Tuesday, February 09, 2010

"Journey to the Centre of the Earth" by Jules Verne

I read this a while back in SF book club. It is about these people who descend down a volcano in Iceland, intent on journeying to the very centre of the Earth. It is a truly great book, with Verne managing to create great drama from nothing more than the overcoming of various natural obstacles – i.e. they do not find themselves battling a subterranaean army of troglodytes. It is also rather funny, with the narrator's endless invocation of his insipid fiancĂ©e ("my poor little Virlandaise") never failing to bring the roffles. The crazy Professor who heads the expedition and their taciturn Icelandic guide are also good for the comedy, while nevertheless becoming more complex when the travellers' journey places them in situations of terrible danger. Verne's general descriptive powers are very striking, with his account of the journey through Iceland to the volcano being rather evocative of the bleak landscape of that country – I am curious as to whether he ever visited there, or was just working from the accounts of others.

I wonder if it is significant that Verne wrote this book shortly before the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. The Professor and the narrator, his nephew, are both German, and they are presented as amiable fellows, with the Professor in particular a jolly eccentric. I wonder would Verne have painted things differently if writing after the Germans had stuffed his country out of it in a war that saw Paris besieged and bombarded.

Journey to the centre of the Panda

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