Discovering the world with Jules Verne

Monday, March 09, 2009 at 11:28 AM

February marked the 181st anniversary of Jules Verne, a French author who often wrote of travel and exotic voyages. From a hot air balloon ride over Africa to a wild rafting adventure in the Amazon or an intrepid journey to the center of the earth, Verne's writings took readers to places new and unheard of. To visualize all of the different places described in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, one of Verne's classic novels, scroll down the About the book page to the map of places mentioned in this book.

Beyond setting his stories in foreign geographies, Verne also wrote about submarines, helicopters, airplanes and cars at a time when these travel vessels sounded like pure imagination. These and other forward-thinking elements in Verne's writings have made him remembered as one of the all-time greatest authors of speculative fiction.One of my personal favorite Jules Verne adventures is Around the World in 80 days, which foretells with uncanny accuracy the inventions and technology of the 20th century, and has become a literary stepping-stone for generations of science-fiction writers. In a sign of how this classic story still resonates with people to this day, on a recent visit to Israel I was thrilled and surprised to see an exceptional stage production of Around the World in 80 days in Hebrew.

Yet despite the global resonance of his works and the astonishing variety of geographic settings in his stories, Verne himself wasn't much of a traveler. Most of his boat trips remained within the boundaries of the Mediterranean sea, and he eventually had to stay home in Amiens after his leg was shot and injured, giving him a permanent limp. In his lifetime, Jules Verne published a remarkable corpus of 65 novels, 25 short stories and essays, three plays, and an opera libretto. For all of these adventures, thanks Jules!


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