Jules Verne: Good Parts Version

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July 19, 2009 by D Stack

From the Earth to the Moon

From the Earth to the Moon

As an American, I’m probably supposed to dislike all things French except for Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette. However, the fact that France spawned an author as amazing as Jules Verne makes me regret not speaking French.

I first encountered Verene when I received a copy of Journey to the Center of the Earth as a Christmas gift in either late elementary or early middle school. I flipped through it on a trip from my parents in Connecticut to my grandparents in Brooklyn. To be honest, I found it frightfully dull. Throughout high school an college I made various attempts to get into his works, but I  w found his books uninteresting. But it struck me as curious that I kept hearing people rave about him.

Some time in 2000 I was flipping through a roleplaying game book – GURPS Steampunk, detailing roleplaying adventures in an alternate age of steam. Its bibliography mentioned several Verene novels but interestingly, it referred to specific translations of them. I picked up a copy of the US Naval Institute Press’ translation of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, as translated by Walter James Miller and Frederick Paul Walter. I was amazed by what an amazing work this was. A large part of it discussed flaws with the original translation, how much of Verene’s technical details, satire, wit, and humor were removed, changed, or incorrectly translated. About a third of the work just wasn’t in the original translation – the one you’ll most commonly find at bookstores. I spent several days living aboard Nautilus, feeling like I was interacting with Captain Nemo.

Over the next several years I’ve hunted down more “good translations” of various Verne books. Like many bibliophiles I’ve yet to read all of them but I’m slowly working my way through them. I’ve yet to read a stinker of a Verne work, though there are some standouts and some not as spectacular… If you’ve never understood the big deal about Jules Verene, I’d encourage you to track some down. And if you feel like giving me French lessons, feel free to do that as well. (Note that Verne really isn’t a science fiction writer – some of his books could be classified as such, but others , such as The Mighty Orinoco, have no elements of science fiction.)

Listed below are the translations I’ve acquired.

  • The Adventures of Captain Hatteras, Oxford University Press/Oxford World’s Classics, translated by William Butcher. ISBN 0199552592. The Kindle version is also for the Butcher translation.  [Amazon listing] [Kindle version]
  • Around the World in Eighty Days, Oxford University Press/Oxford World’s Classics, translated by William Butcher. ISBN 0199552517. As with the previous listing, the Kindle version is also for the Butcher translation.  [Amazon listing] [Kindle version]
  • The Begums Millions, Wesleyan University Press/Early Classics of Science Fiction, translated by Stanford L. Luce. ISBN 0819567965. [Wesleyan listing] [Amazon listing]
  • From the Earth to the Moon, Gramercy, translated by Walter James Miller. ISBN 0517148331. Tragically out of print but keep an eye on the Amazon listing – it can often be found used for a reasonable price (that’s how I obtained it). Probably the most enjoyable Verne book I’ve read with some very humorous moments (and a bit of a caricature of Americans being gun nuts and warmongers…). [Amazon listing]
  • Golden Volcano, University of Nebraska Press/Bison Frontiers of Imagination, translated by Edward Baxter. ISBN 0803296355. [University of Nebraska listing] [Amazon listing]
  • Invasion of the Sea, Wesleyan University Press/Early Classics of Science Fiction, translated by Edward Baxter. ISBN 081956558X. This had never previously been translated into English and deals with creating a sea in the Sahara Desert. [Wesleyan listing] [Amazon listing]
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth, Oxford University Press/Oxford World’s Classics, translated by William Butcher. ISBN 0199538077. The Kindle version is not for the Butcher translation.  [Amazon listing]
  • The Kip Brothers, Wesleyan University Press/Early Classics of Science Fiction, translated by Stanford L. Luce. ISBN 0819567043. [Wesleyan listing] [Amazon listing]
  • Lighthouse at the End of the World, University of Nebraska Press/Bison Frontiers of Imagination, translated by William Butcher. ISBN 0803296355. [University of Nebraska listing] [Amazon listing]
  • Meteor Hunt, University of Nebraska Press/Bison Frontiers of Imagination, translated by Frederick Paul Walter. ISBN 0803296347. [University of Nebraska listing] [Amazon listing]
  • Magellinia, Welcome Rain Publishers, translated by William Irvy. ISBN 1566491797. Out of print. This version represents an attempt to get back to Jules Verne’s original intent for this work, as it was heavily modified prior to its posthumous publication by his son Michel. I started this one a while back but couldn’t quite get into it. It wasn’t bad, just didn’t click at the time. [Amazon listing]
  • The Mighty Orinoco, Wesleyan University Press/Early Classics of Science Fiction, translated by Stanford L. Luce. ISBN 0819567809. One of my favorites. A journey to the source of the Orinoco river and a search for a lost father. [Wesleyan listing] [Amazon listing]
  • The Mysterious Island, Wesleyan University Press/Early Classics of Science Fiction, translated by Sidney Kravitz. ISBN 0819565598. I believe there are actually two separate good translations of this work, though this is the one I own (yet to read sorry to say). [Wesleyan listing] [Amazon listing]
  • Paris in the Twentieth Century, Del Rey, Translated by Richard Howard. ISBN 034542039X. A “lost” novel recently found. As a result, it does not suffer from most of his works poor original English translations. [Amazon listing]
  • Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea/Completely Restored and Annotated, Naval Institute Press, translated by Walter James Miller and Frederick Paul Walter. ISBN 0870216783. If I were to pick one to start with, it would be this one, though be careful with the many footnotes – some of them are spoilers for events later in the book or for later books. [Amazon listing]
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One thought on “Jules Verne: Good Parts Version

  1. […] of Marvel’s Sub-Mariner. My more “serious” blog just discussed him in the post Jules Verne: Good Parts Version, with an emphasis towards the better […]

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