Review

La Science en question. Textes réunis par François Raymond. (Jules Verne, 6). Paris, Lettres modernes, 1992. 228 pp. Pb 192 F.

William Butcher

Coming after the outstanding L'Écriture vernienne (1978), Machines et imaginaire (1980), Texte, image, spectacle (1983), and Émergences du fantastique (1987), this sixth volume was taken to press by Christian Chelebourg. Raymond's legacies will be his meticulous but kindly editing and his own pioneering, penetrating studies on both Jules Verne and genre fiction. This collection is a pleasure to read, with much use of apposite quotation; but it sometimes neglects the literary context, the manuscripts and correspondence, and the work done in other languages.The central conclusion is the demolition of any lingering conception that Verne was a science-fiction author or even scientifically inclined. The reductionist, the positivist, the monolithic, the horological are invariably replaced by the multidimensional, the polyphonic, the fantastic, the subject-at-the-centre, the geo-graphic, the ex-centric, the dé-boussolé --in sum the compteur by the conteur and the flatly textual by the inexhaustibly poetic. Froidefond shows that 'sorcery', linked to desire and death, confronts the problem of experiential time better than science; Pourvoyeur illuminating derives Verne's puns and devil-may-carehumour from his theatrical career; Mauberret analyses the sterility, the word-blindness, the savoir without the connaissance, the implicit impotence of a Lidenbrock; Picot, the evolution of Verne's views on science in three lesser-known works; Zukowski, the directional fixation in Hatteras; Chelebourg, the ocular within the visionary; and Dehs,Verne's views on religion, although he fails to solve the central conundrum. Compère neatly describes 'l'entrevoix', the more or less stylised pastiche; Delabroy -- key word 'dérisoire' -- elegantly studies a Vernian limiting text; and Raymond, the monomaniacs and caricatures, culminating in the 'ignoran[ce] sublime' of Ardan, hedonistically and scientifically creative in spite of himself. Given the continuing Vernianoutpour in French, the critical 'Informations bibliographiques' (1987-1990) are a vital, if ageing, catalogue of substantive publications, including hard-to-find theses. Raymond's modest, alert, and luminouserudition has greatly contributed to our understanding of the Voyages extraordinaires, and will continue to send out scintillations for decades to come.