Despite Greaves’s illustrations and notes, Jules Verne may cause some difficulties for American readers. Certain aspects of French culture are never explained, such as the belle époque (the period from roughly 1890 to 1910 characterized by extravagance and materialism on the part of France’s upper classes). It is hard to understand the idealistic Verne’s frustration with the society of this time when the reasons for his annoyance are never fully explained.
Occasionally, Greaves translates French expressions such as revenons à ces moutons (equivalent to let us get back to business) so literally that they become puzzling: “let us return to our muttons.” Calling Verne a quarante-huitard, or “forty-eightist” also confuses, as the term is neither translated nor defined. (It refers to Verne’s lifelong belief in the democratic principles of the rebellion of 1848.) Fortunately, such difficulties are not numerous.
The biography has been revised primarily for British readers by Greaves, which sometimes makes his adaptation confusing for Americans. One such difficulty regards the discussion of Verne’s The Mysterious Island. In Verne’s original French, as well as in British translation, the leader of the band of castaways is named Cyrus Smith. For unknown reasons, the same character is called Cyrus Harding in American editions. Again, the title of Robur-le-conquérant (1886)...
(The entire section is 505 words.)