Sunday, July 24, 2011

6. Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1864) - Jules Verne

CHAPTER 10 - Interesting Conversations with Icelandic Savants

Dinner was ready. Professor Liedenbrock devoured his portion voraciously, for his compulsory fast on board had converted his stomach into a vast unfathomable gulf. There was nothing remarkable in the meal itself; but the hospitality of our host, more Danish than Icelandic, reminded me of the heroes of old. It was evident that we were more at home than he was himself.
    The conversation was carried on in the vernacular tongue, which my uncle mixed with German and M. Fridrikssen with Latin for my benefit. It turned upon scientific questions as befits philosophers; but Professor Liedenbrock was excessively reserved, and at every sentence spoke to me with his eyes, enjoining the most absolute silence upon our plans.

This book is special to me as I bought it on our last day in Pisa before we traveled to Paris via Milan. It then accompanied me on many walk-abouts around Paris, London and then finally on my train trip to Leeds. When I look at it I am reminded that I attempted to read it on the way back to London but was too sad and nostalgic after seeing my friends for the last time to pay much attention. Since my return home I haven't touched it at all until about last week where I made the effort to finish it. Personally I found the scientific jargon broke up the narrative flow despite the beautifully crafted structure of Verne's prose. But Verne meant to educate his readers, so I still find this aspect of his novels an interesting and integral part of the novel (This first part written about 2 months ago, the following completed today). It is not his fault that I am not familiar with science. In fact I am possibly his target audience. And yet, while I say that it interrupted Verne's otherwise beautiful lines, the latter is what remains with me after turning the final page, that and the great sense of adventure, of wonders found and lost, of secrets too incredible to fathom but ones you know to exist. Out of the characters I have a particular respect for the formidable guide Hans, that gentle, silent, uncomplaining and resourceful man. He's just cool and knows how to build a raft! We tried this once as kids - we even had the help of plastic barrels - but it's not as easy as you'd think.

Also something that I've come to realise recently is that I am a massive snob when it comes to classics, believing them to be always good because they have stood the test of time, and let no one ever think them otherwise. I kid (mostly), although I hope this never biases me towards newer books. Journey to the Centre of the Earth however, I think deserves to be up there, because it truly is a very fine book, both in content and narrative style.

3.5 stars.

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