Lydia Presley's Reviews > Paris in the Twentieth Century

Paris in the Twentieth Century by Jules Verne
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May 09, 10

bookshelves: 2010, fiction, scifi
Read in May, 2010

I have so much I want to talk about when it comes to this book I don't even know where to begin.

Paris in the Twentieth Century is, like all Jules Verne's books, a very detailed, scientific story - technology and advancements take first place, with the story coming second. Don't get me wrong though, I love reading Verne's books - but they are dry reading at times. The overflow of information, not only on technological advancements, but Parisian names and places set my head spinning at times. But, like I do with all of his books, I just let the information flow through and - for the sake of my sanity - do not worry about keeping a grasp on it.

Paris in the Twentieth Century is the story of Michele, a teenage boy who wishes to be a poet. Jules Verne depicts 1960 Paris as a place where art has fallen in favor of science and math. The classics are lost, poets are shunned, musicians are encouraged to write pieces that sound as if you are sitting on a piano keyboard (fascinating in itself to me because.. have your heard some of these modern compositions today?). Michele is a long-haired hippy - he struggles living in a home with no imagination (bankers) and longs for a girl he cannot hope to support as a starving artist.

The real marvel of this book is Verne's description of what was to come in the 20th Century. He wrote this book in 1963 and his publisher rejected it as being too radical. His great-grandson found the book in the 90's and submitted it to be published. Reading the book now, as a historical novel, it's a wonder to me that he stopped at 1960 because what he was describing could easily apply to today.

Verne speaks of machines that transmit via telephony entire facsimile's of pages. He speaks of huge department stores, streets lit up as brightly as the son, hotels that can lodge thousands of people. He speaks of train systems prominent in cities today, he envisioned The Eiffel Tower, only as a brightly light lighthouse standing high in Paris (the tower was built 1887 - 1889 - more than twenty years after Verne wrote this book). He even describes a large ledger detailing the banks calculations and sums that stands high and broadcasts them to the bank.

But Verne does not stop at technology. He describes our apathy toward one another, our rush to get things done instead of slowing down to enjoy life. He talks about what little appreciation we have for the wonders around us and tells a tragic story of what life will be like should we lose all that gives us pleasure, art, music, poetry included in these losses.

This book was not a huge investment of time. It's barely 200 pages long. The chapters are short and manageable. Even if you are not a science fiction fan, I encourage you to check it out and to hopefully experience the feeling of wonder I felt as I read about things predicted by a man who must have been a real thrill to speak to.
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