Jules Verne

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Jules Verne (1828-1905) was a French author and science fiction pioneer. Verne's novels speculated on travel through outer space and underwater before technology had made these possible. His work has been widely translated and there are many film versions of his most popular works.


The early years

Jules Verne was born in the French seaport of Nantes on February 8, 1828, the eldest of five children. His family wanted him to become a lawyer, like his father. At the age of 20 he was sent to Paris to study law, but was far more interested in literature. Verne was already writing stories and plays. He completed his studies in 1849, but would never practice.

Instead he became involved in the Parisian literary salons meeting people such as Alexandre Dumas and developing an interest in the theatre.

When he refused to take over his father's law practice, his father cut off financial support. While he had some successes as an author and playwright behind him, Verne was obliged to work for a time as a stockbroker.

In 1856 he would meet his future wife, Honorine Morel, a widow with two children. In 1861 they would have a son, Michel. Verne’s relationship with his son would at times be tense. Michel Verne would go on to edit and publish and publish some of his father's work after the elder Verne's death.

The voyages extraordinaires

In 1862, Jules Verne began the business relationship which would launch his career, selling the novel, Five Weeks in a Balloon to the publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel. Hetzel would sign Verne to a twenty year contract, committing him to a gruelling level of output--two complete novels a year. Hetzel was able to persuade Verne to give the public what it wanted; an optimistic, rather than pessimistic depiction, of human progress, happy endings, and an emphasis on storytelling over scientific detail. The novels received the series title Voyages extraordinaires or extraordinary voyages.

With the earnings from his novels, and from stage adaptations of them, Verne bought a series of yachts on which he sailed around Europe. In 1867 he was able to travel to America on board The Great Eastern.

In 1872 the Verne family settled in Amiens, his wife's home town.

Later Years

In 1886, Verne’s mentally disturbed nephew, Gaston, shot him in the legs in an argument over money, causing a permanent limp. From 1888, Verne would serve on the municipal council of Amiens.

Sick from diabetes, Jules Verne died on March 24, 1905.

Posthumous works

Jules Verne left a number of unpublished novels which would be extensively re-written by his son, Michel, prior to publication. One early novel, Paris in the 20th Century, had been vehemently rejected by Pierre-Jules Hetzel in 1863. It was locked away in a safe, where it remained until it was re-discovered by Jules Verne's great-grandson. Set in 1960; it was finally published in 1994.