Thursday, 21 February 2002

Jules Verne: Round the World in Eighty Days (1872)

Edition: Heron
Review number: 1073

Of the handful of Verne novels which are still popular today, this is the only one which is a pure adventure story, with no science fiction. Its basis is one of the most famous bets in fiction: a discussion in London's Reform Club prompted by a newspaper story that the completion of trans-Indian railway links now makes it possible to travel around the world in only eighty days by scheduled rail and steamer leads Phileas Fogg to bet that he can do this.

Of course, if the novel just consisted of reading timetables and sitting around on trains and boats, it would be a very dull adventure. So things are not as easy as this; it turns out that the railway in India isn't quite complete; the clownish antics of Fogg's servant Passepartout cause delay; and, believing that Fogg fits the description of a bank robber and that the bet is cover for flight a detective keeps on trying to delay him until an arrest warrant catches up.

It is really the race against time which has ensured the survival of the novel. In these days of rapid air travel, it has something of a romantic period quality, particularly since the decline of railway and sea travel would make it at least as difficult to follow Fogg's itinerary today.

No comments: