he wrote for the Musée des Familles
revealed to him his talent for writing fiction.
When Verne's 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. Dumas would become a close friend of Verne.
Verne also 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 Jean Verne, was born. A classic enfant terrible, Michel was sent to Mettray Penal Colony in 1876 and later married an actress (in spite of Verne's objections), had two children by his 16-year-old mistress, and buried himself in debts. The relationship between father and son did improve as Michel grew older.
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 improve 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 ballon (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.
From that 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), a relatively conventional adventure tale set in Tsarist Russia, which he adapted for the stage 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 "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 (1874). According to the Unesco Index Translationum, Jules Verne regularly places among the top five most translated authors in the world.
On March 9 1886
, as Verne approached his own home, his twenty-five-year-old nephew Gaston, who suffered from paranoia, shot twice at him with a gun. One bullet missed, but the second entered Verne's left leg, giving him a permanent limp. Gaston spent the rest of his life in an asylum.
After the deaths of Hetzel and his beloved mother in 1887, Verne began writing darker works. This may have been due partly to changes in his personality, but an important factor was that Hetzel's son, who took over his father's business, was not as rigorous in his edits and corrections as Hetzel Sr. had been.
In 1888, Jules Verne entered politics and was elected town councilor of Amiens, where he championed several improvements and served for fifteen years.Though he elected from the left he stood with the right on Dreyfus Affair and was anti-Dreyfusard.
In 1905, ill with diabetes, Verne died at his home, 44 Boulevard Longueville (now Boulevard Jules-Verne). His son 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 was later discovered that Michel Verne had made extensive changes in these stories, and the original versions were published at the end of the 20th century.
In 1863, Jules Verne wrote Paris in the 20th Century, a novel 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 1994.
Jules Verne died on March 24, 1905 and was buried in the Madeleine Cemetery in Amiens. There are recently (2008) initiated efforts to have him reburied in the Panthéon, alongside France's other literary giants.
Reputation in English-speaking countries
While Verne is considered in 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 as a result of poor translation
Some critics felt 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea portrayed the British Empire in a bad light, and the first English translator, Reverend Lewis Page Mercier, working under a pseudonym, removed many offending 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, in the character of Lieutenant Devon, a heroic, self-sacrificing Royal Navy officer worthy of any created by British authors. In 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea itself, Captain Nemo, an Indian, is balanced by Ned Land, a Canadian. Some of Verne's most famous heroes were British (e.g. Phileas Fogg in Around the World in Eighty Days).
Mercier and subsequent British translators also had trouble with the metric system that Verne used, sometimes dropping significant figures, at other times changing the unit to an Imperial measure without changing the corresponding value. Thus Verne's calculations, which in general were remarkably exact, were converted into mathematical gibberish. Also, artistic passages and sometimes whole chapters were cut to fit the work into a constrained space for publication.
For these reasons, Verne's work initially acquired a reputation in English-speaking countries of not being fit for adult readers. This in turn prevented it from being taken seriously enough to merit new translations, and those of Mercier and others were reprinted decade after decade. Only from 1965 on have some of his novels received more accurate translations, but even today Verne's work has not been fully rehabilitated in the English-speaking world.
Verne's works may also reflect the bitterness France felt in the wake of its defeat in the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71) and the consequent 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 monstrously 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.
substantially influenced the writings of Verne, who was so happy to finally find a willing publisher that he agreed to almost all changes that Hetzel suggested. Hetzel rejected at least one novel (Paris in the 20th Century
), and asked Verne to make significant changes in his other drafts. One of the most important changes Hetzel imposed on Verne was the adoption of a more optimistic tone. Verne was in fact not an enthusiast of technological and human progress, as can be seen in the works he created both before he met Hetzel and after the publisher's death. Hetzel's insistence on a more optimistic text proved correct. For example, The 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 famous Captain Nemo
was changed from a Polish
refugee avenging the partitions of Poland
and the death of his family, killed in the reprisals following the January Uprising
, to an Indian
prince fighting the British Empire
after the Sikh War
Jules Verne's novels have been noted for being startlingly accurate anticipations of modern times. Paris in the 20th Century is an often cited example of this as it arguably describes air conditioning, automobiles, the Internet, television, and other modern conveniences very similar to their real world counterparts.
Another example is From the Earth to the Moon, which is uncannily similar to the real Apollo Program, as three astronauts are launched from the Florida peninsula and recovered through a splash landing. In the book, the spacecraft is launched from "Tampa Town"; Tampa, Florida is approximately 130 miles from NASA's actual launching site at Cape Canaveral.
In other works, Verne predicted the inventions of helicopters, submarines, projectors, jukeboxes, and other later devices.
He also predicted the existence of underwater hydrothermal vents that were not discovered until years after he wrote about them.
Verne, who had a large archive and always kept up with scientific and technological progress, sometimes seemed to joke with the readers, using so-called "scholars' jokes" (that is, a joke that only a scientist may recognise). For instance, in Dick Sand, A Captain at Fifteen
, a Manticora beetle
helps Cousin Bénédict to escape from imprisonment when Bénédict, unguarded, follows the beetle out of the garden. Since the beetle escapes from Cousin Bénédict by flying away, when in fact the genus is flightless, it is possible that this is one such joke. Another example appears in Mysterious Island
, where the main character's dog is attacked by a wild dugong
, even though the dugong, like its North American cousin, the manatee
, is a herbivorous mammal. Also in Mysterious Island, because of its fauna and flora, the sailor Bonadventure Pencroff asks Cyrus Harding whether the latter believes that islands (like the one they are on) are made specially to be ideal ones for castaways. From the Earth to the Moon
(the material used for the cannon
— in this case it was probably poetic license
, since the description of the making of the gun became far more dramatic), or The Begum's Millions
, where the methods used for making steel
in "Steel City", described as the most modern steel factory
in the world, were rather dated, but, again, much more spectacular to describe. (See Neff, 1978)
Verne wrote numerous works, most famous of which are the 54 novels part of the Voyages Extraordinaires. He also wrote short stories, essays, plays, and poems.
Note: only the dates of the first English translation and the most common translation title are given.
- Five Weeks in a Balloon (Cinq Semaines en ballon, 1863)
- The Adventures of Captain Hatteras (Voyages et aventures du capitaine Hatteras, 1866)
- Journey to the Center of the Earth (Voyage au centre de la Terre, 1864)
- From the Earth to the Moon (De la terre à la lune, 1865)
- In Search of the Castaways or Captain Grant's Children (Les Enfants du capitaine Grant, 1867-1868)
- Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (Vingt mille lieues sous les mers, 1869-1870)
- Around The Moon (Autour de la lune, a sequel to From the Earth to the Moon, 1870)
- A Floating City (Une ville flottante, 1871)
- The Adventures of Three Englishmen and Three Russians in South Africa (Aventures de trois Russes et de trois Anglais, 1872)
- The Fur Country (Le Pays des fourrures, 1873)
- Around the World in Eighty Days (Le Tour du Monde en quatre-vingts jours, 1873)
- The Mysterious Island (L’île mysterieuse, 1875)
- The Survivors of the Chancellor (Le Chancellor, 1875)
- Michael Strogoff (Michel Strogoff, 1876)
- Off on a Comet (Hector Servadac, 1877)
- The Child of the Cavern, also known as Black Diamonds or The Black Indies (Les Indes noires, 1877)
- Dick Sand, A Captain at Fifteen (Un Capitaine de quinze ans, 1878)
- The Begum's Millions (Les Cinq cents millions de la Bégum, 1879)
- Tribulations of a Chinaman in China (Les tribulations d'un chinois en Chine, 1879)
- The Steam House (La Maison à vapeur, 1879)
- Eight Hundred Leagues on the Amazon (La Jangada, 1881)
- Godfrey Morgan (l'Ecole des Robinsons, 1882)
- The Green Ray (Le Rayon vert, 1882)
- Kéraban the Inflexible (Kéraban-le-têtu, 1883)
- The Vanished Diamond (L’Étoile du sud, 1884)
- The Archipelago on Fire (L’Archipel en feu, 1884)
- Mathias Sandorf (1885)
- The Lottery Ticket (Un Billet de loterie, 1886)
- Robur the Conqueror or The Clipper of the Clouds (Robur-le-Conquérant, 1886)
- North Against South (Nord contre Sud, 1887)
- The Flight to France (Le Chemin de France, 1887)
- Two Years' Vacation (Deux Ans de vacances, 1888)
- Family Without a Name (Famille-sans-nom, 1888)
- The Purchase of the North Pole (Sans dessus dessous, the second sequel to From the Earth to the Moon, 1889)
- César Cascabel (1890)
- Mistress Branican, (Mistress Branican, 1891)
- Carpathian Castle (Le Château des Carpathes, 1892)
- Claudius Bombarnac (1892)
- Foundling Mick (P’tit-Bonhomme, 1893)
- Captain Antifer (Mirifiques Aventures de Maître Antifer, 1894)
- Propeller Island (L’Île à hélice, 1895)
- Facing the Flag (Face au drapeau, 1896)
- Clovis Dardentor (1896)
- An Antarctic Mystery (Le Sphinx des glaces, 1897)
- The Mighty Orinoco (Le Superbe Orénoque, 1898)
- The Will of an Eccentric (Le Testament d’un excentrique, 1899)
- The Castaways of the Flag (Seconde patrie, 1900)
- The Village in the Treetops (Le Village aérien, 1901)
- The Sea Serpent (Les Histoires de Jean-Marie Cabidoulin, 1901)
- The Kip Brothers (Les Frères Kip, 1902)
- Traveling Scholarships (Bourses de voyage, 1903)
- A Drama in Livonia (Un Drame en Livonie, 1904)
- Master of the World (Maître du monde, sequel to Robur the Conqueror, 1904)
- Invasion of the Sea (L’Invasion de la mer, 1905)
Other novels and short story collections
- 1878 - Histoire des grands voyages et des grands voyageurs
- 1851 - "Un drame au Mexique" (English transl. "A Drama in Mexico", 1876)
- 1851 - "Un Drame dans les airs" (English transl. "A Drama in the Air", 1852)
- 1852 - "Martin Paz" (English transl. "Martin Paz", 1875)
- 1854 - "Maître Zacharius" (English transl. "Master Zacharius", 1874)
- 1855 - "Un hivernage dans les glaces" (English transl. "A Winter Amid the Ice", 1874)
- 1864 - "Le Comte de Chanteleine"
- 1865 - "Les Forceurs de blocus" (English transl. "The Blockade Runners", 1881)
- 1872 - "Une fantaisie du docteur Ox" (English transl. "Dr. Ox's Experiment", 1874)
- 1875 - "Une ville idéale" (English transl. "An Ideal City", 1965)
- 1879 - "Les Révoltés de la Bounty" (English transl. "The Mutineers of the Bounty", 1879)
- 1881 - "Dix heures en chasse" (English transl. "Ten Hours Hunting", 1965)
- 1884 - "Frritt-Flacc" (English transl. "Frritt-Flacc", 1892)
- 1887 - "Gil Braltar" (English transl. "Gil Braltar", 1958)
- 1891 - "Aventures de la famille Raton" (English transl. "Adventures of the Rat Family", 1993)
- 1893 - "Monsieur Ré-Dièze et Mademoiselle Mi-Bémol" (English transl. "Mr. Ray Sharp and Miss Me Flat", 1965)
Imitations by other writers
'The Wizard of the Sea' by Roy Rockwood
is a clear copy of Verne's 20000 Leagues Under the Sea, apart from the first chapter(s). One or two other of Rockwood's titles also seem to (lesser) resemble some of Verne's, eg compare 'Five Thousand Miles Underground' to 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth'.
In 1999 German writer Dieter Lammerding has written a drama named Phantastische Reise zu Kapitän Nemo, merging two novels into one piece.
About Jules Verne:
Other science-fiction pioneers:
Inspired by Jules Verne:
- William Butcher, Arthur C. Clarke (Introduction) (2006). Jules Verne: The Definitive Biography. ISBN 1-56025-854-3
- Peter Costello, Jules Verne: Inventor of Science Fiction. ISBN 0-684-15824-8
- Herbert R. Lottman (1997). Jules Verne: An Exploratory Biography. ISBN 0-312-14636-1
- Jean Jules-Verne (1976). Jules Verne, A Biography. ISBN 0-8008-4439-4
- Philippe Melot et Jean-Marie Embs (2005).Le Guide Jules Verne.Les Editions de l'Amateur,Paris. ISBN 2-85917-417-6
- Ondřej Neff, Podivuhodný svět Julese Vernea (The Extraordinary World of Jules Verne), Prague, (1978)
- Gallagher, E. J. (1980). Jules Verne: A primary and secondary bibliography. Boston: MA, G. K. Hall & Co.
- Evans, A. B. (1988). Jules Verne rediscovered: Didacticism and the scientific novel. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
- Martin, A. (1990). The mask of the prophet: The extraordinary fictions of Jules Verne. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Lynch, L. (1992). Jules Verne. New York: Twayne Publishers.
- Works by Jules Verne at Project Gutenberg
- Les Voyages Extraordinaires — list of Verne works Compiled by Dennis Kytasaari.
- Jules Verne's works: text, concordances and frequency list
- Zvi Har'El's Jules Verne Collection, including the Jules Verne Virtual Library, online sources of 51 of Jules Verne's novels translated into eight languages.
- The Jules Verne Collecting Resource Page, complete online sources, posters, cards, autographs, first edition covers, etc..
- Jules Verne: The Definitive Biography
- A Chronology of Jules Verne
- Biography of Jules Verne
- Jules Verne: A Reappraisal, by William Butcher
- "Jules Verne: Father of Science Fiction?", John Derbyshire, The New Atlantis, Number 12, Spring 2006, pp. 81–90. A review of four new Jules Verne translations from the "Early Classics of Science Fiction" series by Wesleyan University Press.
- Jules Verne: An Exploratory Biography, by Herbert R. Lottman — a review
- A Jules Verne Centennial: 1905–2005
- Nantes Tourist Office official website (English)
- List of audio books at LibriVox by Jules Verne
- The Count of Chanteleine Wiki Translation Project (French → English)