It’s a tired old observation I often make to the unthinking princes (and princesses) of literature, especially those Americans who judge all literature outside of America and England as being somehow inferior and easily dismissed.
Now I run across a passage in The Sixth Extinction (Elizabeth Kolbert) that makes me question the author’s credentials (for writing, not for extinctions). She has been discussing the animals that have gone extinct in recent years and when focusing on the Great Auk, she recounts a visit to the last known home of the Auks, a small island off Iceland:
We motored out of the harbor and headed south, around the Reykjanes Peninsula. It was clear enough that we could see the snow-covered peak of Snaefellsjökull, more than sixty miles away. (To English speakers, Snaefellsjökull is probably best known as the spot where in Jules Verne’s A Journey To the Center of the Earth the hero finds a tunnel through the globe.) …
There are seveal levels of possible error in that last statement. I think it is fair to conclude that Elizabeth Kolbert isn’t aware that those wonderfully thrilling stories by Jules Verne were not specifically written for English speakers. Noting her Americanized spelling, we cannot blame this confusion on any residual animosity between the English and the French, so I accept her cluelessness as the best explanation (Occum’s Razor).
Still this happens often enough that I might need to apologize to the French. After all, they thrilled to the fantasies of Jules Verne long before we did. Verne’s heroes were definitely in a league of extraordinary gentlemen. And what about those Mouseketeers?