Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Recommended Listening

Around the World in Eighty Days

I am really entranced with this recording. This is an unabridged version from Listening Library, read by Jim Dale, with musical backgrounds and sound effects throughout that suggest the countries where the chapters are set. We've listened to it all the way through once in the car, and are planning to listen to it again, a chapter at a time, at bedtime.

This description from Wikipedia sums the novel up well:
Verne is often characterised as a futurist or science fiction author, but there is not a glimmer of science-fiction in this, his most popular work (at least in English speaking countries.) Rather than any futurism, it remains a memorable portrait of the British Empire "on which the sun never sets" at its very peak, drawn by an outsider.
Although Verne was an outsider relative to the British, he doesn't limit his snarky comments to them. He has something to say about everyone, including the French. In this era of political correctness that kind of humor has become passe, but in this context it's pretty funny. I especially enjoyed his descriptions of Americans, as in the following scene:

The train Phileas Fogg is riding on is delayed when the railway engineer says a bridge is unsafe. This generates considerable agitation and discussion. But as the narrator says,
.... given the generally carefree attitude of the Americans, you can be sure that, when they begin to be cautious, there really is cause for concern.
I just love the image of the Americans larking about in the sunshine with never a care in the world, unaware of the hazards they are passing through unscathed, while their old-world counterparts grimly take the necessary precautions and proceed with care. It's the grasshopper and the ant all over again.

Although I've tried, I haven't been able to find out who translated this version. I know there are unattributed translations out there, so perhaps this is one. I liked the language, with its semi-obscure vocabulary and usages that have become non-standard in modern English. Altogether a most enjoyable recording.


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