This article’s title is a bit of a compromise being as it encompasses both
an interview with Brian Taves, presently President of the North American Jules Verne
Society and a review of the books published thus far in the Palik Series under the
guidance of the NAJVS. The Palik Series through Bear Manor Fiction brings to the
public a number of Verne’s works heretofore unavailable to Anglophones. We’ll
also cover another earlier publication of the Society before the series began but
that fits into the overall mission of the series called Journey Through the Impossible
(from Prometheus Books).
Brian Taves has worked over twenty years at the Library of Congress as a film archivist. Along the way, he’s
authored books on early film director and producer Thomas Ince, the historical adventure
genre, satirist P.G. Wodehouse, the writer Talbot Mundy and others. Taves’s
very first book, on Robert Florey, among whose achievements were directing the first
Marx Brothers movie, scripting the original Frankenstein, along with directing many
other thrillers, is about to be reprinted by Bear Manor Media. To enumerate all
of Taves’s contributions in various other books, journals and magazines would
require an article unto itself. Suffice it to say, when it comes to Jules Verne…
well… in that area, Brian’s expertise and accomplishments speak for themselves.
He was lead author on The Jules Verne Encyclopedia (Scarecrow, 1996), edited
Verne’s Adventures of the Rat Family (Oxford, 1993), is planning
a new book covering the history of Verne on screen and, last but not least, is editor
of The Palik Series itself, assembling the contributors, selecting the
illustrations, and guiding each volume to publication.
SJ: Brian, one of the aspects of the Palik Series that
I enjoyed most was the great essays and commentary that accompanied each and every
one of the volumes. One topic that is touched on is the issue of Verne’s reputation
in the United States. Many folks harbor
the notion that Jules Verne was merely a “scientific prophet”, a “writer of children’s
adventures”, etc. Could you briefly explain to our readers how that misconception
came to pass and just how very wrong that perception really is?
BT: Once Verne had become a best-selling author in France,
a few years later his stories began to appear in England and the United States in
books and magazines aiming at a mass market. Publishers didn’t care about
the quality of translations; they wanted it done quickly, and it was not uncommon
for a full fourth of the text to be cut. As you can imagine, the easiest cuts for
a lazy translator were any scientific passages that might require some research.
That gave Verne the reputation for being “fuzzy” in his approach to
technical matters. But translators also decided to cut description and characterization,
with the attitude, “cut to the story,” creating a type of Reader’s
Digest condensation. And the changes weren’t limited to making cuts; some
of the translators even added to the story! If you read a version of Journey to
the Center of the Earth, with the scientist named Von Hardwigg and his
nephew named Harry, it is one where the translator altered the names and added additional
monsters to those found in the Earth’s interior.
So between all these factors, Verne quickly won the reputation of a rather sloppy author not to be taken seriously.
(By contrast, for instance, all of us have read H.G. Wells in his original language.)
Many of these early Verne translations are still reprinted today, since they are
in the public domain. Not until the 1960s did new, more accurate translations begin
to appear, and for decades they were largely limited to the half-dozen most famous
A good rule-of-thumb is, if you don’t see something about the translator in the book, don’t buy
it, because it is distorted Verne, one of those 19th century translations.
SJ: One other thing that definitely struck me in reading
through the lines in the non-fiction portions of the books was the passion that
each of the contributors have for all things Verne. The North American Jules Verne
Society certainly seems to be an enthused and active group! What are some of the
Society’s other activities?
BT: We have meetings every year, often in cities where
a unique Verne collection resides at an institution, such as UC Riverside, or in
an area tied in with his stories, such as our last gathering in the area where Master
of the World is begins. We have a newsletter three or four times a year,
and many of the members are involved in their own activities, writing, teaching,
lecturing, and so on, which they apply to Verne.
But we welcome all levels of interest. Many members are collectors, some having impressive, vintage Verne books
going back to the 1870s, in French, English, and other languages. Others simply
want to read Verne properly, tho I think we’re all united by the desire to
read what Verne actually wrote, as opposed to the bowdlerized versions we often
read in our youth. Many discovered Verne thru the movies, especially Disney’s
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, while others, included myself, first read
him in the old Classics Illustrated comic books.
The society’s first book was in 2002, a single volume, Verne’s science fiction play,
Journey Through the Impossible, still in print. Then a few years later, a member left us a legacy,
which allowed the current series to start, since we were able to hire the highest-quality
translators; this is usually the biggest hurdle to getting a good Verne book published.
All those offering critical commentary, from a dozen countries, have freely contributed
their services, as I have as editor; it really is a labor of love.
The German Verne society has provided the scans of the original 19th century engravings from French editions
that we use to illustrate our books. There are other Verne societies in many countries;
actually the very first was formed, not in France, but in England in the 1920s by
some Naval cadets who went on to write one of the first important critical essays
and bibliographies in English on the author.
When it comes to the topic of Jules Verne’s translations, the North American Jules Verne Society through
not only The Palik Series but also through its website and elsewhere has
raised awareness and cautioned against inferior English Language editions. As a
general question, which are some of the more egregious examples yet to be rectified?
Fortunately, it is becoming easier and easier to find good translations, and as
stories (and plays) receive modern translations. The bad part is that “public
domain” makes many publishers willing to reprint the worst 19th century travesties.
What is ironic about this is that there are frequently good translations, that are
equally public domain—but the worst ones have been the most often reprinted!
Sometimes it actually seems that a publisher wants the worst Verne. Here’s
a for-instance: a few years back, Dover asked our most senior member, the late Walter
James Miller, retired NYU professor, about reprinting the edition they’d issued
in the 1960s of From the Earth to the Moon. He told them, and several of
us chimed in as well, to indicate this was actually the very worst translation to
use, a complete distortion of this classic. Translator Edward Roth had actually
boasted in the preface that his additions and excisions improved on Verne! We explained
to Dover that if cost was the issue, there were better public domain translations,
to which we’d be happy to direct them.
So what happened? Dover told us they’d stick with what they did fifty years ago, reset the type of the
Roth edition, and reissue it to the unsuspecting public!
Not all publishers are that way, and we’ve been very fortunate with BearManor Fiction in publishing
The Palik Series. Another exemplary publisher currently is Wesleyan University Press, issuing some
fine Verne editions, like ours with the original engravings and expert critical
On the other hand, some, particularly more commercial concerns, follow the Dover example. For instance, TOR
books, despite their reputation as a noted science fiction publisher, has reprinted
for many years the worst 1870s edition of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,
cut by a quarter. To read it, you’ll never understand either the Nautilus
or Captain Nemo, because so much about the ship and its guiding genius is gone from
Go to this page on our website to see reviews by members; most guiding you to the best editions, but some are
warnings about certain editions:
Unfortunately, you can’t follow Amazon in this regard, because they lump together
all reviews of any title, regardless of what edition they apply to. That made it
essential for the society to undertake this page.
Luckily, The Palik Series will bring to readers more of Jules Verne’s writings previously unknown
to English readers and with worthy translations.
SJ: What are some of the current plans?
BT: I’m very excited about a recent volume, because
it has Verne’s very first story about a submarine. A decade before he wrote
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Verne had already recounted a type
of submersible, used by an outlaw, but very different from Captain Nemo.
Our series is now out in Kindle form, and I’m especially pleased by the appearance in audio book form
of our volume, The Count of Chanteleine: A Tale of the French Revolution.
This exciting swashbuckler of the Reign of Terror is read by Fred Frees, whose father
was a familiar name to all who grew up with Walt Disney and the finest animation.
Our next book, Golden Danube, recounts a journey down the entire length
of the river, interrupted by mistaken identity, smuggling, and mayhem. A previous
edition back in the 1960s, The Danube Pilot, was actually from a text completely
rewritten by Verne’s son, Michel; Golden Danube is the father’s
I’m especially looking forward to one of the first books Verne wrote, A Priest
in 1835, a fantasy of a diabolical clergyman that the author began while still a teenager.
And there’s some more plays, including one about the gold rush, entitled Castles
SJ: The Palik Series was named after the now
deceased Ed Palik. It seems only fitting to end this discussion by honoring his
name. Can you tell us a bit about Ed, the person and Vernian?
BT: I first “met” Ed back in the late 1980s
in correspondence, and even then we swapped ideas about how to get some of Verne’s
untranslated stories published. Once I moved to Washington, D.C. in 1990, I met
Ed and his wife several times, visited their home, even swapped some Verne books
to the mutual benefit of our respective collections. Ed was a physicist who saw
Verne both from the scientific vantage point, not only as a story-teller.
Ed took his interest in getting translations made the extra mile, donating funds yearly to help us build a cache
toward a publication, and that’s how our first book, Journey Through the Impossible,
came to be translated and published. In his twilight years, Ed realized that his
collection could be sold to fellow society members to raise funds for the translation
project, and over a couple of years I, together with Mark Eckell, Henry G. Franke
III, and Jean-Michel Margot brought this to fruition. Finally, Ed left us a bequest
in his will. I know Ed would be proud at the dividends from his generosity, and
while he is no longer with us, his widow survives, and I know she’s pleased
with the series that bears his name.
SJ: Thank you, Brian!
Without further ado, what follows are one person’s observations on each and
every one of the books:
Journey Through the Impossible
“Here’s where they went, those incredible heroes, into the bowels of
the earth, to the depths of the sea, through outer space! Lidenbrock, Nemo, Ardan,
where no one had ever set foot before. And that other one, Captain Hatteras, conqueror
of the North Pole. Some mysterious attraction draws me even more closely to him.
I feel strong enough to equal these, maybe even surpass them, but I’ve done
nothing yet - nothing! ”- these words are uttered by the George Hatteras,
long-lost son of Captain Hatteras who discovered said Pole in Verne’s own
Journeys and Adventures of Captain Hatteras. As should be fairly obvious
to readers of Verne’s major works, they also allude to the protagonists and
exploits originally chronicled in his Journey to the Center of the Earth,
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and From the Earth to the Moon.
As a collaborative spectacle for the stage done in conjunction with the famed playwright
Adolphe d’Ennery, these Verne characters and others are thus ultimately woven
into an unusual and wonderful tapestry of new adventures. Even some of the author’s
less important fictional personalities are subtly referenced. However, there are
no worries in identifying them since the text is annotated with expert detail. Thanks
to the efforts of the North American Jules Verne Society, a scene missing even in
the original French publication is translated and included.
Not too surprisingly, Verne uses all of his devices to pull everything together.
Without seeing the play unfold in front of me, I admit that I might have possibly
taken a wrong turn at least at one juncture were not a synopsis provided; but once
so armed, it was smooth sailing all of the way. I was also pleased to see that appendix
material contained two rare and very lengthy contemporary reviews. They filled in
the visual gaps via the mind’s eye admirably. New, original illustrations
by Roger Leyonmark - himself an avid Vernian - also naturally helped greatly in
As I read through Journey Through the Impossible, I couldn’t help
but occasionally think of how it must have supplied the author with a bit of wish-fulfillment.
Not only did the play itself solidify Verne’s earlier desires to become a
successful playwright but the young Hatteras’ wanderlust struck me as autobiographical.
Naturally, most of the time I found myself engrossed with the amusing travels of
the youthful Captain’s son and company as they encounter Subterranean Troglodytes,
Atlanteans, and citizens of the far-off planet Altor. Jean-Michel Margot stresses
in the introduction that Journey… was Verne’s one attempt at “impossible
”voyages and not “merely extraordinary” ones. Thus, it’s
his most “pure” science fiction as well. Although created for amusement,
it also briefly manages to satire topics of the day.
Only one conclusion can be reached. Journey Through the Impossible furnishes
a unique Verne experience due to its approach and format. It is an absolute must
for serious fans of Jules Verne’s science fiction.
The Marriage of a Marquis
The Marriage of a Marquis formally introduces the Palik series with a mixed
bag of non-fiction and fiction as well as a gallery of original engravings use to
illustrate a wide variety of Jules Verne’s works.
Brian Taves’ forward, “The Mission of the Palik Series” chronicles
the history of abysmal English Verne translations, the damage these did to the writer’s
literary reputation and the progress that Vernians have made in rectifying the situation.
Fellow Verne scholar Walter James Miller continues the discussion in a second essay
on Verne’s “rehabilitation” from “boy’s author”
to “adult’s author”. Primers such as these two are requisite reading;
they should make any potential Verne reader vow to never again accept inferior translations.
If the truth be known, the premise of The Marriage of a Marquis (a minor
French nobleman must wed to continue the family line) didn’t especially excite
me at first. However, the 30-odd pages of non-stop snappy, witty dialogue pleasantly
surprised. On the very first page, uniquely Vernian metaphors such as “His
hair, in open rebellion against the laws of practical capillary geometry, presented
the most highly-skilled hairdressers with an insoluble theorem…” got my
face smiling and it didn’t let up. Further, a smattering of risqué double
meanings iced my opinion of Verne as more than a children’s writer … to
wit: “At last the star of Venus rose above the horizon of pleasure. Anselme’s
impatient telescope had already been trained on it long since.” (Anselme des
Tilleuls being the titular Marquis). The translation of …Marquis sprung
forth from the linguistic talents of Verne devotee, Edward Baxter. Baxter’s
afterword entitled “The Tribulations of a Translator of Jules Verne”
sandwiched the tale with yet another fascinating exposition.
An unfinished Verne novel in the appendix called Jédédias Jamet or
The Tale of an Inheritance didn’t quite press my entertainment buttons
as much. This is in no way to fault translator Kieran M. O’Driscoll who also
provided a preface and annotations. I plead guilty to the fact that many of the
quite numerous references Verne invoked may have gone right over my head without
O’Driscoll amply and ably footnoting the author’s three written chapters
and outline. Nonetheless, for me, the reading experience occasionally got bogged
down due, in part, to the continual necessity of reading said notes. Others without
a considerably thorough pre-knowledge of historical (historical, that is, even for
the time) people, places and events may likewise have a little difficulty picking
Shipwrecked Family - Marooned with Uncle Robinson
I’ve always been a fan of pitching a tent in the great outdoors. Now, I’d
never dream of so doing without (at least) adding to aforementioned tent, a sleeping
bag, a good gas stove, utensils, drinking water, plentiful food and some insect
repellent. May a true survival situation never come my way but should it, I could
do worse than have a copy of Shipwrecked Family… in my back pocket. It’s
doubtful that I’d much manage to use the novel as template for identifying
flora and fauna to advantage a la the resourceful castaways. However - aside from
providing some needed upbeat inspiration - turning these couple hundred pages would
provide a more than palatable method of whiling away the (hopefully short) wait
for the helicopters to appear overhead.
Shipwrecked Family is, in a sense, the point where Robinson Crusoe, the
Swiss Family Robinson and Captain Nemo all meet and merge. In one of those fine
essays that accompany all of the volumes in the Palik series, Brian Taves outlines
Jules Verne’s early fondness for “Robinsonades” and how he made
his own contributions to that sub-genre. Taves also explains the circumstances in
which Shipwrecked Family received rejection only to get overhauled phoenix-like
into the classic Mysterious Island.
The potential “rejected manuscript” stigma should not be taken as a
deterrent to giving Shipwrecked Family a look. After all, Verne’s
once long-lost Paris in the Twentieth Century - a book that should be in
every Verne collection - had originally received the same fate. Paris…
helped prove once and for all that Verne was more than an author who earmarked his
writing toward children (a myth propagated by the fact that radical editing often
made it appear that he did). Ironically, Shipwrecked Family was directed
at the younger market but it’s possessed of a charm that can be appreciated
by an audience of all ages.
Once Verne realized publication was not to be, he never completed the last chapters
of Shipwrecked Family and even that should not be as off-putting as it
sounds. The story “arc” is actually more of an oscillating curve in
which the island’s survivors meet an obstacle, deal with it and then encounter
the next challenge. Thus the reader should easily be able to supply his / her own
“…and so the adventure continues…” denouement when the final paragraph
is reached. I actually enjoyed going through this exercise.
Shipwrecked Family - Marooned with Uncle Robinson is of interest on many
levels. It should be on the short list for anyone wishing to explore the amazing
range of Verne’s oeuvre.
Mr. Chimp and Other Plays
Jules Verne crafted theatrical works before ever writing his most famous novels.
These 4 early plays co-written by Verne lend further evidence of his ability to
handle humor in absurd, imaginative situations.
“The Knights of the Daffodil” (1853 with Michel Carré) is a one
act “Opéra comique”. These “Knights” are hardly of
the chivalrous, shining armor variety. A poor ferryman must protect an innkeeper’s
daughter from the their hooliganism and in process convince her father (and his
overbearing wife) that he’s worthy of her hand. It’s an engaging enough
relook at the Androcles and the Lion angle with a little vino added in to loosen
Verne also collaborated on another one act comedy during the same approximate time
period. This go ’round he partnered with Charles Wallut in a work called,
in English, “An Adopted Son”. In it, a suitor hatches plans to stage
situations in which he can “save” a Baron’s life. His reasoning
goes as follows: if he can put the Baron in faked dangerous situations and if he
can then save him, the Baron might adopt him and thus he could possibly make a use
of a French legal loophole to leverage his newfound life’s station to be suitable
marriage material for the Baron’s daughter. Obviously, the premise is one
so totally ridiculous as to play for laughs. However, it’s not the farcical
situations that always generates the most entertainment. Tongue-in-cheek dialogue
is strong and it often catches the reader (at least, this one) by pleasant surprise.
“An Adopted Son” never was performed; that is, until 1950 when it hit
French radio air waves (this last tidbit comes courtesy of an informative background
essay on “An Adopted Son”; the other 3 entries likewise have the same.)
Charles Wallut (again) and Victorien Sardou aided Jules in crafting “Eleven
Days of Siege” - another comedy dealing with affairs of the heart. The 3-man
collaboration contained 3 times as many acts as the other plays in this volume.
Thus, more character and plot development is apparent. Said developments center
around the institution of marriage. Along the way, eternal (and not so eternal)
questions get examined. Should a husband be allowed the occasional night out with
the boys? What happens to a couple that discovers their marriage technically invalid?
Can a world travelling medico woo a globetrotting widow into tying the knot? Can
four get married as cheaply as two?
Another Verne-Carré joint venture, “Mr. Chimpanzee,” gives this
collection its title and comes accompanied with an excellent discussion concerning
evolution as a theme in Verne’s writing. “Mr. Chimpanzee,” (or
“Mr. Chimp”, if you will) skirts around Darwinism (exactly how so would
be telling). However, it sets a tone closest to the author’s forays into the
realm of fantastic scientific extrapolation for which he is known. Into the mix
are thrown a museum curator with an overblown sense of his scientific knowledge
(appropriately enough called “Van Carcass”), a large South American
monkey (“a true man of the forest”) which arrives as the museum’s
prize exhibit, the curator’s daughter and her beau who would do just about
anything to be around her. Like the rest of the plays in the volume, “Mr.
Chimp” is a romantic comedy and like the others the comedy is adroitly handled.
Mr. Chimp and Other Plays cannot be classified as essential Verne but it
does supply its share of amusement while providing a look at some of the writer’s
earliest - and some might opine atypical - endeavors. Having said that, some plays
click equally as well on printed page as performed on live stage and some not as
well. To various extent, these four works might lean slightly towards the second
category for those not willing and able to invoke their imagination to sufficiently
provide living and breathing actors and actresses when none are present.
The Count of Chanteleine
With Count…, Verne enters into the realm of swashbuckling historical
fiction with a yarn based on the “Reign of Terror”. Although most of
the characters are clearly delineated as either totally good or completely bad,
the hero doesn’t always automatically win. In fact, in the first few chapters,
he hears that the “Blues” in their ideological tyranny have murdered
his wife and his daughter. It’s all handled with touching pathos and The Count
of Chanteleine is one of the more emotionally moving entries in the series.
Despite the generally Black and White characterizations, there are occasionally
shades of gray. No one despises the enemy more than the Count’s loyal vassal,
Kernan. Yet when all others are prepared to condemn a clergyman on the side of the
opposition, it’s Kernan who risks his safety to save him.
If the goal of good fiction is to enlighten and educate as well as entertain, then
The Count of Chanteleine succeeded with me. Upon completing the novel,
I immediately found myself Googling the French Revolution and its aftermath to refresh
what I knew and to learn more.
Count… is accompanied by a twenty plus page introduction, expert footnotes
by Dutch Verne scholar Garmt de Vries-Uiterweerd (including several key contemporary
maps and a rundown of the era’s key figures) as well as an afterword by Volker
Dehs entitled “Jules Verne’s Forgotten Trip Across Brittany”.
The translation was provided by Edward Baxter.
Vice, Redemption and the Distant Colony
When it comes to my reading, I’ve always had a weakness for collaborations,
sequels done by a second famed author, writers sharing universes, and such. Of course,
finding a good tale is priority one but these types of stories make for an added
After Jules Verne wrote of “Pierre-Jean”, a flawed but well-intentioned
man serving time at a French penal colony and the mysterious benefactor who aids
his escape, none other than son Michel Verne added four more chapters to Verne Senior’s
“Pierre-Jean” manuscript. Michel re-titled it as “The Sombre Fate
of Jean Morenas” and re-worked it to have a more downbeat tone. Jules’
story is an intriguing one. Nonetheless, it’s the feeling here that Kieran
M. O’Driscoll is surprisingly spot on when he label’s the younger Verne’s
take “ultimately more satisfying” in his forward.
(Readers of this magazine - which, after all, is predominantly a film magazine -
will be interested to read in the same forward that Michel was also a maker of movies;
in his 1916 picture adaptation, he retained some of the complexity of his own revisions
in “Jean Morenas” but changed the ending to a happier one).
“Fact Finding Mission” is another example of the son picking up where
the father left off. It concerns an entourage of French officials journeying to
the colonial French Congo. The manuscript had been revised and completed by Michel
and published a number of years back (Jules had never finished it). As a bonus,
the original Jules Verne partial text is published for the first time. I have to
think that Forrest J. Ackerman might have preferred Jules’ prose if for no
other reason than the fact that it - unlike Michel’s - strongly featured the
language Esperanto (for those not familiar, Esperanto is an invented language intended
to be politically and culturally neutral. Ackerman, during his lifetime, was a big
Jules Verne is especially known for peppering his work with geographical and scientific
detail and his four plus chapters of FFM are a fine example of this. O’Driscoll
points out that Michel’s finishing touches can be obtained cheaply through
used book dealers. With appetite whetted on Jules / Michel co-works, I intend to
see how it all plays out.
Around the World in 80 Days - The 1874 Play
This one is an absolute gem. The North American Jules Verne Society managed to completely
outdo their consistently high standards by compiling rare material on Phileas Fogg’s
classic fictional travelogue. They could have presented a translation of the French
play simply enough. But why do that when it had already shown to English-speaking
audiences way back in the mid-1870s? So instead, they scoured archives, acquired
the 19th century American text and thus added an even truer sense of authenticity
to their publication. As a follow-up to the success of …80 Days, Verne
gave a speech apropos of the tale entitled “The Meridians and the Calendar”
to the Société de Géographie. Easy it would be to translate
that in toto as well but the folks at NAJVS again went the extra mile. Since Verne’s
lecture included reading a letter from a Royal Naval College member (translated
naturally to French), they dug up the original English language text of said correspondence
and inserted that instead into the remainder of the French-to-English translation
of the author’s presentation. We are talking that kind of research and dedication.
Almost everyone is at least a little familiar with Around the World in 80 Days
(or Around the World in Eighty Days; Verne scholars spell out “80”
as “Eighty” when referring to the novel) in some form of the story.
In a fascinating 30-page introduction, Jean-Michel Margot and Brian Taves enlighten
us all with the story behind …80 Days: first as an aborted 1872 play,
then as Verne’s novel, next as a reworked theatrical adaptation (of the novel)
and ultimately as a success on stage in numerous foreign countries. Appropriately,
a thorough account of the tour of …80 Days in the States is given (anyone
care to guess how Buffalo Bill fits into the scheme of things?).
Writing solo in the appendix, Taves adds a rundown of the play / novel on screen.
In it, he traces cinematic versions from 100 years ago all the way to the present.
A very nice collection of illustrations rounds out the supplemental material. The
surviving American manuscript lacked any visual embellishments whatsoever; so engravings
that adorned a deluxe French copy are substituted. Postcards, caricatures, photos,
advertisements, programs, stereograms (!) and posters complete the package taken
from, well, all Around the World….
As for the main course, the adventure aspect works, the satire works, the quirky
characters work. Around the World in 80 Days plainly works every which
way as a solid introduction to Verne or, for the partially initiated, as a first
taste of the yarn or, for those so desiring a reintroduction to the chronicles of
Mr. Fogg, as a refreshing relook. It’s a good read.
Bandits & Rebels
I was very pleased to see this volume in the Palik Series dedicated to one of my
favorite early film-makers, J. Ernest Williamson. It was Williamson - pioneer underwater
photographer and cinematographer - who, of course, filmed Verne’s famed 20,000
Leagues Under the Sea in 1916. As Brian Taves alludes to earlier, the 25-odd
page short story “San Carlos” provides English readers with their first
look at a Vernian precursor to 20,000 Leagues… (I somehow couldn’t
help but find parallels here to H. G. Wells’ The Chronic Argonauts,
itself a forerunner of that author’s The Time Machine. I should add
that I’m a sucker for precursors and forerunners and was not disappointed
by “San Carlos”). Captain San Carlos - the tale’s main character
- is hardly a renegade on the Captain Nemo scale but he is a man of intelligence
(the text describes him as “…astute and inflexible by nature, a thief by
necessity, and a prolific inventor of mathematically woven plots…”). And…need
it be mentioned again that he has … a submarine?
Speaking of subs, included in the book is an essay that Verne wrote in his later years called “Future
of the Submarine”. It’s a nice background piece and not too surprisingly,
the author dwells on the potentiality of undersea warfare. (It’s hopefully
not giving too much away by noting that he unexpectedly fails to predict the submarine’s
role in later day scientific underwater exploration which was - give or take - well,
good for 20,000 Leagues… or so in his fiction).
Rounding out Bandits & Rebels are 2 additional pieces of historical fiction in the 70 to 80 page
range although, once more, the history was much more recent when written. Both are
on par interest-wise with other pieces of Verne’s historical fiction and additionally
both register in the notoriety department due to elements of religious controversy.
To illustrate, this quote describing the Italian clergy comes from “The Siege
of Rome,” a tale written about the days of Garibaldi: “…the noble
cardinals abduct and seduce young children…”. “Martin Paz, or The
Pearl of Lima”, in a sign of the times, displays elements of anti-Semitism
in its description of the Jew, Samuel: “This old man trafficked every where
and in every thing; he might have been a descendant of the Judas who sold his Master
for thirty pieces of silver."
Perhaps the only criticism of Bandits & Rebels is that - despite the common thread indicated by
its title - the volume is possibly aimed at two separate audiences. If it could
have been worked in, the submarine material might have melded better in Shipwrecked
Family: Marooned With Uncle Robinson for kind of a “pre-Nemo”
theme. But that’s a minor item.
Many readers of this magazine will recall that several years back, a comprehensive
DVD collection dispelled once and for all the idea that French film pioneer Georges
Méliès was nothing more than a maker of trick films. Similarly, through
such publications as brought to the fore by the North American Jules Verne Society,
English language readers now have further access to the true breadth of Mr. Verne’s
writing. Clearly, he was comfortable with entertaining and enlightening young and
old alike, historical fiction, writing for the theater, detailed facts and accuracy,
social commentary and satire, science fiction, extraordinary voyages, wit and humor,…plus
- Steve Joyce, Scarlet the FILM Magazine
The North American Jules Verne Society’s Palik Series —
An Interview with Editor Brian Taves
Q: How is it that Verne is so famous yet not all of
his work has appeared in English?
A: While most of Verne’s stories in the 1870s
and 1880s were published contemporaneously in English translation, beginning in
the 1890s, publishers became pickier. Some of Verne’s themes, from evolution
to anti-colonialism, were unwelcome, especially in Victorian Britain, and by this
point, American publishers were publishing less Verne than the English.
Back in 1993, I was able to secure the first publication of Verne’s only fairy-tale,
Adventures of the Rat Family, by Oxford University Press, with the original
illustrations from the 1891 publication in France. No Verne story had appeared for
the very first time in English in nearly 30 years at that point, and in editing
and co-authoring The Jules Verne Encyclopedia around the same time, one
of the chief goals was to highlight Verne’s writing that had never appeared
While there has been much publishing activity in the last decade, including some
novels published in English for the first time, there still remain a number of stories
that had never been translated. No other publisher seemed to be taking them on.
Yet here were tales from fantasy to humor, of castaways, outlaws, and revolutionaries,
even stage plays, all the adventures that have made Verne such a beloved author.
What made this especially surprising was that many of these were not particularly
obscure stories. In the case of one of them, it has been known for 150 years!
Q: Why hasn’t that one appeared before?
A: In this case, it was a French Revolution swashbuckler—a
nobleman and his family caught up in the Reign of Terror. It is an exciting adventure
story, but perhaps publishers thought it the kind of tale more closely associated
with Alexandre Dumas or Rafael Sabatini. And that link is not coincidental; Dumas
was a friend of Verne, and Sabatini was a Verne fan in his youth.
This will be the fourth volume in our series, The Count of Chanteleine.
Q: Are there undiscovered gems, any new revelations?
A: One of the stories is Verne’s first tale involving
a primitive submarine, used by a Spanish smuggler to evade the authorities. Another
is a novel of a diabolical priest that Verne began while still a teenager.
Back in 2002, the North American Jules Verne Society published, in conjunction with
Prometheus, our first book, the first English translation of Verne’s science
fiction play, Journey Through the Impossible — where his characters
encounter underground troglodytes, visit the ocean floor, and travel to a planet
outside our solar system!
Q: Are there more plays in your series?
A: Yes, one volume, Mr. Chimp and Other Plays,
showcases romantic comedies and a scientific farce all composed from the time before
he became a successful novelist. Another is the first modern printing of Verne’s
very own theatrical version of his novel, Around the World in Eighty Days.
This isn’t an adaptation composed by someone else, of which there have been
dozens in many languages, but the product of Verne’s own, in-person reworking
of it for the needs of the stage—and it became a global hit just as much as
the story did in bookstores.
In fact, the 80 Days play is taken directly from perhaps the only surviving play
script of the original New York production.
Q: Were most of the stories in your series the product
of Verne’s youth?
A: Actually, while some are, others are not. A couple
of our volumes are volumes include some of his very last works, including a novel
of Africa and Esperanto he began at the turn of the century.
Q: Who are some of your contributors?
A: Our translators are major names in the field, with
wide and noted experience, including Edward Baxter, Kieran O’Driscoll, Frank
Morlock, Daniele Chatelain and George Slusser, and the late Sidney Kravitz. Each
volume has critical material on the story by renowned Verne experts from around
the world: Jean-Michel Margot, the late Walter James Miller, Garmt de Vries-Uiterweerd,
Volker Dehs, Jean-Louis Trudel, Daniel Compère, Samuel Sadaune, and Ian Thompson.
Hence, this is not only an Anglo-American effort, but we’ve benefitted from
the collaboration of Verne scholars and organizations in France, the Netherlands,
Germany, Spain, the Czech Republic, Mexico, and Canada.
For instance, we learned the Verne society in the Netherlands was also translating
The Count of Chanteleine for the first time, and they shared annotations
and even maps with us.
In this way we hope our volumes will also have appeal to Verne enthusiasts in many
Q: What most distinguishes the Palik Series?
A: We’re fortunate to be working with a publisher,
BearManor Fiction, who shares our enjoyment of Verne. Unlike most publishers, BearManor
is integrating a series that will include different forms, novels, short stories,
and plays. As well, these will remain available on a long-term basis for book buyers,
not the short-lived shelf-life too common among mass-circulation books.
The other factor is our exclusive emphasis on what has not been in English before.
This extends to shorter pieces too, such as Verne’s own essay about how Phileas
Fogg made his 80 day trip in 81 days—which is to be included in the volume
with the play of the story.
Despite some other publishers offering some stories in English for the first time,
most notably our friends at University Press of Nebraska and Wesleyan University
Press, most modern scholarly editions of Verne have been new translations of stories
known in English before. As laudable and important as it is to offer improved translations,
we wanted to place our energy into what few others were doing—bringing all
of Verne’s work to Anglophone readers.
Q: Are your books illustrated?
A: Each of our volumes is lavishly illustrated with
the original engravings that appeared in the first French editions of Verne’s
works. We’re grateful for the assistance of Bernhard Krauth of the German
Verne Club in providing scans. The covers are adapted from 19th century European
versions of Verne books.
Sadly this element of his writing has too often been lost in modern editions, either
replaced by new and less appropriate art, or none at all, losing an aspect that
was such a vital element in the way readers of Verne’s day experienced the
Q: The series is named for a late member of your group?
A: Edward Palik donated his extensive Verne collection
to sell to other members for their enjoyment, but also to raise funds for a particular
cause which was close to his heart. He wished to have translations of Verne stories
that remained inaccessible to English-speaking readers. He left an additional donation
in his will. This was a goal the North American Jules Verne Society shared, and
Ed’s generosity provided the funds to begin our effort, although I must note
that all the scholarly material has been graciously given freely, as have my editorial
and coordinating services, and many members have helped in various ways with the
series, donating time and effort.
Q: Did Ed live to see the series begin?
A: Sadly, no. He had helped to underwrite the costs
of our first book in 2002, Journey Through the Impossible. The initial
book in the Palik series, The Marriage of a Marquis, is dedicated to Ed.
We’ve lost three other important voices as well. Water James Miller provided
the scholarly cornerstone of the move to begin translating Verne anew for modern
readers, back in 1965, and his work with Verne continued until his passing. He was
an active member of our society who gave valued encouragement and expertise. He
contributed an essay for The Marriage of a Marquis. Our fourth volume,
The Count of Chanteleine, is dedicated to Walter.
Sid Kravitz, the translator of our second volume, Shipwrecked Family, Marooned with
Uncle Robinson, had recently passed away, and are grateful for the cooperation
of his family in publishing this work. Sid had previously translated The Mysterious
Island (Wesleyan University Press, 2002).
Another member, Norm Wolcott, had taken a lead role in discovering quality Victorian
translations of Verne, publishing them on Lulu.com under his Choptank Press trademark.
Shortly before his death, he left us several texts in unique early translations,
including the second Verne story to appear in English—long before he became
a celebrated novelist—and these will be integrated as supplementary material
in other volumes with related stories.
Q: How did the series begin?
A: Our first volume, The Marriage of a Marquis,
established the purpose of our series, with background on Verne publishing and translating
in English, accompanied by a youthful tongue-in-cheek story of a misbegotten student
of Latin who attempts to live his life by his lessons. It is accompanied with another
humorous novel, unfinished, which was to have taken its Candide-type hero to the
The second volume is the first draft of what eventually became Mysterious Island,
in which Captain Nemo made his last appearance. Ironically, this draft suggests
some of the experiments with animals that became a part of the Ray Harryhausen movie
of Mysterious Island, so we dedicated this book to Ray for having brought
Verne’s desert island ideas to millions via the screen.
This first draft of Mysterious Island was originally titled Uncle Robinson
(1873), but we retitled it Shipwrecked Family: Marooned with Uncle Robinson,
because Verne wrote a later unrelated novel, entitled The School for Robinsons
(1882), and there might be confusion in title searches on Amazon.com.
Q: Have you had to retitle other stories?
A: There has, in fact, been a long tradition of retitling
Verne books in English. Generally, that is something we don’t want to emulate,
second-guessing Verne in the matter of titles, but in this case there was no choice.
The School for Robinsons was also translated over the years as Robinson’s
School, The Robinson Crusoe School, The School for Crusoes,
Robinson Island, and An American Robinson Crusoe. Almost certainly
had both The School for Robinsons and Uncle Robinson both been
published during the author’s lifetime, he would have altered the title of
one or the other. Since Uncle Robinson appeared posthumously, we decided
to go with a title that preserved some of the original but avoided redundancy and
the possibility of confusion.
Moreover, while “Robinson” implies a character of Defoe’s isolated
type in the word’s European usage, in English it is a common surname, and
the new title provides the reader an idea of Verne’s plot (and also ensures
no confusion with the Robinson family in the television show Lost in Space!).
Indeed, this shift is so much the case in English that the famous Johann Wyss novel,
Swiss Family Robinson, is usually thought to be a title taken from the
surname of the characters; instead, Robinson in the title was intended by Wyss as
a homage to Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, the novel that began the genre.
We faced a somewhat different situation with the first volume, The Marriage of a
Marquis. Both because the central story, The Marriage of Mr. Anselme des Tilleuls,
is very difficult for most English speakers to pronounce, and because the volume
contains substantial critical material as well as the unfinished novel, Jédédias
Jamet, or The Tale of an Inheritance, we decided to give the overall title
The Marriage of a Marquis to the volume.
Q: Is there a particular aspect of the series that will
A: Overall, I think it will be the range of stories,
the various genres Verne is writing in. Whether a humorist, a teller of adventure
tales, or science fiction and fantasy, the qualities that would lead Verne to be
such a celebrated author are all to be found in the stories in the Palik series.
One of the most intriguing volumes will include stories by Jules Verne and Michel
Verne. In recent years, scholars have discovered manuscripts that prove that Verne’s
son rewrote many of the stories published after his father’s death, and even
originated some himself. This has become a major literary controversy—was
Michel a fraud who perpetrated a hoax on an unsuspecting public? Or did he carry
out to the best of his ability his father’s wishes? In fact, their “collaboration”
had actually begun during his father’s lifetime, so Jules gave his assent
to some of his son’s activity in his name.
This volume, Vice, Redemption, and the Distant Colony, will offer a story
in both the version Jules composed, and the rewrite Michel did—which, a few
years later, he brought to the silent movie screen. Hopefully, then, readers can
decide for themselves the respective merits of father and son as writers.
Q: How are the books available?
A: On Amazon and Bearmanormedia.com; overseas orders
go best through the US Amazon website.
Q: Will the Palik series be available in e-book form?
A: Yes—and at least some of them in audio book