Jules Verne: The Journey Of His Life

Jules Verne is considered the father of the science fiction genre, although in reality it would be more correct to speak of fiction that relies on science and technology. But how is it possible that a man of the nineteenth century managed to anticipate inventions and discoveries, describing them in such detail? We present to you a master of literature, who has also left his mark in other fields.
Jules Verne: the journey of his life

Raise your hand if you’ve never heard of Jules Verne! Nothing is more fascinating than immersing yourself in the wonderful adventures described by Verne, but, above all, it is incredible to know that a man of the nineteenth century was able to anticipate some discoveries and inventions belonging to a later era. Undoubtedly, he was a pioneering man, able to combine engineering, science and literature in his works.

When submarines were still pure science fiction, when electric motors were unthinkable, Jules Verne created his Nautilus, a meticulously detailed and well-developed submarine.

The French writer used to mold the details of his inventions in his writings, giving an infinity of information and explaining to the reader how they work. Verne played with verisimilitude, but also with the scientific and technological advances of his time.

He is known by some experts as the father of science fiction, but Verne actually talked about science in his writings and reinvented travel books. Jules Verne is, therefore, a fundamental piece of literature, but also a revolutionary from a scientific point of view.

Jules Verne, the early years

Verne was born into a middle-class family, in the French city of Nantes, in 1828. His childhood passed under the banner of serenity and ease, with a father who was a lawyer and respected; Jules was a lover of travel from an early age.

There is a legend – which may have a grain of truth – which tells that Verne, still a child, tried to escape to enlist as a boy on a ship bound for India. His father found out in time and made him promise that from then on he would only travel in fantasy.

Jules Verne would therefore have dedicated himself to traveling with the imagination and from these journeys some of the most emblematic works of the science fiction genre would be born. In 1848, in full revolutionary fervor, he moved to Paris to study law. His father paid for his studies, but with a modest contribution.

Verne was always convinced that it was more important to nourish the spirit than the body. For this reason, he spent his money on the purchase of books, for a long time feeding exclusively on milk and bread.

Jules Verne was a man of poor health due to the hardships he experienced. Despite these economic difficulties, the young writer is thought to have had a happy period in those years.

It was precisely at that time that, attending Parisian circles, he met Alexandre Dumas, with whom he would make a deep friendship. The influence of Dumas and Victor Hugo marked the literary vocation of the young Verne.

The family life of Jules Verne

In 1850, Verne completed his law studies. However, against his father’s wishes, he decided to devote himself to literature. In 1856, he met Honorire de Vyane, whom he married in 1857.

Despite the bad relationship with his father, the latter gave him 50,000 francs for the wedding. Jules moved to Paris as a stockbroker, but his career didn’t take off; he was born to do something else.

The writer did not find the emotional stability he hoped to find in getting married. He constantly quarreled with his wife and started running away whenever he had the opportunity, making sudden trips. In 1861 his only son was born, Michel Verne, a difficult boy. Jules himself had him hospitalized in a reformatory and then in an asylum, events that marked a relationship of hatred between the two.

At 58, someone shot him in the leg, making him lame. From this episode he never recovered. The shot came from the hand of his young nephew Gastone; the situation, however, was never clarified, since everything suggests that the two were not on bad terms. Following the incident, Gastone was hospitalized in an asylum.

Verne's submarine

A life made of extraordinary journeys

Jules Verne’s first literary period runs from 1862 to 1886. In September 1862, Verne met Pierre-Jules Hetzel, the publisher who would publish the first of the works that make up the Extraordinary Journeys, Five weeks in a balloon (1863). It was initially published in episodes in Hetzel’s Le Magasin d’education et de récréation , before becoming an internationally renowned novel.

Following the extraordinary reception from the public, Hetzel offered Verne a long-term contract, which was to write many more “science fiction” works. He thus managed to become a full-time writer.

The relationship between Verne and Hetzel was so fruitful that it lasted forty years, during which Verne wrote stories collected in Extraordinary Journeys . One of the most fruitful and successful relationships in modern literature was born.

Verne had just reinvented the genre of travel literature and had also made a huge contribution to other genres, such as adventure or science fiction. This popular adventure novel series was strongly visionary. A unique feature of Extraordinary Journeys is that the tales were accurately documented and supported by scientific and geographical data.

Among the 45 stories, the most famous works stand out: Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864) and From the Earth to the Moon (1865). Also: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870), Around the World in Eighty Days (1872) and The Mysterious Island (1874).

By 1886 Verne had already achieved world fame and a moderate fortune. During this period he also bought several boats and circumnavigated several European countries. He also collaborated in several theatrical adaptations of several of his works.

Illustration Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

Jules Verne: Disenchantment and Posthumous Works

During his second literary phase – which runs from 1886 until his death in 1905 – the tone of his writings changed. Verne began to move away from his own identity: the texts of these years are not impregnated with scientific progress or with adventures and explorations.

The topics covered approached the dangers of technology forged by arrogant scientists. In a way, he began to adopt a more pessimistic tone, showing us the consequences of certain advances.

Some clear examples of this change were: The Adventures of Captain Hatteras  (1889), The Mysterious Island (1895), In Front of the Flag (1896) and The Master of the World (1904). This change in tone occurred in conjunction with the various difficulties he encountered in his life. Jules Verne was heavily influenced by the deaths of his mother and his mentor, Hetzel. Upon his death, Verne left a great deal of unpublished manuscripts.

The third period, following his death, runs from 1905 to 1919 and refers to his works published post-mortem. These works were revisited by his son, Michel. Among the posthumous titles, we find: The Golden Volcano (1906), The Thompson & C agency (1907), The Danube Pilot (1908) and The shipwrecked of the “Jonathan”   (1909).

Critics found these posthumous titles excessively tainted. Michel’s imprint had, therefore, eliminated part of his father’s identity and, therefore, these works were not frowned upon.

Submarine plan

Verne, pioneer of literature and science

Jules Verne became an internationally acclaimed author and went down in history as the father of modern science fiction. He was awarded an honorary degree for his contribution to education and science.

The fame of Jules Verne’s works is testified by the fact that he is one of the most translated authors in the world. His influence is such that his works have been performed in the theater and even in the cinema on several occasions.

Verne’s fame continues to this day, and it is incredible to imagine that a man could have anticipated inventions that would have appeared decades later. The details, the travels, the infinity of progress make his bibliographic production a singular production.

Verne’s footprint goes far beyond the field of cinema and literature, and extends to that of science and technology. Generations of scientists, inventors and explorers admit the inspiration derived from his work. Verne and his extraordinary travels will continue to remind us that “whatever one man can imagine, other men can make real”.

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