The Life and Times of Jules Verne

Jules Verne was born in the port city of Nantes, France on February 8, 1828 to well-educated parents who had an affinity for the sea. It is quite probable that this had some influence on his writings. He ran off to be a cabin boy on a merchant ship when he was still young but was immediately caught and forced to return home. Like his father before him he pursued a Law degree in Paris, but his proclivities were toward the composition of plays and operatic pieces. Upon completion of his law degree, he decided to abandon all thoughts of being an attorney and pursue his passion: writing. This did not go well with his father. The allowance he had hitherto received was cut off upon the hearing of this news. As we all know "necessity is the mother of all inventions." During this time he wrote some articles and essays which reflected his vast knowledge of engineering, astronomy, geology and quite a few other disciplines. They did not achieve him the immediate success he yearned for, but they certainly reflected his immense potential.

He was encouraged and strengthened by his friend and mentor: Alexandre Dumas (author of The Three Musketeers) Then he was befriended by a Publisher named Pierre- Jules Hetzel who was key to launching him into success. Hetzel "steered Verne away from his original themes which included environmentalism, anti-capitalism, and social responsibility while questioning the benefits that science and technology could offer to a real world." (Evans) He published his first novel: Five weeks in a balloon when he was thirty five years of age. It turned out to be a very lucrative work. By quitting his part time job at the stock exchange, he was now able to totally focus all of his energy into his writing. His fastidiousness with regard to his style was to the extreme: it had to be perfect. He would send the manuscript up to eight times to the printer without an erasure and wherein would be eight successive proofs to be corrected by him. Evidently this was very fruitful for he published over 50 novels in his lifetime. He also completed a series of children's stories that were published in The Voyages Extraordinaires. He had a way of taking science fiction and mixing it with the event or idea of the day. There were all sorts of adventures to unknown places and science was testing all the preexisting boundaries. Verne captivated his audience by taking scientific facts and mingling them with his own cosmology to produce a work that touched readers of all ages.

His desire was to write books that the young could read for profit. Although he was artistically and intellectually gifted, he never professed to be a scientist. He was just a prolific reader and writer. If he ever needed information in the various disciplines that were the basis of his writings he would contact his many friends. Just a few were Joseph Bertrand, his cousin (a mathematician), François Arago (a physicist and astronomer), and Félix Tournachan, known by most Parisians as 'Nada'. Verne's mastery over the subjects he wrote about is evident in the sheer number of volumes he produced. Since his first publication, he wrote about two volumes every year. This was not an easy task! He went to bed every evening at 8:00 p.m. and would rise early in the morning to hours of writing. Some of his most famous texts include; A Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), From the Earth to the Moon (1866), Twenty thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870) and Around the World in 80 Days (1873).

Of the recent French writers Jules Verne can be compared only to Victor Hugo in Literary expertise. He was a man of the enlightenment and a sucker to the pervasive romanticism that had plagued Europe. His ideas challenged science to the uttermost. His writings have effected legendary figures such as Richard Byrd, Yuri Gagarin (the first human to fly into space) and America's own Neil Armstrong (the first astronaut to walk on the moon). Although a great deal of information has been divulged about him, he still remains somewhat of an enigma. He is perhaps one of the most misunderstood visionaries of all time. A work entitled Paris on the 20th Century was discovered locked away, 26 years after his death by his great grandson. This work ' describes life among skyscrapers of glass and steel high speed trains, gas powered automobiles, calculators, fax machines and a global communication network.' This manuscript is a grim and troubling commentary on the human costs of technological progress. It seems that Verne was also a gifted seer, for this is man's present condition. His prophetic description for what was to him the future is uncanny. These insights might very well be his keys to literary immortality. One thing is for sure, as long as people allow their imaginations to roam into the deep abyss of curiosity, there will always be a place for the writing's of Jules Verne.

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