An Interview with Dr William Butcher, a Jules Verne Expert

David Ben-Tsur, in Masa Acher ("Another Voyage"), 3 June 1998

(translated by Zvi Har'El and William Butcher)

Dr William Butcher is a lecturer and researcher in French literature at the University of Hong Kong. He has published many books and articles about Jules Verne and his works. According to him:

"There are few major geographical mistakes in Verne. In some books he describes unfrozen seas at the North and South Poles; in Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Seas about a third of the locations contain slight inaccuracies in the longitude and latitude; in Journey to the Centre of the Earth the "Danish" language he inserts is in fact Norwegian. But there are not many slips in general.

"Despite what many think, Verne did not predict anything. All the machines and the inventions described in his books had been described before.''

David Ben-Tsur: What was Verne's contribution to geographical knowledge in the nineteenth century?

"Verne was a populariser of science more than a researcher, but his books were revolutionary - a literary genre combining adventure with science. The enormous popularity of his books came from the quality of writing and the descriptions of the voyages, not from any scientific innovations.''

Did Verne ever visit the places he described in his books?

"He travelled over large parts of Europe and to North Africa and North America, and the materials he collected during his trips were not lost. Many followed his traces: hundreds tried to circumnavigate the world in eighty days, the US Navy called the nuclear submarine which reached the North Pole the Nautilus, following the submarine in Twenty Thousand Leagues; the spacecraft Apollo 8 was launched and came down very close to the descriptions in Verne - the list of the travellers in his footsteps is very long.''