Re: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - PART I: Chapters 1 - 6
Discipline, focus, energy, time, interest, ability, understanding. To read a classic novel such as Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
requires the confluence of all these blessings. Finding the patience to stick with a long old book can be difficult, but is extremely rewarding in allowing yourself to be influenced and assisted by a great intellect like Jules Verne, so I am happy to explain it a bit to those who aren’t in a position to stick with the whole 350 pages.
I am now nearing the end of 20000 Leagues
, and would like to take this opportunity to set out some thoughts on it. Jules Verne was among the greatest visionary pioneers of science fiction, and this book blazed the path for the technology of the submarine which became such a big part of military security. As well, the intense curiosity Verne displays about the wonders of the oceans is a signal virtue of this book. He wrote at a time, the 1860s, when the industrial revolution was in full swing, but electricity was still emerging as a new and wonderful magic, still lacking the power to power industry. So his use of electricity to power The Nautilus displays a rich and strange mystery.
Another feature of this book is the cultural continuity with classical civilization. Captain Nemo, inventor and builder of The Nautilus, is named after Homer’s great hero Ulysses. This journey with his French and Canadian captives is therefore a modern Odyssey. The connection between Nemo and Ulysses is that when Ulysses is caught by the cyclops Polyphemus and blinds him by driving a wooden stake through his eye, when the giant asks the hero his name, Ulysses lies, and tells him that his name is Οὖτις, or in Latin Nemo, which means ‘no man’. The wily trickster chose this name knowing that when the monster tells his friends who has done the awful disfigurement they will be confused by the news that no man has done it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outis
Part of the magic of 20,000 Leagues
is the mystery of the seas. So Verne is able to imagine several major features of the oceans which could have been real at the time of writing but which have since been explored and found to be different from his fantasy. The book also appears as a great forerunner of the modern conservation movement, through the scientific delight in classifying the wonders of nature and the disapproval of heedless destruction.
I am reading the unexpurgated retranslated annotated version produced by Walter James Miller. He notes that the best known and widest read English translation is of low quality, leaving out much of the dialogue which produces the characterisation and tension. And also leaving off the last s from the title. The first translation made numerous such mistakes which have served to weaken Verne’s reputation in the anglosphere, unlike in France where he is revered as a great prophet of science and technology.
My interest in 20,000 Leagues
is to pirate ideas for my own novel, a science fiction story about an ocean civilization that successfully prevents climate change using new technology. I plan to publish my novel chapter by chapter at my blog.