Monday, March 18, 2019

Fortnightly Book, March 17

Obviously I'm a bit late with this, but one of the books I was going to do was ordered from elsewhere and ended up being a number of days later than I expected, so I had to wait until I received it.

I happened to stumble across, in different venues, two English translations of works that I did not find for my year of reading Jules Verne's Voyages Extraordinaires, so it seems fitting to make a bit of progress with that by doing another Verne Fortnightly Book. The two works are The End of Nana Sahib and Keraban the Inflexible.

La maison à vapeur (#20), published in 1880, is a tale of the British Raj; a number of British colonists go touring about the land in a wheeled house drawn by a steam engine in the shape of an elephant. This, of course, lets Verne do his usual geographical exploration. A bit of spice is added by the fact that the book takes place in the immediate aftermath of the Indian Rebellion of 1857. The 1857 Rebellion is dominated by a significant mystery. It was led by a man generally known as Nana Sahib; due to a payment dispute with the British East India Company, he gathered a revolt and laid siege to a British garrison, which he captured and held for several days by the means of executing all the survivors. The British, of course, returned with a vengeance, recapturing the garrison and forcing Nana Sahib to flee. And then he disappeared. Rumors swirled for years about his being sighted in various places in the world -- everywhere from Turkey to Nepal -- but nothing was ever able to be proven. Since Verne tries his hand at speculation of what might have happened, The Steam House is also often known by its occasional subtitle, The End of Nana Sahib, as it is in the edition I have. Of course, Verne, like everyone else, had nothing but rumors and incomplete and inconsistent information about Nana Sahib; the novel should be taken perhaps as more history-inspired than historical, even setting aside the steampunk mobile home. The edition I have is put out by a company that publishes inexpensive India-related classics. Since Verne is generally quite sympathetic to freedom fighters, and the novel's context is a major Indian event, it's not surprising that they would be interested, but 'inexpensive' is certainly right. The page order of my edition is: 12, 13, publication information page, Table of Contents, 16, 17, 2, 3, 20, 21, 6, 7, 24, 25, 10, 27. After that they start settling down, but I seem to be missing most of two chapters, and may have to supplement with another edition, or even go to the French. [ADDED LATER: I ended up just having to use an online version, in the same translation; the hardcopy was also missing the second part of the book.]

Kéraban-le-têtu (#24), published in 1883, is subtitled, Adventures in the Euxine, 'Euxine' being an old name for the Black Sea. Jan van Mitten and his valet, Bruno, find themselves in a trip that is more than they bargained for when they meet the local tobacco dealer, Keraban, and agree to take his boat across the short Bosphorus Strait to his house to have dinner. Unfortunately, the Ottoman Empire imposes a tax for strait travel while they are in transit, and although it's a paltry sum, Keraban turns out to be the most stubborn and inflexible man imaginable: he promised to take them to his house for dinner, and he does not break his promises, but he absolutely refuses to pay the tax, so he will go all the way around the Black Sea to do it. Poor van Mitten and Bruno find their dinner ride lasting a few more weeks than they were expecting. Keraban's on a time schedule, too; he has to be back in six weeks, or his nephew will be in a bit of trouble -- his nephew is marrying a young woman who will inherit a small fortune if she is married before her birthday, but will receive nothing if she marries even one day later. Keraban's presence is absolutely necessary. There are people, however, with nefarious plans for the young woman. They may have underestimated how stubborn Keraban is, though. My edition is the Frith translation; the usual translation you find in English is Curtin's, so I don't know if this is good or bad as a translation, although looking at Frith's other work, I expect it at least not to be horrible.

I'm also reading, slowly, L'Archipel en feu in the original French, although it's not part of the Fortnightly Book, and I don't know when I'll finish it. When I am done with all three, I'll have read a total of 45 out of the 54 Voyages Extraordinaires, and all of the the first thirty. The nine that are left will probably have to be read in French at some point.

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