Verne's Cerntury
March 23, 2005 11:44 AM   Subscribe

Mythmaker of the Machine Age. In the statue erected above his grave in Amiens, in Picardy, Jules Verne, who died exactly 100 years ago, resembles God. He is, after all, the second-most-translated author on earth, after Agatha Christie. To celebrate the anniversary, there's a Verne exhibition at the Maritime Museum in Paris, one of a series of events from Paris to the western city of Nantes, where Verne was born on Feb. 8, 1828, to the northern town of Amiens, where he died on March 24, 1905. His many fans, some of them quite famous, will be treated to exhibits, concerts, films and shows in Verne's honor. “Underground City”, a lost classic written by Verne and never before published unabridged in English, emerges this month in not one but two new unique editions.
100 years later, questions remain about his life: Why did he have two homes in Amiens? Why did he burn all his private papers? Why was he shot in the foot by his nephew, Gaston, in 1886? Gaston was locked in an asylum for 54 years after his attack on L'Oncle Jules. Was Gaston, in fact, Verne's natural son? More inside.
posted by matteo (8 comments total)
By the late 1880s, Verne was disillusioned by world events—the Western powers' empire-building spree, the rise of robber baron plutocracies, even the slaughter of elephants and whales, all of which figure in his later books. Verne was a fierce individualist who had come of age during the political upheavals of 1848, when popular uprisings toppled governments across Europe. Verne, his grandson suspected, was a closet anarchist.

But he was a rebel in print only. In person, he was a respectable conservative, like his parents. His mother, Sophie, was a descendant of Breton seafarers. His father, Pierre, was an obsessively punctual lawyer who kept a telescope trained on the clock of a nearby monastery and who knew the number of paces from his home to his office. Small wonder his son peopled his novels with emotionless, comically precise characters. Eventually, Jules Verne came to resemble the punctilious oddballs he'd so often mocked. Into his 70s, he wrote in his study each morning from 5 to 11 and read 15 newspapers each afternoon—"always the same 15," he told an interviewer, "and I can tell you that very little in any of them escapes my attention."

Though Verne declined to have a telephone, his knack for anticipating future trends was intact till the end. Not long before his death from diabetes at age 77, Verne expressed little interest in automobiles ("One goes so many miles faster than the railway trains, but is that real progress?"), yet he predicted that the car would prompt an exodus of wealthy urbanites to the countryside, where they would be "free from the reproachful gaze of the poor." The last book published in his lifetime was The Invasion of the Sea, about a French plan to flood the Sahara that was opposed by Islamic militants.
posted by matteo at 11:46 AM on March 23, 2005

If you don't want to read a Google cached rainbow of highlighted words, try this version of the above link: 100 years later, questions remain about his life.
posted by lowlife at 11:51 AM on March 23, 2005

This is very cool - thanks for the links, Matteo.
posted by wanderingmind at 12:32 PM on March 23, 2005

I love the pigeonshit-in-the-eye visual described in the second paragraph...very funny. Thanks matteo, almost too much information on a legendary writer.
posted by schyler523 at 4:42 PM on March 23, 2005

Amidst maelstroms of change, churning ever faster, humans gape - ever more bewildered.

A singular bill arrives, the meal barely begun, provoking something less than joy : a harbinger of a future, looming.

looming ? Oh my. We shriek in terror and bolt towards a Valium mediated Chuck-E-Cheese athon of experience in which scientifically enhanced organs embrace to better enhance workplace productivity.
posted by troutfishing at 9:09 PM on March 23, 2005

thanks, matteo.

I like him, but since i read this one, can't bring myself to read any more of his stuff (the stereotyping and anti-semitism really got to me)
posted by amberglow at 9:15 PM on March 23, 2005

the good folks of Libération today published a massive special section on Verne:

Dans le sillage du capitaine Nemo
Un siècle après la mort de Jules Verne, retour au Crotoy, où le héros de «Vingt Mille Lieues sous les mers» est sorti de son imagination.
posted by matteo at 9:24 AM on March 24, 2005

I never would have bothered to read Verne if it wasn't for Raymond Roussel.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 9:56 AM on March 24, 2005

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