abstract illustration of two people journeying around the world on trains, boats, and hot air balloons

Around the World in Eighty Days

by Jules Verne

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Critical Context

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This work marks a second turning point in Verne’s career. The first came when he set aside the writing of plays and librettos for science-fiction romances, such as Cinq Semaines en ballon (1863; Five Weeks in a Balloon, 1876), Voyage au centre de la terre (1864; A Journey to the Centre of the Earth, 1874), and Vingt Mille Lieues sous les mers (1870; Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, 1874). Although sometimes included with these and mistaken for the same genre, Around the World in Eighty Days is not science fiction: It employs the same journey motif and utilizes many of the same techniques (careful attention to technical detail, for example, and a detached, coldly scientific tone). Nevertheless, this work treats situations and incidents which though remarkable were not at the time of writing supernatural in any sense.

Pigeonholed as a writer of science fiction, Verne has been of most interest to readers and critics for works in this genre. His ultimate reputation as a literary author, however, would seem to hinge upon the critical reception of Around the World in Eighty Days. Critics regard this work as his most significant accomplishment, the one which enriched his fame and his financial status. It employs all the best techniques of the earlier science-fiction narratives, while allowing the journey its rightful place as the heart of the work, unhampered by the elements of the fantastic. It is regarded as pivotal in the Verne canon, in much the same way the best works of Verne mark the turn from nineteenth to twentieth century science fiction.

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