Saturday, 14 June 2014

Le Monde Extraordinaire

Bling at the Centre of the Earth

When I was a lad my mother used to get me Jules Verne novels from the adult section of the library. (Why were they in the adult section? Did some of them feature the exposure of a shapely ankle? I really can't recall.) Anyway, that's how I became acquainted with Captain Nemo, Professor Lidenbrock, Robur 'the Conqueror'), and of course Phileas Fogg.

As a result of this phase my knowledge of Verne's work is limited to the books that Sunderland's central library had in the early Seventies, so his more obscure work passed me by. This is a pity, as Cardinal Cox's latest pamphlet explores a world where, as he puts it, Verne was not a visionary author of proto-sci-fi, but a hack hastily cobbling together garbled accounts of real events.

Regular readers will now I'm a fan of poetry in general, and Cardinal Cox's work in particular. His series of free pamphlets on diverse aspects of weird fiction are a delight. So, although there's nothing overtly supernatural about his latest, I think it deserves a big shout out, as the young folk say.

There are lots of fascinating ideas in 'Le Monde Extraordinaire', not least the extrapolated consequences of a cometary impact on North Africa, which Verne deals with in Hector Servadac. Not surprisingly, this causes a bit of upset, not least when it rips a hole that leads to the hollow earth. Before the impact the Baltimore cabal of the Technocratic League tries to deflect the comet with a second space gun, built in Africa...

First shell rests at Kilimanjaro's heart
The warhead is primed and ready to go
Explosion - metal arrow leaves its bow
The smoke expands as the bullet depart

Fire! (Or 'Feu!', if you like)

Then there's the interesting question of the two Captain Nemos. Yes, I thought there was just the one, but apparently the chronology of Verne's work favours two - one Indian, one Polish. If this sort of intellectual game makes you glaze over, this pamphlet probably isn't for you. But if you are as fascinated as I am by the strange byways of popular culture, get your fingerless mittens on this one.

Oh, and there's a bonus for everyone who remembers the Sultan's Elephant, which many people don't realise was based on a Verne tale. What, you've no idea what the Sultan's Elephant was? Well, here it is.

If you'd like a copy of 'Le Monde Extraordinaire' you can contact the Cardinal.

Send a C5 SAE to

58 Pennington
Orton Goldhay

You can also email

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