When I was growing up as a kid, there were two things that would always hold a special place in my life one was The Poseidon Adventure a 1977 big budget movie which hooked me on to Hollywood and the other was the book Around the World in 80 Days which kick started my addiction to novels. As a kid, I was already into books, but most of my reading was limited to Tintin, Asterix and Amar Chitra Katha comics, and most of my book reading was limited to fairy tales and folk lore stuff. I had an excerpt from Around the World in 80 Days, in my class V English primer, and the premise of a man going around the world just excited me no end. And I wanted to get hold of the full novel.
And finally I managed to get hold of the book, and once I started it, it was hard for me to put it down. This book also motivated me to read other Jules Verne classics like 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea , Journey to Center of Earth .
Around the World in 80 Days is the story of a reclusive British millionaire, Phileas Fogg whose only way of spending time is reading newspapers and playing whist at the Reform Club of which he is a member. At the introduction to the book, we come to know that he is very precise in nature and he had fired his servant because the temperature of the water he used for shaving was 2 degrees lower.
His new servant Passerpatout a lively and passionate Frenchman thinks his master is as lively as the wax statues at Tussaud’s but he wouldn’t mind serving a machine . The novel’s main point starts off with an intriguing conversation in his club about a robber making off with 55,000 pounds and the pursuit of him. As they discuss how easily it is to travel around the world, due to ship and train, one of his colleagues John Sullivan insists that one can circumnavigate the world in around 80 days.
That is true, gentlemen,’’ added John Sullivan. ’’Only eighty days, now that the section between Rothal and Allahabad, on the Great Indian Peninsula Railway, has been opened. Here is the estimate made by the Daily Telegraph:
From London to Suez via Mont Cenis and Brindisi, by rail and steamboats …………….. 7 days From Suez to Bombay, by steamer ……………….. 13 ’’ From Bombay to Calcutta, by rail ………………. 3 ’’ From Calcutta to Hong Kong, by steamer …………. 13 ’’ From Hong Kong to Yokohama (Japan), by steamer ….. 6 ’’ From Yokohama to San Francisco, by steamer ……… 22 ’’ From San Francisco to New York, by rail …………. 7 ’’ From New York to London, by steamer and rail …….. 9 ’’
Total …………………………………….. 80 days.’’
Phileas Fogg concurs with Sullivan that its possible to do so, and as the debate intensifies one of the members Andrew Stuart challenges Fogg to do so. Fogg accepts the wager much to the surprise of Stuart, as in his own words:
’’A true Englishman doesn’t joke when he is talking about so serious a thing as a wager, I will bet twenty thousand pounds against anyone who wishes that I will make the tour of the world in eighty days or less; in nineteen hundred and twenty hours, or a hundred and fifteen thousand two hundred minutes. Do you accept?’’
And once the bet is done he starts off on his journey with Passerpatout in tow who is astounded at his master’s foolhardiness. He believes that his master has indeed lost it.
Phileas Fogg becomes the topic of discussion of the London world, with every newspaper, society and socialite discussing his adventure. In the meanwhile, one of the Scotland Yard detectives Mr Fix is convinced that Fogg is the bank robber, and this around the world trip is just merely a ruse to escape from the law. And so starts a madcap journey, that covers Aden, India, China, Japan and USA.
Will Phileas Fogg succeed in his mission? Is he really a bank robber? Does Mr Fix manage to arrest Fogg? What happens to Passerpatout? Well if you do want to know all the wild adventures that Fogg and Passerpatout have, just get hold of this book and read it.
Around the World in 80 Days has two great characters which Jules Verne created. The silent, reclusive, eccentric British Phileas Fogg who is a representative of the stiff lipped English gentleman. Jules Verne being French himself, loved to satirize the English as serious, dour humans. But at the same time he also points out to the way British take upon challenges which none would ever do. It was as much pointing to Britain’s conquest of the world, and its naval prowess. When the book was written, Britian was effectively the master of the World. Passerpatout on the other hand was the archetypal Frenchman, passionate, energetic and lively. He is not at ease with London’s cold and dark atmosphere, but at the same time is a loyal servant to his master, bailing him out whenever crisis strikes.
The novel has some great adventure moments
1. The part where Fogg rescues the Indian bride Aouda from the Sati pyre.
2. Phileas Fogg losing Passerpatout in Yokohoma and his rescue from a circus.
3. Red Indians and Bison holding up their train in America.
As also the tension with Mr Fix trying to play catch up with Fogg, and the climax scene. On the flip side, many Indian readers might not like the patronizing tone in which Indian natives are depicted as uncivilized and boorish. Its as if a sort of justification were being offered for Pax Brittanica. But if you are willing to over look that aspect, Around the World in 80 Days is one of the best reads for you.