________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 16 . . . . April 3, 2009

cover The Golden Volcano.

Jules Verne. Translated by Edward Baxter. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press (Distributed in Canada by Codasat), 2008.
340 pp., pbk., $17.50.
ISBN 978-0-8032-9635-0.

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.

Review by Ronald Hore.

**½ /4

excerpt:

On MARCH 16, in the antepenultimate year of this century, the letter carrier whose route included Jacques Cartier Street in Montreal delivered a letter addressed to Mr. Summy Skim, at house number twenty-nine.

The letter read: “Mr. Snubbin, notary public, presents his compliments to Mr. Summy Skim and requests that he call at his office without delay concerning a matter of interest to him.”

What did the notary want to see Mr. Skim about? Like everyone in Montreal, Skim knew Mr. Snubbin, a very competent man, a reliable and prudent counselor. A Canadian by birth, he was head of the best law firm in the city––the one headed sixty years earlier by the famous Master Nick, or Nicholas Sagamore, of Huron origin, whose patriotic fervor had led him to play a role in the dreadful Morgaz affair, which created a considerable stir about 1837.

Skim was somewhat surprised to receive a letter from Mr. Snubbin, with whom he had no dealings at the time. However, he accepted the invitation that had been offered. Half an hour later he was at Bonsecours Market Square, being ushered into the office where Mr. Snubbin was waiting for him.

The Golden Volcano is the first English language translation of an early draft of a manuscript written by Jules Verne in the years just before his death. A version of the story, completed by Verne’s son, was published in France. This new book goes back to the original manuscript, with some corrections made and the blanks left by Verne filled in. The novel is written in a turn of the last century style, slower paced than what we are used to today, and with more detailed descriptions. The author intrudes into the story, with more “telling” rather than “showing.” The plot involves a pair of cousins, Summy Skim and Ben Raddle, who inherit a gold mining claim in the Klondike. After arguing about what they should do, they set out to examine the property. This leads them in an adventure, a trip across Canada, then north from Vancouver to the Klondike. They meet up with some villainous characters, nasty weather, and get caught up in one of the main themes of the book, the passion for gold. After a disaster at the mine, the trip takes them to the edge of the Arctic Ocean in search of a legendary volcano filled with gold.

    It would be interesting to wonder what the story would have looked like if Verne had lived long enough to review the manuscript and make revisions. I also wonder if Verne ever visited Canada. He certainly made good use of atlases and maps to write this story but slipped up in some areas. The translator has provided copious notes, pointing out where he had to make corrections or indicating obvious problems. A reader could play a game of trying to spot the errors before turning to check the notes. The Klondike Gold Rush of 1896 was very topical when Verne wrote The Golden Volcano in 1899, and I suspect he used information gleaned from the newspapers and other reports of the day. He died in 1905 leaving this and ten other unpublished manuscripts.

     The book consists of a Preface to the French Edition of eight pages and a Translator’s Introduction of two pages. The novel is 330 pages long followed by ten pages of Notes by the translator and four pages listing other volumes put out by this publisher.

     The Golden Volcano can be looked on as a pure adventure tale written in a different style than most readers may be used to today, or it can be viewed as a curiosity from a master of French literature. The descriptions of life in the Klondike, taken from contemporary sources are vivid, and the author’s strong imagination shows through in other areas. A worthwhile read for the student of Canadian history and a look at how this country was viewed from a European perspective.

Recommended.

Ronald Hore, involved with writers’ groups and writers’ workshops for several years, retired from the business world in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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