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Paris in the Twentieth Century: Jules Verne, The Lost Novel Paperback – October 21, 1997

ISBN-13: 978-0345420398 ISBN-10: 034542039X Edition: 1 Reprint

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 222 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey; 1 Reprint edition (October 21, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034542039X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345420398
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #571,167 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1863, Jules Verne was a young writer with one published novel under his belt and a new multibook contract with a prominent French publisher in hand. The publisher, however, rejected Verne's second manuscript, opting to bring out his Journey to the Center of the Earth instead. That manuscript apparently disappeared into a drawer, not to see the light of day again until it was rediscovered and published in 1994. Now it has been rendered into English by the eminent poet and translator Richard Howard. Verne's early books tend to feature adventure plots and a positive attitude towards technology. This novel, however, shows Verne in a darker, frankly dystopian mood. His mid-20th century Paris is an enormously wealthy society, a place of technological wonders, but, like Huxley's Brave New World, it is also a society without meaningful art. Engineering and banking are the prime industries of this civilization and, as the book's protagonist discovers, not even the most talented poet can find a place for himself unless he's willing to produce odes to blast furnaces or locomotives. While the narrative contains many startling predictions?among them fax machines, electronic calculators, automobiles and elaborate subway systems?there is little here in the way of either plot or character development. It's clear, in fact, that in opting for Journey to the Center of the Earth, Verne's publisher chose the better book. Drawings not seen by PW.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Verne is well known as an early science fiction writer; this novel, which was lost for 125 years, is remarkably prescient in its predictions about the technology that is omnipresent now. Set in the 1960s, though written a century earlier, the novel depicts Michel Dufrenoy as a poet and humanities scholar at sea in a crass commercial world that has strong overtones of Soviet realism. He befriends a young musician with whom he works; reconnects with his long-lost uncle, a literature professor; and even falls in love with the professor's granddaughter. But despite the kindnesses of his friends, Michel fails to succeed with the technological culture around him. Notable are the predictions about the subway, electric lights, and electronic music. A curiosity; recommended for public and academic libraries.?Ann Irvine, Montgomery Cty. P.L., Md.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

We could have wondered at the clever plot twists.
SetiX
In this remarkably prescient novel, Verne accurately and in amazing detail foresees a modern, technologically advanced Paris of the 1960's.
Spinoza
I can read pretty much anything and rarely put down a book but this one was pretty boring and I could not finish it.
savy shopper

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Brian Taves on November 25, 2002
Format: Paperback
Purely as a work of literature, Paris in the Twentieth Century lacks the qualities of the best novels that have insured Verne's reputation for over a century. Nonetheless, Paris in the Twentieth Century will be of interest to readers for two primary reasons, because of its prophecies, but even more because of its early position in the development of dystopian science fiction. On the most basic, surface level, Paris in the Twentieth Century is an astonishing book for its depiction of the modern age. Written in 1863, the story is set in the Paris of the 1960s. Paris in the Twentieth Century concerns a 16-year-old, Michel Dufrénoy, who graduates, with a devotion to literature and the classics, but finds they have been forgotten in a futuristic world where only technological writing is favored. The officially sanctioned creativity is government sponsorship of the arts, resulting in lowbrow theater for the masses.
Dufrénoy determines to be an artist, working on his own, but finds that his book of poetry is impossible to sell, and soon he is starving in the winter's cold, one of the few forces of nature that science has yet to overcome. In despair, he spends his last sous to buy violets for his beloved, but finds that she has disappeared from her apartment, evicted when her father lost his job as the university's last teacher of rhetoric. In a moving but excessively melodramatic climax, the heartbroken Dufrénoy, bereft of friends and loved ones, wanders through the frozen, mechanized, electrical wonders of Paris. The subjectivity becomes steadily more surreal as the dying artist, in a final paroxysm of despair, unconsciously circles an old cemetery.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Jolley HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is a most singular work of science fiction indeed. Like many of the futuristic technological marvels Jules Verne described, this novel lay in obscurity, waiting for someone to come along and discover it. That someone was Verne's great-grandson, who in 1989 found the manuscript in an old safe that was thought to be empty. While I bought this book as soon as it was published, I have only now compelled myself to read it. I could not help but wonder if Verne would want this novel published now in its current form, especially given the fact it was one of his earliest writings, so I held off in respect to the founding father of science fiction. Having now read the novel, I must say it differs significantly from the other Verne novels I have read, expressing a maudlin and tragically pessimistic vision for the future of modern society. At the same time, its defense of the classics, arts and literature, and individual freedom is quite moving.
In one of the richest ironies in the history of literature, Verne's editor rejected the manuscript of Paris in the Twentieth Century because, in his own words, "No one today will believe your prophecy." As with so many of Verne's visionary ideas, however, fiction has now become fact. Among the wild ideas included in these pages are fax machines, horse-less carriages, a subway system, computers, calculators, and other modern luxuries we take for granted now. A much longer list could be produced, but I would contend that too much of the reaction to this "lost" novel has directed itself to Verne's prophecies fulfilled.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By James Paris on December 31, 2004
Format: Paperback
The story of the discovery of Jules Verne's novel PARIS IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY is the stuff of fantasy: The 1863 unpublished manuscript was discovered lying in a safe some 130 years later.

It tells the tale of one Michel Dufrenoy, winner of a prize in poetry at a time when poetry, indeed literature, means nothing. Thousands of books are still published, but they are all engineering and scientific works with sesquipedalian titles. The real hero, however, is the city of Paris circa 1960: a city of engineering marvels with such devices as elevators, fax machines, underground trains, and gas-powered cabs. (Curiously, this future world also contains quill pens and giant accounting ledger books with scaffolding.)

Verne's vision of the future is endlessly fascinating, especially as so many of his predictions have come true. Where the young Verne faltered, however, is his failure to display the rambunctious 19th century optimism of his later works. Instead of a triumphant tone, we have a world in which the individual who refuses to be a cog in the great works of society becomes marginalized and ultimately crushed. PARIS IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY is a young writer's experiment that was rejected by publishers of the day, ostensibly because its vision was too far-fetched (it isn't), but oddly not because it was pervaded with a feeling of doom (which it certainly is).

The book makes interesting reading for its insights, but fails as a story. The hero and his struggling friends are sadly short-changed.
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