Clea's Reviews > Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
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Aug 13, 12

bookshelves: science-fiction, xix-century

A couple of months ago I decided that I wanted to reread Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. I had read it eons ago, and I figured it would be interesting to read it from an adult perspective. I got as far as the Table of Contents before realizing that either Jules Verne had been a perfect moron, or the book had been translated by one.

That may seem like a shocking assertion, but what I found while going over that TOC was that Chapter XX in Part II had the following title: From Latitude 47° 24′ to Longitude 17° 28’… say what? Latitude and longitude define a single point, so there’s no going from latitude to longitude, end of story. Having read that I headed for Project Gutenberg and looked up the original. In French that chapter is called Par 47°24′ de latitude et de 17°28′ de longitude (In Latitude 47° 24′ and Longitude 17° 28’). That was a relief, I had spotted my moron and it certainly wasn’t Verne.

A bit of additional digging (i.e. a quick trip to Wikipedia) confirmed that the book had been essentially gutted by a man by the name of Lewis Page Mercier in what is in fact the standard English translation, but in addition to that I also found that there was a far more accurate version which was produced in 1966 by Walter James Miller… and that he had also been kind enough to release it into the public domain. It is available via Project Gutenberg here:

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/2488

so if you read this one as a kid you may want to go back to it and have another look. I also want to thank Mr. Miller, and whoever else happens to be responsible for this decision, for making this work available for free.

Now for the book itself: I found it to be far more enjoyable than I had been expecting it to be. Yes, the attitude, the style and the science all come across as somewhat dated, but that is to be expected in a science fiction book that is well over a hundred years old, and Verne was a good storyteller with an excellent sense of timing. This book can also be seen as a fascinating snapshot of the birth of a genre.
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