Magellania - Book Cover

Magellania
En Magellanie (1987)

This is the version of the story as Jules Verne had initially envisioned it. After his father’s death, Michel did extensive rewrites but published the story under his father’s name. To find out more about Michel’s version of the story go here.
Member Andrew Nash’s website contains all the English variations of this title.

Plot Synopsis:
(courtesy of member Dennis Kytasaari’s - website)
Kaw-djer is the name given to a man with an unknown past who lives in the region called Magellania (the Straights of Magellan). Kaw-djer’s motto is: “Neither God nor master.” Kaw-djer is only interested in himself and helping out the local people in Magellania. When a ship filled with immigrants finds itself wrecked on a nearby abandoned island. The survivors of this wreck decide to establish their colony where they wrecked. Kaw-djer is a man with great knowledge who helps them to establish their colony, but he is reluctant to take over when their society begins to fall apart.

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Review(s):

Magellania
Translator: Benjamin Irvy. Introduction: Olivier Dumas. New York, Welcome Rain Publishers, 2002. xiii+187 pages.
Hardcover — ISBN-10: 1566491797, ISBN-13: 978-1566491792

RECOMMENDED (read why below) Get it at Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.

Jules Verne, the ardent supporter of capitalism? That is the greatest surprise in Magellania, the newly translated original text of the book previously known as The Survivors of the Jonathan. The latter was enlarged by roughly 60% from the text bequeathed to Verne’s son and literary executor, Michel, prior to its 1909 publication (with the English-language appearance not occurring until 1962). In guiding to posthumous publication six of his father’s completed novels, Michel altered all of them, but none so substantially as Magellania. The extent of Michel’s intervention was unknown until the manuscripts in the elder Verne’s hand were unearthed in France in the 1980s. (For more details, see http://jv.gilead.org.il/taves/Meteor.html and http://jv.gilead.org.il/taves/michel.jfp.html)

Magellania and The Survivors of the Jonathan relate the building of a new society on an island, but only three themes are treated in the same way by Michel and Jules Verne: the kindly attitude toward the Fuegians (including intermarriage with an Anglo Canadian woman), the valuation of national independence, and the horror of gold fever. Nonetheless, the introduction to Magellania by Olivier Dumas, president of the French Jules Verne Society, makes the case against The Survivors of the Jonathan with excessive vehemence. Although Michel’s The Survivors of the Jonathan is a reflection of his own views, not those of his father, it is also a vivid, literary novel which comprehensively develops its many ideological crosscurrents.

The elder Verne’s Magellania, by contrast, reads like an outline rather than a polished book. Half of Magellania, one hundred pages, pass with little happening, before the shipwreck that triggers the main plot. Too often the narrative is told, rather than shown through characters and events—and Michel’s determination (along with that of his publisher, Louis-Jules Hetzel) to “flesh out” these limitations of the novel is understandable. Some of this same problem plagues other manuscripts that Verne completed but which neither he nor Michel saw into print, such as Journey to England and Scotland (translated as Backwards to Britain) and Paris in the Twentieth Century. Verne himself commented, “I consider that my real labor begins with my first set of proofs, for I not only correct something in every sentence, but I rewrite whole chapters. I do not seem to have a grip of my subject till I see my work in print,” and Michel thought he had to interpret what his father would have changed in this phase.

For all the faults of Magellania, this is an important publication in English, elucidating the actual political thought of Jules Verne. A shipwreck of immigrants turn the unpopulated shore of Hoste Island into a prosperous colony. They overcome strife caused by radicals, the depredations of a gold rush, and most importantly, initially fail in self-government, turning to a benevolent dictator. Michel saw the inevitable outcome as bloodshed and discord in The Survivors of the Jonathan.

In Magellania, Jules Verne portrays his hero, the Kaw-djer (a local Indian term for benefactor), as leading the successful creation of a small, free nation along the lines of Verne’s earlier Robinsonade novels The Mysterious Island, Two Year Holiday, and his Swiss Family Robinson sequel, Second Homeland. No less important is the Kaw-djer’s commitment to free trade as a means of attracting business, while the taxes and restrictions imposed upon a neighboring island by Argentina hamper development. Hoste Island becomes a literal new beacon of hope and freedom in the New World, economically and politically. The novel ends on the beams flashing out from the Cape Horn lighthouse, built according to the Kaw-djer’s vision to save ships from future wrecks in the region. Verne also lauds the nationalism of Hoste Island and its commitment to self-determination; Michel had portrayed these as failed goals in The Survivors of the Jonathan. Both versions of the story decry Argentina and Chile’s imperialist assertions over the islands of Cape Horn.

Many scholars, most particularly Jean Chesneaux, suggested that The Survivors of the Jonathan indicated Verne had a sympathy for anarchism. This seemed plausible, given the inclinations of such classic scientific Verne heroes as Nemo and Robur, who share a similar fate with the Kaw-djer in Michel’s version, in which he returns to his original convictions and an isolated life. However, Magellania proves that Jules Verne thought the opposite. Although the Kaw-djer began as an atheist and anarchist, whose beliefs made him a refugee from Europe, the demands of governing force him to renounce such impractical theories. Fleeing the territorial claims of Chile and Argentina, he had been on the verge of suicide at the time of the shipwreck. However, in guiding its outcome, creating orderly government and discovering a dawning faith in God, the Kaw-djer discovers fulfillment. Verne, who also served on the council of his home town of Amiens, may have felt much the same.

Ironically, with the debate over the merits of anarchism having lost cachet since the composition of Magellania in the 1890s, concerns over nationalism and free trade remain, and it is these aspects that give the novel its greatest relevance to modern readers. The translation, by Benjamin Ivry, seems to be faithful to the text, although I will defer to the more exacting judgement sure to come from the growing community of Verne translators. Fortunately, a number of parenthetical notes, some from the French edition, have been included. The Dumas introduction was poorly edited, confusing the titles of books and retaining outdated information only relevant to the original French edition; it should have been modified and updated to add the necessary information for English-language readers. Most of all, Magellania requires what the French edition included: a map of the region, with Hoste Island itself. The dust jacket offers a faux map-style cover, when an actual map page (such as given in Wesleyan University Press’s new editions of The Mysterious Island and The Invasion of the Sea) would have been more useful. Nonetheless, Welcome Rain publishers must be lauded for undertaking the very first translation of the posthumously published Verne novels rewritten by Michel, and hopefully other such projects will follow.

-- Review by Brian Taves, Reviews of Books: Jules Verne, Magellania. Extrapolation, 43 (Summer 2002) : 232-234.
review obtained 12 Jan 2009

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Magellania
Translator: Benjamin Irvy. Introduction: Olivier Dumas. New York, Welcome Rain Publishers, 2003. 224 pages.
Softcover — ISBN-10: 1566492777, ISBN-13: 978-1566492775

RECOMMENDED (read why below) Get it at Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.

This is the softbound version of a U. S. premiere from last spring, Verne’s 1898 draft of a 1-volume work called En Magellanie. Drastically rewritten and expanded by Verne’s son Michel, the novel initially appeared in 1909 as Les Naufrages du Jonathan (usually translated as The Survivors of the “Jonathan”). Verne’s original waited till 1987 to see daylight, in a private edition issued by Société Jules Verne; Welcome Rain Publishers here offer an English rendering of the SJV text.

Set in the vicinity of Cape Horn, Magellania centers on a nameless European physician whom the natives nickname “Kaw-Djer,” meaning “benefactor” in local parlance. Kaw-Djer’s motto is “Neither God nor master!” and he’s yet another Vernian mystery man of unknown antecedents—only, unlike Robur, Fogg, or Nemo, he lives under primitive communal conditions and in the end renounces both his atheism and anarchism. (For a concise discussion of the political and philosophical issues, see Brian Taves’ marvelously equitable review at Amazon.com.)

NAJVS members will be automatically intrigued by Magellania, but how about the public at large? Many, I’m afraid, will be left slack-jawed. As with other single-volume works in Verne’s later output, the storytelling can be sketchy and uneven: Kaw-djer is engrossing, but the other characters are stick figures; and while Chapter 7 showcases the vista beyond Cape Horn as an awesomely atmospheric jumping-off place, settings and descriptions elsewhere are barely roughed in. To compound the difficulties, Welcome Rain’s production values are substandard—there are scores of printer errors and textual eccentricities: ellipses and brackets seem to indicate gaps or ambiguities in the MS, but no explanatory notes are provided; annotations are parentheses embedded in the text proper, making for bumpy reading; name discrepancies are numerous (“Furster” changes to “Furner”, “Edward Rhodes” to “Marc Rhodes”, “Tom Sand” to “Tom Land”); and in Dumas’ intro, Lighthouse at the End of the World (dated 1905) becomes, two pages later, Lighthouse at the Ends of the Earth—and is dated 1901! A decent scholarly framework would have helped, but the real missing ingredient is a professional editor.

As for the translation itself, I haven’t seen the SJV edition so I can’t really assess the fidelity or sensitivity of Benjamin Ivry’s renderings. They mostly use an easygoing latter-day English, yet I sometimes detect a dogged literalness in Ivry’s work that suggests he’s partly responsible for the eccentricities listed above. In all, this Magellania has the makings of an off-putting experience: Verne mavens probably won’t care, but casual readers will do better with the books below.

-- Review by Frederick Paul Walter, extracted from “Verne in the Shops,” originally published in Extraordinary Voyages, Vol 9, No 3 (Mar 2003).
review obtained 12 Jan 2009

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