It was the story of an outrageous journey. And although written almost 150 years ago, it remains as immensely readable as it was at that time. Around the World in Eighty Days still retains an aura of adventure that makes travel such an attraction for many people today.
The story is that of an English gentleman called Phileas Fogg, who bets his friends that he can travel around the world in exactly eighty days. That does not sound too difficult, does it? Well, in 1872 when this book was written, it was a great deal. There were no aircraft, no automobiles and even train and marine connectivity was limited. Well, his friends think Fogg is off his head and take his bet.
Fogg sets off with his newly employed French valet, Passpartout, with a route that makes its way via France, Egypt, India, Hong Kong, Japan and across the width of the United States, using a blend of railways and ships. What Fogg does not know is that the British Police suspect him of being a mysterious bank robber and think his “bet” is just a way of escaping. So a detective, called Fix (yes!) Is put on Fogg’s trail, and to arrest him if possible if he happens to be in British territory.
So you have Fogg and Passpartout racing their way across the globe, Fix trying to keep in touch (and requesting different varieties of arrest warrant depending on his location), and of course, all sorts of events and adventures happening even as all this happens. A princess is rescued in India, Passpartout gets separated and joins a circus, Fogg fights a duel in a train…and no, we are not telling you whether he wins his bet or not.
What makes the book special is the fluency of the narration. Verne is a master storyteller and Around the World sees him perhaps at his best. The characters are quirky – Fogg is the quintessential taciturn and almost unreally efficient Englishman, Passpartout is the passionate Frenchman, and Fix a bit of a bumbling detective. There is humour, a fair bit of action, and some rather amusing conversations. Yes, the book comes complete with all the prejudices and stereotypes of the day, from superstitious Indians to arrogant Yankees as well as drug addled Chinese, but keep those hackles down and enjoy the ride.
For this is one roller coaster ride. It is not a long book – around 250 pages – but you will find yourself racing through it. And rooting for Fogg in his crazy pursuit of getting around the globe in a mere eighty days, and hoping that Fix (willingly) and Passpartout (unwillingly) do not trip him up. This travel novel is timeless.
Read! But as in the case of most non-English authors, make sure you get a copy from a well-known publication, as the translations are generally better.