Sunday, January 18, 2009

Literary manifestations of globalisation: Around the World in Eighty Days.

Over Christmas, I raided the bookcase in a cousin's house, and decided to read an old childhood favourite, Around the World in Eighty Days.

Not having read it for some years, different things struck me. (I used to wonder: why did Mrs Aouda fall in love with Phileas Fogg when it was really Passepartout who rescued her?). 

When Fogg is playing whist in the Reform Club at the beginning, the following conversation contributes to the laying of the wager:

"Well", replied Ralph,"there is not a single country where he can take refuge".


"Where do you suppose he might go?"

"I don't know", replied Andrew Stuart, "but after all the world is big enough".

"It was formerly", said Phileas Fogg in a low tone.


""How, formerly? Has the world grown smaller perchance?"

"Without doubt", replied Gauthier Ralph. "I am of the opinion of Mr Fogg. The world has grown smaller, since we can go round it now ten times quicker than one hundred years ago".

The reason the world is smaller is because of railways, steamships, and constructions such as the Suez Canal. But even in 1873, our man Jules presages the time when satellites make the world even smaller. Later in the book, this is how he describes Phileas Fogg:

He was a heavy body, traversing an orbit around the terrestrial globe, according to the laws of rational mechanics.

Phileas Fogg is himself a satellite, just in the lowest orbit possible.

Incidentally, I had to look up the date Around the World was first published, and in doing so came across the book Around the Day in Eighty Worlds by Julio Cortazar. This is how it is described in Wikipedia:

La Vuelta al Día en Ochenta Mundos (Around the Day in Eighty Worlds) is a book by Julio Cortázar released and published in two separate volumes in 1967 (same year Hopscotch's translation wins the 1967 U.S. National Book Award). It pays homage to Julio's biggest literary influences while narrating new developments in the world of music during the 1960s, modern art (Dada and Surrealism) and some of the events in regard to America's expanding involvement in other countries. The book also reveals for the first time one of Julio's most adorable pastimes in Paris: playing the trumpet.

This makes me so want to read it, but what I like most about this description is the notion of playing the trumpet as an adorable pastime.

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