Propeller Island - Book Cover

Propeller Island
The Floating Island
L’Ile à hélice (1895)

Member Andrew Nash’s website contains all the English title variations.

Plot Synopsis:
(courtesy of member Dennis Kytasaari’s - website)
A French string quartet (Sébastien Zorn, Frascolin, Yvernes and Pinchinat), traveling from San Francisco to their next engagement in San Diego, is diverted to Standard Island. Standard Island is an immense man-made island designed to travel the waters of the Pacific Ocean. The wealth of residents of the island can only be measured in millions. The quartet is hired to play a number of concerts for the residents during their tour of the islands (Sandwich, Cook, Society, etc.) of the South Pacific. The island seems an idyllic paradise; however, it is an island divided in two. The left half’s population is led by Jem Tankerdon and is known as the Larboardites. The right half’s population is led by Nat Coverley and is known as the Starboardites. Despite the obstacles encountered on their journey, the two parties have a disagreement that threatens the future of the island itself.

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The Floating Island
Trans: Unknown. London and NY: Kegan Paul International (Routledge, Chapman & Hall), 1991. xvii+352.

NOT RECOMMENDED (read why below)

Given this massive tampering with Verne’s original novel, it seems highly ironic that the publisher of this book—in an obvious attempt to hype this modern repackaging of a very old, very bad translation—tries to advertize Jules Verne as “a social satirist whose work has been compared to that of Montesquieu, Swift and Voltaire. Today he is recognized as one of the most significant writers and social commentators of modern times” (back cover). Insofar as I am aware, this is the first time Verne has ever been classified as a famous writer of social satire, and comparable to Voltaire no less! But, even worse, to characterize him as such from this outrageously truncated translationis more than simply (and sadly) ironic, it is insulting both to Verne and to any knowledgable reader’s intelligence.

To summarize, a revised and more accurate English translation of Verne’s L’Ile à hélice would have been genuinely welcome and would have done honor to any publisher. In contrast, this book brings shame: it represents a commercialized resurrection of a translator’s travesty, and it aptly demonstrates how an industry’s profit motive can sometimes overpower its sense of literary integrity.

-- Excerpted from Arthur B. Evans, “New and Recycled Translations of Jules Verne,” Science Fiction Studies, XIX:2 #57 (July 1992): 261-63.
review obtained 12 Jan 2009

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