Book #126: Around the World in Eighty Days (1873)

80daysaka: Le tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours
author: Jules Verne
language: English, translated from French
length: 163 virtual pages
finished reading on: 30 Jan 2017

Recently I got a Kindle again, for my birthday. As long term readers may know, I used to have a Kindle, but my last one broke in early 2014, while I was reading Jumper. I also used to read free out-of-copyright stuff from Amazon and Project Gutenberg – my first was A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes’ first novel with a weird anti-Mormon second half), followed by Gulliver’s Travels, which I didn’t like much. But having a Kindle is still a good opportunity to read all that stuff from previous centuries that I never got around to before, at little or no cost – and that’s what I did here.

This novel is now considered a classic, and it’s often lumped in with early science fiction, despite not really having much in common with it apart from being speculative. In it, the Englishman Phileas Fogg sets out around the world on a wager, after noticing that he should be able to do it in 80 days. This is due to the opening of the Suez canal around the same time, and finally connecting the west and east of India by rail. He’s followed by his servant Passepartout (what a name…), and a detective who wants to arrest him for supposedly stealing money in London before he left.

The book is interesting for a few reasons – it provides an account (although probably not first-hand, as I don’t think Verne actually travelled this route himself) of how the various societies were at the time, such as India and Japan, which have definitely changed a great deal since then. It’s rife with colonial attitudes, since Britain literally owned a lot of the countries they travelled to, but it’s also the perspective of a Frenchman looking in at English people, and Fogg is in many ways a caricature of English people (obsessed with timekeeping and propriety, for one thing).

It gets a bit ludicrous at times, such as the way they end up crossing the Atlantic near the end, but it does keep up the excitement – most countries they arrive in have some kind of danger to overcome. Like the Sherlock Holmes novel above, Verne doesn’t miss the chance to take a swipe at Mormons when the characters pass through Utah, which I found amusing – they must have been a talking point at the time.

This may be something to do with copyright, but one thing I would have preferred would be a modern translation. A lot of the words and structures the translator of the time used wouldn’t be used in modern English, and that just distracted me a bit much (although it contributed to the atmosphere of the time). Thinking about it, a modern translation wouldn’t be available for free on Amazon, though.

And just as a spoiler, I could see the final twist (Fogg arrives back a day early in London because he didn’t take into account that he would gain a day by circumnavigating to the east) a mile off. And I didn’t believe it for a second – Fogg was shown to be much more fastidious than that, and he would have noticed when he arrived in America, not when he arrived in London. I felt like I already knew it was coming, though – perhaps some kind of cultural osmosis?

Anyway, I liked it. I’d like to read more of Verne’s works now. Also, I’m just wondering what to read next on the Kindle… any suggestions? And if you’ve read this book, what did you think?

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One Response to Book #126: Around the World in Eighty Days (1873)

  1. I love this book it’s just one of the classics ❤️❤️

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