Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Books: Vingt Mille Lieues sous Les Mers*

*roughly translated - 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Should probably be "20,000 Leagues Under the Seas." And thank God for the Web - all these cover photos match what I actually own.


One of the first books I ever read front to back was an illustrated, abridged version of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." It read more like a comic book, truth be told - every other page was a picture that showed what was happening on the opposite page, and all the artwork was suitably heroic. As a kid, I loved the square-jawed Ned Land, the nefarious giant squid, and a Captain Nemo who looked sorta like Ming the Merciless.


About the time of 3rd grade, I found out what "abridged" meant, and resolved to get the whole story. This time, I bought a "Signet Classics" paperback featuring a haunting picture of Captain Nemo on the cover, and no illustrations within. I marveled at the variety of the ocean's undersea life, the picaresque adventures on shore, and the depths to which Nemo had isolated himself from society.


About the time of high school (about when I was taking my first French class), I realized that Jules Verne was not an Englishman, and the book I had loved all this time was a translated version. So, after shopping for some time in a Manhattan bookstore that carried foreign-language works, I spotted a "POCKET CLASSIQUES" paperback with the familiar giant squid on the cover. And when I've become fluent in French, then maybe I'll be able to say I've read "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."

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