Jules Verne: Journeys in Writing

Jules Verne: Journeys in Writing

Jules Verne: Journeys in Writing

Jules Verne: Journeys in Writing

Synopsis

Jules Verne's reputation undergoes a much-needed rehabilitation in the hands of Timothy Unwin, who reexamines the author's work, from his earliest writings to his later and only recently discovered manuscripts. Verne was, Unwin argues, a master of the self-conscious novel, his work a pastiche of science discourse, fictional and non-fictional writings, and flamboyant, theatrical narrative. Unwin makes a compelling case for Verne as a master of the nineteenth-century experimental novel, in the company of Gustave Flaubert and other canonical French writers. The text will be a wonderful addition to the shelves of those interested in science fiction, experimental writing, and critical theory.

Excerpt

Introduction

A writer of pot–boilers, adventure stories, cheap melodramas, children's literature. An author of educational textbooks dressed up as fiction. A copycat who plagiarised from the popular scientific and geographical publications of his day. A literary thief who took the ideas and sometimes the entire plots of his novels from the works of his contemporaries. A marginal figure in French literary history, a compulsive scribbler who wrote badly, carelessly, and far too swiftly for his own good. A novelist without any sense of style, whose rambling prose was driven by the desire for commercial success and the need to keep the pages rolling off the press. A storyteller whose inspiration was so defective that he ended up re–using his own texts.

The man who foretold the future of the world, who predicted an era of space exploration, electronic communications and global travel, and who understood the real impact that science would have on humankind and society. The novelist–engineer who assembled submarines, aircraft and other vehicles by looking ahead and understanding how technology would develop. The prophet who, through the combined power of imagination and intuition, ‘invented’ gadgets, devices and machines, and who accurately predicted the uses to which they would be put. The writer who stepped outside of his own century and visualised the world as it would be in our own time. The great Jules Verne, honorary world citizen and dreamer of scientific tomorrows, the writer translated into dozens of languages and adapted into every existing medium, still astonishing us with his ‘uncanny’ insights into the future.

There are endless clichés and generalisations about Jules Verne, many of them offering a simplified version of the truth, others misguided or just plain false. They come as much from his admirers as from his detractors. What nearly all of them have in common is that they overlook the self–conscious literary skills and compositional practices which went into the writing of the eighty or so titles in the Voyages extraordinaires . . .

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