(February 8, 1828Ã³March 24, 1905) was a French author and a pioneer of the science fiction genre. Verne was noted for writing about space, air, and underwater travel long before they were possible.
[img]786|left|Jules Verne by FÃˆlix Nadar (1820-1910)|[/img]Verne was born in Nantes to Pierre Verne, an attorney, and his wife Sophie. The oldest of the family’s five children, he spent his early years at home with his parents, on a nearby island in the Loire River. This isolated setting helped to strengthen both his imagination and the bond between him and his younger brother Paul. At the age of nine, the pair were sent to boarding school at the Nantes lycÃˆe.
There Jules studied Latin, which was used later in his short story Le Mariage de Monsieur Anselme des Tilleuls (mid-1850s). The following legend was created by his second French biographer, Marguerite Allotte de la Fuye: Verne’s fascination with adventure asserted itself at an early age, inspiring him at one point to stow away on a ship bound for Asia. His voyage was cut short, however, as he found his father waiting for him at the next port.
After completing his studies at the lycÃˆe, Verne went to Paris to study for the bar. About 1848, in conjunction with Michel Carre, 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 MusÃˆe des Familles seem to have revealed to him the true direction of his talent: the telling of delightfully extravagant voyages and adventures to which cleverly prepared scientific and geographical details lent an air of verisimilitude.
When Verne’s father discovered that his son was writing rather than studying the law, he promptly withdrew his financial support. Consequently, he was forced to support himself as a stockbroker, which he hated, although he was a successful at it. During this period, he met the authors Alexandre Dumas and Victor Hugo, who offered him some advice on his writing.
[img]790|right|Early illustration of Verne’s manned projectile from the book From the Earth to the Moon.|[/img]It was during this period he met Honorine de Viane Morel, a widow with two daughters. They married on January 10, 1857. With her encouragement, he continued to write and actively try to find a publisher. On August 4, 1861, their son, Michel Jean Pierre Verne, was born. A classic enfant terrible, he married an actress over Verne’s objections, and had two children by his underage mistress.
Verne’s situation improved when he met Pierre-Jules Hetzel, one of the most important French publishers of the 19th century, who published also Victor Hugo, George Sand, and Erckmann-Chatrian, among others. Hetzel read a draft of Verne’s story about the balloon exploration of Africa, which had been rejected by other publishers on the ground that it was "too scientific". With Hetzel’s help, Verne rewrote the story and in 1863 it was published in book form as Cinq semaines en ballon (Five Weeks in a Balloon).
Verne became wealthy and famous. From that point on, and for nearly a quarter of a century, scarcely a year passed in which Hetzel did not publish one or more of his stories. The most successful of these include: Voyage au centre de la terre (Journey to the Center of the Earth, 1864); De la terre â€¡ la lune (From the Earth to the Moon, 1865); Vingt Mille Lieues sous les mers (20,000 Leagues Under the Seas, 1869); and Le tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours (Around the World in Eighty Days), which first appeared in Le Temps in 1872. After his first novel, most of his stories were first serialised in the Magazine d’â€¦ducation et de RÃˆcrÃˆation, a Hetzel biweekly publication, before being published in the form of books. His brother, Paul Verne, contributed to the 40th French climbing of the Mont-Blanc, added to his brother’s collection of short stories Doctor Ox in 1874. He remains the most translated novelist in the world, in 148 languages, according to the UNESCO statistics.
Reputation in the English-speaking countries
[img]789|left|The attack of the octopus upon the Nautilus in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.|[/img]In France he is renowned for writing good French that boys will be interested in reading. In those countries for which his works were accurately translated as well, his scientific and political abilities are also noted. Not so in the English-speaking countries.
The British Empire was often criticized by him, and it happened that his first translator was the Reverend Lewis Page Mercier, writing under a pseudonym, who cut out such passages, for example the political action of Captain Nemo. Mercier and subsequent British translators especially had trouble with the metric system that Verne used – sometimes they converted the units to Imperial, sometimes they dropped significant figures, sometimes they just kept the metric number and changed the unit to an Imperial one. This made Verne’s calculations, exact for his age, into gibberish. Artistic passages and whole chapters were cut in the need to fit the work in the space for publication, regardless of what it meant to the plot.
Hence Verne’s work acquired a reputation in English-speaking countries of not being an adult work in any regard. Because he was not considered a littÃˆrateur, it was not seen fit to have his works re-translated. So the translations of Mercier and others were reprinted decade after decade. Finally, in 1965, the first translations into English since the nineteenth century were published. But still Verne is not fully rehabilitated in the English-speaking countries.
The last years
On March 9, 1886, as Verne was coming home, his nephew, Gaston, charged at him with a gun. As the two wrestled for it, it went off. The second bullet entered Verne’s left shin. He never fully recovered. Gaston spent the rest of his life in an asylum.
[img]788|left|Portrait of Jules Verne circa 1895|[/img]After the deaths of Hetzel and his beloved mother in 1887, Jules began writing works that were darker, such as a story of a lord of a castle infatuated with an opera singer who turns out to be just a hologram and a recording, and others concerned with death. In 1888, he entered politics and was elected town councillor of Amiens where he championed several improvements and served for 15 years. 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.
In 1863, he 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 1994.
Partial list of works
- Cinq semaines en ballon (Five Weeks in a Balloon, 1863)
- Paris au XXe siÃ‹cle (Paris in the 20th Century 1863, not published until 1994)
- Voyage au centre de la Terre (Journey to the Center of the Earth, 1864)
- De la Terre â€¡ la Lune (From the Earth to the Moon, 1865)
- Les enfants du Capitaine Grant (In Search of the Castaways, 1867-1868)
- Vingt Mille Lieues sous les mers (20
,000 Leagues Under the Sea, 1870)
- Le tour du monde en quatre-vingt jours (Around the World in Eighty Days, 1872)
- L’Ã“le mystÃˆrieuse (Mysterious Island, 1874)
- Michel Strogoff (Michael Strogoff, 1876)
- Les Indes noires (1877)
- Les tribulations d’un chinois en Chine (1879)
- Le rayon vert (1882)
- Mathias Sandorf (1885)
- Robur le conquÃˆrant (Robur the Conqueror or The Clipper of the Clouds, 1886)
- Deux ans de vacances (1888)
- L’Ã“le â€¡ hÃˆlice (1895)
- Le beau Danube jaune (1901)
- Le village aÃˆrien (1901)