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Val's BookBlog

Trying to get through this.

— feeling ninja
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - Michael Prichard, Jules Verne

And should I mention it is my fourth attempt?


I was first handed Jules Verne around 9 or 10. My mother bought me the adapted children's version of "20,000 Leagues," and this first version was watered down and easy to get through. I loved the visuals, which helped carry the story for me when I struggled with the text. I still have a vivid portrait of an acutely drawn Captain Nemo at the helm of the Nautilus. This character, the "man of the seas" stayed with me.


Captain Nemo is a purely romantic figure. He lives under the sea, in his constructed “Nautilus.” He speaks several languages, including one of his own invention. He is a scientist, builder, engineer, and artist. Inside the Nautilus there is a museum, a library, an original Picasso painting. He loves Mozart. He tells Pierre Aronnax he is “the richest man in Europe.” Despite this he has withdrawn from the world on land and settled for a life undersea.


As an adult I have tried to get through Verne's original version. I always start wavering at the same place. Specifically a little after Professor Pierre Aronnax and friends are "captured" and begin to adjust to their new lives on the Nautilus. This is when the passages start to read less and less like a literary novel. Here I become lost.


Beyond this point the communications between Nemo and his new crew are mainly scientific. The chapters in the middle are not unlike reading a science textbook for school. Not easy reading, but the transition from literary to technical within chapters is effortless. Verne was Professor Pierre Aronnax, a scientific scholar who could also write.


It is said that this book started the Science Fiction genre. I have been an avid reader since childhood, but it was not until I reached my adult years that I added science fiction to my canon. I think it started with this book. It started with Nemo. My hazy memory tells me the ending reverts back to romantic again, when Nemo’s tragic past is unveiled. I am sure reaching this point will take many readings into the night. I will get there though. For Nemo it is worth it.