Having assured the members of London's exclusive Reform Club that he will circumnavigate the world in 80 days, Fogg - stiff, repressed, English - starts by joining forces with an irrepressible Frenchman, Passepartout, and then with a ravishing Indian beauty, Aouda. Together they slice through jungles, over snowbound passes, even across an entire isthmus - only to get back five minutes late. Fogg faces despair and suicide, but Aouda makes a new man of him, able to face even the Reform Club again. Around the World in Eighty Days (1872) contains a strong dose of post-Romantic reality plus extensive borrowing from the author's own Journey to England and Scotland - but not a shred of science fiction. Its modernism lies instead in the experimental literary technique, with parallel plots, a narrator constantly made to look foolish, four characters in search of their own unconscious, and a unique twisting of space and time. Verne's classic, a bestseller for over a century, has never appeared in a critical edition before. William Butcher's stylish new translation moves as fast and as brilliantly as Fogg's own journey.
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William Butcher is Head of Languages at Ysing Yi Technical College, Hong Kong.
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