Volume 4 of the Palik Series, published in conjunction with the North American Jules Verne Society
By Jules Verne. Translated by Edward Baxter; Notes by Garmt de Vries-Uiterweerd, Volker Dehs This adventure is for everyone who has thrilled to The Scarlet Pimpernel, A Tale of Two Cities, or Scaramouche. A nobleman, the Count of Chanteleine, leads a rebellion against the revolutionary French government. While he fights for the monarchy and the church, his home is destroyed and his wife murdered by the mob. Now he must save his daughter from the guillotine. This exciting swashbuckler is also a meticulous historical re-creation of a particularly bloody episode in the Reign of Terror.
The Count of Chanteleine is the first English translation of this Jules Verne story, the fourth volume in the Palik series published under the auspices of the North American Jules Verne Society. Expert translation is by Edward Baxter, with critical commentary by an international team of Verne experts. Commentary by an international team of experts supports Edward Baxter’s translation.
Translated by Edward Baxter; Introduction by Brian Taves; Notes (including maps), by Garmt de Vries-Uiterweerd; Afterword by Volker Dehs.
Jules Verne, The Count of Chanteleine: A Tale of the French Revolution. Trans. Edward Baxter. Ed. Brian Taves. The Palik Series. Atlanta (GA): Bear Manor Fiction, 2011. pp.
Popularity and literary recognition do not often go hand in hand. The works of Jules Verne, one of the most widely read French authors in the world, paid the price for their success: free adaptations and poor translations all but obliterated the original quality of Verne's complex œuvre. For an entire generation, Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea erased the prodigious novel that had inspired Rimbaud, Raymond Roussel, and Georges Perec. But if fanciful movies and shortened versions of Verne's novels continue to flood the market, a number of scholarly editions have recently been published by Oxford University Press, Wesleyan University Press, and the University of Nebraska Press. The Palik Series, sponsored by the North American Jules Verne Society, joins these presses with a specific goal: to publish first-time English translations of Verne's most overlooked works, plays, or short stories that throw a new light on the writer's inexhaustible imagination. One of their recent publications, The Count of Chanteleine: A Tale of the French Revolution, deserves special attention. Verne's tale of war, treason, and patriotic fervor is one of his early works (it was published in 1864 in the Musée des familles ).
The novella takes place in Brittany during the 1793 Vendée war against the Republic, and exploits themes familiar to those who have read Balzac's Les Chouans, or Hugo's later Quatrevingt-treize. Two ideals pitted against each other: on one side the Republican Army receiving orders from Paris; on the other, disorganized groups of poorly armed local nobles, peasants, and priests fighting for their traditions. Like Balzac, Verne explores the betrayals that divided camps, families, villages, but on a more intimate scale. Verne's account of the solidarity between the nobility and the peasants is also distinct from Hugo's description of an arrogant Lantenac leading a fanatical crowd of illiterate peasants. Still, similar themes appear in their works: the need for confession; the value of sacrifice and redemption. As Hugo later will, Verne seizes on the symbolic importance of landscapes dominated by church steeples (anyone familiar with Batz-sur-Mer will recognize Verne's precise description of the church seen from afar as the most recognizable landmark of the region). Verne, however, opts for a happy ending, and his hero is saved from the guillotine by the events of 9 Thermidor.
There is also a distinct quality to Verne's story: he grew up in Nantes, where the memory of Carrier's noyades endures, and where many family traditions still evoke ancestors divided between Bleus and Blancs . The guerre de Vendée fully belongs to local history, with its heroes glorified in image books and popular songs. The plot moves at a fast pace on a topic the author clearly knew well, not just from historical books but from oral transmission and personal knowledge of the land.
Among the works inspired by the guerre de Vendée, Barbey d'Aurevilly's Le Chevalier des Touches (published the same year as The Count of Chanteleine ), is perhaps the closest to Verne's intimate rendering of the war against the Republic. Both authors side with the Chouans , those who have remained loyal to their priests and lost everything in return. But Barbey is an ultra-royalist, Verne is not. In the opening scene of the Count of Chanteleine, Chanteleine fights for the people. He does not lead a grandiose scheme with a tactical battle plan, but a desperate effort to save the innocents from the devastation of the Republican army. At some point in the novel, as Brian Taves notes in his remarkable introduction, Verne gives some credit to the Committee of Public Safety, the only effective government in a country attacked from all sides. One of the last chapters gives a brief overview of the Vendée war, quoting De Maistre and Chateaubriand, both royalists of course, yet Verne does not so much argue against the Revolution, as against the fact that the Revolution had sent its bloodiest terrorists to quell the rebellion.
The Count of Chanteleine belongs to the rich literary tradition inspired by the French Revolution both in France and in England. As the editor notes, it adds to the romantic view of the Revolution illustrated by Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, and Orczy's immensely popular adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel, which were to delight early twentieth-century readers. With its careful annotation and afterword by well-known Verne scholars, The Count of Chanteleine is an ideal text for readers of French fiction and particularly for those interested in nineteenth-century interpretations of the French Revolution.
Like other titles published in the series, the book includes the original illustrations and reproduces the famous Hetzel cover. The series' other titles, Mr. Chimp and Other Plays, Shipwrecked Family, Vice, Redemption and the Distant Colony, The Marriage of a Marquis , also offer a radically new vision of Jules Verne as a satirist with a touch of Rabelaisian humor, an entertaining Vaudeville playwright, a writer endowed with an imagination that continues to surprise and delight his readers. Upcoming Palik titles, Bandits and Rebels and A Priest in 1839, will further illustrate Verne's initial literary ambition to find his place between Balzac and Alexandre Dumas.
Reviewed by Donald M. Hassler
“The Rescue of Jules Verne the Writer,” Extrapolation 53.3 (Fall 2012): 379-382.
Here are four new volumes published under the auspices of and with the support of The North American Jules Verne Society. They are the most recent product of a remarkable two decades of scholarly activity in English with Verne texts that has ranged from a rather abortive start by the University of Nebraska Press with a 1998 edition through some excellent editions afterwards by Nebraska, by Oxford University and Wesleyan University Presses, and by Prometheus Books. Brian Taves describes this overall scholarly activity well in his opening essay to the first installment. The publisher for all four volumes is BearManor Media located in Albany, Georgia; the copyright is held by The North American Jules Verne Society. The series, which has more volumes projected, is named in honor of a late benefactor of the NAJVS, Edward D. Palik. The editorial team includes distinguished translators and scholars of Verne. The whole project to date has not only produced these beautiful and thorough books but also opened up again the scholarly treasure chest of puzzles about how to translate Verne and what to make of the important writings of his that are not yet in English. I think that every library and every serious student of Verne, sf, and French literature needs to get these four volumes and to sign up for what is yet to come. The work here, and the scholarly activity behind it, tells us how misunderstood this very popular writer has been. Taves presents a major literary mapping of what is important to us as we try to sort out the relation of genre sf to mainstream literature.
In another part of the scholarly apparatus to the first volume, translator Edward Baxter writes, "According to an article published in the Swiss newsweekly Hebdo in May, 1989, the three most widely translated literary works in the world are, in order, the Bible, the writings of V.l. Lenin, and the novels of Jules Verne" (83). Clearly, Verne was very popular for his massive mix of "boy story" and early sf so that to meet the demand the number of translations referred to by Baxter proliferated and, what is more, defined the writer. This current project by the NAJVS, as well as the work coming from the university presses mentioned above, has the clear intention of redefining the writer that Verne was. Every text published here is new in English translation. But even the French study of Verne and the French awareness of his literary accomplishment will be somewhat shaped again by these efforts since even some of the French manuscripts are new discoveries that had been locked away in trunks and not used during Verne's career as a writer. Taves, who is the prime editor for each of these new volumes, titles his opening essay "The Mission of the Palik Series" and writes, "[W]e have assembled scholars and translators, 'the Jules Verne rescue team,' as we have been dubbed by our dean, Walter James Miller" (1).
One set of literary effects that has been rescued in the first volume is Verne the fledgling writer before he discovered the 1856 Baudelaire translation of Edgar Allan Poe stories titled by Baudelaire Histoires extraordinaires. Poe became the model for the Verne Voyages extraordinaires that set his popular career on the road to its popular status with Lenin and the Bible. But the early short stories are not in this mode at all. The principal fiction revived in the first volume is a story titled in translation "The Marriage of Mr. Anselme des Tilleuls," which was written at some point in the 1850s. It was not published until 199 1 in Switzerland. Baxter's translation is its first appearance in English. I think Taves and his fellow scholars do a fine job trying to unravel the bibliographic mystery of the manuscript and its publication history (one scholar has said that all of Verne is a "bibliographic nightmare"). More importantly, this new NAJVS volume begins the discussion of effects in the story. It is a comic and "filial" story not only about a funny marriage but also about generational allegiance and the past. It is grounded on Latin grammar and etymology and offers a wonderful, even uncanny, premonition of how sons and fathers interact. I say premonition because the most interesting line of Verne scholarship in our time has to do with the ways in which his son, Michel, changed (and added to) his work after his death so that the Vernian library of texts extends far into the twentieth century with discoveries we have made in the twenty-first century. This early story, in any case, is deep with resonance and highly literary in its effects - and very comic. The latter point, to me especially, suggests origins for a comic response to sensawonder adventure and science that continues in Verne's well-known work.
In addition to Poe as well as Latin grammar, the young Verne paid close attention to what could be read and mined by writers from the tradition. Like many students of the eighteenth century, he valued Defoe's Robinson Crusoe (17 19) immensely; but Verne actually thought (again in a sort of filial way) that the later derivative by Johann Wyss, The Swiss Family Robinson (18 12), was the more important model because it included family context. The second volume in the Taves set includes the rejected manuscript of Marooned with Uncle Robinson in addition to some prefaces hitherto unpublished in English to his Robinsonades. Here again the fate of the last of Verne's Robinsonades, The Eternal Adam, is unclear since we do not know, from the evidence thus far, how much was changed by Michel after Verne's death. That mysterious story is told in this second volume with the conclusion that, regardless of authorship, "critics are agreed that [The Eternal Adam] is a masterpiece" (17). The translator of Marooned with Uncle Robinson is Sidney Kravitz, who also recently did the translation and the fine, critical edition of the fiction that Verne reworked from "Marooned" titled The Mysterious Island. The wonderful Ray Harryhausen movie adaptation of the latter text is well-noted in the Taves volume, and just as in all four volumes, the reproduced illustrations both from printed texts and from the film are an added bonus.
Another literary mode that tends to be ignored in Verne studies when his "boy story" adventures predominate is the drama. For Georges Sand, Robert Browning, and others in nineteenth-century literature, the theater was an arena in which they wanted to excel even if their reputations were built in other writing modes. In fact, one of the early scholarly revivals of a Verne text that anticipates this Palik Series is the scholarly edition published by Prometheus Books in 2003 of Edward Baxter's translation of Journey Through the Impossible. The text for this drama was only discovered in 1978 in the archives of the Censorship Office of the Third French Republic. Now the Palik Series brings to English readers four additional new plays by Verne that range from comedies to considerations of evolutionary dynamics; again included are magnificent reproductions of nineteenth-century illustrations. The final volume of the four initial Palik Series books is an historical romance, closely researched by Verne and in the tradition of Walter Scott and Dumas père. Taves's introduction to the volume, "Verne's Forgotten Swashbuckler," is a probing essay on another mode of writing that we had not often associated with Verne. Baxter is the translator again. Several other scholars are involved in the apparatus. It is a rich pleasure to read all four of these new volumes, and I am certain they will contribute to much more scholarly and critical work on the remarkable Jules Verne.