Science Fiction Studies


#95 = Volume 32, Part 1 = March 2005

George Slusser

Why They Kill Jules Verne: SF and Cartesian Culture

Zénon! Cruel Zénon d’Elée                    (Zeno, Zeno, cruel philosopher Zeno,
M’as-tu percé de cette flêche ailée!           Have you then pierced me with your feathered arrow
Qui vibre, vole, et qui ne vole pas!           That hums and flies, yet does not fly!
Le son m’enfante et la flêche me tue!         The sounding shaft gives me life, the arrow kills.)
—Paul Valéry, “Le Cimétière marin”          (trans. C. Day Lewis, “The Graveyard by the Sea”)

In 1978, Bernard Blanc published a curious yet significant book, Pourquoi j’ai tué Jules Verne (Why I Killed Jules Verne). Described by a reviewer as a “mixed bag of criticism, anecdotes, stories, extracts from round-table discussions, and interviews” (PC 12), Blanc’s book offers more than the hyperbole associated with generational revolt. Despite its polemics, it asks us and all those interviewed in the book to take the killing of Verne seriously, as an act of cultural consequence. Indeed, there is a strong cultural current for such acts. Verne is designated the “father of science fiction,” so the killing, for Blanc and fellow writers, is a patricide. But Verne the father is both patriarch of sf and, as such, material tyrant. His killing harkens back to revolution and regicide, the fall of divine right, and the subsequent rise of new, “Romantic” tyrants: Constant’s despot Napoléon, and Balzac’s Centenarian, the 400-year-old patriarch who will not die and who uses material science to sustain his life and tyrannical rule. The Jules Verne that Blanc presents is in this lineage, a figure who can only be deposed by violence and murder.

There is a deeper current here, however—one suggested by the Valéry epigraph and its fascination with death and rebirth in the Eleatic realm of mind. In this sense, the first act of “killing,” in which the individual mind deposes the divine right of authority, is the Cartesian cogito. In a very real sense the individual, by stating “I think, therefore am,” declares itself, against the tyranny of matter, an entity absolute in itself, qualitatively other.1 In overthrowing authority, the cogito establishes two irreconcilable domains—one of thought, the other of matter. In the Eleatic context Valéry evokes, “killing” becomes the act of shifting from the physical level of things, where the arrow kills, to the mental level, where the arrow flies and does not fly. In this interval, ever prolonged by an act of rational mind, killing the patriarch is simultaneous with the birthing of a new entity, the cogito as Cartesian child. This cogito, in the boundless realm of imagination, can become father to the man, creature of paradox. In the killing of Verne, then, the mind reasserts power over a world, but no longer a world of extended matter, the world commonly seen as that of science. Blanc is a French sf writer, asking sf writers in this French context to kill Verne. As this act of patricide involves the violent substitution of a mental for a material world, it is the act that defines the particular form of French sf. Further, this substitution, or a desire to do so, defines a particular French sense of science, marked by constant evocation of the cogito in realms of investigation where material process holds sway. Valéry not only traces this tendency back to Descartes but also describes it as an act of “killing” matter: “The substitution of numbers for forms ... [results in] the depreciation of all forms that cannot be translated into arithmetical relationships” (225). The killing of Verne is a problem not just for sf writers, but for French culture at large. Let us pursue the treatment of Verne in the broader context of his popular image.

Jules Verne, Father of Science Fiction
. Claims for Jules Verne as “father of science fiction” may be a post-World War II phenomenon. Indeed, the term “science fiction” was current in France only after the 1950s. During this period Verne, whom Gernsback had recycled as an American author and who subsequently influenced “Golden Age” writers, was repatriated to France in the context of an American “invasion” of sf. The main point of contact was the magazine Fiction, which began publication in 1953 and ceased only in 2001. Fiction began as the French version of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, with the primary task to publish translations of American stories. A coup d’état soon occurred, however, at the editorial level of the French magazine, and articles began to appear that sought to define a native tradition of sf, in contrast to the flood of American writers. This native tradition needed its own ancestor. Verne was the obvious figure. But Verne from the outset was a problematic father figure. For in this “American” context, his materialism and positivist vision stood out in an overwhelming manner. The first to declare Jules Verne the “father of sf” was critic Jean-Jacques Bridenne. Almost at once, however, in his presentation of Verne, the father appears as a tyrant who resists being deposed. If comparisons with rivals Wells and Poe cannot do so, Verne’s own material side will be pushed to its maximum, so that it collapses upon itself, revealing a radically opposite presence within.

Bridenne, in his column “Les à-côtés de l’anticipation” [“The Side Issues of Anticipation”], was the critic assigned to establish lineages and pedigrees for French sf. His article, entitled “Jules Verne, père de la science-fiction?,” which appeared in issues 6-8 of Fiction, significantly poses a question. Indeed, in this article doubt leads to a logic of negation that portends later acts of patricide. Bridenne, in his inquiry, first measures Verne against arch-rival H.G. Wells. The comparison, while claiming Verne’s paternity, curiously diminishes his authority. For Wells writes for adults, while Verne writes for adolescents: “Thus is Wells audacious in a very different manner from his so-called French model. What is more, he addresses grown-ups, even very well-educated grown ups” (II, 109). Wells the writer is an adult speaking to adults. While both are prone to share the “big questions” of science, the philosophical consequences of scientific discovery, Verne speaks to readers who are, at their stage, only interested in the “consequences techniques” [technical consequences] of science: “Wells was more responsive to the enigmas of science than to simply learning it ... but he did not use these enigmas as others did to merely horrific ends ... he was particularly concerned with their impact on human beings” (II, 111). Bridenne has in a sense moved Wells away from material science, in the direction of a sort of Asimovian humanism: “big” ideas and their maturely conceived human repercussions. Verne, on the other hand, is interested only in “learning” science at the level of material processes, in conveying this morally neutral information to morally neutral readers.

Bridenne now invokes another “rival,” radically contrasting with Wells—the immature materialist Poe. In contrast, Poe is pure tinkerer, not interested in ideas but in material objects and how they work. Verne is seen sharing Poe’s materialism: “[Verne] speculated especially in the area of mechanical devices and believed implicitly in the continuity of the material advancement of humanity” (II, 111). Verne is much more than Poe, however, not his imitator but his “émule original” [original emulator]. He emulates by taking Poe to the limit, so to speak. When, for instance, he rewrites Arthur Gordon Pym in his Sphinx of the Ice, he roots out and “explains” all remaining doubts in Poe’s work: “What is certain is that Poe leaves us in the most somber uncertainties and that Verne claims to extricate us from these ... and extricate us by positive, if not positivist, means” (III, 114).

There appears to be a rhetorical strategy behind Bridenne’s search to define the nature of Verne’s paternity. Verne is first placed on a sliding relative scale between his two rivals: he is less adult than Wells, but more adult than Poe. Such comparisons, however, prove problematic. We learn, for example, that Poe is better than Verne at transmuting the material things of science into “mystical or hermetic elements.” In other words, Poe regresses too rapidly toward childhood. But Wells grows old too fast. Wells may be better than Verne in terms of extrapolation, yet “Wells rapidly evolved from scientific anticipation to an anticipation that is rather sociological prophesy” (III, 114). On such a comparative scale, Verne is definable only in terms of two negative propositions that, as they cancel each other, resolve into a paradoxically positive statement: “Neither the popularizer, nonetheless invaluable, nor even the anticipator (overtaken and outmoded by the science of the scientists) should make us forget this ‘visionary haunted by cosmic poetry’ that M. Fouré speaks about in the magazine Arts and Letters” (I, 112).

Bridenne’s use of negatives evokes the rhetoric of Pascal—notably the device of the renversement continuel du pour au contre [continual reversal of for to against] by which Pascal attacks the excess of quantitative or relativistic comparisons through vexatious cultivation of what he calls contrariétés, continual, reductive dialectical oppositions. Pascal applies this process to the material aspirations of mankind: “If he exalt himself, I humble him; if he humble himself, I exalt him; and I always contradict him, until he understands that he is an incomprehensible monster” (Pascal 420). Trapped in this quantitative flux, mankind is an inscrutable monster. In a paradox within a paradox, however, it is through understanding or knowing itself as incomprehensible that mankind raises itself to another level of reality—that of always, of absolute categories of being. Bridenne, in terms of Verne, suddenly resolves his comparison between Verne and Wells with a shift to the superlative: “Great both of them, they have evolved, the one in a fixed, three-dimensional universe [Wells], the other in a multi-dimensional, constantly shifting, universe. Verne is the father of science fiction period [tout court], Wells is the father of science fiction today” (II, 112). We notice that the “Wells” of this opposition now stands in the shoes of the material Verne, ruler of the “fixed” dimensions of space-time. In absolute contrast, however, a new Verne holds sway in a “constantly shifting” universe of disproportion and Pascalian reversals. Here, logical operations create a multi-dimensional space in which our Verne tout court is subject to oppositions of maximums and minimums that, when combined, form oxymorons. One minute, we see that “despite his overflowing imagination ... [Verne] never anticipates except from a base of inventions that have already been invented.” The next minute, the opposite is asserted in equally absolute manner: “The example of Jules Verne proves that with known positive science ... it is possible, in alternate manner, to cause anxiety and amuse the reader, to alienate him, to surrealize the real” (I, 113).

In Pascalian fashion, Bridenne subjects Verne to violent reversals, until at some magic point mind emerges from matter, and the material father gives way to the Cartesian child. The new Verne, able to surrealize the real, is itself the creation of paradox, where nothing in terms of matter becomes all in terms of mind. Pascal’s “thinking reed” offers a clearer model for this violent shift of orders of reality. In relation to the material infinite, the reed operates from a position of absolute weakness. The reed is the feeblest thing in the universe; a drop of water suffices to crush it. But the reed knows it is crushed, while the universe knows nothing. Bridenne’s operation is analogous. He proclaims Verne the absolute father of sf in order to conjure the eternal juvenile at the center of his work; he annihilates the materialist writer between Wells and Poe, only to resurrect him as a surrealist. What seems the weakest element in any material equation, the surrealist mind, finds itself suddenly on a par with the farthest reach of Verne’s physical explorations. In this newly constituted Cartesian space of action, material elements are transmuted into objects of wonder: “By the sole virtue of his varied and solid knowledge and the extrapolations they allowed him to perform, Jules Verne often arrived at a strange grandeur, a serene exaltation of the beauties, oddities and rages of nature, at an astonishing and concrete apprehension of Tomorrows” (II, 115). Proclaimed father of sf, Verne is “killed” in the sense that his materialist tendencies are maximized to their authoritarian absolute, then cancelled in favor of their minimalist opposite. Verne is the surreal poet, all mind, now empowered to exalt “the beauties ... and rages of nature”—because, as surrealist, he is absolutely powerless to make any material change in them.

Verne’s Tomb and Descartes’s Stove. Bridenne’s “father of sf” is the Verne we see on his famous cenotaph at Amiens, the bearded patriarch depicted as bursting the boundaries of his tomb, rising to further conquest of matter. Yet as with Bridenne’s portrait, this stone image embodies a paradox, where the author is presented both rising and held forever in the act of rising. The paradoxical oppositions in Bridenne’s article are themselves a form of entombment, a French reading of Verne’s statuary. As with Descartes’s famous “stove,” article and tomb alike form a material capsule, from which the only issue is into the alternate world of mind.

Verne’s tomb was misread by Hugo Gernsback, who used it as the logo for his magazine of ‘scientifiction,” Amazing Stories. His vision of Verne as material force pushing back physical boundaries yielded the expansive “American” Verne extolled by Isaac Asimov: “Jules Verne ... breathes optimism in his tales. His heroes probe the air and the sea depths; they penetrate ... to the height of the Moon and to the depths of the Earth’s center.... There are barriers to be hurdled, and the hurdling’s the thing” (105). The monument’s inscription, however, suggests a very different interpretation: “Onward to immortality and eternal youth.” Here, suspended in perfect antithesis, we have the two irreconcilable terms of Bridenne’s analysis: on one hand, the eternal father, the old tyrant who refuses to die; on the other, eternal youth as mind, ever revivable in the way Descartes’s cogito is ever declarable at the zero point of the stove, after methodical doubt has annihilated all attachment to the physical world.

Science, in nineteenth-century France, increasingly appears to commentators to be “killing” literature. This killing, moreover, is associated with a developmental, even “parental” model of thinking in Auguste Comte, whose theory of the stages or “ages” of development of human thought and institutions openly speaks of the “age of science” as that of mankind’s maturity. To Comte, the earliest, “theological” stage is cast as “the earliest infancy of the human mind” (Lenzer 23). The intermediate “metaphysical” stage is more troubling yet, because in the form of “romanticism,” it overlaps in the nineteenth century with the age of science. In Comtean terms, it constitutes an adolescent rebellion against the advent of scientific maturity.

Comte’s view of science as ordained condition of cultural maturity was decried by proponents of literature, and his formulation of the “laws of phenomena,” which reduced all knowledge to physical relations of similitude and sequency of events, spawned reactions that seem “juvenile” by the petulant manner in which they reject science. An example is the journal entry of Edmond and Jules Goncourt, dated July 16, 1856. Using the example of Poe’s stories, they describe what they call the “scientific miraculous,” in essence what will become the “hard” sf of the coming century: a form of writing where cold science, with authoritarian lack of imagination, corrupts the human process of fiction. What is more interesting is the sense that, for the Goncourts, the impact of science is turning literature, once the place of adult emotions, itself into an infantile form. It becomes a “story by A + B,” where “things will have a greater part than men,” in a sense the sick, sequestered child of a scientific twentieth century to come, a century that will finally entomb humanity in matter (Goncourt 18). As will be the case later with Matthew Arnold, the scientific spoiler is America, in the form of the writer Poe. A few years more, however, and the Goncourts would have an example of this tyrannical scientific fiction close to home. Verne and his brand of scientific narrative were on the horizon, ready to bury “real” literature forever.

This maximizing vision of science fiction and its despotic hold on humanist literature echoes the radical situation of Pascal’s reed. Lost in vast physical immensity, “man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature ... a drop of water suffices to crush him” (Pascal 97). Yet at the point of absolute material disparity, readjustment occurs on a different level of reality; man is more noble because “he knows he dies and the advantage the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this” (97). Verne’s tomb, all unthinking matter, buries literature. But within its iron constraint, by virtue of Pascalian paradox, it becomes the place where the physical tyrant is absolutely displaced, where the weakest overthrows the strongest, and (in a strange French version of Wordsworth’s romantic proclamation) the child becomes father to the man. Tellingly, for the Goncourts, the literature born in the iron grip of science is “a literature that is sickly and lucid” (18; my italics). Material conscription must reach its tyrannical maximum before the counterbalancing mind emerges.

An analogy can also be drawn between the Goncourts’ vision of literature in the age of scientific realism and the process of radical doubt that leads to declaration of the Cartesian cogito. In both cases reason affirms its existence, thus its active identity, through withdrawal from the extended world in what is an act of entombment (the Cartesian “stove”). But where Descartes’s is a figurative burial, the Goncourts, in a century haunted by Pascal’s sense of the human condition, see a literal one—Poe’s premature burial, with its horrors of sickness unto death. But there is, in this grimly existential context where science the killer (the material Verne) must be killed in turn, a sense that we revisit the Cartesian gambit or feint. Measured against the physical world represented by the confining stove, reason adopts a stance of radical weakness. The famous “method” of doubt, transposed to Verne’s century of dominant materialist science, can be read as a process whereby mind, entombed in matter, systematically peels away all vestiges of its extended being through what seems a violent disembodiment.2 For example, in a famous passage in his “Méditation seconde,” Descartes doubts not only that what he is looking at is wax (that is, has the essential quality we call “wax”), but that he has eyes to see it with: “For it can happen that what I am seeing is not in fact wax; it can also occur that I don’t even have eyes that see any object at all” (152). For Descartes, doubt is a tactic that allows him to think himself out of contact with extended existence, while thinking himself into existence, on the level of being which is that of pure mind. For Verne’s contemporaries, however, the stove becomes Verne’s tomb. For the Goncourts and others, this tomb, rather than a place that celebrates the material self, becomes the context in which that self is killed so that in the place of Verne the father, a new creature of mind, ruling over purest mindspace, can be reborn. In this sense, the Cartesian cogito, as process, accommodates this particular French form of Romantic revolt against the coming of age of material science.

A French “reading” of Verne’s tomb, then, would be in terms of the Cartesian entombment of the Goncourts’ nemesis Poe in Mallarmé’s poem, “Le Tombeau d’Edgar Poe.” The American writer is depicted on Mallarmé’s imaginary monument as wielding a naked sword. This wielding, however, is more an act of paradox than of physical defiance: “The Poet arouses with naked sword/His century terrified at not having known/That Death triumphed in that strange voice” (189). As with the funereal Verne, the material world has defeated Poe, the tomb contains him in the same manner as res extensa that encompasses Descartes’s cogito or Pascal’s reed. At this level, statue and sword neither speak nor triumph but simply exist in mute material finality. “Voice” or “triumph” belong here to an alternate realm of activity, where death is not a material fact but a personification, a figuration of non-material mind. As this mind-matter duality emerges, we realize that the scientific century that entombs Poe could not know the voice described here. It is the product of paradox, a voice that triumphs (like Pascal’s reed) in knowing it is entombed, indeed in knowing that this triumph is the necessary result of entombment. Poe’s tomb, like Descartes’s “stove” or the physical body subject to the process of Cartesian doubt, provides a material space that, once its limits are circumscribed by rational process, allow the mind that it encloses free reign to shape its counterintuitive ideas, to translate stone into personification. With this insight, we now see that the very granite in which materialist America seeks to contain Poe’s spirit is itself impregnated, at its origin, by mind, “fallen” from some cosmic, yet remembered, cataclysm. This stone (“calm block to earth fallen from some disaster obscure”) is part of Pascal’s fearful infinite silences. Yet one need only invert the proposition, in the manner of Pascal’s reversals (renversements). Now this block, as boundary of the tomb, does not contain mind, but shelters, excludes it from material extension, offering sanctuary to this avatar of the thinking reed. It marks the negative limit to the process of material reduction: (“Let this granite at least forever reveal his limit/To those dark flights of Blasphemy scattered through the future”). This limit marks Pascal’s zero-point, the place of reversal where nothing joins all, here in the ambiguous grammatical turn of à jamais [never-forever].

To entomb Poe in Mallarmé’s hermetic verse is to conflate physical burial and mind-born rejuvenation. The Goncourts’ materialist poet is killed and confined forever. These absolute limits, however, are needed if we are to liberate the mind buried in matter, to allow it future “dark flights,” adolescent acts of defiance, but now in the non-material realm of symbol, Blasphemy with a capital B. In the French context, it seems, such burial is always necessary and always premature, but in a particular sense. The tomb is not, as with Gernsback, a place of life extension in the physical sense. Nor is it (as with the materialist Poe) the horror of being entombed “before one’s time.” In Mallarmé’s vision, as in the Verne cenotaph, to kill and bury the material man is to consign his “maturity” to the material world of measurements and limits. As such, it is abolished, but only to be replaced by the antithetical idea of “pre-maturity” as a state not only anterior to, but fundamentally different from, the order of extended things. Seen in light of this radical reversal, the tomb no longer holds matter in. Instead, it keeps the material out, forms a refuge and enclosed space in which mind is free to play.

Mass Murders: The Image of Verne in French Popular Culture.
Verne’s own nineteenth century would gladly have buried the materialist tyrant and used the tomb as means of effecting, along lines of a Cartesian dynamic, the emergence of their own French version of the Romantic child as father to the man. Yet in Verne’s case, the image of the patriarch remains on the tomb in Amiens. This is the image of the forceful, bearded patriarch of the famous Nadar study, a photographic portrait that already in Verne’s time became an icon of material progress. Mallarmé did not have to contend with a strong visual presence in Poe. It was easy for him to move from a blank block of granite to the mysterious realm within, where it is easy to re-constitute the rebellious Poet outside all limits of physical reality. Verne’s tomb, however, has a face. And that face remains to command, not only Bridenne as he seeks an ancestor for science fiction, but numerous situations in popular culture where, in the clash between tradition and technology, the latter must take a concrete form. Material science is ever the adversary of the Cartesian cogito, and Verne the tyrannical patriarch is available to be “killed” and “buried,” again and again, so that the cultural “soul” of France may be reborn, as explorer in its own mental spacetime.

The persistent use of the Verne icon—an image in a sense “killed,” frozen in time—raises the question of anachronism and its uses in the Cartesian culture. Verne is presented not only as the father of sf, but as the father of tomorrow. To depict this, the bearded Verne is regularly thrust into depictions of some technologically transformed present or future. His archaic “laboratory” is made to co-exist in the same frame as modern scanners, computers, and the like. These compositions are visual paradoxes. For Verne here is no figurative presence, a Father of Tomorrow. His bearded image is thrust into that tomorrow as intrusive physical presence. The man who physically inspired tomorrow insists on hanging around in the world he created and in the same physical form, asserting his presence as the old patriarch who will not die. Verne in this role is the avatar of Balzac’s Centenarian, another scientist who refuses to yield his material body to future generations. Like Kronos of old, the Centenarian feeds instead on his progeny, drawing from them the energy needed to sustain his aged body, a body itself compared to a funereal statue. In like manner, this anachronistic Verne acts as vampire on the very future he is said to sire.

However much Verne is said to incarnate technological advancement, his constant representation as bearded patriarch serves in fact to halt all promise of transformation, to freeze past and future in a fatal dualism. An example of this is found in a Toshiba ad in Le Figaro (November 13, 1988). The ad has this innocent-seeming caption: “Jules Verne imagined the 20th century, Toshiba creates today and tomorrow” (34). The ad’s stated intent is to laud technology as an organically developing process. Yet what is visually presented as Verne’s “imagining” of the twentieth century is in fact a period-piece lab, where machines such as x-ray equipment, depicted as they were invented in his time, provide the setting for the familiar bearded figure. Verne is said to be the father of the future. Yet what these archaic graphics seem to express, filling the entire composition as they do, is total resistance to change, an aggressive sense that the old is unwilling to die at any cost. Once this interdictive anachronism is in place, the sole way of dealing with it is to superimpose images on top of the closed frame. With no space available to present a series of changing forms, the ad thrusts shimmering modern Toshiba appliances dead into the center of Verne’s laboratory, creating a sharp dichotomy. In visual terms, Verne rules absolutely over his world of senescent science, whose images fill the page, leaving no space for anything modern. The code evoked by this nineteenth-century apparatus is that of historical “realism,” signifying science and technology at their material apogee. The new machine, appearing in the “window” at the center, exists in fantastical juxtaposition to Verne’s “world.” In a Cartesian sense, it is an entity by “imagination” or mind, in response to the tyranny of matter. This subliminal duality constitutes the visual field in which the Verne icon is presented in popular imagery.

The same icon may appear as a figure in written texts as well, where it often functions as a mask placed on flamboyant modern technocrats, making them avatars of Verne and his protagonists. An example is found in a Paris Match article (July 5, 1975), entitled “Jules Verne au Mont-Saint-Michel.” Once again, the mere name “Jules Verne” stands for technological progress. Moreover, to cast progress in his image is to depict it as patriarchal aggression against the natural world. More, however, is at stake here than just nature, for the piece of real estate up for transformation in this case is a sacred cultural shrine for the French. Verne, the material tyrant who will not die, is reincarnated here in the paternalistic technocrat Albert Caquot, who is proposing to build a huge hydroelectric project off the coast of Normandy. The language describing this project is clearly that of devourer and devoured:

France is hungry for electricity, oil is expensive, and the idea was born to block off the bay by means of a giant dike 100 kilometers long in order to make use of the ocean surge that pours into this natural funnel. By the dozens, beaches would be sealed off behind concrete, and life along 200 kilometers of coast perturbed. As crazy as this proposal might seem, it has its defenders. (30)

This is a terraforming project worthy of Verne. It does not, however, blow up Mt. Kilimanjaro or Cape Canaveral. Much worse for a French public, it violates both the natural and sacred rhythms of this “eternal” location in French cultural history: “For ten centuries the Mont-Saint-Michel has testified to the permanence of things” (31). At the time of writing, permanence is measured in terms of beaches and tourists. As with the natural tides, the tourist season brings a measured ebb and flow of visitors to this place. The article characterizes the opposition here as one of “Jules Verne against the ecology,” and the choice of terms is significant. The Greek root of the word “ecology” is oikos, house or home. As described here, the Mont-Saint-Michel is a “dwelling” occupied less by people than by a cultural presence. If this modern Verne assails home and family, these have become ideal entities, belonging to a France of the mind. These are sites whose permanence is guaranteed by the cogito, even as material France is attacked and devoured. The problem posed here is not one of change and the future. It is choice between good and bad “ecologies,” families run by good or bad heads of household. The implication is that the good home, in this case the sacred order, is one regulated by the cogito, in the sense that, just as the pilgrim must always be able to return to its shrine, or the tourist to its monument, so the self at any moment is free to create its space of rational thought, outside all attachment to res extensa. This latter, in contrast, is the bad home, a place “deregulated,” in the sense that it is given over to unthinking material process—in this case, the cold equations of diminishing energy supply and increasing demand for oil and power. In this realm, the image is not one of mind, but of mouth. France is said to “hunger” for electricity. The giant dike will channel ocean waters to rush into the bay’s “natural funnel” as if it were a gluttonous maw.

In like manner, Verne’s sf is seen to ingurgitate great draughts of “science,” a flood of facts and figures that drown out the more evanescent problems of the human heart and mind. The Goncourts, a century earlier, describe this process as “monomaniacal,” echoing the detested monist materialism of science. They see, this time in the realm of the French literary patrimoine, a like devouring of the intangibles of literature—the “heart” and those human qualities whose permanence is guaranteed by the operation of Cartesian reason. In Verne’s shadow, writers of literature become home and sanctuary to the cogito. Literature safeguards the duality between reason and nature, preserving the human privilege to proclaim itself unique and unchanging in a world vast and unyielding, the world of Jules Verne the father of sf. Because of the insatiable appetite for material things associated with his name and image, Verne becomes, in the mind of the French, a Kronos figure, the father who, devouring his cultural progeny, destroys the possibility of the cogito that forms the heart of the culture.

In this polarized climate, the conflict between matter and mind takes on mythic proportions. And in terms of the myth, we begin to understand why they kill Jules Verne. For killing Verne is the path whereby the cogito is reborn, and that which is essentially human is snatched from the maw of matter. Above, as the Mont-Saint-Michel is contrasted to Verne, an ideal France is reborn, given a youthful élan as mind reclaims parity with matter. We find visual examples where the patriarchal image of Verne is literally erased, as an image of youth is radically substituted, in an act of découpage, for the classic icon of Verne. An interesting example is the cover of the Verne “special issue” of the literary magazine L’Arc (1963). Here, where we expect the Nadar portrait, we find a very different period piece—a photo of what appears a contemporary figure, a dandy with a parasol, which could be that of the “Romantic” Verne, pre-Hetzel. In the place of the stern bourgeois technocrat, we have the affectedly irresponsible young man, exotically mulatto of feature, more Dumas than Verne, certainly more “fils” than “père.” Turning to the masthead, we learn that this photo is taken from a film by Karl Zeman entitled “Aventures fantastiques.” Just as Bridenne turned the materialist Verne into a surrealist, so here his portrait mutates before our eyes into that of the arch-Romantic. Much is made in this issue of the “real” Verne as romantic outsider and “poète maudit.” The cover photo casts off the Urizen exterior and presents the youth buried in the image of the mature tyrant.

A more recent example of this “greening” of Verne is the controversy surrounding the discovery of the Verne manuscript Paris in the Twentieth Century. Dated 1863, five years before the first Hetzel novel, this is a true piece of “juvenilia.” It is also not an optimistic techno-adventure, in “human” terms much more mature than the works that follow. It presents twentieth-century Paris (c. 1960) as a dreary world of machines whose materialism crushes the protagonist, the last poet and classical scholar, casting him forth to die alone in harsh winter. In light of this youthful maturity (again the paradox), the Verne who wrote the Extraordinary Voyages was the dull creation of commercial necessity. The man who became sf’s patriarch is now forced to yield his naïve faith in technology to this reborn Romantic, a Verne so much younger but infinitely more mature. Critics, if we believe jacket comments and press reviews, were seduced by this Pascalian reading. But it is possible to read the facts in Comtean manner as well. The novel is apprentice Verne, and its pessimism is exactly what it seems: a last melodramatic gasp of Romantic rebellion in post-1848 France. In fact, hints of the older and less positivistic Verne show through in this text. It displays keen, even premonitory, insight into the machines that will comprise the technology of the future. This future is bad for the out-of-work hero. But with its visions of internal combustion engines and subways and advanced transport systems, the novel begins to sketch the dynamic world of Verne’s later fiction.

The most significant articulation of the rejuvenated Verne comes in Roland Barthes’s meditation on French popular culture, Mythologies (1957). The occasion of his essay, “Nautilus et Bateau ivre” [Nautilus and Drunken Boat] is the fiftieth anniversary of Verne’s death. Barthes enacts the now-familiar radical reversal of the Verne image, once again evoking the popular view of Verne as “devouring” father, only to convert immediately his material feats into acts of play, juvenile power fantasies. Thus the twists and turns (péripeties) of Verne’s adventures operate so as “to play fast and loose with cosmic distances. . .and to test the power of men over spaces and times [les espaces et les horaires]” (81). For Barthes, Verne’s “playful” fascination with such all-consuming technology is a vestige of the Romantic age. Romantic bravado, however, proves to be little more than bourgeois pretention: “And on this planet triumphantly devoured by the Verne hero, who is a kind of bourgeois Antaeus whose nights are innocent and ‘recuperative,’ we often find some desperado hanging around ... a leftover from some romantic age forever gone, and who by contrasts causes the health of the true owners of the world to explode” (81). Making the familiar association of technology with eating, Barthes chooses a significant anti-titan to displace devouring Kronos. This latter functions as a primitive perpetual motion machine, siring and consuming progeny in a material loop that (in Barthes’s words) “relies simply on some delightful accident of geography.” Antaeus, on the other hand, is a dualist entity. Its days are spent consuming energy; its nights however, in diurnal manner, are spent in “innocent” restoration of that energy. Once more, this entity that displaces father Verne is associated with childhood, Antaeus touching “mother” Earth. And, as a good Cartesian, Barthes emphasizes the contractive side of Verne’s work:

The imagination of the voyage corresponds in Verne to an exploration of the enclosure, and the affinity between Verne and childhood does not come from some banal mystery of the adventure, but rather from a shared contentment with the finite, which one sees manifest in the childish passion for cabins and tents.... The archetype of this dream [of enclosure] is that almost perfect novel, The Mysterious Island, where the child-man reinvents the world, fills it, encloses it, closes itself within in, and crowns this encyclopedic effort by assuming the bourgeois attitude of appropriation—slippers, pipe, and fireside—while outside the storm, that is to say the infinite, rages uselessly. (80)

In this portrait of Verne-Antaeus, the cogito is explicitly linked to dreams of childhood enclosure. In this light, the scientific titan collapses into his “nightside” other, in this case the bourgeois, France’s debased Cartesian everyman, for whom the adventure of the stove or tomb becomes nothing more than the return to slippers and pipe.

Barthes’s example is the Verne surrogate Captain Nemo, who roams the seas collecting scientific data only to enclose it in display cases in his comfortable Nautilus. Not only is the adventurer in the end merely a bourgeois homebody, but (as such) the patriarch is revealed to be an “homme-enfant.” Once this paradox is in place, Barthes is free to engage in another Pascalian reversal. The Nautilus now yields to Rimbaud’s “Bateau ivre,” a vessel whose explorations take place not in the physical but in the imaginary world, that of a mythologie de la navigation at whose helm stands the enfant-homme, the Cartesian child-man. Once again, Verne the tyrant father must be eliminated in order to restore the reign of mind, the rule of the rational subject at the center of a world of extended matter. As Barthes puts it, “there is only one way to exorcise the possessive nature of man in relation to the boat, and that is to suppress the man, and let the boat sail alone” (82). The material man is violently removed (the French word is “supprimer”), so that the lone boat can enter the realm of the figurative, where it functions as a mind form, a personification like Emerson’s “transparent eyeball,” whose space of operation no longer knows material bounds: “Thus the boat ceases to be a box ... an object possessed; it becomes a traveling eye, brushing against infinities” (82). For the vessel to “brush against infinities,” all its physical aspects must be annihilated. It is at this degree zero of matter that the cogito is reborn, as totality, but in an alternate realm of mind in which “infinities” are as multiple as reason can conceive. Indeed, the cogito Barthes describes is less an assertion of being—I think, therefore am—than the declaration of an intransitive linguistic subject: Rimbaud’s “bateau qui dit ‘je’ [the boat that says ‘I’].” This self exists only when uttered; once uttered, it becomes the object of psychoanalysis, a science where mind contemplates itself. Verne’s voyage to the center of the earth becomes a reflexive journey, that of the subject to the center of its own mind. Seen through this psychoanalytical lens, Verne is a “maniac of plenitude” [maniaque de la plenitude]. Its opposite is Rimbaud’s childish assertion of self, which echoes the revolt against material fullness of another famous (quasi-)patricide, Hamlet, who, though he knows himself bound in a nutshell, still counts himself king of infinite space, a space that exists only within the confines of his mind.

The Time Machine as Zeno’s Arrow.
One can argue that “science” as defined in the positivist nineteenth century is literally written into French culture in the form of Verne’s patriarchs, who dominate the natural world. Rimbaud rediscovers the Cartesian subject, as Barthes sees it, by uttering alternate worlds—his famous je est un autre [I is an other]. Arrayed against this, there is the bulk of Verne’s writings, in which a very material other is immutably inscripted. More than Rimbaud’s utterance, it seems, is needed to kill Verne, for he has multiplied himself and his tyrannical science in the many patriarch doubles of his work—Lidenbrock, Nemo, Barbicane, Robur. Michel Serres, in his book Jouvences sur Jules Verne (1970), brings an interesting perspective to the problem. To Serres, Verne’s science, the science of spatial limits of LaPlace and Comte, has written the world. Verne, in turn, strives to reproduce this text of science, described as a fichier géant [a giant catalog], in his works. Verne’s textual universe, however, is circular: “There is no straight line in Verne, not a single one” (10). And as the first author of such a universe is God, Verne’s model is the ur-patriarch:

The ancient father, the ancestor, wrote the first voyage; the second voyage consists in deciphering the tale of the first, and that is what science is. A thread, a reed, a stream, a name, a number or a key, the loop is again closed, and that which is inscribed decoded. Galileo already said it: the world is written in a language that we must read. Science is the totality of all the written legends of the world. (14)

But how, then, does one escape from this world of tyrannical science if that world is a totality? If the task of nineteenth-century science was (as Serres’s says) “the exhaustion of totalities,” tracing “the circle of circles,” how do we reach beyond these limits? Serres again poses the problem in terms of Pascalian extremes: the inscipted science is a tout that must be countered by a rien. The game is one of all or nothing, one does not simply write over Verne, one must dissolve his work totally, so as to reconstitute it absolutely. Thus the word “jouvence,” where rejuvenation issues from dissolution, as one immersed in the fountain of youth emerges young and whole. Once more, the gap that separates old from new, matter from mind, the patriarch from new-born child, is the absolute one of death: “Adult for so little time, adult for so long a time, I have wanted to rummage in those few remaining parts of that bitter corpse I carry inside myself: the child” (9). In this sense, Serres’s fountain of youth promises to produce small assassins. This, we will see, is the situation in the opening story of Blanc’s Pourquoi, “Amiens, mars 1905.”

French sf has discovered a famously Cartesian device for breaking the inscribed world of Vernian science—H.G. Wells’s Time Machine. In French hands, this machine à explorer le temps is used to roam vast mental realms outside, or more often inside, the boundaries of physical spacetime. Moreover, the Time Machine is a weapon of choice for killing Verne, especially when killing means (in Serres’s sense) substituting totally new “script” for Verne’s physical writings. The iron laws of time travel, of course, allow no changes in the past; there is no stepping into Verne’s shoes, no changing of a single line of his writing. There seems no possibility, even by means of a material time machine, of the child physically becoming father to the man. The time arrow remains inexorable, but the machine allows the “traveler” to weave paradoxical arabesques around the fixed event, hoping somehow to cheat or change time, in Heinlein’s words to “paradoctor the paradox.” In relation to killing Verne, the Time Machine’s trajectory is that of Zeno’s arrow, inscribing its realm of mental play between shadow and act. Here there are two possible scenarios. One is to re-enact Verne’s death, substituting one’s “agency” for the work of natural causes, as do the time hunters in Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder” (1953). This is Blanc’s mode. The other scenario, however, is that of Blanc’s respondent, Gérard Klein: to kill the work. The time trail is vaguer here. We have a work. But the traveler can hypothetically alter the context and conditions surrounding its creation, and who but the traveler can verify these things. Klein’s traveler kills Verne by disconnecting the man from the printed page, which of course is what time does anyway.

Blanc’s protagonist specifically uses Wells’s device to revisit the moment of Verne’s death and to re-enact it. He, like the “Bernard Blanc” who speaks in the rest of the book (Blanc, born in 1951, was 27 years old in 1978, date of the publication), claims to be a victim of Verne’s books, as was his generation of sf writers. The scenario is now familiar: technocrat father corrupts his literary progeny, instilling a technical bravado that leads to environmental destruction, again the conventional French “home”: “If, in thatched huts, people get excited about putting a foot on the Moon, it’s all your doing, right? It’s you who spread this nasty virus among the lowest levels of society” (15). The bad father sows bad seed that corrupts the popular mind. Verne’s real progeny are the writers, however, and here the seed corrupts sf itself: “And all those who follow you, did you think of them as well. You have seen what you did to science fiction? It’s as if you had given birth to a monster” (16). Time travel carries this monstrous son, “dressed as a punk, with torn tennis shoes and filthy pants,” back to a 1905 Amiens that is itself a place of anachronistic contrasts, as sf visions of “an interplanetary rocket ship ready for the Big Trip” blend with the spires of Amiens cathedral. Despite his switchblade, this traveler knows Bradbury’s lesson well: he arrives at the exact time of Verne’s recorded death and “kills” him by feeding him sugar to provoke a diabetic seizure, the true cause of his death. What follows is patricidal theater, in which the child can play father to the man. For as he reviles the patriarch for the bad things his novels will bring, ritually calling him “Monsieur Jules Verne,” he spoon-feeds him, as one would an infant, the sugar that will kill him. The venerable Verne, in turn, is described as the old-man-become-child: “He drools, he’s got it all over him. What an old slob! He’s filthier than Bukowski” (17).

Blanc’s “killer” must play time’s script. He does, however, tweak the paradox in order to keep the game of Verne’s killing open. He swipes the original manuscript of Around the Moon (“one never knows, maybe one day I’ll need bread to buy heroin with”) and puts a few hairs of Verne’s famous beard in the book he is carrying. If the book in question is The Time Machine, then these hairs, like Weena’s flower, may deflect the tautology ever so slightly, causing the arrow to veer from the straight path of material homicide into the alternate realm of Zeno’s paradox. The actions of Blanc’s protagonist cause no physical change in his present: he finds the same depressing 1978 that he left. The strands of Verne’s beard instead deflect action into a symbolic realm, that of the propagation of the image of the bearded patriarch among Blanc’s sf contemporaries: “Most of the writers temporarily or permanently bearded have accepted to act out his role for a time. For obvious reasons I can name no names, but the resemblance between old engravings depicting Verne and recent photos of Philippe Curval is striking” (27). On the physical level, killing Verne remains a tautology. And in terms the survival of his works, Blanc’s protagonist learns how misdirected his actions have been: “Hung around in a bar and flipped through a paper. There, in a color ad paid for by Hachette: “1828-1978. For the hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the birth of Jules Verne, Hachette, his editor since 1914 ... has published the complete works ... Initial price, 29 francs.” (18). The game is futile, time’s arrow inexorable.

Gérard Klein, responding to Blanc’s call to kill Verne in the section entitled “Quelques complices” [A Few Accomplices], is fully aware that the time arrow must be replaced with what Valéry describes as an arrow that “quivers, flies, and does not fly.” He also sees that, in physical terms, there is no Verne to kill; there is only his work. But is it “his”? What, in the Eleatic mindspace of time travel, does “his”mean? As Klein sees it, something has been written. If all the temporal manipulations in the world cannot remove it, they can perturb or delay the transfer of its content by endlessly generating reversals in the realm of virtual authorship. Klein’s game of death is one of erasing and re-writing Verne’s opus, a game whose purpose is to sustain indefinitely the interval inscribed by Valéry’s arrow of paradox between shadow and act. Klein, however, is enough of a materialist not to realize that generating such time loops is a temporizing strategy at best. Too much the skeptic, he knows the arrow did hit its mark, Verne is dead, his work written, its damage done.

In Klein’s scenario, Verne’s arch-rival Wells comes to him in his machine in 1924, to enlist him in a plot to suppress Verne’s work. Wells does not know French, hence needs Klein to write a “watered-down” (affadi) version of the original opus. This gives us the work we know today, the only one we can know. In this sense, “time crime” is perfect crime. Only Klein, the traveler who went to the past, knows what the original was. Only he can speculate on why Wells wanted to suppress it:

The main justification he set forth, and which convinced me then, was that on one hand Verne in his work had abolished all the themes of science fiction and put an end to the genre, and on the other hand that the relations between literature and society, as we well know, being those of subordination of the second term to the first, the result of this for the 20th century would be a series of tyrannies, massacres and cataclysms, such that any humanist of conviction could only wish to prevent. (26)

Here the mind-game of substitutions and erasure begins. Klein’s “real” Verne is given the social agenda of the Wells we know, who did believe in the power of literature to alter society. But reversing “true” for “false” Verne only tips us back in our world, where literature goes from having cataclysmic effect to having no effect on society. This view, however, justifies not only the killing of Verne’s work but of all writers and works, for all of these reveal themselves to be nothing more than creations of an individual mind, which that mind is free to destroy at will. Yet it turns out, in another reversal, that all these worlds, like that of the Verne we know, end up looking like our world after all.

Klein’s temporal game links the re-writing of Verne to the act of writing sf, and both of these to the process of doubt that creates the Cartesian cogito. Whatever we claim to do to Verne, his work (as Blanc testifies) does have an impact on the physical world. To “destroy” that work in the realm of time travel is analogous to mind doubting it away. Material reality yields to logical argument, where, once the literary work is judged unable to affect the physical world, the writer becomes free both to create his or her own world and to destroy that world at will. In the end, however, the sole freedom left to Klein’s de-classed author is the freedom to kill. It is no longer Verne the man they kill, but an image of the world Verne wrought, a nightmare place of technocratic oppression, a horror of the mind destroyed by an act of mind. In such a scenario, patricide and literary suicide are one. Klein cites a phrase of Michel Jeury, where death proves the common bond between the individual and totality: “I prefer to die with everyone else than to die alone.” Bernard Blanc might wish to see Jeury’s remark as a true communitarian response to Klein’s megalomania. He cannot think outside the Cartesian box, however, and his response only reverses the cogito: “Gérard Klein has simply forgotten one fact: that such generalized pollution EXISTS” (304). Caught between Cartesian extremes of being and nothingness, Blanc’s response is to reformulate the dualism as one between patricide and suicide. Blanc’s “activism,” a time travel jaunt to kill the man who generated all this mess, proves futile. His response to Klein’s chaos of Cartesian cataclysms—with each author, creator, and destroyer of its own world—is for the writer to suppress itself: “If one serves no purpose at all any more, simply to arbitrate between a few internecine wars between monopolies, what’s left but to knock oneself off (se flinguer)” (302).

Conclusion: The Cartesian Pendulum. French culture has apparently over-reacted to Verne, to his facts and figures, to his scientists’ pretense at experimental method. His French readers have believed in, trembled at, his fascination with American entrepreneurs, his call for explorations of the extended unknown. They do not have to go so far as kill Verne, however, for Verne, in his novels, kills off his own scientific patriarchs. This should be obvious to his French readers. But, it seems, the material sweep of his adventures is so vast that they react with almost Pascalian terror. Faced with this void, they seem driven to enforce, with maximum violence, the Cartesian division that substitutes a world of mind for that of matter. But they need not do so. For Verne himself enforces this same duality at the end of his great adventures. Let us look at the fate of Captain Nemo in Barthes’s perfect novel, The Mysterious Island.

The novel seems to be open-ended. Nemo may decide to let the treasure trove of knowledge in the Nautilus perish along with him. The American engineer Cyrus Smith stands by, however, and what Nemo bequeaths him is the desire to make new discoveries. Throughout the novel, Smith and company are guided by the invisible hand of Nemo. In the end, it is Smith’s practical ingenuity that masters the island; as with the transposed beards, one strong patriarch seems replaced by an even stronger father figure, in this case an American, even more directly associated with the tyranny of material process. But the novel does not end here. The island that Smith has mastered proves to be an active volcano. Despite all their efforts, it erupts, destroying all they had wrought, leaving but a small rock in the sea on which they are now stranded. Nemo may have warned of impending eruption. It is through the eyes of Nab, however, the “natural man,” that Smith comes to see that even if Nemo were there, he could not help them. Despite all their material skills, he and his men are in the same situation as Pascal’s reed, helpless when a drop of fire threatens to crush them: “‘Master,’ Nab asked, ‘if Captain Nemo were still alive, do you think all this would have still happened?’ ‘Yes, Nab,’ Cyrus Smith replied” (499). The scientific odyssey of material conquest ends with absolute affirmation of its impossibility. What occurs here, at this zero-point, is transfer to a realm of activity, this time controlled by mental structurings. Reminiscent of Mallarmé’s version of Poe’s tomb, all that remains of the physical Nemo and his island is “a piece of granite battered by the waves of the Pacific, the tomb of him who was once Captain Nemo” (504). Beyond the material finality of this tomb, however, it is the spirit of Nemo that continues to act, a Cartesian ghost who guides Smith and his band to an end that is more utopia than reality. It is Nemo’s note, left on “L’Ile Tabor,” that allows them, stranded on the piece of rock under which the Nautilus lies, to be miraculously saved. Nemo’s chest of precious stones allows Smith to recreate his lost island, but now in the middle of Iowa, where the survivors huddle to re-enact, in a space more of the mind than the land, the original adventure.

Nemo’s tomb, the final image of Mysterious Island, is the closed space, the Cartesian stove, from which utopian Iowa springs, a world ever young because a world of the mind. Verne’s other conqueror-scientists undergo a similar conversion. Barbicane and Nicholls, in the illustrations of From the Earth to the Moon, appear as archetypal bearded patriarchs. But if their experimental vehicle takes off to explore the unknown, it proves able only to circle the moon, where the ship becomes a theater for the poetic musings of young Michel Ardan. These patriarchs of science are ritualistically “killed” in a significant moment, as the ship passes over the dark side of the moon. On the verge of observations never before made, they suddenly encounter a blinding meteor that all but destroys them. They are destroyed in the sense that the light seems to strip away all sense of material extension, leaving them in the midst of this darkness visible to function only as mind: “If thought had not been destroyed in them, if their brain was still functioning in the midst of its terror, they must have thought themselves lost!” (Around the Moon, 374). Blinded by physical light, they are summoned to their “senses” in a new world, more of imagination than physical reality, by Ardan’s poetic turn of phrase: “The invisible moon, visible at last.” In their brief glimpse of the moon between light and renewed darkness, the “real” phenomena they see are hopelessly tinged with phantasms of the mind, and science speaks with the voice of Ardan: “Then [they saw] immense spaces, not just arid plains, but veritable seas, oceans vastly distributed, the liquid mirror of whose surfaces was reflecting all the dazzling magic of the fires of space ...Was this an illusion, an error of the eyes, a deception of the optical nerve?” (375). Material science returns to the Cartesian stove of doubt.

In the history of French literature, there is no other writer who, with his flying machines, submarines, and rocket ships, makes such claim to the exploration of res extensa. Verne may not deliver on that promise. But it is the cultural image of Verne that, between the Cartesian poles of matter and mind, promises to swing, in a terrifying manner, to the material extreme of the pendulum. As with Descartes, Pascal, and their rationalist century, the response is a radical reversal of terms. In this maximizing logic, Verne is made absolute monarch of that literature of matter, sf. This material tyrant is overthrown, annihilated, so that the cogito may be restored, at the other extreme, as mind-world unto itself. This image of patricide in connection with Verne, where tyrant succumbs to Romantic child so that child can again be Cartesian father to the man, points to the tenacious grip of dualist logic on scientific activity in France. This Cartesian pendulum continues to regulate scientific and literary explorations alike of what the French call res extensa, that realm of terror without, in which things exist deprived of the presence of mind. In the shadow of such a place, Verne must die, and to kill becomes a supremely human act.

All translations from the French are my own unless otherwise attributed.
1. Here is Paul Valéry’s sense of this Cartesian “revolution”: “Il [Descartes] demande au Ciel d’être confirmé dans son idée d’une méthode pour bien conduire sa raison, et cette méthode implique une croyance et une confiance fondamentales en soi-même, conditions necessaries pour détruire la confiance et la croyance en l’autorité des doctrines transmises.” [“He (Descartes) asks the heavens to confirm him in his idea of a method to guide his reason correctly, and this method entails a belief and a fundamental confidence in oneself, conditions necessary to destroy confidence and belief in the authority of inherited doctrines.”] Variété V, “Une vue de Descartes,” 218.
2. Another materialist “re-reading” of the Cartesian process is found in Ray Bradbury’s story “No Particular Night or Morning” (1951). Here in a stove of his own, the vacuum of space, protagonist Hitchcock describes the methodical and violent process whereby he denies the material existence of all his bodily parts, willing them away into the void: “No more space ship now. Never was any. No people ... no plants, no stars. No hands, I haven’t any hands anymore. No feet. Never had any. Can’t prove it. No body. Never had any. No lips. No face. No head. Nothing. Only space.” (111).

Asimov, Isaac., Asimov on Science Fiction. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1981.
Barthes, Roland. “Nautilus et Bateau ivre.” Mythologies (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1957): 80-82.
Blanc, Bernard. “Amiens, mars 1905.” Pourquoi j’ai tué Jules Verne. Paris: Editions Stock, 1978. 9-18.
Bradbury, Ray. “No Particular Night or Morning.” The Illustrated Man. New York: Bantam, 1951. 106-114.
Bridenne, Jean-Jacques. “Jules Verne, père de la science-fiction?” Fiction 6 (1954): 112-15; Fiction 7 (1954): 108-12; Fiction 8 (1954): 113-17.
Descartes, René. Oeuvres et lettres. Ed. André Bridoux. Paris: Gallimard, 1953.
Goncourt, Edmond et Jules de. Journal: Mémoires de la vie littéraire, (1856-1858). Monaco: Les éditions de l’imprimerie nationale de Monaco, 1956.
“Jules Verne au Mont-Saint-Michel.” Paris Match (July 5,1975): 28-36.
Gérard Klein, “Quelques complices.” In Bernard Blanc, Pourquoi j’ai tué Jules Verne. Paris: Editions Stock, 1978. 25-27.
Lenzer, Gertrud. Auguste Comte and Positivism: The Essential Writings. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1978.
Mallarmé, Stéphane. Oeuvres completes, Ed. Henri Mondor and G. Jean-Aubry. Paris: Gallimard: Pléiade, 1945.
Pascal, Blaise. Pensées. Ed. Louis Lafuma. Paris: éditions du Seuil, 1962.
PC. Rev. of Pourquoi j’at tué Jules Verne by Bernard Blanc. Christian Science Monitor (August 26, 1979): C12.
Serres, Michel. Jouvences sur Jules Verne. Paris: éditions de Minuit, 1974.
Valéry, Paul. Variété V. Paris: Gallimard, 1978.
Verne, Jules. L’Ile mystérieuse. 1875. Paris: Hachette, 1977.

Back to Home