In the early 1980s, when I was still in Switzerland, I heard about the Jules Verne Society in America, and about Sid Kravitz, whose name came up in conversation with a friend returning from the United States. Before the Internet, it was not easy to track someone down, but I succeeded and got a nice letter from Sid offering me a floppy disk with his English translation of Mysterious Island. I agreed and offered to pay him, at least for the shipping costs. But Sid refused, saying that he would be happy for more and more people to enjoy his translation. His was one of the first English translations I owned of a Jules Verne novel. And it was not on paper, which, in the early eighties, was exceptional.
It is with sadness that I learn of the passing of Sid Kravitz. We learned of each other’s Vernian interest during that exciting period of the 1980s when numerous individuals began to share the addresses of others they knew. During the ensuing years of correspondence and phone calls (all before the era of email and websites) the network began to take shape that evolved into the North American Jules Verne Society in 1993.
Sid inspired us with his particular dedication to The Mysterious Island, painstakingly retranslating it in face of the poor Kingston translation that had a century’s hegemony on the Anglo-American market. Readers had little alternative; the 1874 version had appeared again and again, whether gift books or mass-market paperbacks.
Knowing there was little hope, Sid undertook the project anyway, and shared the results freely with anyone who asked. He even shared his discovery that there was another version, originally published by Charles Warburton, that was much superior to Kingston, which he wished he had known about before undertaking his project! No, there was nothing selfish about Sid; it was The Mysterious Island that mattered to him, not any priority or congratulations that might be due.
Fortunately, he had the good fortune to at last see his translation used as part of the foundation of the Wesleyan University Press Early Science Fiction series, as Art Evans had the opportunity to incorporate it along with other Verne translation efforts that had been undertaken from similarly altruistic purposes. I’m proud to have a copy with Sid’s handwritten thanks for the encouragement that I was only too glad to offer in previous years.
Sid’s enthusiasm for The Mysterious Island remained, and when he learned of the publication of Verne’s unfinished first draft, Uncle Robinson, he undertook a translation of that volume too. He knew he again faced odds no less formidable than he had with The Mysterious Island.
I was honored when Sid asked me to read his work, and was once again pleased to note his care that had been the hallmark of his Mysterious Island. Uncle Robinson is a fascinating volume in many respects, both as a contrast with the work it was to become (particularly with a familial cast as opposed to Civil War refugees), and for incidents that were recycled in The Mysterious Island.
Sid then offered his translation freely to Zvi Har’El for his website so that it could be more widely read. There was nothing possessive in his nature; all his work was entirely open, to be shared. Looking back at our correspondence, I’m reminded how helpful he was. We discussed translation issues and he pointed out Kingston’s censorship of Nemo’s background. Thoughts were shared on Verne’s Robinsonades, and Sid brought my attention to the 1975 animated version of Mysterious Island, which he regarded as the best and most faithful screen version.
I had recently tried to get in touch with Sid as The Palik Series got underway, but was unable to reach him and guessed that ill-health or worse had claimed one of our group.
He did much for us, and Vernians have benefitted from his determination to swim against the tide of reprinted 19th century translations that were the cornerstone of Verne publications at the time he began his work. Fortunately, this characteristic was coupled with a scholarship and a generosity from which we all benefitted. He will be missed.
I never had the opportunity to meet or speak with Sid, but early into my membership in this society was about the same time that Zvi Har’El had started the Jules Verne Forum. All my conversations with Sid were done electronically via email. With our first communication Sid offered to send me a copy of his Mysterious Island translation, which I could get it in either paper form, or on a floppy disk. Being the computer minded guy I am, I got the 3½-inch floppy version. It’s one of the few floppy disks I still own. His experience with Mysterious Island will be missed by Jules Verne fans worldwide.
Having worked with Sid on the Wesleyan translation and critical edition, I share your great sadness. Through his work on Mysterious Island and Uncle Robinson, he showed himself to be a true enthusiast, endeavouring only to bring the novelist to a wider audience. His knowledge of these two books was unparalleled, as only a translator’s can be. His versions of Verne will stand as his memorial.
Sid and I knew each other since the early 50s when we both worked for the U.S. Army Ballistic Lab at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. We both worked in the Propulsion Group concerning guns and rockets. The lab was 40 miles upstream from the Baltimore Gun Club. We were on several joint research teams. We continued to work together when he moved to Dover, New Jersey. We both had gone to Cooper Union for engineering degrees, and, while I went to Johns Hopkins, Sid went to Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey for his graduate studies. At Stevens he taught several math courses; his hobbies included constructing crossword puzzles and writing problems for a mathematical journal. While visiting with him I saw several Jules Verne volumes and he showed me some work he was doing translating Mysterious Island. As Sid didn’t speak or read French he used a French-English dictionary as his primary method of translation. He sent me several chapters and later the complete work. He did a similar effort with Jules Verne’s original story Uncle Robinson that Verne reworked into the story that became Mysterious Island and as I recall many of the chapters between the two were the same.
I never really knew Sid personally but it is always sad to hear of the passing of a fellow lover of Verne. Thanks for letting me know and all the best to his loved ones.
Shortly after my exposé was published in 1965, Sid came to New York to show me his first translation. There was not much hope for any of us in those days, but I kept encouraging him, reading new passages. When we finally got going, his work was published with another member or two on the title page.
Sid was a model Vernian — selfless, gentlemanly, motivated only by his love for JV’s desert-island classic and his desire to share an accurate translation with English-speaking readers. My deepest condolences to his family and friends.
I to had the pleasure of working with Sid in the early 1990s on the Mysterious Island project. Sid had a Xerox copy I believe he made of the two-column Warburton copy of the 1876 version of Mysterious Island, translated by Stephen W. White. I took the sheets of the Xerox and fed them into my HP scanner, model 1, which had a letter feed attachment. Standing beside this piece of antiquity I fed the sheets of Mysterious Island into the scanner feed. Each page took about a minute to scan at 600 dpi (the type was very small). Then the sheets were fed into a primitive OCR, I believe it was version 5, and each column in turn was OCR’d, then the whole lot was pasted together into a single online text. Sid and I exchanged edited versions over our green screens until we finally had a fair copy which I uploaded to Project Gutenberg, the first online version of this text. By the time I joined the NAJVS in 2003, Sid was no longer able to attend meetings, so I did not have the pleasure of meeting him personally.
Although White abbreviated several chapters, particularly in Part III, and omitted Verne’s description of the operation of a sawmill entirely, he did use the original names of the characters, and his description of the death of Nemo was the only correct one for over 100 years. White translated the book for the Philadelphia Evening Telegraph, whose editors undoubtedly encouraged White to abbreviate Part III as the serial was running far too long. Like Lewis Mercier, he was paid for abbreviating the book. Nevertheless, for Sid, who did not know French, the largely accurate translation of White was no doubt of great assistance to him in his lifelong work on Mysterious Island.
We will all miss Sid and his masterful work translating Mysterious Island.
I’m sorry to hear this sad news. Sid was one of the first fellow Vernians I met online, an active member of the JVF from the very beginning. My condolences to those he left behind.
Our correspondence and his translation of Mysterious Island, which he graciously shared with me, was of great help to me when I translated L’Oncle Robinson into Hungarian.
My deepest condolences.
I am greatly saddened to learn of the death of Sid Kravitz. We never met, but I benefited from his work. He sent me his translation of The Mysterious Island both on diskette and paper. I took the paper copy and had it rebound and have shared it with friends. I deeply appreciated his kindness and generosity and wish to extend all my sympathies to his family and friends.
It so happens that by various reasons, this very week I have in fact been restudying the monumental 2001-edition of The Mysterious Island. And then I learn this very sad news on the JV-Forum. My deepest condolences to the family and friends of Mr Sidney Kravitz.
Can I add my thoughts to this? I never met Mr Kravitz but I certainly know his name, and about his contribution over the years. He will be sorely missed, but well and fondly remembered.
My name is Stephanie Wagner; thank you for the kind words that you posted to the JVF about my grandfather. He [is] deeply missed every day by my family. Thanks again, Stephanie
Most of you reading this knew my brother, Sidney Kravitz, as a scientist, puzzle enthusiast, scholar and writer. As his much younger baby sister, my childhood memories of him are my fondest. Sidney would take me to Hayden Planetarium in NYC and we would linger at the time capsule display. He would patiently explain why we weighed different amounts on the earth, the moon and other planets. I remember the astronomy lessons that would take place on the roof our apartment house on the Lower East Side of NY and how much he enjoyed weight lifting as a hobby – sometimes chinning and letting me or my friends hang on to his feet. Sidney would close the bedroom door when listening to music, but rather than jazz it was Tchaikovsky or Beethoven coming from those scratchy, black 78 rpm’s. In later years when I bragged about my brainy brother to people who never met him, the fact that impressed them the most was how he managed to graduate with an engineering degree from Cooper Union College at the amazing age of 19. His baby sister misses him.
Cynthia Kravitz Goldberg
How well can you know someone, although you’ve never met face-to-face?
It was in this way I knew George Slusser, first as a colleague, then much more as a friend. I used the J. Lloyd Eaton collection at UC Riverside in the early days of my Talbot Mundy research long before my book was finally published (2005) so George knew me as a library patron. However, he saw the results of separate work earlier, when he kindly reviewed The Jules Verne Encyclopedia back in 1996. George’s praise allowed me to feel I was on the right track in regard to study of Verne in English (and the notes on translations became central to the Palik series). Thanks to the miracle of email, George and I exchanged notes, and we were on science fiction list-servers together.
Then, with the Palik series, we became real friends. Jean-Michel Margot and I were searching for the best name to translate for the first time Verne’s A Priest in 1835, and George’s name came to our minds. Moreover, George and his wife had just finished the first translation and critical edition of Honore de Balzac’s The Centenarian, another forgotten volume from that author’s youth; A Priest in 1835 was Verne’s very first novel. So Jean-Michel and I sent George a copy of A Priest in 1835 (or, as the French call it, A Priest in 1839--contrary to Verne’s title) and he instantly became enthused. Not only was this a forgotten Verne book, but neglected and in fact fundamentally misunderstood by French critics.
For several years, then, George and I were in contact at least once a week or more as he and his wife prepared the translation. We discussed possible illustrations and plans for the books presentation, working through all the issues. We even talked our way through the question of how to most tactfully recite, and rebut, the inaccurate description in the French edition.
I knew George was having health problems, but he kept hard at work on revisions and answering question. Today A Priest in 1835 is finished, requiring only the editorial processes and proofreading necessary for publication, and additional illustrations from the library in Nantes (the novel is set in Jules Verne’s home town). Thanks to George, and his wife, English-speaking readers, but in fact readers all over the world, will discover this novel in its first translation, but also in the first edition to give it proper critical treatment--and illustrations showing the places of the story, from the time. So A Priest in 1835 will be a Verne book for readers around the globe. That was George’s intention, and he was most pleased at the prospect.
It is also his legacy for Vernians.
Thank you, George.
Remembering George Slusser
George Slusser was an exceptional figure in the world of science fiction. I heard his name many years ago, in Yverdon-les-Bains, in Switzerland, where the founder of the House of Elsewhere (Maison d’Ailleurs), Pierre Versins, mentioned him several times. I was so happy to meet him finally in Albuquerque in 2007 and again in Riverside in 2009 and 2013, with his wife Danièle Châtelain. It was like to see them as long time friends for more than 30 years. I’m very happy that their translation of A Priest in 1835 will come out soon and remain as a wonderful collaboration with NAJVS through this volume of the Palik series, which will be a contribution of exceptional quality to the Vernian Studies.
I first met George in the year 2000, the NAJVS conference was held in San Diego and our conference organizer James Keeline had made contact with George and arranged for those present to make a trip up to UC Riverside and peruse the Verne related artifacts contained within the Eaton collection. In addition to the Verne items, he showed us the many other aspects of the collection and told us how he was building the collection. In one way he was having students who were engaged in world travels to bring back science fiction examples from around the world. It was a very impressive collection.
I met George again in 2007, when he and Danièle were touring the American southwest, they stopped in Albuquerque to join us for our annual meeting that we being held there. George did a presentation on J.-H. Rosny aîné in a piece called “Verne and Rosny – Contrasting Models of Science Fiction.” As I noted in my article covering that meeting (EV, Vol. 14 No. 1) I was not aware of Rosny, but when George told us that one of his novels was adapted into the 1981 film “Quest for Fire,” I realized I did actually know one of his works.
I met George for the last time at the Eaton Science Fiction Conference in 2009 where he moderated and presented the pieces mentioned in the introduction to this memorial. My coverage of this meeting is found in EV, Vol. 15 No. 4. I had hoped to get a chance to meet with him again as he had a great passion and enthusiasm for literature. I look forward to the Palik Series volume that he and Danièle have put together. He presence will be greatly missed in the science fiction literature community.
I first met George Slusser and Danièle Chatelain at the NAJVS meeting in Albuquerque in 2007. I found them charming and engaging; George’s bone-dry sense of humor was then, and every time we met for years thereafter, diverting. It was at that meeting that George told me that the Eaton Conferences at the University of Riverside, which he had helped to found and had run for many years, were starting up again. Exciting sf-related things were happening at Riverside, he said, and the Eaton Collection, in which he had played a key early role, was attracting a new generation of scholars and would serve as the basis of a new program in sf studies. He invited me to propose a paper for the next Eaton. I did so, attended the conference, discovered the wonders of the Collection, and befriended the sf scholars and writers whom the University was then in the process of hiring. A biannual pilgrimage to the Eaton Conference and Collection has become a regular thing for me, and I’ve spent many hours pouring over the Collection’s holdings in French sf and the American pulps. I’ve made lasting friendships with like-minded faculty there and have sent fine grad students, now rising scholars in their own right, to study at UCR. In 2009, George and I co-organized the joint Eaton-NAJVS meeting, and much of the success of that endeavor was due to his energy, generosity, and determination to drive the real Verne into the consciousness of American sf scholars who had been suffering under the illusion that the badly translated, crudely excerpted, and Bowdlerized Verne of their youth was the only Verne there is.
For a number of years thereafter, George and I corresponded regularly on matters Vernian and reunited at the Eaton Conferences. When Daniel Compère, Volker Dehs, and I began to assemble a Festschrift in honor of Jean-Michel Margot – really, finally (!) to be published this summer – we invited George and Danièle to submit an essay on A Priest in 1835, as they were then working on a critical translation of the novel, soon to be published in the Palik series. George, Danièle, and I went back and forth on revisions for several cycles. I was grateful for their willingness to listen to gentle (and not always gentle) prods from an editor and to make changes and additions that resulted in an essay that is one of the most important to date on this little-appreciated text by Verne. When we learned of George’s death in November of last year the Festschrift editors rushed in an addendum to our introduction, already in press, noting with sadness his passing. It ends with this sentence: “Collègue apprécié et bon ami, nous regrettons son esprit perçant et sa grande générosité” – “Valued colleague and good friend, we miss his piercing wit and his great generosity.”
George was one of the most gifted, prolific, and internationally recognized scholars of science fiction of our time. He worked tirelessly to promote the genre by publishing dozens of books and articles, by organizing and hosting the Eaton Conference for many years, and by serving as the curator and developer of the Eaton Collection at the University of California, Riverside, the world’s largest publicly-accessible collection of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and utopian literature.
A professor of comparative literature, George was perfectly fluent in French, and we shared a deep interest in Jules Verne and other pre-modern authors of science fiction. Our first collaboration was in 1989 when we co-edited a special issue of Science Fiction Studies called “Science Fiction in France.” Our most recent project was in 2012 when George was joined by his lovely wife Danièle (a professor and renowned literary expert in her own right) to translate and publish an anthology of speculative fiction by J.-H. Rosny aîné (Three Science Fiction Novellas: From Prehistory to the End of Mankind) in Wesleyan University Press’s “Early Classics of Science Fiction” book series.
Few scholars could explore the philosophical and humanistic underpinnings of a literary work as smartly as George. His cultural knowledge was vast and his enthusiasm was both honest and contagious. Our field has lost a true friend, a dependable colleague, and an inspiring mind. We will miss him greatly.
This is very, very sad news…George was a wonderful person and one of my first contacts with the Riverside science-fiction conferences. He will be very much missed.
I remember contacting George at UC Riverside to coordinate the tour as part of the annual meeting held here in San Diego. He was very gracious to us and provided access to the Eaton collection materials that probably few others get to see. It is one thing to know there is a catalog of science fiction materials with many items in it. These might be called up upon request. It is quite another to see them all in person in one place. I’m glad we could add that to our itinerary. We wish his family well and look forward to the new Palik Series volume.
My condolences to Dr Slusser’s friends and family.