Journey to the Centre of the Earth has been consistently praised for its style and its vision of the world. It 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 new translation of the complete text is faithful to the lyricism, verve, and humour of the original.
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April 25, 2006
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Excerpt from Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
It was on Sunday, the 24th of May, 1863, that my uncle, Professor Lidenbrock, came rushing suddenly back to his little house in the old part of Hamburg, No. 19, K'nigstrasse.
Our good Martha could not but think she was very much behindhand with the dinner, for the pot was scarcely beginning to simmer, and I said to myself:
Now, then, we'll have a fine outcry if my uncle is hungry, for he is the most impatient of mortals.
Mr. Lidenbrock, already! cried the poor woman, in dismay, half opening the dining-room door.
Yes, Martha; but of course dinner can't be ready yet, for it is not two o'clock. It has only just struck the half-hour by St. Michael's.
What brings Mr. Lidenbrock home, then
He'll probably tell us that himself.
Here he comes. I'll be off, Mr. Axel; you must make him listen to reason.
And forthwith she effected a safe retreat to her culinary laboratory.
I was left alone, but not feeling equal to the task of making the most irascible of professors listen to reason, was about to escape to my own little room upstairs, when the street-door creaked on its hinges, and the wooden stairs cracked beneath a hurried tread, and the master of the house came in and bolted across the dining-room, straight into his study. But, rapid as his flight was, he managed to fling his nutcracker-headed stick into a corner, and his wide-brimmed rough hat on the table, and to shout out to his nephew:
Axel, follow me.
Before I had time to stir he called out again, in the most impatient tone imaginable:
What! Not here yet?
In an instant I was on my feet and in the study of my dreadful master.
Otto Lidenbrock was not a bad man. I grant that, willingly. But, unless he mightily changes, he will live and die a terrible origi- nal.
He was professor in the Johann 'um, and gave the course of lectures on mineralogy, during which he regularly put himself into a passion once or twice. Not that he troubled himself much about the assiduity of his pupils, or the amount of attention they paid to his lessons, or their corresponding success. These points gave him no concern. He taught subjectively, to use a German philosophical expression, for himself, and not for others. He was a selfish savant? a well of science, and nothing could be drawn up from it without the grinding noise of the pulleys: in a word, he was a miser.
There are professors of this stamp in Germany.
My uncle, unfortunately, did not enjoy great facility of pronunciation, unless he was with intimate friends; at least, not when he spoke in public, and this is a deplorable defect in an orator. In his demonstrations at the Johann'um the professor would often stop short, struggling with some obstinate word that refused to slip over his lips one of those words which resist, swell out, and finally come forth in the anything but scientific shape of an oath. This put him in a great rage.