JULES VERNE: A Biography by Jean Jules-Verne

JULES VERNE: A Biography

Email this review


An affable but unilluminating biography of the great science fiction writer, by a grandson who remembers him as a ""peaceful,"" rather anonymous figure of fixed routine who emerged from his study only for meals. Not that peace was the usual order of the day in the family--Verne's 48-year marriage to Honorine de Viane seems to have been a dreary truce; their only child (Michel, Jean's father) grew from a tantrum-ridden brat into a near-psychotic, uncontrollable adolescent committed at one point to an asylum, at another to prison; approaching 60, Verne was shot in the foot by a deranged nephew. Jean picks an uneasy course through Verne's life, rationalizing the rougher moments and the tattle of a biographer cousin, the impertinences of ingenious Freudian critics, and various harmless potential stains on the Verne escutcheon. This leaves us with an industrious cipher who at the height of his powers wrote three books a year while neglecting his family and spending as much time and money as possible on his passion for boating. Jules-Verne states with candor that the women in his grandfather's books tend to vapidity (love, Verne frankly told his friend and esteemed publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel, was not an emotion he cared to tangle with in print). Yet he cannot resist pointlessly hunting for traces of a shadowy mistress (or, he primly suggests, platonic lady-friend) among the uninteresting throng of Verne's heroines. Broader conceptual avenues of analysis are largely passed up except for a few loose categories like Verne's ""optimism"" or ""pessimism"" about technological progress. The chief interest of this bland, good-natured study remains the author's name.

Pub Date: May 26th, 1976
Publisher: Taplinger