Since last years’ reading project (the goal was to read 12 Classics in 12 months) was both a success and such great fun, I decided to do it again and read 12 Classics this year – one each month. I chose twelve Classics that had already been waiting for me on my bookshelf, of which six are Classics written in German, as well as six written in English. Those Classics have been titled as such over the course of a few centuries and vary greatly in terms of length, date of publication and genre.
During the sunny (and altogether way to hot) month of July, I read the fourth English Classic this year: ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’ by Jules Verne. I had never read anything of Jules Verne before, so I was pretty excited to dive into the famous adventure novel which was first published 1873.
J U L E S V E R N E – A R O U N D T H E W O R L D I N E I G H T Y D A Y S
“What had he gained by leaving home? What had he brought back from his journey? Nothing, do you say? Nothing, perhaps, but a charming woman, who – improbable as it may appear – made him the happiest of men!
Truly, would you not, for less than that, make the tour of the world?”
Jules Verne | Around the World in Eighty Days | p. 213
The story about Phileas Fogg, a wealthy, stoic English Gentleman who decides to travel around the world in eighty days for the sake of a bet (and, naturally, because his calculations said that he could) didn’t go particularly easy on me. Although I really liked the protagonists, it took me quite long to finish it. Twelve days for two houndred pages – that’s not exactly ideal. But we had hot, humid weather and I was constantly sleepy, so I’ll give that some credit.
I liked the story, which was most of the time really exciting and funny – especially the last half of the book. The first half I mostly kept falling asleep while reading, but that might not have been entirely due to the story, as I mentioned earlier.
Reading Classics from another time always fascinates me, because it makes me wonder: How did people feel about the changes in their world? What did they fear most? What excited them or even made them uneasy? This book was published in 1873, and at that time, the fast technological progress was palpable everywhere in society. You could practically go everywhere and anywhere you fancied, because there were trains and ships that travelled much faster than horse-drawn carriages. Imagine, then, reading a book about a fine Gentleman and his servant, striving towards the goal to travel around the world in only eighty days. That must have been such a trip!
“Why, you are a man of heart!” said Sir Francis Cromarty.
“Sometimes,” replied Phileas Fogg simply, “when I have time.”
I can definitely see the allure this story had, back then: a man on a mission to travel via ships, trains, and even on an Indian elephant! It’s a race agains time, as it is, and then there is this unfortunate bank robbery and a detective who believes our hero to be the culprit and trying with all his might to keep him from completing his travels. It must have been nerve-wrecking to read.
But, as I’m living in a time where you could travel around the world in the blink of an eye compared to the travels of our protagonist, some passages in the book were quite slow and kept dragging on. But, thankfully, the story is also witty and has some kind of really dry humour that shimmers even through those passages.
Let’s be honest, I grew very fond of Phileas Fogg and his ever-nervous french servant Passepartout. In all their quirkiness, they still were such lovable characters. Phileas Fogg is the embodiment of an ideal Englishman with his collected and calm countenance, while Passepartout is always on edge, fearing openly for his master’s ruin should he not make it home in time, hoping feverishly for his success. I loved his tantrums more than I should admit, but it’s true!
“As for seeing the town, the idea never occurred to him, for he was the sort of Englishman who, on his travels, gets his servant to do this sightseeing for him.”
One aspect about this book disappointed and even irritated me very much: Missing letters, punctuation done wrong or missing entirely. I don’t know about you, but this is something that’s driving me nuts. It completely ruins any reading flow, which is probably another reason why it took me so long to finish it. And those mistakes were scattered all over the book, and it bothered me immensely.
But, apart from that, it was a very entertaining read – so if you go ahead and give this very adventurous story a try sometime in the future, please give Phileas Fogg and Passepartout my best!
Author: Jules Verne
Title: Around the World in Eighty Days
OT: Le tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours
Press: Paragon Press [Children’s Classic]
Year of publication: 1873 [this edition: 1993]
Genre: [Children’s Classic | Adventure Novel]
Übersicht der 12 Klassiker im Jahr 2019:
Januar: Aldous Huxley – Brave New World
Februar: Hermann Hesse – Siddhartha
März: Margaret Atwood – The Handmaid’s Tale
April: Stefan Zweig – Sternstunden der Menschheit
Mai: Charles Dickens – Great Expectations
Juni: Theodor Fontane – Irrungen, Wirrungen
Juli: Jules Verne – Around the World in Eighty Days
August: Max Frisch – Homo Faber
September: Bill Bryson – A Short History of Everything
Oktober: Thomas Mann – Mario und der Zauberer
November: Henry James – The Portrait of a Lady [abgebrochen]
Dezember: E.T.A. Hoffmann – Nussknacker und Mausekönig