Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Journey To The Centre Of The Earth By Jules Verne

Journey to the Centre of the Earth explores the prehistory of the globe, but can also be read as a psychological quest, for the journey itself is as important as arrival or discovery. Professor Lidenbrock and his nephew Axel travel across Iceland, and then down through an extinct crater towards a sunless sea where they enter a living past and are confronted with the origins of man. A classic of nineteenth-century French literature, the novel's distinctive combination of realism and Romanticism has marked figures as diverse as Sartre and Tournier, Mark Twain and Conan Doyle.

This book definitely inspires a sense of adventure and wonder. Professor Lidenbrock is the enthusiastic and eccentric scientist Uncle of Axel, the narrator. After decoding a secret map, they make their way to Iceland, and with the help of a Danish guide, Hans, they embark on a quest for the discovery of the centre of the earth. There they discover an immense inner world, including a vast ocean and sky. The concept that there is a whole other world inside a world seems like fantasy and highly illogical and yet Verne describes it with such realism it makes you wonder. You can tell that Verne really knew his science, including geology, archaeology, anthropology and physics and used this wide range of knowledge to put belief into his story.

Initially, Axel is reluctant to set out on this adventure and would prefer to stay at home pursuing his love but he does eventually come around because Lidenbrock's thirst for exploration and discovery is infectious, so much so that you really start to hope that they succeed in their journey. The majority of that success was down to their strong guide, Hans, who exuded a brave and diligent aura and was always there to get them out of a spot of trouble.

Whilst there is a sense of wonder and awe to the story there is also a few parts that felt a bit slow and seemed to drag a bit, especially the part where the three seem to be endlessly traipsing around tunnels inside the volcano. I loved the descriptions of the inside world but at times it felt a bit overly descriptive in regards to their preparation and travels to Iceland.

Whilst the ending was a bit anti-climatic, I did enjoy the journey overall. I also really loved all the scientific knowledge that went into making the world real but if you are in no way scientifically inclined it might, to some, have a textbook atmosphere. That being said though, I thought it was an interesting and enjoyable book that opens up your imagination and can awaken that explorer in you.

Random Passage: He was right. It may be imagined how big these plants grew in their preferred hot, humid environment. I knew that the Lycoperdon giganteum reached, according to Buillard, eight or nine feet in circumference; but here we had white mushrooms 30 or 40 feet high, with caps of the same width. There were thousands of them. No light could pierce their dense cover, and complete darkness reigned beneath those domes, crowded together like the round roofs of an African city. I still wanted to push further in. A mortal chill seeped down from these fleshy vaults. We wandered about for half an hour in these dank shadows, and it was with a real rush of well-being that I got back to the sea-shore.

1 comment:

mummazappa said...

I've never read this, but when I was a kid I thought the film version was one of the best movies I'd ever seen :-) I've just finished reading Jane Eyre which I adored, and it's made me start a list of classics I must read, just added this to it, thanks for the recommend!