Jules Verne’s perfect timing unveiled
PARIS, MARCH 17, 2017 00:00 IST
UPDATED: MARCH 17, 2017 04:31 IST
Handwritten draft of Around the World in Eighty Days to be published next week
A long-lost manuscript of the classic adventure story Around the World in Eighty Days shows how Jules Verne timed the story down to the last minute.
The handwritten original draft — which will be published next week — shows how the French author worked out how long every hectic twist in the plot would take to ensure that his hero Phileas Fogg arrived back in London to win his bet with his friends at the Reform Club.
Verne, who wrote the story with a quill, noted the timings in the margins and added them up at the end of each chapter.
The rediscovered manuscript was unearthed by researcher Jessica Nelson in the French national library along with the contract Verne signed with his publishers.
“Several experts had told us that the original manuscript had disappeared,” said Ms. Nelson, whose Saint Peres press has already published the manuscript of one of Verne’s other great classics, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea .
But Ms. Nelson would not be put off. “You can imagine our surprise when we were going through the Hetzel (publishing house) documents and to find Verne’s handwriting mentioning Phileas Fogg and then falling on the only surviving complete manuscript itself,” she said. The other big revelation was the fluid manner in which Verne wrote, with few corrections.
Instead, Verne would cross out entire sections of the text and rewrite them completely.
Verne — who is often called the “Father of Science Fiction” — wrote the novel in 1872 during the dark days after France’s humiliating defeat in the Franco-Prussian war, when he had been drafted into the coastguard.
The book recounts the story of the uptight protagonist slowly turning into a swashbuckling hero.