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Left Bank Books , Saturday, February 1, at 4pm.
Join us for a reading group discussion of Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert! Beautiful but bored, she spends lavishly on clothes and on her home and embarks on two disappointing affairs in an effort to make her life everything she believes it should be. Soon heartbroken and crippled by debts, she takes drastic action, with tragic consequences for her husband and daughter.
Lot at 10th and Olive; garage at 10th between Locust and Washington; street parking meters free after 7pm For directions and public transportation information, click here. Left Bank Books - Downtown Additional: United States added from IndieBound … more. Jeannet Ulrikkeholm Forfatter og cand. Village Books , Sunday, December 9, at 2pm.
Motherhood by the Book is led by Claire, VB staffer, mother of a toddler, and stepmother of an adolescent. This group is by no means exclusive to moms with kids still at home, but much of the selection may be geared toward issues that those moms face. We will read fiction, non-fiction, and parenting books.
Els escriptors en les seves cartes. CaixaForum , Thursday, May 5, at 7: Gustave Flaubert , Selected Letters. And finally, says Gracq, there are the intercontinental novels, linking the different regions and binding the Vernian corpus into a coherent entity, such as Le Tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours, or Les Enfants du capitaine Grant.
The four elements — earth, air, fire and water or its solid equivalent, ice — mark out the geographical parameters of the Voyages extraordinaires, and give them a mythical scope that has certainly not gone unnoticed by commentators. Nor does it mean that each region is covered only once before the author moves on. Verne has his favoured settings — Scotland, Oceania, the polar regions, South America, southern Africa — to which he returns in two or more novels. But unlike his hunter, he is also engaged on a quest for an overarching sense of coherence, totality, unity.
As the corpus of novels grows, numerous texts pick up and integrate elements of previous texts, so that the whole system becomes a vast but precariously unified, often self-referring network. His textual environment thus depends on the contrasting sense of multiplicity and variety on the one hand, synthesis and control on the other hand. Nonetheless, there is also in his work a vaguer, and less easily identifiable, yearning for totality — total knowledge, total coverage, total possession: Through me, aerostatic art would render immense services to the world, if God were to grant me a long enough life!
That mythical temptation will recur everywhere in the writing of Jules Verne, and the figures of Vulcan, Prometheus, Icarus, Neptune and others reappear in modern guise, as engineers and scientists become godlike creatures in their turn, reaching out and almost touching the infinite. The story is about a Swiss clockmaker who believes that the timepieces he creates are so perfect that they contain the secret of life itself. Yet Zacharius, believing too much in himself, is punished by the failure of his timepieces, indeed the failure of time itself.
The desire to possess the infinite, to touch the essence of creation, leads to his undoing. It is a tragic pattern that will remain and recur in the writings of Jules Verne, notwithstanding the exuberant levity of so many of his stories. His heroes are always potential outcasts or monomaniacs who have rejected or are rejected by society. In the case of Nemo, in Vingt mille lieues sous les mers, or Le Kaw-djer, hero of En Magellanie, they create a parallel world in which they are miniature gods and enjoy almost supreme power.
So the infinite, though it may be yearned for and almost grasped by some Vernian characters, is never reached. The sense of the sanctity of creation is almost always tangible, and this is much more than some vague sense of religious awe. It is often implied in the Voyages extraordinaires that since man cannot challenge God, his claim to control society or nature is a wanton disruption of an order that is not his own.
The invisible and all-powerful Nemo, a demi-god in his underwater realm, is ultimately weakened and undermined by his hatred and desire for revenge on his fellow-mortals. All that one finds is a kind of deference towards God, but addressed more to the cosmic clockmaker than to the redeemer of mankind. Our friend Aubineau tells me that they are charming, except for an absence which tarnishes everything and leaves the marvels of the world in a state of enigma.
It is beautiful, but inanimate. Journeys in Writing to its own failure. Knowledge is only ever a borrowing from known sources, and any unveiling of the unknown has been accomplished prior to the relaying process. The attempt to totalise knowledge is premised, paradoxically, upon the suggestion of total indebtedness, for the text itself is an intertext made up of, and leading back to, infinitely many other texts. Or, to replace the image of the ellipse with that of a constellation, any particular text is an infinitesimal point in the giddying firmament of knowledge, always potentially lost in the infinite spaces of words.
The greater the coverage, the more numerous the gaps that are revealed, so the totalising ambition can be expressed only through a process of fragmentation. Like a constellation, the corpus of novels can represent only a schematic series of points in the immense emptiness, acknowledging their own inability to cover the ever-widening gaps between those infinite spaces. Verne discovers, as did Balzac before him through the portrayal of Restoration and post-Restoration France, that the process of expanding his fictional universe leads to an ever-increasing sense of its incompleteness, as the open spaces widen.
Pierre Macherey shows in his rich and influential study that the master plan is proved radically impossible in the course of its execution, and indeed that this deviation from, or subversion of, the original intention is precisely the point of interest of the Voyages extraordinaires. And Andrew Martin, drawing attention to the Vernian dream of completing the circle of knowledge and closing it off, similarly emphasises that the closing of the gap entails only further fragmentation.
Jules Verne stands, he says, as an ironic commentator on the processes of totalisation of knowledge, for knowledge is no more than the discovery of ignorance and emptiness, or at best the return to the already known. The search for new knowledge goes hand in hand with the awareness that any attempt to relay it is an act of repetition and recycling. Nonetheless if the unknown, when claimed, becomes the known and shifts into the past tense, then the already known, when revisited, still contains the thrilling promise of new futures.
The known and the unknown, the past and the future, stand in a profoundly ambivalent and problematic relationship. We shall now look more closely at some examples of this temporal paradox and at the ways in which it enriches the overall textual environment of the Voyages extraordinaires.
Journeys in Writing trouvaille. To discuss it alongside such works, as so many of its press reviewers understandably felt inclined to do, is to decontextualise it and to convey an entirely wrong impression. This spawned a further series of articles, often hailing Verne as a techno-prophet. The following is a selection: Ironically, to readers familiar with the nineteenth-century context and who pick up on the obvious clues in the text, this novel in fact undermines the myth of Verne as prophet.
The future it adumbrates is not a real future at all, but a vision above all of the nineteenth century itself. And Barnes adds with an appropriate touch of acidity, given the difference between the truth of the text itself and the commercial imperatives that go with its re-editing: This is one instance among many of the way in which the text remains firmly anchored in representations of the nineteenth century.
Journeys in Writing as fundamentally dependent on the nineteenth century as its originating moment, and able only to look backwards to its beginnings there. On the contrary, there is virtually no descriptive skill involved here at all, since so much of what he writes is based on his pillaging of contemporary texts. However, far from covering this up and pretending to be the visionary he is not, he quite openly reveals it. His depiction of a metro system with driverless trains pp.
It attracted very considerable attention and was the subject of numerous newspaper articles. As has often been said, Verne rarely if ever goes beyond what is actually known and documented. Fascinatingly, Verne provides an echo of his own time as he recycles and re-uses the texts available to him. Vernian scholars have often pointed out, in a refutation which is by now standard, that the Voyages extraordinaires are far from being the work of a technological prophet. We shall be returning shortly to these interesting and intensely problematic texts.
As Julian Barnes points out in his review of Paris in the Twentieth Century, we are all essentially indulgent of prophets and prognosticators. We want them to exist, and we want to believe them right. It is true that many readers simply want to see Verne as a soothsayer, and will not face the disappointment of having to revise their view of him.
But another, perhaps more serious reason for this view of him is that in the nineteenth century the interest in technological or scientific change was itself suggestive of a spectacular new dawn. Science and technology were still considered innovative and magical, for they indicated the emergence of a new lifestyle which excited and fascinated people. The popularity of the Expositions universelles in the second half of the century, accompanied at various stages by those Salons which celebrated commercial or industrial achievements, is itself an indication that this century believed it was reaching out to new technological futures through its inventiveness and its industrial power.
The point is made on more than one occasion by Verne himself. What I mean by that is that all the progress made, from the candle to electric light, from the stagecoach to the express train which moves at around sixty miles an hour, is quite simply so extraordinary that the majority of people cannot grasp it. Journeys in Writing magnificent, cornucopian present which promises so many possibilities. His particular originality as a writer, as we have seen, is to have introduced the mechanical or technological dimension into the literary text at a time when literature and science were still held to be puzzlingly incompatible.
The Nautilus is less a feat of engineering than a collage of documents assembled by the author, who thus proceeds exactly as does the narrator of his tale, in a revealingly specular relationship. That modern Vernian enthusiasts should make drawings or models of the Nautilus in an apparently well-intentioned attempt to demonstrate its seaworthiness or the modernity of its design seems charmingly beside the point. Although it might in its unrealistic spaciousness be a good deal more comfortable than any modern submarine, the Nautilus would in reality be an impossible, implausible, impractical machine, even supposing it were capable of travelling an inch.
As Verne realised, the easiest, cleanest, cheapest and most convenient way to travel is in word, thought and text. That Verne should have envisaged a form of literature which achieves a fusion between contemporary journalistic or scientific documents and the requirements of fiction is itself of far more interest than the quality of the scientific vision he proposes.
Yet that form of writing further anchors him as a man who captured the mood of his century — a true nineteenthcentury believer in the role that science and technology must henceforth play in every aspect of life, and a firm advocate of the very ideology of progress.
The vision of the future goes full circle and returns to an earlier era, even as that earlier era presupposes a future which will remain fixated on it. We have two temporal continents, and the only journey that can be made between them is that of words and texts which shuttle back and forth, with literature the vehicle that transports us from one place to another. And since the journey into an unknown future is accomplished ch Olivier Dumas, who has ch It portrays a world in which the United States has become the universal political and commercial power, and — in a very nineteenth-century vision — the dominant colonising nation.
Francis Benett, owner of the New Yorkbased Earth Herald formerly the New York Herald , spends his day visiting his offices in various locations, video-conferencing with his wife who has gone shopping in Paris, and totting up the profits made by his highly successful newspaper which is printed world-wide from electronic copy. It is a perfectly coherent vision of a capitalist and technological utopia though perhaps Verne did not need to fast-forward by ten centuries to find it , a global village of which New York is the communications epicentre. In a vision which itself exemplifies the positivism of its age, the story positions the nineteenth century as the starting-point, that vital first moment of technological innovation.
If new inventions are to be admired because they surpass earlier ones, then, by the same logic, earlier progress has also to be admired for what it made possible. As in the Parisian novel, there is a constant looking back to the time at which the text was written. In the early stages of the story, we come across phrases such as: From its remote location in time, the story envisions a nineteenth century that is astonishing and extraordinary.
If it looks ahead to a new world, it nonetheless looks through it and back to the time of its writing and its initial readership. The journey in time is like the journeys in space described in Autour de la lune and Hector Servadac — an elliptical trajectory that returns the narrative to its own starting point.
Here is what Robida writes: The old electric telegraph, that application of electricity in its early years, was ousted first by the telephone, then by the telephonoscope, which is the perfect final development of the telephone. The telegraph made it possible to understand a remote interlocutor or correspondent, the telephone to hear him, the telephonoscope to see him at the same time.
What more could we wish for? It was by no means unthinkable in such a climate to conclude that real-time sound-and-image communication was not far off, and there was feverish speculation about the possibilities it opened up. If a new temporal dimension opens up, it returns us inexorably to the old, and the idea of forward movement is itself a constant journey in reverse. The text is merely a fiction of the future that displays its own fictional quality and returns us to the nineteenth century. Many of his stories lead up to, and end in, a narrative present which is usually also the moment of their real-life composition.
The present is the pinnacle of human achievement. Yet if the present is so alluring, it is partly also because it has the ability to appeal to the future as the guarantor of its own spectacular quality.
salammbo and other works by gustave flaubert unexpurgated edition halcyon classics Manual
The American train in which Phileas Fogg travels in Le Tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours epitomises the magic of modern engineering — magic indeed, for the train actually leaps across an open gulf at Medicine Creek where a bridge has collapsed, defying all the laws of physics and mechanics in the process. The train here represents the triumph of civilisation over nature, the future over the past.
It symbolises the taming of wild expanses through the willpower of the engineer, that most revered of figures in the Voyages ch Journeys in Writing extraordinaires. This apotheosis of human ingenuity suggests that the present is itself a kind of future, for the train is a place where everything can now be considered possible.
Notice the tenses in the following sequence: Mais il y en aura un jour. All that was missing were theatre carriages. But they will come, one day. The future is already with us, and it is nothing other than the present. Just as the quest for conquest of new territories leads back to its starting point, and just as the search for new knowledge ends up in a repetition of the old, so too the vision of the future leads back to the past even as the past looks out to its own future.
In this journey of departure and return, past and future stand face to face, reflecting and referring to each other in a potentially infinite vacuum. Meanwhile, the past looks out to the future. Yet its interest is precisely in the fact that it pushes the Vernian structure of a future-in-the-past to its absolute limit, and to that extent it has been seen ch There is always the possibility, or the danger, of an infinitely recurring journey between the two temporal points, a meaningless shuttling back and forth, finding the justification for the present in the future and the meaning of the future in the past.
In his view, human knowledge — in very positivistic fashion — strides forward on the strength of previous discoveries and, as its insights accumulate, it is able to delve ever more deeply into the past where it finds the cause and the explanation of its own superiority. He feels sure that such knowledge will justify his view of history as an ascending movement. Journeys in Writing for lost origins, and another example of the way in which so many of the journeys of the Voyages extraordinaires are journeys backwards in time.
He is now forced to recognise that, far from ascending progressively to perfection, history is cyclical. A major part of this text includes, in an appropriately specular fashion, an earlier text which documents the end of a previous civilisation. This is the void of eternal recurrence, the admission of the potential absurdity of all writing and all progress, where text becomes the echo of all previous texts, the textwithin-a-text, the unending repetition of a lost origin. The journey into unknown regions is a journey in words and time that is also a journey back to the point of departure.
All that writing can ever be is a palimpsest, each text a mere layer in the infinite accumulation of documents, unable to do anything more than acknowledge its enclosure within a proliferating system. Various systems and superstitions are propounded; then, one day, someone proposes a regressive method. But, to locate book B, you must first consult book C, then book D, and so on. This of course leads nowhere but backwards — but backwards is the only way forwards. It underlines the lurking ch If the explicit ideological project is to stress the forward movement of history and the fabulous onward strides of human progress, then the method of asserting such an ideology ends up by reversing it.
Writing needs to look backwards to its own sources if it is to measure the extent and the scope of the particular journey it undertakes. Like Axel and Lidenbrock who delve into the archive of the past in the depths of the earth whose centre they wish to reach, the Vernian explorer must return to his origins as a precondition to finding the future. As Macherey writes, in a striking insight into Vernian narrative structure: Every text becomes a journey into its own past and its own intertexts, and as it is poised on a knifeedge between the known and the unknown, the recycled and the new, it runs the constant risk of being overrun and invaded by its own antecedents.
Like Flaubert, he discovers in this paradox the very essence of writing, with the fundamental questions this raises about ownership and originality. Since text is everywhere, everything has been said and there can be nothing new. This is the hostile textual environment Verne deals with and attempts to appropriate. But, as we have seen, the very logic of his system is at best paradoxical, at worst potentially self-destructive. Journeys in Writing anticipatory, so quintessentially forward-looking, that any future it suggests leads inexorably back to it.
But the logic of this position is that the present too has a past towards which it must turn, and that in the end there may nowhere be a locus of meaning or sense. But this also accounts for the richness and the fascination of his writing, and gives it a subtlety and a complexity that are so sadly missed by those who would see in his work a straightforward act of prediction. That journey is quintessentially a textual one, for it is built with words and out of words, and it refers constantly to its own verbal status.
But, whether it focuses on hunting and the environment, or on the quest for total coverage of the globe, or on notions of progress and the future — those three key areas highlighted in the last chapter — his writing consistently unveils the complexities and the ambiguities of its own nineteenth-century framework and, crucially, re-enacts these in its textual practices. While Verne ostensibly subscribes to the first principle of realism — that the world can be represented objectively through words — it rapidly becomes apparent that his writing is itself the symbolic locus of the struggles and conflicts that it purports to describe.
Ostensibly a window on the world, writing also turns back on itself and problematises its procedures, even as it grapples with the great themes and subjects of its century. Not least among the paradoxes facing the reader of Verne is the recognition that this writer, who uses so much scientific and factual information as the basis of his fiction, believes perhaps less than any other so-called realist novelist in the objective validity of his verbal representations. Language itself may never be more than a representation or an image, a copy, a paltry fiction, even a distortion in the Vernian world.
However, the existence of what lies beyond language, or is incapable of being linguistically defined, has no place either for the novelist or for his characters, as Michel Ardan makes clear when challenged about the difficulties of covering the distance between the earth and the moon. Distance does not exist! The Vernian explorer may have to navigate round the physical obstacles of a material reality, but above all else he must chart a path through the language that lies in his way, and he must deal with the verbal representations of which he is both the recipient and the purveyor. Words are everywhere; text is ubiquitous.
Nature herself is a vast dictionary full of wondrous and exotic terminologies. Fiction is the relaying and the recasting of multiple intertexts, the novel a dramatisation of language itself as much as the representation of a physical journey. Vernian writing is about the assembling of different texts in the creation of fiction, and is truly a celebration of its own multiplicity. Verne was a compulsive reader and note-taker, and his basic working method was to create novels out of the vast patchwork of data that he amassed patiently and elaborately on a daily basis.
What follows here is a recapitulation of the essentials, by way of emphasising the intensely textual nature of his medium. As is the case with other realist novelists, the notes are part and parcel of the preparatory dossiers that go through numerous stages of refinement until the final work is wrested from them.
Verne works from text, through text, and back into text, in a circular process that rarely takes him far from his verbal medium. His preference for written material over practical research is, in the first instance, a matter of simple expediency, as explained in the well-known interview published in the Chicago Evening Post the day after his death: A good book about the habits and customs of a country can be written only after many years there, and for my part, I would be able to make only a brief trip there at best. Cynics might claim that this renders it easier to recycle, a major bonus for a prolific scribbler in a hurry to move on with his task.
For Foucault, scientific discourse in particular appears in the Vernian text as a foreign element which breaks into the story and takes over. This is paralleled by the status of the scientist figure as an outsider who comments and provides knowledge to the others. Journeys in Writing use of source material will see that it is in some way always reworked and recast, even where the novelist wishes to retain the tone and tenor of the original text. The act of borrowing raises quite as many questions as it answers, and returns us repeatedly to the issue of the textual construction or reconstruction of reality.
But more than this, there is throughout Verne a sense of the magic of text, and this too might help to explain why the guidebook, the manual, the newspaper article or personal eye-witness account is given such high value in the writing process. Yet the power of text is also often suggested in very practical, straightforward terms by Verne. He thus suggests that text, complemented by maps and illustrations of various kinds, creates a more complete perception of the region than would be possible by travelling through it.
In the Chicago Evening Post interview cited above, Verne gives further insights into his bookish approach, explaining: In sum, any books on sale that might interest me. I also have a subscription to all the scientific newspapers. These notes were, and are, all classified according to the subject with which they dealt.
Journeys in Writing newspapers, reviews, and scientific reports, to say nothing of a representative collection of French and English periodical literature. A number of cardboard pigeon-holes […] contain the twenty-odd thousand notes garnered by the author during his long life. Apart from the fact that Verne did not read English fluently though he did read German his index cards were usually thrown away once used.
Many of these reviews were composite publications which included literature, reviews, scientific information and general knowledge. This underlines not only that Verne had a huge appetite for reading, but also that it was fundamental to his compositional approach. The major difference between Verne and Flaubert or, perhaps, Zola was that he concentrated largely — though not exclusively — on the popular side of the publications market.
This is a two-way process. The overt borrowings and citations are a constant reminder that the representation of reality is above all textual.
He joins in the erudite discussion, weaving a path through its known landmarks, frequently moving beyond the plot and onto an altogether different level of discourse. Journeys in Writing characteristic move, the Vernian narrator steps in and takes over. The discourses from within the diegesis give way to a heterodiegetic discourse, in a move that represents both a clash of opposing narrative modes, and a transition from one to the other. In truth, there is not simply one scholarly discourse here, but a whole network of different ones, so that even as science takes over from the voice of the omniscient narrator, science itself fragments into multiple voices.
But Verne always proceeds with texts in hand and citations at his fingertips. But at certain moments, the voices of science take over entirely from the narrative — or are entirely appropriated within it, which is perhaps the same thing. Such as it is, it waters the human species perfectly. It gives that hard strength, the most resistant of all, and it creates the firmest of races. By bringing in the murmur of many voices, Verne makes that murmur into a central component of his own unique voice as a novelist, and he underlines the essential truth that every text is, in some way, a palimpsest.
Reading, writing, and the circulation of texts If reality has no apparent substance beyond words and language in the Vernian world, it follows that the most crucial of qualities are, first and most obviously, the ability to speak and to engage in dialogue, and second, the ability to read and write. In a century which witnesses the massive democratisation of reading and writing, Verne plays a central role in promoting the merits of literacy, and he does so with obvious pedagogical intentions, as Arthur Evans has demonstrated in his study of the Voyages extraordinaires.
The point can sometimes be taken to absurd extremes, for example in the case of Dingo the writing dog in Un capitaine de quinze ans.
Jules Verne: Journeys in Writing (Utp Correspondence James Polk)
Of all the intelligent animals we find in the Voyages extraordinaires and there are many Dingo must surely be the one who takes first prize. Journeys in Writing to his human companions. But one day, Dingo does even better. From a set of wooden play-bricks, he picks out those marked with the letters S and V, and puts them in order.
This is Verne at his most mawkish, no doubt. But every writer is allowed his lapses, and the point is nonetheless proven: Such is the case of the firstperson narrator of Le Chemin de France, Natalis Delpierre, who, having remained illiterate well into adulthood, recounts in the course of the story how he learned to read and write. Crucially, however, it chronicles the developing literacy of Delpierre under the guidance of the Keller family whom he accompanies on their perilous journey to the homeland.
Without the ability to write, Delpierre would not be able to tell the story or to achieve his goal of explaining a two-month absence during a period of military leave. Yet it is also — and significantly — the account of the emergence of the very skill which enables that negotiation to take place. It is a story that explores its own beginnings, and in this sense it is deeply self-reflexive. Negotiation and interaction with the world is here a matter of writing, but in other instances, the process can just as easily be based on reading, since the two activities are so closely related.
The young hero of Un capitaine de quinze ans, Dick Sand, is ruefully aware that his education is defective since he went to sea before he had a chance to complete his schooling. However, as a good and worthy citizen of the world, he recognises that knowledge acquired through books is essential to survival, and he has made strenuous efforts to instruct himself as fully as possible in his ch Conversant with a number of important texts, he uses this bookish knowledge at key moments of the narrative, and it turns out to be a vital tool in his survival kit as he finds himself in charge of a ship adrift on the high seas.
Clearly this is a case of serendipitous reading and an ability to recall it at the right moment, but with other heroes in Verne, reading matter is chosen with a specific aim in mind. Count Ashton, however, has already distinguished himself in the story as a selfish, superficial and ignorant fool. For him, reading in order to interact more fully and more profitably with the world he sees is not on the agenda.
Built explicitly on another text, this episode of the novel grafts both metafictional discourses and non-fictional, geographical discourses onto the ongoing narrative. Samuel Fergusson, the first great Vernian polymath, is the ultimate readertraveller, for whom knowledge and geographical discovery go hand in hand.
Wherever they are, it seems, Fergusson is able to intersperse his conversation with disquisitions and anecdotes about the people, mores, climate, conditions and history of the region, or with historical accounts about the conflicts, struggles and expeditions that have taken place there. He was seized by the local chief and tied up at the foot of a baobab. The ferocious Negro slowly cut his joints as the war chant rang out, then started on the throat, stopped in order ch That poor Frenchman was twenty-six years old!
The episode exemplifies that appropriation of the wilderness, down to its last details, by a European civilisation with its cherished belief in the need to record and pass on all knowledge. The use of the past historic tense in this episode is one of several markers that point to its textual origins. A man of vast reading, he has updated himself fully before his departure on this voyage.
He is a walking, talking manual, a text-man par excellence. Like Verne with his index-cards, he works from text and back into text, and at times it seems as if the actual journey in a balloon is a mere adjunct to the real adventure of reading and writing in which Fergusson is so deeply involved. Aronnax and Lidenbrock, for example, are authors and teachers who produce texts as part of their professional duties, while Axel takes notes for another purpose, that of maintaining a logbook of events during the journey down the Snaeffels crater.
In other cases, ch Journeys in Writing writing is a secret, possibly even a guilty activity that must be hidden, since it is indicated that the outcome of the story may depend on the textual revelations that the character produces. Throughout the corpus, however, the act of writing is represented as a mise en abyme of the storytelling process itself: What this text contains is, though, something that not even the reader finds out.
He is represented as deeply involved in that act of writing: And he did so without ceasing. In the evening, a flickering light swayed in the skylight of his garret. Joseph sat thinking at his table. Morning, then the next evening, found him at the same spot. He seemed to hold on to life by one link. Only one bond kept him on this earth that he seemed to detest.
Pursued for a murder that he did not commit, Garral had fled from Brazil to Peru and, under a new identity, had lived as a farmer and raised a family there. However, on his first return to Brazil since the events of his previous life, he is determined to clear his name. What we subsequently learn is that Garral is hoping to present this memoir to the judge who was in charge of the case, and to clear his name. The act of writing in which figures such as Garral engage is crucial to their survival. Their lives and their well-being depend on a text, so in that sense text is their reality.
At regular intervals in the Voyages extraordinaires we are confronted with a problem of credibility, when narrators write in circumstances that are not conducive to the production of text, or at least not of the text that they deliver to us — for example, when the writer is starving on board a raft as is the case of the narrator Kazallon in Le Chancellor , or when he is in darkness as in Face au drapeau, where the narrator Simon Hart is held in captivity in a confined space and cannot even see what he is writing.
The case of Axel is a particularly interesting one. In this, one of the most famous episodes of the novel, it is clear that he has exceeded his brief and stepped well outside his diegetic space. Many characters in the Voyages extraordinaires, in addition to the first-person narrators, are also producers of texts, as we have seen. They write in circumstances which are sometimes not plausible, creating texts which themselves can be the object of a quest or a conflict in the subsequent development of the plot, or indeed the subject of further texts.
They understand and accept implicitly that texts will circulate endlessly. The difference between consumption and production, or between reading and writing, is often minimal, because texts appear both as sources and as products of the story. Writing — like the extraordinary journeys it represents — involves both the retrieval of known sources and the creation of new documents which, in their turn, will go into circulation. Text emerges from text, interacts with it, and often returns to it at the end.
In the course of a novel, many other texts are evoked and placed on display, some of them threatening to engulf or overshadow the very fiction which gives them space. Texts are always emphatically there in Verne, and usually from the very beginning of his stories. In Vingt mille lieues sous les mers, the hunt for the Nautilus is undertaken not only because of the fact that a gigantic object has been seen patrolling the seas, but more importantly because of the heated debate and discussion that has ensued in the newspapers. This very negative view of indebtedness in Verne makes few concessions to the ways in which he problematises the question of borrowing, or exploits the idea of the circulation of texts.
As soon as we find ourselves in a textual world, it is implied, we are likely to be involved in fictions. Fiction is everywhere, even in scientific text, just as scientific texts are so manifestly present in fiction. Aronnax is the master of ceremonies who ensures permanent continuity in this story between the texts of science and the text of fiction.
The new texts can, it is true, be circulated in oral as well as in written form, or both, and in some cases several different types of text simultaneously break out from the story. These may take the form of memoirs, or scholarly works, or public lectures, or even stories that are recounted and which, we are led to believe, bear an uncanny resemblance to the one we have just finished reading.
The most respected newspapers disputed the rights to print its principal episodes, which were analysed, discussed, attacked or defended with equal conviction in the camps of both believers and sceptics. If so, it is one of the rare predictions that he got right! More importantly, however, the ending of the novel is a deliberate completing of the textual circle, suggesting that the new account in its turn becomes the subject of further readings, investigations and verifications, in a never-ending process of textualisation and re-textualisation.
Then there is also the mandatory public lecture by Fergusson at the Royal Geographical Society which becomes the official account of the journey. Journeys in Writing provided the opportunity to control and refine the findings of Barth, Burton, Speke and others, so too this record of events will in its turn be subjected to the same processes, when new explorers return to the same region and come back with further accounts: The same or a similar journey will, it is implied, be undertaken by new explorers, who in their turn will write it up and turn it into a new text.
The new texts, though dependent on previous texts, will also build upon and refine them endlessly, varying the findings in a process which is destined never to achieve completion though it constantly strives for perfection. And, equally, within that very process lurks the anxiety that it will ultimately prove regressive. So the story, having emerged from texts and been supported by them throughout, finally returns into circulation as a text itself — sometimes indeed as the story we have just read.
Aronnax, for his part, claims in the final stages of Vingt mille lieues sous les mers that he is putting the finishing touches to the narrative we have just read: It is a truthful account of this improbable expedition. But the diversification of the preceding story into different forms and media is also very common in the Voyages extraordinaires. Subsequently, newspaper articles discuss and report the narrative in yet another form, so that the adventure is finally seen to circulate in various arenas where it is the subject of much comment and debate.
As well as reinforcing the point about the essentially linguistic nature of our interaction with the world, the process of metatextual ch As so often in Verne, bold transitions are made between different levels of discourse, creating a continuum between them and giving a very modern and self-conscious feel to his conclusions. The circulation of the text is ensured by another text, and the story begins all over again. But circularity is another mode of circulation. Such is the importance given to the interpolation of other texts that Verne is capable of veering quite suddenly, and often at crucial moments of the narrative, into overtly citational mode.
Yet Verne accepts and indeed celebrates the inevitability of invasion, and rather than attempting to place his own writing in a literary fortress, he takes the risk of opening the gates to all-comers. Texts of all kinds are thus able to make frequent or indeed random incursions into his narrative. While this might appear as a threat to narrative stability or coherence, the process of investment by other texts also produces additional layers of meaning and a reflection on text itself. One striking example of ch Journeys in Writing this occurs when, in Le Tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours, Aouda is introduced into the narrative.
But there are other ways round the problem. What Verne does is have his narrator conspicuously hide from view and to allow the relaying of another, more exotic text, to perform the narrative function at one remove. Here is the moment at which he does this: When the poet-king Ussaf Uddaul celebrates the charms of the queen of Ahmehnagara, he expresses himself in these terms: And so, to get round the difficulty, I try to be very sparing with these scenes.
You ask me to put in a word from the heart in passing! The problem is that the word from the heart just does not come, otherwise it would have been there a long while ago. Beyond this, however, we might see an overt deconstruction of the narrative process, indeed a pointing up of the essentially conventional nature of the love intrigue as a requirement in such stories. Almost any text will do, for there are so many instances of the poeticisation of love in words.
It is true that the example chosen by Verne conveys a sumptuously exotic image of beauty, and that it is particularly suited to the evocation of the beautiful Indian widow. It draws attention to the fact that this is a textual strategy, a grafting of the story onto another text — or the grafting of another text into the story — by way of showing up its status as a textual artefact.
The borrowing of another text thus has precisely the effect of reinforcing the notion that texts circulate at all times and that every narrative, every journey, uses them as a way to move forward. It is the high profile given by Verne to this idea that gives his narrative approach such a strikingly original quality and, let it be said, such problematic consequences.
The underlining of the textual nature of our reality does not, however, rely uniquely on the direct citation of sources in Verne. There are many different forms of text that make their incursions into the Vernian narrative, some of them improvised accounts such as the stories told by Joe in Cinq semaines or by Ned Land in Vingt mille lieues. While improvised texts do not rely on the use of particular, identifiable sources, they do gesture in the direction of well-known conventions, and often they will visibly compact multiple sources into a single account.
In this sense ch Journeys in Writing they are recognisable products of or variations on a particular genre, and they draw attention to their links with it. In Claudius Bombarnac, the hero of the story makes the acquaintance of a Major Noltitz, a Russian army officer who speaks perfect French and who at every opportunity acts as guide and chaperone to the narrator, explaining the background, customs and history of the places they are passing through.
Generically, his speech almost never leaves the category of travel manual, and in that sense it is a clear affirmation of its own dependence on textual sources and its reproduction of them. But this repetition and relaying of sources, aided by an exceptional power of recall, is perhaps most spectacularly exemplified in the figure of Paganel in Les Enfants du capitaine Grant, who dazzles his interlocutors with an extraordinary range of knowledge, most often reproduced in the form of the school textbook or manual.
Like the journey undertaken by the intrepid travellers in that novel, text itself is a revisiting of places where others have been and whence they have returned to tell the tale.
In the dizzying account that follows ECG I, pp. A recital such as this could not take place unless it pointed in a conspicuous way to its own dependence on the books and sources in which the adventures referred to are documented. For even though it may be dependent on previous texts, narrative is effortlessly self-generating, infinitely flexible. Thus does this crucial episode make the point that original narrative can also be a repetition and a recycling of its own sources, and that it can and should use this dependency to its own advantage.
Like a hyperactive talking textbook, Paganel is a showman to the last and uses to his advantage the very feature that might on the face of it seem to militate against effective and original narrative: He is an illustration of the endless circulation of text. And where text is not graphically present in writing and words, it remains cognitively present ch Reality is capable of ever-renewable textualisations, and is overlaid with endless discourses and words.
It follows that there is no absolute path through and out of this textual jungle, only infinite possible paths within it. When Paganel relays the texts of Australian exploration, his performance suggests that in this cornucopian world of stories there is a multitude of possible variations on every narrative, all of which can go into further circulation in a neverending process of verbal substitution and replacement. No single account can have the monopoly of truth; books and texts will circulate ceaselessly.
But the Bible is soon forgotten for a while.
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At the mention of geography, Paganel shows an interest in the Aborigine, who suggests that he question him on his knowledge. The problem is, however, that his learning is based upon skewed books and manuals — to which he has, it seems, accorded the same veneration as to his Bible.
The lesson here is that, while knowledge can be relayed in many different ways and based on many different sources, there is nonetheless good knowledge and bad knowledge. While our reality may be textually determined and may offer many different narrative pathways, the world is not simply a Babel of discourses in which there is no right and wrong.
Confronted with the well-meaning errors of the Aborigine, Paganel himself retreats momentarily into national stereotypes about the British and we are reminded that his knowledge too is, in spite of its greater range and sophistication, perhaps no less partial. It is, of course, just another book by another Englishman, and therefore no doubt another partial view of world geography.
Meanwhile, he hangs on to the Bible that he had arrived with, no doubt believing that this book of books, at least, will provide him with some truths, even if all others are dispensable. Paganel himself, it is implied, perhaps needs to look afresh at geography from the point of view of a different text. There is no value-free, objective standpoint offering the complete and final perspective: This being so, even the great and the good of the scholarly community, like Paganel, are subject to error, and must constantly strive to correct it both by further reading and by a recognition of the potential fallibility of any of the texts they use.
In this sense, Paganel has truly had the book thrown back at him. The episode is a reminder not only of the bookishness of all knowledge, but also of the corollary that all knowledge is subject to distortion, and perhaps that the possibility of error is its fundamental condition. The powerful physical presence of books and libraries throughout the Voyages extraordinaires reinforces the point that we have never finished the business of reading, that texts will continue to circulate ad infinitum.
Journeys in Writing Like food, it is implied, texts have to be consumed and digested on a daily basis and integrated into our intellectual diet. It is no wonder that the two rooms at the heart of the Nautilus are the dining room and the library. Knowledge is consumption, and the implication is that the renewal of knowledge, like eating, must be a continuous process. In Le Tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours, Phileas Fogg moves from the reading room to the dining room in the Reform Club, where it appears that both his intellectual and his digestive faculties are subject to the same principle of contented rumination.
Naturally, Verne is talking about a society in which books are the unquestioned privilege of civilised and educated people, and it is evident that in his vision of the world those who do not read must be colonised, educated and raised to the level of civilised people. In Voyage au centre de la terre we find another variation on this emphasis on the circulation of the book, when Lidenbrock is invited to dinner on his arrival in Iceland.
Observing that the local library appears to have very few books, Lidenbrock is surprised by the response of his host, who proclaims proudly that, on the contrary, the library has some eight thousand volumes, many of them rare. However, he says, these are nearly all out on loan: There is scarcely a farmer or a fisherman who does not know how to read, and who does not read.
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We consider that books, rather than going mouldy behind an iron grille far from curious eyes, should be subjected to the wear and tear of the gaze of readers. So it is that these volumes pass from one person to another. They are opened, read and re-read, and often they will return to their shelf only after an absence of a year or two. The democratisation of reading has, in this ch It is a society that lives and defines itself through reading, and for Verne there is something truly utopian in this. As we have seen, numerous Vernian characters are seen either to read or to have read, and like Dick Sand in Un capitaine de quinze ans they use their reading knowledge as a survival instrument in extreme circumstances.
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The traveller is a reader, just as the reader, in another no less obvious sense, is a traveller. This reading activity may involve the deciphering of cryptograms or other clues, or it may involve applying the cognitive processes of reading to physical objects, natural phenomena or indeed to human behaviour by way of decoding its messages.
Understandably, in the light of the example of the Icelandic library cited above, one of the texts that most conspicuously profiles the notion of reading in all its senses is Voyage au centre de la terre. Not only does the story start out with the deciphering of a cryptogram, it suggests throughout that the world itself is a vast cryptogram that has to be understood. Journeys in Writing extract the story that is written in nature. But the business of reconstitution is huge, and would, says Axel, require the efforts of a thousand Cuviers simply to carry out the work VCT, pp.
While the underground world they visit may not be a text in the literal sense, it is very much the locus of a story, even of many stories which have to be wrested from it. Repeatedly, the status of the travellers as readers and the status of the natural world as a story is emphasised, as here: However, it is not only nature that has to be read and decrypted. He is a poet with figures, sublime when he places a zero next to a seven.
He revives nothingness without having to pronounce artificially magic words, he examines a piece of gypsum, sees a footprint on it, and announces: You could see the original frame with its roughly hewn beams, carved out in certain places, rough and knotty in others. This is a ploy he will use again and again. Later in the same story, we are told that a character whose face is apparently a closed book can nonetheless be read and understood, as long as the clues are correctly observed and interpreted: It is sufficient to read, and it is a natural, synthetic form of reading, like a gesture which, putting analysis aside, summarises a whole series of thoughts with the sign it makes.
In one exchange between the artist and his model, the centrality of the reading process in our interpretation of human sentiments is highlighted: Consider with care my heart as a book; Do not, Leonardo, cast too hasty a look. Journeys in Writing Although here it is the human heart that has to be read as a book, in Verne it is most often the face which reveals the heart and contains the clues that must be deciphered.
Faces are books, and human physiognomy is a text which the narrator conspiratorially reads for us and with us, thus hinting at the likely development of his own text. In this way, the text of human behaviour is clearly linked to the text of the story that we are reading, and these two levels of the interpretative process become symbolic equivalents. As he describes the faces of such men, he or his narrator invites us to use this reading of character as a clue to our actual reading of the text, and to predict the direction the story might take as a result.
Naturally, the possibility of misreading is always there too, and Verne plays on this by way of varying the theme, either giving us the wrong clues or indicating that the clues cannot always be read as we might expect. At the beginning of Mathias Sandorf, the following reflection on Sarcany is offered by the narrator: To look at him, nobody would have suspected what he was or what he had been. He did not incite that irresistible sense of antipathy we feel towards scoundrels and deceivers. But this merely made him more dangerous.
However, since we as readers have been informed that Sarcany has this faculty, our negotiation of the story will be marked by a suspicion of him. On other occasions, though, it is the novelist himself rather than the character who obscures the clues, so the process is further complicated. In the same novel, we are given to understand that the beautiful Sava is the daughter of the banker Silas Toronthal who had betrayed Sandorf.
This puzzles us, for everything about the girl suggests a noble character, completely at odds with that of Toronthal himself. How could such a wretched specimen of a man have fathered such a dignified and admirable daughter? The comments that the narrator offers about Sava make for a puzzling incompatibility: