Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas - Jules Verne (translated by William Butcher)

It's a fascinating book and takes you on an underwater tour across continents. The application of scientific knowledge, the conversations of men of knowledge and the unimaginable extent of nature's bounty underwater stuns you. To top it all we also have human drama in the dilemmas of the main characters.

It starts with the sighting of a huge sea monster or so they believe - in oceans across the world. It perplexes experts because it seems to move very quickly from one place to another. An expedition is arranged to deal with this giant narwhal on board a ship called Abraham Lincoln. Our protagonist Dr. Arronax, an expert on the oceans and all things pertaining to it is invited to join the expedition and he does so with his Man Friday Conceil. Ned land, a harpooner is also on board.

The creature is spotted finally and soon they realise it is no monster but a huge underwater ship that rams and sinks the Lincoln. Dr. Arronax, Ned and Conceil manage to stay afloat and are picked up by the underwater ship the Nautilus. They meet the captain of the Nautilus Captain Nemo who tells them that they will be treated well on board but will never get back to land. The captives are then taken on a fascinating journey where they visit exotic islands, underwater treasures, travel across the globe and encounter all sorts of dangers. Even go to the South Pole and back. Dr. Arronax is intrigued by the intelligence and intensity of Captain Nemo who seems to have some deep hatred for people on land, but still has a deep sensitivity to people.

It's fascinating to read because it effortlessly merges human intelligence, science and drama and takes the reader to a world she may not ever explore otherwise. I do not remember where I got this book but I suspect it was a book gifted to me by the VNR VJIT students at their Free Book Initiative during their TED event. It was enthusiastically recommended by a young man and I am glad he did.

I must also mention the wonderful library that my school All Saints High School had put together, probably at the initiative of Mr. Dhruvaraj, our Social Studies teacher. In the library they had a collection fo all these classics in animated form - stuff that could be read in half an hour. I got exposed to all the classics in those lunch periods and I distinctly remember this book and its author too.

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