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Michael Strogoff
by Jules Verne

To: ALL Date: 12/13 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 10:09 PM MICHAEL STROGOFF by Jules Verne When this work first was listed on our reading list, Allen asked me to find a copy of it in French. I started reading it this week, and I am currently on p. 90. Have the rest of you begun your reading? I will be glad to compare translations with you if you would like to. I don't have the English version, but if you give me the chapter, I should be able to find the passage. There are some wonderful drawings in the edition that I have. Jane in sunny Colorado =============== Reply 1 of Note 24 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 12/13 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 10:28 PM Dear Jane, I'm glad you started this thread. I was going to write up something and post it tomorrow. I finished it about two days ago and I'm not sure my translation is the best. There were some sentences that were extremely awkward. I'll have to track them down. Is Edd anywhere around? We sure want to have him in on this. Sherry =============== Reply 3 of Note 24 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 12/14 From: FBED59A EDWARD HOUGHTON Time: 3:51 AM Sherry Keller I'm (a)round. Especially with all of the eating. I'll have something on Michael Strogoff by the promised date, the 15th, if not a little before. Edd Houghton after a day of family frolicking. Taquitos and tamales and all of those things that remind us of the holidays. It's the new generation doing the cooking now. Sure would have been great if they had my step-dads enchilada recipe; but they are trying. =============== Reply 8 of Note 24 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 12/14 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 5:25 PM Jane & All: OK, I'll get back to are two brief pieces on Verne, the first from the encyclopedia and another from a review of a recent Jules Verne biography in the L.A. Times... *** Jules Verne (1828-1905) French novelist, father of modern science fiction. His enormously popular romances include the prophetic Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870), and Around the World in Eighty Days (1873). *** (EUGENE WEBER, The Incandescent Dreams of Jules Verne; JULES VERNE: An Exploratory Biography By Herbert R. Lottman; St. Martin's Press: 360 pp., $26.95; Home Edition, Los Angeles Times, 5 Jan 1997) Shortly before he died, Jules Verne (1828-1905) boasted that he was working on his hundredth book. If that's how many he wrote--and it all depends on how you count--I must have devoured at least a third of them before my 15th birthday. So had Theodore Roosevelt, Kaiser William II and millions the world over. School libraries in France and elsewhere stored scores of the writer's books; so did the memory of adults like Andre Gide and H.G. Wells. When, in the mid-1920s, the most intelligent man in France, Paul Valery, contemplated what he called a true history of reading, a survey of books most truly read, Jules Verne headed his list. That was also when, in the United States, Verne-inspired Hugo Gernsback launched a pulp magazine called Amazing Stories, "the magazine of scientifiction," that presented sci-fi as a distinct literary species. Capt. Hatteras and Capt. Nemo, the ominous Nautilus, the moon launcher Columbiad and Robur's "The Clipper of the Clouds" inspired Adm. Richard Byrd, the polar explorer, as they did Wernher von Braun, the rocket scientist, and Frank Borman, the astronaut. Son of the age that made tourism practical and geography relevant, fascinated by the machines that made exotic travel possible, Verne and his characters, like Phileas Fogg, are, as John Clute has put it, the archetypal voyagers of the literary imagination. Featuring ingenious entrepreneurs, intrepid explorers, imaginative engineers and resourceful manservants in the happy age when globe-trotters did their trotting attended by valets, his works abound in extraordinary discoveries and in lush lists of plants, minerals and beasts. Verne's incandescent dreams scoured the world for endless possibilities. "What Walter Scott did for history," Herbert R. Lottman, the author of "Jules Verne: An Exploratory Biography," cites one Paris critic declaring, "Jules Verne does for geography." Not for geography alone but for the North Pole, the South Pole, the center of the Earth, ice fields, volcanoes, mystery isles and flying islets, asteroids, profound mine shafts, underwater caverns, jungles, deserts and mountain fastnesses. He added color and excitement to dry texts and maps... *** More soon, Dale in Ala. =============== Reply 10 of Note 24 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 12/14 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 9:12 PM Dale, Thanks for the biographical material. I knew nothing about MICHEL STROGOFF (the French title) when I started it, so I expected it to be science fiction. So far (p. 100), this book seems to be an adventure story with a little romance thrown in. There is a lot of information about Russia in the late 20th century here. There is quite a bit of biographical material in the French edition, but I haven't read it yet. Jane who is also reading Julie Smith's new book. I can't resist those New Orleans settings. =============== Reply 11 of Note 24 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 12/15 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 0:33 AM Jane: I was expecting futuristic from Verne's MICHAEL STROGOFF too (before this is over, I know I'm going to call it MICHAEL STROGANOV from instinct at least once and embarrass myself) and was surprised to find it's set in Russia. Shades of Tolstoy and Turgenev! I declared, but haven't gotten far enough yet to declare much more. In the timeless words of Scarlett, though, tomorrow is another week... Dale in Ala. =============== Reply 12 of Note 24 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 12/15 From: FBED59A EDWARD HOUGHTON Time: 2:02 AM Jane Niemeier Michael Strogoff is indeed an adventure story, but Verne does indulge in another of his loves; geographical details. By the time the final chapter appears you feel that you are personally acquainted with the landscape between Moscow and Irkutsk. I can imagine Jules Verne with tons of left-over notes and tour maps and guide books (Baedekers?) from AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS which was published in 1872. MICHAEL STROGOFF was published in 1876. Travel was a big passion for the young Verne. I'm not sure that he got to indulge himself when he grew older, but I certainly hope so. An example of Verne's descriptions of terrain taken from Chapter X follows: "Lake Baikal is situated seventeen hundred feet above the level of the sea. Its length is about nine hundred versts, its breadth one hundred. Its depth is not known. Madame de Bourboulon states that, according to the boatmen, it likes to be spoken of as 'Madam Sea.' If it is called 'Sir Lake,' it immediately lashes itself into fury. However, it is reported and believed by the Siberians that a Russian is never drowned in it. This immense basin of fresh water, fed by more than three hundred rivers, is surrounded by magnificent volcanic mountains. It has no other outlet than the Angara, which after passing Irkutsk throws itself into the Yenisei, a little above the town of Yeniseisk. As to the mountains which encase it, they form a branch olf the Toungouzes, and are derived from the vast system of the Alai." I feel a great trust in Mr Verne's descriptions of the land. I have no intention of checking up on him; so it is an act of faith. Isn't this the way we read? Unless of course the author has audacity to describe something in our own back yard. But, from the little bit of Verne that I have read, this is his forte'. More later. Edd Houghton battered and bruised from a day of cussing, spitting, hair pulling, eye gouging and general mayhem. Yes. today we decorated the Xmas tree. =============== Reply 16 of Note 24 =================  
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 12/16 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 5:14 PM Just got back from the library, with my copy of MICHAEL STROGOFF. When I was a kid, I would always read anything that was illustrated by N. C. Wyeth. Here's one I missed. Have any of the rest of you found this lovely illustrated edition by Scribner's? Ruth =============== Reply 17 of Note 24 =================  
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 12/16 From: BUYS59A BARBARA HILL Time: 7:46 PM My copy from the library is also illustrated by N. C. Wyeth! A bonus! His father is one of my all time favorites. B. Hill =============== Reply 18 of Note 24 =================  
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 12/16 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 11:39 PM Ruth: And that can't have been a pretty sight, a great big rat getting danced to death... Dale in Ala., whose copy of MICHAEL STROGOFF awaits at the library =============== Reply 19 of Note 24 =================  
To: BUYS59A BARBARA HILL Date: 12/17 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 0:08 AM Barbara, methinks you have the generations backwards, if it's Andrew Wyeth you love. Andrew is N.C.'s son. Ruth =============== Reply 20 of Note 24 =================  
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 12/17 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 10:02 PM Ruth and all, I wonder why the American edition changed artists. My French version is illustrated by J. Ferat and engraved by Ch. Babant. Have you heard of Ferat before? I haven't, but the illustrations are wonderful! They really capture the flavor of the book and are done in intricate detail. I haven't read the autobiographical material yet, but I am wondering if the book was serialized before it was published as a whole work. Edd, do you know? I am on p. 200. Jane who has the end of the semester to deal with =============== Reply 21 of Note 24 =================  
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 12/17 From: BUYS59A BARBARA HILL Time: 11:12 PM Oops, you're right. I stand corrected. B. Hill =============== Reply 22 of Note 24 =================  
To: BUYS59A BARBARA HILL Date: 12/19 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 10:46 PM I have just passed the half way mark of this book. At this point, our hero is in big trouble. Will he make it to the Grand Duke? Will he be able to save the Czar's derriere? I love the cliffhangers in this book. It reminds me of some of the stories I loved as a child. BTW, I am quite sure that Monsieur Verne would be shocked to hear a lady mention the word derriere when referring to a "certain" part of the body. I can hear all of you, "That's no lady, it's Jane!" Jane who is thrilled to have finished the semester =============== Reply 23 of Note 24 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 12/19 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 11:14 PM Gee, Jane, I thought derriere was the word ladies use. Ruth, who can think of lots of names ladies DON'T use =============== Reply 24 of Note 24 =================  
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 12/20 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 9:57 PM Ruth, My mother told me that her grandmother instructed her never to say the words arms and legs. Ladies referred to such appendages as limbs. I am sure that a "lady" in the 19th century never referred to the derriere, even if she thought about it now and then. Jane who wishes she had known her grandmothers =============== Reply 27 of Note 24 =================  
To: FBED59A EDWARD HOUGHTON Date: 12/21 From: FBED59A EDWARD HOUGHTON Time: 3:29 PM MICHAEL STROGOFF COURIER OF THE CZAR comments contd There is one thing that intrigues me about Verne's plotting in this novel. The way he introduces his characters in pairs. The two newsmen, Harry Blount and Alcide Jolivet come onstage even before the hero and heroine. Blount and Jolivet appear at all the crucial happenings. They go out of their way to not only appear to be neutral, but by their actions they actually are. There is a subplot with Blount and Jolivet starting as fierce competitors, and after sharing risks, the best of friends. Even before the "good cop, bad cop", Blount and Jolivet use that technique. The Frenchman is described as "all eyes" while the Englishman is "all ears". The Frenchman is loquacious while the Englishman is taciturn. One most interesting remark on the newspapermen is almost jarring because of its comparison to our 09's norm: "...It must be added to their honor, that neither the one nor the other ever looked over or listened at the walls of private life, and that they only exercised their vocation when political or social interests were at stake." My God! What a concept. Reporters with honor. Reporting history, not scandal. All in all, two interesting characters with minor plot roles. Does anyone know if Verne used these reporters in other storie? The hero and heroine are not introduced simultaneously, but the narration of Michael Strogoff's stalwartness and all around heroic demeanor lead to the introduction of Nadia Fedor. Verne uses pure narrative to convince us of Michael Strogoff's resolve and character, but when it comes to the beautiful Nadia he reinforces his words with a small train crash. Both Michael and Nadia remain calm throughout; it is obviously a match made in heaven. In the most fitting manner, the villains of this piece are introduced in the shadows of a gypsy camp. Ivan Ogareff, a traitor, a master of disguises, cruel, a bully and an all around bad fellow is living with a master spy, Sangarre. It is hinted of coursem, that they are living in sin. Heros aren't allowed to do such things, at least not in the late 19th century literature. Milton once said it was better to reign in Hell, than be holy in Heaven (or something like that), maybe this is what he was thinking about. But all in all, both women; Nadia and Sangarre are exceptionally strong. And their loyalties are never in question. The public servant Nicholas and his dog Serko are given a brief introduction. Nicholas sticks to his post until the times are untenable; then he leaves quickly, not to reappear until later when he is able to offer transportation in the form of a cart. The nobility of his end is matched by the dog, Serko, who dies fighting off vultures who are trying to finish off Nicholas. Edd Houghton =============== Reply 28 of Note 24 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 12/21 From: FBED59A EDWARD HOUGHTON Time: 3:29 PM Jane Niemeier I am not sure if MICHAEL STROGOFF was serialized. But just looking at a couple of chapter lengths, it appears that they are very close in length. Uniform length would, I assume, be a requirement for serialization. Not a proof but an indication. I am certain that AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS was serialized (in the US), and indeed fueled the traveling fad that goes on today. The great journalist, Nelly Bly, using Mr Pulitzer's money beat the eighty days only a few years after Verne's book was published in 1872. THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, which was published in 1875, was serialized in the US. I remember reading (somewhere) that Verne had a contract where he was paid by the chapter. The resourceful Mr Verne saw this as a great opportunity to relieve the newspaper people of a lot of money, and stretched the book out so much that Pulitzer canceled the contract and did not publish the last chapters. No doubt alienating some of his readers. MICHAEL STROGOFF was published in 1876, one year after THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND. So, I am not sure if it was serialized in the US newspapers, but it is possible. What serialization occurred in France, I don't know. Sorry, it's just a long winded way of saying, I don't know. Edd Houghton who want to remind all of you kids, that Santa really prefers BEER to milk. =============== Reply 29 of Note 24 =================  
To: FBED59A EDWARD HOUGHTON Date: 12/23 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 9:44 PM Edd, Thanks for your reply. I am hoping to finish MS tomorrow. It kind of reminds me of Voltaire's CANDIDE, because the same characters keep popping up even when you think that they are dead like Nadia. Voltaire was very tongue-in-cheek about his book since it was a satire while Verne seems to be very serious. Jane in chilly Colorado =============== Reply 30 of Note 24 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 12/24 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 10:16 PM Edd and all, I finished MS this morning. Did anyone else have a problem with MS's overwhelming sense of duty? I hated it when he left his mother behind among the Tartars and left with Nadia. Plot spoiler - I had a feeling that our hero would somehow regain his sight at the end, but I liked the way Verne handled it and tried to explain it scientifically. He did give us hints along the way, such as Nadia thinking that M's eyes looked normal, just bluer than ever. Any translation questions? Jane in Colorado where it is snowing =============== Reply 31 of Note 24 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 12/26 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 9:41 AM Jane: Verne can sure spin a good yarn, can't he? True, the scene where he forsakes his mother is a bit harsh, but I think that just goes with the territory of being a classic hero. From Odysseus through the American westerns and beyond, whenever it comes down to a choice between momma/wife/sweetheart and foiling them evil-doers, then a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. I guess Verne watched a lot of westerns when he was growing up. And as Edd points out, he doesn't stint on bringing the countryside alive, either. I don't even begrudge him the mini-travelogs because he does them with such relish. Just a reminder, I guess, that in the days before the Discovery Channel and Microsoft Encarta on CD-ROM, popular fiction served a lot more functions than it does today. Dale in Ala. =============== Reply 32 of Note 24 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 12/26 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 10:15 AM Jane, I'll send in my question about translation when I am back in Milwaukee. I didn't bring the book up here. Brought lots of other books, though. Today is my reading day. Sherry =============== Reply 33 of Note 24 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 12/30 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 12:54 PM Jane: Two quick questions about translation of MS, if you please... --In the second or third page of Chapter 4, where the Tartar armies are encamped on the river bluff to celebrate their victories, my book says they had "orgies" planned for that night. Is this in the contemporary sense, or did Verne just mean that they really planned to boogie down? --Several Russian males throughout use the strange term "little father" with each other, seemingly as kind of a bonding device, in the way "buddy" is used in my part of the country. Does the original shed any light on how this term originated? I'm getting very near the end of MICHAEL STROGOFF, and Michael and Nadia are seemingly in deeper sh** than at any time before, which is saying a lot. Will they make it? I'll soon know... Thanks, Dale in Ala. =============== Reply 34 of Note 24 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 12/30 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 11:03 PM Dale, I assume that you mean Chapter 4, of the Second Part. The French says, "Une fete avec chants, danses et fantasias, et suivie de quelque bruyante orgie, devait etre donnee en leur honneur." " A party with songs, dancing, musical fantasies, and followed by some noisy orgy, was supposed to be given in their honnor." I looked up "orgie" in my dictionary to make certain: "Orgy; drunken feasting or feast." "Petit pere" is used in French as well. I am wondering if this is a translation from Russian. Do we have any speakers of Russian in the group? I love answering these questions. If anyone else has a translation question, please let me know. Jane in sunny Colorado =============== Reply 35 of Note 24 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 12/31 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 1:27 PM Jane, I have a question for you. I have a very old paperback that doesn't even attribute the translation.Some of the sen- tences seem awkward, as if they were a literal translation that didn't quite mean the same thing in English. Let's see if I can explain the whereabouts of one of the sentences in question. In Chapter 16, about the third page down, there is a paragraph that starts "There's a thicket!" then the next paragraph ends in this sentence: "He led his horse to the stream and fastened him to a tree, returning to the edge of the road to listen and ascertain with what sort of people he had to do." I immediately asked the book "do what?" It almost sounds like American slang. I'm sure it's not meant that way. Sherry in Milwaukee where this is this bright light-type experience going on outside. You've heard tell of this thing called "sun" that they say shines in other parts of the world? It seems to be visiting us for a change. =============== Reply 36 of Note 24 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 12/31 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 10:06 PM Sherry, I have searched high and low for this passage. I found "Over there is a thicket". The next paragraph is, "Michel Strogoff was advancing as rapidly as possible but with a certain prudence. He was relying not only on the excellence of his eyes which pierced the shadows but also on the carefulness of his horse whose wisdom he knew well". This is a very awkward translation, I know. Am I in the right spot? Jane in warm and sunny Colorado =============== Reply 37 of Note 24 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 01/01 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 11:02 AM The next paragraph after the paragraph that starts "There is a thicket" is translated in my book as: "In a few moments, Michael, dragging his horse by the bridle, reached a little larch-wood..." The sentence I asked about in my note is the last sentence of this paragraph. The very next paragraph has a phrase that I wonder about too. "Michael had scarcely taken up his position behind a group of larches when a confused light appeared, above which glared brighter lights waving about in the shadow." In fact that sentence is the entire paragraph. The question is what is a "confused light"? Sherry on New Year's Day! Happy, Happy! =============== Reply 38 of Note 24 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 01/01 From: DHGK37A ERNEST BELDEN Time: 3:09 PM Hi everybody, I finished this book a few days ago and due to the holidays been unable to do much posting. Hopefully things will change now in our household. Like Dale, Verne was one of my favorite authors when I was in my - probably early - teens. I liked the combination of naivite, heroism, duty, adventure and science. The style, which now seems archaic at that time was a special bonus for me. My comments will suffer due to the fact that I had to return my copy of MS to the library. It was an ancient and questionable translation. The sentences often were awkward or improper- but what the heck, who cares - I am involved in a deep adventure! One of my questions pertains to history. Was there an uprising of the Tartars, etc.? Tolstoy's Hadji Murad deals with a Siberien uprising and my guess is that there were many such occasions. Verne made an interesting comment which I would have liked to check up on. He mentioned the name of a French Lady Aristocrat who had travelled the same places mentioned in his book. My guess would be that he had read her book and that it helped him with his Geographic details. The introduction to my ancient Volume of Verne mentioned his interest in geography and I wondered if he actually visited Russia. My very limited reading of Russian authors leads me to believe that Little Father, etc., was a common expression perhaps like the one Dale experienced in the Deep South. The ending of the book reminded me of other Verne ending. Vaguely remember the story of the Islandic Vulcanos and the unexpected and odd survival of the explorers. In the days when this book was written, a positive lucky ending did not hurt. In general I was happy to having returned to my childhood hero- Verne by coursey of Sherry and Edd. Ernie on the First Day of the New Year working on his New Years Resolutions which are mainly of a dietary nature. Anyone else preoccupied with this topic? =============== Reply 39 of Note 24 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 01/01 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 10:39 PM Sherry, Here is the translation from "Over there is a thicket" to the confused light part. "'Over there is a thicket', he said to himself.'To seek refuge there is to allow myself to be caught if these horsemen search around here, but I have no choice. Here they are! Here they are!' A few instants afterwards, MS, dragging his horse by the bridle, arrived at a small woods of larches, to which the road gave access. On all sides of the thicket, there were no trees. It was between bogs and ponds separated by dwarf bushes of gorse and heather. On both sides the terrain was therefore absolutely impassable, and the detachment must assuredly pass in front of the little woods because the soldiers were following the main road to Irkoutsk. MS threw himself under the cover of the larches and, having gone in about 40 feet, he was stopped by a stream of water which closed off this woods with its semi-circular course. But the shadow was so thick that MS ran no risk of being seen, unless the woods was thoroughly searched. He led his horse to the stream,and he tied it to a tree, then he returned to stretch out on edge of the woods, in order to decide what course of action he would have to take. Hardly had MS taken his place behind the thicket of larches when a rather dim glimmer of light appeared. Here and there were a few brighter points of light in the shadow." I think that covers the part you were asking about. The confused light is a dim light. Jane in warm and sunny Colorado =============== Reply 40 of Note 24 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 01/02 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 9:08 AM I think you must be a much better translater than the one they had in my edition. Imagine saying "confused light" when you could say "dim light". And the passage I originally asked about "ascertain what sort of people he had to do" makes no sense, but your translation does. I think the tranlator must not have known English as well as he/she knew French. Thanks. There are lots of other places where the writing is just as awkward, but we could be here a long time. I think I must have the same ancient edition that Ernie had. Sherry in warming up Milwaukee =============== Reply 41 of Note 24 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 01/02 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 9:33 PM Sherry, I really enjoyed doing that, so if there are any other passages that you would like me to take a look at, please let me know. Remember, however, that I have to go back to work on Monday, so this weekend would be a good time to post those questions. Jane who is really not trying to put pressure on anyone =============== Reply 3 of Note 2 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 01/14 From: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Time: 11:09 PM MICHAEL STROGOFF, continued..... Jane, thanks very much for the insights you've afforded us with your services as our translator. I have to admit that back when I asked if you might be able to find MICHAEL STROGOFF in French (I seem to recall it was a fairly casual suggestion in a Chat) I thought it was un- likely that you would indeed be able to find this rather obscure Jules Verne novel in the original. I guess that'll teach me not to underestimate your resourcefulness and ded- ication; in any case, your efforts are very much appreciated. My curiosity in this matter was originally piqued some years ago by an article on JV in THE SCIENCE FICTION ENCY- CLOPEDIA, the relevant passage being: These [AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS, TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, etc.] were the books of JV's prime, written with what one might call jubilant flow, but as a whole they were execrably translated, cut, bowdlerized and travestied. The reputation he long had in English-speaking countries for narrative clumsiness and ignorance of scientific matters was fundamentally due to his innumerate and illiterate translators who -- along with the publishers who commisioned their work -- remained impenetrably of the conviction that he was a writer of overblown juveniles and that it was thus necessary to trim him down, to eliminate any inapprop- riately adult complexities, and to pare the confusing scientific material to an absolute minimum. There are some newer translations, though even recent versions of these books are not untroubled by cuts and incoherence. Also, a few years ago I re-read AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS, a novel I had enjoyed immensely at the age of 12, and was so taken aback by the flaws I noticed that I wondered if it was really the same book. Therefore I was quite interested to see what you could tell us from your reading of the original. It does seem clear, from a com- parison of the excerpt you've translated with the version I have at hand, that at the very least the frequent awk- wardness of the prose in the English version can be laid to the linguistic butchery commited by some deservedly uncredited middleman. The liberties that have been taken in the translation process seem so extreme that I wonder if what I read is merely a revision of someone else's translation. Certainly, there is more than just one English version floating around, as mine shows some differences from the quotes that Sherry supplied -- "copse" instead of "thicket", for example. (I'm using the 1927 Scribner's edition with color plates by N.C. Wyeth -- a bit scuffed up but in remarkably sound condit- ion for a 70-year-old library book.) Still, despite the shameful treatment given his work by the forementioned bunglers, Verne is still read more than a century after his heyday -- a telling indication of his undeniable genius for spinning a yarn. Now, I was well aware, as anyone reading Verne nowadays should be, that he wrote for an audience with different demands and expectations than a modern one, and that those who would criticize his work must, to be fair, take this into account. So it makes little sense to take JV to task for his stereotyped characters, as his readers did not buy his books for their depth of characterization; his coinci- dence-riddled plots seem no more contrived for such fiction of his day; the excess of scenery and dwelling on "local color", easily tedious for a modern reader, was just the thing that JV's 19th-century expected and most enjoyed. All that said, however, I find it impossible to forgive JV for what strikes me as out-and-out cheating -- the revelation at the story's climax that Michael Strogoff has been feigning his blindness all along. Not only does JV retroactively rob the book's most gripping sequence of its power by revealing that it never really happened, but to do so he violates what any writer should take as an inviolable principle: never, never lie to the reader. To deliberately mislead, as mystery authors do as a matter of course, is one thing, but if Verne chooses to write "Michael Strogoff was blind," the reader has every right to believe he means just that, and to be indignant on finding out that it wasn't so. That twist in the plot would be insupportable even if JV had been a bit more subtle and only implied, rather than flatly stating the "fact" of MS's blindness, since there is no reason for our hero to go on faking it, and thereby imposing a greater burden on Nadia, after the ruse had worked in effecting their escape from the Tartars. Beside all that, I flat-out don't buy the notion that it's possible for a sighted person to convincingly simulate blindness. Strogoff's best efforts to force his eyes to appear to stare unseeing into the distance would very soon be betrayed by their natural, automatic tendency to con- verge on a nearby object and instantly give the game away. In short, I'm willing to make allowances for the sake of being fair, but this little trick of JV's stretched my ability to do so way past the limit. I may be coming back to this subject soon; I have a recent biography of Verne on order, and now that my interest has been stirred up I'll likely drop everything else to dive into it. ************************* Since I have some space left, I thought I might as well share this slightly-connected anecdote by Isaac Asimov, from his book THE STARS IN THEIR COURSES: In my youth, my father discovered that science fiction was my favorite reading matter. Memory stirred within him and he said to me: "Science fiction! Going to the moon! Aha! Tell me, did you maybe ever read books by Zhoolvehrn?" I stared at him blankly. "Who?" "Zhoolvehrn," he repeated. I was rather chagrined. I flattered myself that I knew the important writers of the world, together with the important *and* unimportant science fiction writers, and it annoyed me to be found wanting. "What did he write?" I asked. "Science fiction. Going to the moon, and so on. Oh, and he wrote a book about a man who went around the world in eighty days." Light broke with a blinding brilliance. I knew the author well, but my father had never heard the name pro- nounced in anything but the French fashion. I said (and in the excitement my stately Brooklyn became a trifle more prominent than usual) "Oh, sure. The author you mean is Joolz Voin." And my father said, "Who?" Allen =============== Reply 5 of Note 2 =================  
To: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Date: 01/15 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 2:42 PM Allen, I certainly agree with you about the translations. My very old paperback copy didn't even attribute a translator, so I expect s/he was the equivalent of those "artists" who do assembly line paintings that are sold en masse in hotel meeting rooms. Re: the blindness Verne did cheat a bit, didn't he? I didn't buy the reason he really WASN'T blinded. A bit of faux science it seems. Sherry =============== Reply 6 of Note 2 =================  
To: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Date: 01/15 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 2:43 PM Meant to say I really appreciate your typing out the "Joolz Voin" story. It was a hoot. =============== Reply 7 of Note 2 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 01/15 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 3:14 PM Yes, Allen, the Joolz Voin story was funny. Glad to see you posting. Ruth =============== Reply 8 of Note 2 =================  
To: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Date: 01/15 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 9:26 PM Hi Allen, I always enjoy reading your well-thought out notes. I had a feeling while I was reading that Michel wasn't really blind even though the French says, "Michel Strogoff etait aveugle," in a one sentence paragraph. As you said, it translates as, "MS was blind." I was fairly sure that JV would want to offer his readers a happy ending to this romantic story. If Nadia were a modern character, she would have let old Michel have it for letting her worry so much. I also loved your Zhoolvairn story. It makes a French teacher's heart glad. Jane in sunny CO =============== Reply 9 of Note 2 =================  
To: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Date: 01/26 From: FBED59A EDWARD HOUGHTON Time: 3:28 AM Allen Crocker The blindness explanation didn''t set well with me either on this re-reading. Most of my visuals of this story come from an old movie. I remember Akim Tamirof played Michael. I can't remember the actress who played Nadia, but she had "haunting" eyes. Probably seen about 1940-1944 time frame. But this was one instance where the movie improved upon the book. The movie version had Michael crying (for the beauty he would never again see) and the tears provided a protection for the eyes. In this case he is blinded, but his sight gradually returns, until he is faking blindness at the end. An improvement on the master, I do believe. =============== Reply 10 of Note 2 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 01/26 From: FBED59A EDWARD HOUGHTON Time: 3:28 AM Sherry Keller Another problem with translations is the widening divergence between the English and the American ear. The sounds and nuances that fit the English scene do not always ring true; at least not for my American ear. I would think the reverse is also true. You can spot this in dubbed movies. Most French (for instance) movies are dubbed by English actors. Proximity pays off. But they grate on the ear. Occasionally, of late, you do run across American actors, and it makes a heck of a difference. Edd Houghton as the clock approaches midnight (Pacific Time) and Denver has an edge on the rest of the world.

Jules Verne

Michael Strogoff is indeed an adventure story, but Verne does indulge in another of his loves; geographical details. By the time the final chapter appears you feel that you are personally acquainted with the landscape between Moscow and Irkutsk.
Verne can sure spin a good yarn, can't he? True, the scene where he forsakes his mother is a bit harsh, but I think that just goes with the territory of being a classic hero. From Odysseus through the American westerns and beyond, whenever it comes down to a choice between momma/wife/sweetheart and foiling them evil-doers, then a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.
The sentences often were awkward or improper- but what the heck, who cares - I am involved in a deep adventure!

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