Friday, July 06, 2012

Around the World

Around the World in Eighty Days
Around the World in Eighty Days

“A true Englishman doesn’t joke when he is talking about so serious a thing as a wager.”
― Jules Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days

I read this novel many years ago when I was attending what the French might call the Ecole Junior. It was the beginning of my love affair with Verne's novels. In 1872 Phileas Fogg wagers that he can circle the earth in eighty days; and traveling by steamer, railway, carriage, sledge, and elephant he wins his bet in seventy-nine days, twenty-three hours, and fifty-seven minutes. Verne builds the suspense and populates the book with strange places and characters which inspire wonder in both young readers and old.
 I became entranced by Phileas Fogg and especially his valet Jean Passepartout. His name translates literally to "Goes-Everywhere", but means "skeleton key" in French.  At the beginning of the novel, Passepartout has just been hired by Phileas Fogg after Fogg's previous valet failed to meet his exacting standards. Passepartout, who has lived an irregular and well-travelled life, is looking forward to a restful employment, as Fogg is known for his regular habits which never take him farther afield than the Reform Club.
Ironically, on Passepartout's first day at work, Fogg makes a bet with his friends at the Club that he can circumnavigate the world in no more than eighty days and Passepartout is obliged to accompany him.
All of the action of these wonderful characters made the book difficult to put down. While its science may be dated in this age of space shuttles as an entertaining adventure tale I would recommend this to dreamers and readers of all ages.

Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne. Penguin Classics, 2004 (1873)

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