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March, Lewisboro

Robin Robertson, 19 August 1999

... their bills; flower varieties, painted on sticks, people the hollows: Manon Lescaut is here, and Jules Verne, Rip Van Winkle bedded down with Salome and Rosy Splendour; Burning Heart, Martinette, Gigantic Star. And check the mail! I’m expecting a letter. Behind the house, stone sphinxes and a line of statues, trussed up, black-bagged for the ...

It’s got bells on

Michael Neve, 21 June 1984

A Leg to Stand On 
by Oliver Sacks.
Duckworth, 168 pp., £8.95, May 1984, 0 7156 1027 9
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... Oliver Sacks is the Jules Verne of the neurological interface. Knowledgeable about science, he also wishes to summon a host of readers to a great adventure, a journey to the centre of the body and ways of knowing about bodies. As with Verne’s skilful use of half-understood scientific symbols, the project that Sacks has come to make his own has brought into public view a gallery of exotic events and phenomena that, precisely in their strangeness, remain memorable to the untrained reader ...

Photomania

Emilie Bickerton, 22 November 2018

The Great Nadar: The Man behind the Camera 
by Adam Begley.
Tim Duggan, 247 pp., £12.99, July 2018, 978 1 101 90262 2
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... with the camera, his interests constantly flitted elsewhere. He was, in the words of his friend Jules Verne, ‘enamoured of the impossible’. His career in portrait photography lasted a relatively short time, most of it packed into the 1850s and 1860s. Alongside it, he achieved a series of historical firsts, with and without the camera: the first ...

Above the kissing line

E.S. Turner, 28 January 1993

My Ascent of Mont Blanc 
by Henriette d’Angeville, translated by Jennifer Barnes.
HarperCollins, 132 pp., £17.99, December 1992, 0 00 215717 9
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Backwards to Britain 
by Jules Verne, translated by Janice Valls-Russell.
Chambers, 227 pp., £14.99, October 1992, 0 550 23000 9
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... cradles of high-rise téléfériques without pausing to sleep back-to-back every few seconds. Jules Verne’s Backwards to Britain has also been a long time on the way. Written in 1859, it was first published in France in 1989. In the introduction by William Butcher it is described both as a time-bomb and a time-capsule, but it is neither of those ...

Troglodytes

Patrick Parrinder, 25 October 1990

Notes on the Underground: An Essay on Technology, Society and the Imagination 
by Rosalind Williams.
MIT, 265 pp., £22.50, March 1990, 9780262231459
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The Mask of the Prophet: The Extraordinary Fictions of Jules Verne 
by Andrew Martin.
Oxford, 222 pp., £27.50, May 1990, 0 19 815798 3
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... Journey of Niels Klim (1741) with its fantasy of a separate planet hidden inside the Earth to Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth with its dinosaur bones and underground ocean, disclose a hidden vastness of both space and time. Williams has an entertaining account of the US Congressional expedition of 1838-42 to the coast of Antarctica; one of ...

Mae West and the British Raj

Wendy Doniger: Dinosaur Icons, 18 February 1999

The Last Dinosaur Book: The Life and Times of a Cultural Icon 
by W.J.T. Mitchell.
Chicago, 321 pp., £25, November 1998, 0 226 53204 6
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... 19th and 20th-century history of science, political history, fiction (the ‘lost worlds’ of Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Bur roughs and Arthur Conan Doyle), film, advertising, depth psychology and art (paintings in art museums and museums of science, cartoons and comics). The scholarship is successfully air-brushed by an elegant Post-Modern ...

Tall Storeys

Patrick Parrinder, 10 December 1987

Life: A User’s Manual 
by Georges Perec, translated by David Bellos.
Collins Harvill, 581 pp., £15, October 1987, 0 00 271463 9
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The New York Trilogy: City of Glass, Ghosts, and The Locked Room 
by Paul Auster.
Faber, 314 pp., £10.95, November 1987, 0 571 14925 1
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... the English (or Welsh?) ‘Kinnock’. Gaspard Winckler, the puzzle-maker, was once a devotee of Jules Verne. The epigraph to Perec’s novel – ‘Look with all your eyes, look’ – is also taken from Verne. The act of looking, in its turn, leads to speculation, puzzling and surmise; it teases the brain. For ...

On Michael Neve

Mike Jay, 21 November 2019

... that yoked together Timothy Leary, anti-Freud polemic and Andrea Dworkin. ‘Oliver Sacks is the Jules Verne of the neurological interface’ was the opening of another piece. Just as often, the most startling insights appeared as throwaways. ‘It’s a moot point as to whether one should recommend books about madness’ is an aside in a review of Roy ...

Great American Disaster

Christopher Reid, 8 December 1988

To Urania: Selected Poems 1965-1985 
by Joseph Brodsky.
Penguin, 174 pp., £4.99, September 1988, 9780140585803
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... bossy and oracular, he can be engaging. Not all his comic moments are unintentional. ‘The New Jules Verne’ is an elaborate frolic that certainly outstays its welcome, but it does at least offer flashes of genuine humour. ‘Lithuanian Nocturne’ sustains an imaginative conceit – the poet as nocturnal revenant addressing a distant colleague ...

Golden Horn

Malise Ruthven, 1 March 1984

Pierre Loti: Portrait of an Escapist 
by Lesley Blanch.
Collins, 330 pp., £12.50, October 1983, 0 00 211649 9
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... reputation was an asset to the French Navy because the tales of his adventures, like those of Jules Verne, encouraged recruits. It would be surprising, however, if this were the only reason for the remarkably indulgent view the authorities took of his activities, real or alleged. Apart from his account in Le Figaro of the battle of Hué in ...

Hurrah for the Dredge

Richard Hamblyn: The ocean floor, 3 November 2005

Fathoming the Ocean: The Discovery and Exploration of the Deep Sea 
by Helen Rozwadowski.
Harvard, 276 pp., £16.95, April 2005, 0 674 01691 2
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... earnest in the mid-19th century. ‘The great depths of the ocean are entirely unknown to us,’ Jules Verne declared in 1869, in the early pages of Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea. ‘What passes in those remote depths – what beings live, or can live, twelve or fifteen miles beneath the surface of the waters – what is the organisation of ...

Magnificent Pratfalls

Mike Jay: Ballooning’s Golden Age, 8 August 2013

Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air 
by Richard Holmes.
William Collins, 404 pp., £25, April 2013, 978 0 00 738692 5
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... the penumbra of scientific mystery still glowed intensely. In the fiction of Edgar Allan Poe and Jules Verne the balloon became a vehicle for adventures that blurred the line between documentary and fantasy, transporting readers to the interior of Africa or the upper atmosphere: the here-be-dragons hinterlands that hovered just beyond the scientific ...

What would Plato have done?

Christopher Krebs: Plutarch’s Lives, 29 June 2017

The Age of Caesar: Five Roman Lives 
by Plutarch, translated by Pamela Mensch.
Norton, 393 pp., £28, March 2017, 978 0 393 29282 4
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... orator Dion of Prusa, and Lucian, who imagined going to the moon centuries before Jules Verne thought of it. ‘I began the writing of my Lives for the sake of others,’ Plutarch wrote, ‘but I find that I am continuing the work and delighting in it now for my own sake also, using history as a mirror and endeavouring in a manner to ...

Oui Oyi Awè Jo Ja Oua

Michael Sheringham: The French Provinces, 31 July 2008

The Discovery of France 
by Graham Robb.
Picador, 454 pp., £9.99, July 2008, 978 0 330 42761 6
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... Club Alpin in 1882 (a scale model was featured at the Exposition Universelle of 1889). Inspired by Jules Verne, Martel went on to recount his exploration of more than two hundred underground caverns and rivers, including the Gouffre de Padirac and, most spectacularly, the Gorges du Verdon, which had of course been known to local inhabitants for centuries ...

Pretty Letters

Megan Marshall: The Death of Edgar Allan Poe, 21 February 2008

Poe: A Life Cut Short 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Chatto, 170 pp., £15.99, February 2008, 978 0 7011 6988 6
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... doubt.’ Ackroyd credits Poe’s elaborately plotted ‘balloon hoax’ with leading the way for Jules Verne and H.G. Wells – not to mention the great 20th-century hoaxer, Orson Welles. He wasn’t to be trusted. But what was never in question was his talent – or genius, as he rightly preferred to call it. Born into a down-and-out theatre family and ...

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