After reading Verne’s “Around the World in Eighty days“, I wished to follow in Phileas Fogg’s footsteps as closely as possible and tour around the world myself. After reading this book, however, I can’t say I’m ready to embark on the journey to the center of the earth, even if it were possible and the route were laid out before me by the heroes in the book, Professor Lidenbrock, Axel (Lidenbrock’s nephew) and their guide Hans.
The journey was not for the faint-hearted. There were numerous grave dangers, such as getting lost in a labyrinth hundreds of miles beneath the surface of the earth, drowning in a mediterranean sea, being melted alive in the lava of a volcano, and many others. Without the insane passion and stubbornness of Lidenbrock, and the experience and physical prowess of the cool-headed Hans, a lot of us timid souls would have fainted many times like Axel did, and retreated long before the journey was completed.
Despite all the perils, or perhaps because of them, I was captivated by the journey and couldn’t put the book down until I finished it. As Lidenbrock aptly put it, “our situation is almost desperate; … If at every instant we may perish, so at every instant we may be saved. Let us then be prepared to seize upon the smallest advantage”. There were natural wonders to be discovered and treasures to be found in Verne’s boundless imaginary world. His descriptions of the geological formation of the earth’s strata and the prehistorical plants and animals deep in the “bowels of earth” were fascinating, although some of the theories for their existence were incorrect.
There are two English translations. I like the 1877 edition by F. A. Malleson, which is more faithful to the original French, better than the other translation/adaptation (in which the Professor’s name was changed from Lidenbrock to Hardwigg).