Michael Strogoff

Michael Strogoff


It was written specially for Czar Alexander II of Russia's visit to Paris in 1876, and tells the story of a young courier's perilous journey across Russia to Eastern Siberia in order to warn the Czar's brother of an impending Tartar invas...

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It was written specially for Czar Alexander II of Russia's visit to Paris in 1876, and tells the story of a young courier's perilous journey across Russia to Eastern Siberia in order to warn the Czar's brother of an impending Tartar invasion.

Michael Strogoff  is a novel written by Jules Verne in 1876. Critics, including Leonard S. Davidow, consider it one of Verne's best books. Davidow wrote, "Jules Verne has written no better book than this, in fact it is deservedly ranked as one of the most thrilling tales ever written." Unlike some of Verne's other novels, it is not science fiction, but a scientific phenomenon (Leidenfrost effect) is a plot device. The book was later adapted to a play, by Verne himself and Adolphe d'Ennery. Incidental music to the play was written by Alexandre Artus in 1880. The book has been adapted several times for films, television and cartoon series.

Jules Gabriel Verne 8 February 1828 – 24 March 1905) was a French novelist, poet, and playwright.


Verne's collaboration with the publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel led to the creation of the Voyages extraordinaires, a widely popular series of scrupulously researched adventure novels including Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870), and Around the World in Eighty Days (1873).


Verne is generally considered a major literary author in France and most of Europe, where he has had a wide influence on the literary avant-garde and on surrealism. His reputation was markedly different in Anglophone regions where he had often been labeled a writer of genre fiction or children's books, largely because of the highly abridged and altered translations in which his novels have often been printed (until the 1980s, when his "literary reputation ... began to improve").


Verne has been the second most-translated author in the world since 1979, ranking between Agatha Christie and William Shakespeare.He has sometimes been called the "Father of Science Fiction", a title that has also been given to H. G. Wells and Hugo Gernsback.


See also: Jules Verne bibliography

An 1889 Hetzel poster advertising Verne's works

Jules Verne novels: The Carpathian Castle, The Danube Pilot, Claudius Bombarnac, and Kéraban the Inflexible, on a miniature sheet of Romanian postage stamps (2005)


Verne's largest body of work is the Voyages extraordinaires series, which includes all of his novels except for the two rejected manuscripts Paris in the Twentieth Century and Backwards to Britain (published posthumously in 1994 and 1989, respectively) and for projects left unfinished at his death (many of which would be posthumously adapted or rewritten for publication by his son Michel).Verne also wrote many plays, poems, song texts, operetta libretti, and short stories, as well as a variety of essays and miscellaneous non-fiction.

Literary reception


After his debut under Hetzel, Verne was enthusiastically received in France by writers and scientists alike, with George Sand and Théophile Gautier among his earliest admirers. Several notable contemporary figures, from the geographer Vivien de Saint-Martin to the critic Jules Claretie, spoke highly of Verne and his works in critical and biographical notes.


However, Verne's growing popularity among readers and playgoers (due especially to the highly successful stage version of Around the World in Eighty Days) led to a gradual change in his literary reputation. As the novels and stage productions continued to sell, many contemporary critics felt that Verne's status as a commercially popular author meant he could only be seen as a mere genre-based storyteller, rather than a serious author worthy of academic study.


This denial of formal literary status took various forms, including dismissive criticism by such writers as Émile Zola and the lack of nomination to Verne for membership in the Académie Française, and was recognized by Verne himself, who said in a late interview: "The great regret of my life is that I have never taken any place in French literature."To Verne, who considered himself "a man of letters and an artist, living in the pursuit of the ideal", this critical dismissal on the basis of literary ideology could only be seen as the ultimate snub.


This bifurcation of Verne as a popular genre writer but a critical persona non grata continued after his death, with early biographies (including one by Verne's own niece, Marguerite Allotte de la Fuÿe) focusing on error-filled and embroidered hagiography of Verne as a popular figure rather than on Verne's actual working methods or his output. Meanwhile, sales of Verne's novels in their original unabridged versions dropped markedly even in Verne's home country, with abridged versions aimed directly at children taking their place.


However, the decades after Verne's death also saw the rise in France of the "Jules Verne cult", a steadily growing group of scholars and young writers who took Verne's works seriously as literature and willingly noted his influence on their own pioneering works. Some of the cult founded the Société Jules Verne, the first academic society for Verne scholars; many others became highly respected avant garde and surrealist literary figures in their own right. Their praise and analyses, emphasizing Verne's stylistic innovations and enduring literary themes, proved highly influential for literary studies to come.


In the 1960s and 1970s, thanks in large part to a sustained wave of serious literary study from well-known French scholars and writers, Verne's reputation skyrocketed in France. Roland Barthes' seminal essay "Nautilus et Bateau Ivre" ("The Nautilus and the Drunken Boat") was influential in its exegesis of the Voyages extraordinares as a purely literary text, while book-length studies by such figures as Marcel Moré and Jean Chesneaux considered Verne from a multitude of thematic vantage points.


French literary journals devoted entire issues to Verne and his work, with essays by such imposing literary figures as Michel Butor, Georges Borgeaud, Marcel Brion, Pierre Versins, Michel Foucault, René Barjavel, Marcel Lecomte, Francis Lacassin, and Michel Serres; meanwhile, Verne's entire published opus returned to print, with unabridged and illustrated editions of his works printed by Livre de Poche and Éditions Rencontre.   The wave reached its climax in Verne's sesquicentennial year 1978, when he was made the subject of an academic colloquium at the Centre culturel international de Cerisy-la-Salle, and Journey to the Center of the Earth was accepted for the French university system's Agrégation reading list. Since these events, Verne has been consistently recognized in Europe as a legitimate member of the French literary canon, with academic studies and new publications steadily continuing.


Verne's reputation in English-speaking countries has been considerably slower in changing. Throughout the 20th century, most Anglophone scholars dismissed Verne as a genre writer for children and a naïve proponent of science and technology (despite strong evidence to the contrary on both counts), thus finding him more interesting as a technological "prophet" or as a subject of comparison to English-language writers such as Edgar Allan Poe and H. G. Wells than as a topic of literary study in his own right. This narrow view of Verne has undoubtedly been influenced by the poor-quality English translations and very loosely adapted Hollywood film versions through which most American and British readers have discovered Verne. However, since the mid-1980s a considerable number of serious English-language studies and translations have appeared, suggesting that a rehabilitation of Verne's Anglophone reputation may currently be underway.

English translations

An early edition of the notorious Griffith & Farran adaptation of Journey to the Center of the Earth


Translation of Verne into English began in 1852, when Verne's short story "A Voyage in a Balloon" (1851) was published in the American journal Sartain's Union Magazine of Literature and Art in a translation by Anne T. Wilbur. Translation of his novels began in 1869 with William Lackland's translation of Five Weeks in a Balloon (originally published in 1863), and continued steadily throughout Verne's lifetime, with publishers and hired translators often working in great haste to rush his most lucrative titles into English-language print. Unlike Hetzel, who targeted all ages with his publishing strategies for the Voyages extraordinaires, the British and American publishers of Verne chose to market his books almost exclusively to young audiences; this business move, with its implication that Verne could be treated purely as a children's author, had a long-lasting effect on Verne's reputation in English-speaking countries.


These early English-language translations have been widely criticized for their extensive textual omissions, errors, and alterations, and are not considered adequate representations of Verne's actual novels. The British writer Adam Roberts, in an essay for The Guardian titled "Jules Verne deserves a better translation service", commented: "I'd always liked reading Jules Verne and I've read most of his novels; but it wasn't until recently that I really understood I hadn't been reading Jules Verne at all.... It's a bizarre situation for a world-famous writer to be in. Indeed, I can't think of a major writer who has been so poorly served by translation."


Similarly, the American novelist Michael Crichton observed:


    Verne's prose is lean and fast-moving in a peculiarly modern way … [but] Verne has been particularly ill-served by his English translators. At best they have provided us with clunky, choppy, tone-deaf prose. At worst—as in the notorious 1872 "translation" [of Journey to the Center of the Earth] published by Griffith & Farran—they have blithely altered the text, giving Verne's characters new names, and adding whole pages of their own invention, thus effectively obliterating the meaning and tone of Verne's original.


Since 1965, a considerable number of more accurate English translations of Verne have appeared. However, the highly criticized older translations continue to be republished, due to their public domain status and in many cases their easy availability in online sources.

Relationship with science fiction

Caricature of Verne with fantastic sea life (1884)


The relationship between Verne's Voyages extraordinaires and the literary genre science fiction is a complex one. Verne, like H. G. Wells, is frequently cited as one of the founders of the genre, and his profound influence on its development is indisputable; however, many earlier writers, such as Lucian of Samosata, Voltaire, and Mary Shelley, have also been cited as creators of science fiction, an unavoidable ambiguity arising from the vague definition and history of the genre.


A primary issue at the heart of the dispute is the question of whether Verne's works count as science fiction to begin with. Maurice Renard claimed that Verne "never wrote a single sentence of scientific-marvelous". Verne himself argued repeatedly in interviews that his novels were not meant to be read as scientific, saying "I have invented nothing". His own goal was rather to "depict the earth [and] at the same time to realize a very high ideal of beauty of style",as he pointed out in an example:


    I wrote Five Weeks in a Balloon, not as a story about ballooning, but as a story about Africa. I always was greatly interested in geography and travel, and I wanted to give a romantic description of Africa. Now, there was no means of taking my travellers through Africa otherwise than in a balloon, and that is why a balloon is introduced.… I may say that at the time I wrote the novel, as now, I had no faith in the possibility of ever steering balloons…


Closely related to Verne's science-fiction reputation is the often-repeated claim that he is a "prophet" of scientific progress, and that many of his novels involve elements of technology that were fantastic for his day but later became commonplace. These claims have a long history, especially in America, but the modern scholarly consensus is that such claims of prophecy are heavily exaggerated. In a 1961 article critical of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea's scientific accuracy, Theodore L. Thomas speculated that Verne's storytelling skill and readers misremembering a book they read as children caused people to "remember things from it that are not there. The impression that the novel contains valid scientific prediction seems to grow as the years roll by". As with science fiction, Verne himself flatly denied that he was a futuristic prophet, saying that any connection between scientific developments and his work was "mere coincidence" and attributing his indisputable scientific accuracy to his extensive research: "even before I began writing stories, I always took numerous notes out of every book, newspaper, magazine, or scientific report that I came across.


Sources of information


Exact sources of Verne's quite accurate knowledge of contemporary Eastern Siberia remain disputed. One popular version connects it to the novelist's meetings with anarchist Peter Kropotkin; however, Kropotkin arrived in France after Strogoff was published. Another, more likely source, could have been Siberian businessman Mikhail Sidorov. Sidorov presented his collection of natural resources, including samples of oil and oil shales from Ukhta area, together with photographs of Ukhta oil wells, at the 1873 World Exhibition in Vienna, where he could have met Verne. Real-world oil deposits in Lake Baikal region do exist, first discovered in 1902 in Barguzin Bay and Selenge River delta, but they are nowhere near the commercial size depicted by Verne.


Verne's publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel sent the manuscript of the novel to the Russian writer Ivan Turgenev in August 1875 asking him for his comments on the accuracy of the conditions described in the book.


While the physical description of Siberia is accurate, the Tartar rebellion described is entirely fictional and rather implausible. Wars with Tartars and Mongols were a major aspect of Medieval Russian history, but the Russians gained the upper hand long before the 19th Century, and no Tartar Khan at the time of writing was in a position to act as Feofar is described as doing; depicting late19th Century Tartars as able to face Russians on anything resembling equal terms is a manifest anachronism.


Title       Year       Country                Director                Strogoff                Notes    Refs

Michael Strogoff               1914       US           Lloyd B. Carleton              Jacob P. Adler    silent    

Michel Strogoff 1926       France / Germany            Victor Tourjansky             Ivan Mosjoukine               silent    

Michel Strogoff 1936       France   Jacques de Baroncelli,

Richard Eichberg               Anton Walbrook                              

The Czar's Courier            1936       Germany             Richard Eichberg               Anton Walbrook              

The Soldier and the Lady               1937       US           George Nicholls, Jr.          Anton Walbrook               later released as Michael Strogoff              

Miguel Strogoff                 1943       Mexico Miguel M Delgado           Julián Soler                        

Michel Strogoff 1956       France, Italy, Yugoslavia                Carmine Gallone               Curd Jürgens                     

Le Triomphe de Michel Strogoff 1961       France, Italy        Victor Tourjansky             Curd Jürgens                     

Strogoff                1970       Bulgaria, France, Italy     Eriprando Visconti           John Phillip Law                Released in Germany as Der Kurier des Zaren and in France as Michel Strogoff               

Michele Strogoff, il corriere dello zar       1999       Germany, France, Italy   Fabrizio Costa    Paolo Seganti                    

Les Aventures extraordinaires de Michel Strogoff              2004       France   Bruno-René Huchez,

Alexandre Huchez            Anthony Delon                 

Michael Strogoff               2013       Italy                                       episode of TV series "JV: The Extraordinary Adventures of Jules Verne"; totally divergent plot          


The town of Marfa, Texas was named after the character Marfa Strogoff in this novel.


In 2017 a board game was published by Devir Games, designed by Alberto Corral and developed and illustrated by Pedro Soto. Similar to the book, in the game players are couriers racing across Russia to thwart the assassination plot by Count Ivan Ogareff. Players will race one another but will also race the Count, who moves across Russia on a separate track. Along the way, players must face and overcome troubles such as bears and bad weather, avoid the spy Sangarra who tries to delay their progress, and avoid capture by the Tartar forces who conspire with Count Ogareff. Players must balance the racing element of the game, resting enough to preserve health, and dealing with the troubles they face along the way before crisis ensues. The game usually ends when a player confronts Ogareff in Irkusk and a showdown ensues. The game is highly thematic and true to the novel, with artwork that draws on traditional Russian carving techniques from the era.


The book is suitable for 10 years old and up


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