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The choice of a gun to fire the members of the Gun Club around the Moon was not, perhaps, a good anticipation of Space Flight ; but the epic exudes a natty exhilaration, and in the end the Moon, once safely circumnavigated, is left to its own resources. The Gun Club's later plan, to profit from its ownership of the Pole by shifting the Earth's axis, is unsuccessful.
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Over and beyond their travestying of Verne's scientific descriptions of the world, the editing of both titles removed any imputation that Nemo had just cause to take revenge on the British who had invaded and corrupted his native India [see Imperialism ]. In modern restored translations, the Nemo of the first tale — which is generally thought to be Verne's most inspired and sustained novel — can be recognized as an Antihero both enigmatic and obscured, a Byronic figure who ultimately bewilders the tale's narrator, despite his growing sympathy for Nemo's search for Transcendence through revenge against an easily identified Britain; later generations of readers have found him easier to empathize with, and his animus against the British Empire easier to understand, than Hetzel could have anticipated.
The Nautilus , Nemo's exceedingly-advanced electricity-powered submarine — electricity being a favourite anticipatory Power Source in the sf of the time — is capable of making long luxurious voyages at 25 knots higher in bursts , mostly submerged, including a visit to the ruins of the great City at the heart of the sunken continent of Atlantis , a stop which makes a short episode in the tale's extended Fantastic Voyage through the great Archipelago that comprises planet Earth, seen from below, each island being approached from Under the Sea the Bahamas, for instance, are great cavern-haunted mountains with insignificant caps of dry land perching flatly above them.
The geography is sometimes fantastic, including the Underground "Arabian Tunnel" which connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, and the arrival at the South Pole, which turns out to be a mountain peak thrusting out of a strangely clement ocean. These events, and the narrator Professor Aronnax's elated absorption in oceanic fauna, are usually conveyed through clearly tagged, frequently inspired Infodumps.
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The Nautilus 's isolation from the outside world is signalled by its crews' use of a private language see Linguistics that only they understand. Though his lower-class colleagues are given spartan accommodation, Aronnax is amply and comfortingly coddled in a chamber that exudes Second Empire plushness; this presentation of ornate luxury enabled by advanced Technology is one of the central iconic images see Icons of the romance of nineteenth-century sf, and prefigures Steampunk.
The sequel, The Mysterious Island , which takes place something like a decade later and is less prolific in sf imagery, unpacks a long, engaging Robinsonade whose band of brotherly castaways is haunted and eventually saved by Nemo in Mysterious Stranger guise. It is lit and powered entirely by electricity. In the introduction to his version of this work, Adam Roberts shows that Hetzel would not permit Verne to close a novel in the midst of a transformed world indeed, Verne's protagonists normally brings their gifts of travel back to an unchanged Europe.
The eponymous revenge-seeking hero of Mathias Sandorf 6 June September Le Temps ; 2vols; trans G W Hanna Mathias Sandorf 2vols much resembles the protagonist of Alexandre Dumas 's The Count of Monte-Cristo 18vols , including the disguise, the enormous fortune, the Fortress of Solitude, and only moving beyond his model through his advanced Weapons. There is some doubt that Verne's late Robinsonades are as toothless as nineteenth-century translations have made them seem.
Both exploit the romantic implications of being cast alone or with a few companions into the bosom of a bounteous Nature, and the didactic possibilities inherent in the project of re-creating a civilized life; Verne's robinsonades are carefully socialized, and their small groups of protagonists always make do very well together, even the multi-national cast of Vacances , as far as English readers of early versions of these texts could be aware. All the same, the surface of his more significant sf novels after or so increasingly reveals a grimmer palette.
That, and their inescapable pessimism about the enterprise of European imperial civilization, may have impeded their full acceptance — this, ironically, at a time when Verne had become an Icon of the European imperium at its most triumphant. The World's Fair in Paris featured, for instance, rides in which customers could go around the world in eighty days, or 20, leagues under the sea, a techno-fetishism far distant Roger Luckhurst argues, see about the author below from Verne's own "internationalist rejection of nationalism" as represented by Captain Nemo certainly in the original text of Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea.
The negative impact of Verne's later assaults on Progress may perhaps account for his exclusion, just eleven years later, from the Exposition Universalle in Even in the first tale the steely, domineering, comically megalomaniacal Robur, inventor of an impressive kilometer-an-hour heavier-than-air machine see Airships powered by battery-charged electrical motors, is rendered less favourably than the earlier romantic figure obsessed by planetary injustice; but he is still here allowed by Verne to represent the march of scientific progress as he forces the world to listen to him, despite the mockery of those claiming that light-than-air ships would dominate the world.
Oddly enough, Robur's arguments are first presented in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, not in France, where genuine debate over the nature of manned flight was both vigorous and long-lasting. In the Slingshot Ending that abruptly terminates the first volume, Robur saves his lighter-than-air foes from disaster when their Balloon explodes, and departs, proclaiming that his airship will usher in a Pax Aeronautica whose realm in the skies he has already dubbed Icaria. In the sequel any thought of such a relatively benign outcome is abandoned by Verne, whose distrust of early twentieth-century technocratic elitism places him in stark contrast to the late Wells of The Shape of Things to Come , where a World State is made possible through the self-declaredly benevolent rule of an "Air Dictatorship".
It is consistent with Verne's deep-held pessimism about the nature of progress that in The Master of the World, his last work of any significance, Robur has become a dangerous solipsist, a Mad Scientist fatally detached from the darkening world, blasphemous and uncontrollable as he uses his Invention to attack enemies from the air or under water; his excesses — like those of Wells's earlier Dr Moreau — are easy to read as representing the excesses of an unfettered development of science.
Science and a subservient, bounteous Nature are no longer seen — in late Verne or early Wells — as benevolently united under Man's imperious control. Much of the novel reads as a highly detailed, circumstantial, clearly sarcastic Travel Guide , with the plutocratic tourists condescendingly ignorant of the appalling state of native cultures they visit as they traverse the great ocean: after decades of colonial exploitation see Imperialism ; Race in SF ; Religion , these cultures are seen as either Decadent or dying, or both.
But this effect is inexplicably blunted in the otherwise improved translation by Noiset, as the original satirically overexcited present tense narrative has been converted to the conventional past tense even as late as Verne was not trusted to know what he is doing. As the tale proceeds, the abducted string quartet, having been offered vast sums, makes music, and its members are beguiled by Inventions galore.
But unfortunately, a sudden invasion of predator animals devastates the island's "pastoral" flocks, and a raid by thousands of native "savages" undermines civilization as well; an irreconcilable conflict between Northern and Southern American billionairess, which illustrates "the immeasurable stupidity of human beings", finally brings about the sinking of the island, and all it stands for as a symbol of Western dominance of the planet see Ship of Fools.
Contemporary critics who accept William Butcher 's attempts to "save" Verne from sf typically ignore or misrepresent this novel, an example being Rosalind Williams's truncated and unilluminating references to the text in her otherwise astute study [for titles by Butcher and Williams see about the author below]. Hector Servadac , not mentioned at all by Williams, is also typically sidelined. The canals prove particularly useful. One: it is clear that Michel Verne actually improved some of his father's manuscripts, all of them written in his last years, when his energies were at times seriously depleted.
Two: it is at the same time clear that Verne's original manuscripts, as published and translated in recent years, should take precedence over the modified versions, whether or not they are rough or feeble, and that in fact Michel Verne habitually adulterated his father's pessimism about the twentieth century, softening his disaffection into bromides. It is, in fact, a tale of considerable grimness, in which the eponymous Antihero applies his Invention of an Invisibility Ray to render himself and the girl he lusts after both invisible; on his death, the secret of his invention still unveiled, the girl remains invisible, though she marries the narrator of the tale in this apparently permanent condition.
In its original state, this novel bears some resemblance to C H Hinton 's "Stella" in Stella and an Unfinished Communication: Studies of the Unseen coll , whose narrator marries an invisible young woman; it is, however, more likely that he would have been familiar with H G Wells 's The Invisible Man Verne's later life had not been uneventful. Although he married, prospered mightily, lived in a large provincial house, yachted occasionally, unflaggingly produced his novels for the firm of Hetzel, and became an exemplary nineteenth-century French middle-class dignitary, his extended family was seriously dysfunctional.
A nephew tried to murder him , crippling him in the process, and his son Michel Verne was criminally profligate, leaving it to his father to pay his huge debts. These burdens clearly affected his work. While his early works certainly examine the boyish, escapist dream-life of French adolescents in , they can also be read as an ultimate requiem for the dream of his astonishing and transformative century, that waking dream of the daylight decades so effectively fleshed in his early work.
Previous versions of this entry
But long before that vision — that dream that the world was both illimitable and decipherable, unknown but obedient; and that Man could only improve upon creation — had clearly begun to fade, as his own life seemed to show, and as demonstrated see above in his last novels, though perhaps most clearly in a remarkable Ruined Earth tale, "The Eternal Adam" from Hier et demain [for full title see Checklist] coll ; trans I O Evans as Yesterday and Tomorrow , in which a far-future historian see Ruins and Futurity discovers to his dismay that twentieth-century civilization was overthrown by geological cataclysms, and that the legend of Adam and Eve was both true and cyclical.
No manuscript in Verne's hand exists of this story, which may have been written in large part by Michel Verne [see Checklist]; but it clearly reflects Verne's late state of mind, and has more than once been treated as a thematic summation of his career. That career is too vast to be rewritten in hindsight, or comprehended in terms of the pessimism of his last years.
It contains much that is probably irretrievably distant for modern readers, his voice muffled by the century and a half of changes he did not quite allow himself to address. But there is also much in Verne that the last half century of critical study has begun to make audible.
It is a voice that did, we increasingly understand, speak to the future. It was not until Verne's work came out of copyright in the s, however, that the real rush started, beginning with Walt Disney's 20, Leagues under the Sea Verne's characters have been revived in various, sometimes embarrassing guises, as in Captain Nemo and the Underwater City ; in Comics , Nemo and the Nautilus play an important role in the first volume of Alan Moore 's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen six issues ; graph The film adaptations here mentioned comprise a small fraction of the more than versions issued worldwide; Brian Taves's Hollywood Presents Jules Verne [for fuller details see about the author below] analyses in depth a very wide range of adaptations, both Cinema and Television , made in English.
Given the wide range in quality and accuracy of early translations of Verne — many of them, as already stated, cut, mutilated and rewritten — and given the difficulty of tracing these changes in detail, no serious attempt has been made to register specific deformations of the original novels, especially those committed in the nineteenth century. Where Evans has been unable to find recommendable translations for the period before , none are inserted here.
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