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Paris in the Twentieth Century Paperback – 1 Dec 1997

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Product details

  • Paperback: 222 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey Books; New edition edition (1 Dec. 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034542039X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345420398
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.4 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 255,263 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
On August 13, 1960, a portion of the Parisian populace headed for the many Metro stations from which various local trains would take them to what had once been the Champ-de-Mars. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Jolley HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 14 Mar. 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is a most singular work of science fiction indeed. Like many of the futuristic technological marvels Jules Verne described, this novel lay in obscurity, waiting for someone to come along and discover it. That someone was Verne's great-grandson, who in 1989 found the manuscript in an old safe that was thought to be empty. While I bought this book as soon as it was published, I have only now compelled myself to read it. I could not help but wonder if Verne would want this novel published now in its current form, especially given the fact it was one of his earliest writings, so I held off in respect to the founding father of science fiction. Having now read the novel, I must say it differs significantly from the other Verne novels I have read, expressing a maudlin and tragically pessimistic vision for the future of modern society. At the same time, its defense of the classics, arts and literature, and individual freedom is quite moving.
In one of the richest ironies in the history of literature, Verne's editor rejected the manuscript of Paris in the Twentieth Century because, in his own words, "No one today will believe your prophecy." As with so many of Verne's visionary ideas, however, fiction has now become fact. Among the wild ideas included in these pages are fax machines, horse-less carriages, a subway system, computers, calculators, and other modern luxuries we take for granted now. A much longer list could be produced, but I would contend that too much of the reaction to this "lost" novel has directed itself to Verne's prophecies fulfilled.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John Hopper TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 5 Aug. 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a highly significant novel because of its discovery nearly a century after the author's death by his great-grandson. It makes very accurate technological predictions based by extrapolation on developments up to the 1860s. However, in other fields, the predictions are very much less accurate, for example in this reality most of the major states (France, England, Russia and Italy are mentioned, but not Prussia/Germany) have disarmed due to "perfection of engines of warfare" and have done away with the armed forces and the whole military state, implying that there has been world peace throughout the 20th century. Interestingly, the only weapons mentioned are swords and sabres, whereas in reality this was written only a few years before the mass shootings and shellings of the Franco-Prussian war and the siege of Paris. Another difference is that British landowners have been buying up large tracts of land in France to the extent that the French fear for the very ownership of their own country.

The society depicted here, while based on accurately predicted technology, goes to the extreme of having science and technology completely vanquish literature and the arts in a way that mercifully has not happened in reality, such that, for example, Victor Hugo is totally unheard of in the Paris of 1960.

These interesting facets aside, there is little room left for actual plot in a novel of 200 pages printed in a large and well-spaced font (with a few line drawings), and the actual story is mediocre, the characters flat and one-dimensional, though the ending is sad and poignant.

Overall, this book is really for Verne completists, or those with an interest in predictive fiction, or lost novel curiosities. Those new to Verne should definitely first read one of his famous classics.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kurt A. Johnson on 14 Oct. 2003
Format: Paperback
Michel Dufrenoy is a man born out of time. Possessing the soul of an artist, he lives in a time when the artist is despised, and the industrialist is utterly triumphant. Where can Michel go to fit in? What place can an artist find in the Paris of 1960?
Jules Verne wrote this short book in 1863, but his publisher rejected it as unrealistic. In many ways, what Verne wrote was prescient. He wrote about electric lights, asphalt streets and motorcars, but he went far beyond that. He foresaw the future degradation of art ("I've even heard of a certain Courbet, at one of his last exhibitions, showed himself, face to the wall, in the performance of one of the most hygienic but least elegant actions of life!"), and the deconstruction of history in mass entertainment ("...History must be raped if she is to bear a child. And she was made to bear any number, who themselves bore no resemblance to their mother!")
This book is highly polemical in nature. Verne makes quite clear his distaste for capitalism and its concomitant mindset. Also, this story offers no great insight, but merely warns. I found the story fascinating for its seeming precognition, but did not find the story particularly entertaining. Therefore, I give this book a qualified recommendation--read this book as an interesting historical document, but not as an entertaining story.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Rob Slaven on 24 Jan. 2014
Format: Paperback
Whilst perusing the bookstore a week ago I came across a copy of this for a few bucks and couldn't help but pick it up. In the end, not sure it was worth it.

The summary is pretty much what you'd expect. Casting his mind forward 100 years Verne tells us what life will be like in 1960. In many ways he's not too far off the mark. His world isn't a total apocalyptic mess but it's not a particularly fun or artistic place either.

On the positive side, as always with Verne you have to admire his attention to details and his powers of prognostication. He does not insist on casting a rosy light on the future and describes it in wonderful and vibrant prose.

The negative side, however, is that all this vibrant detail can sometimes take a degree in French literature to untangle. He does, at times, go into a wealth of detail that only a native Parisian could properly appreciate. I bought this book with the intention of passing it along to the kids in the house but there's just too much of a Gordian knot in this text to hold their attention. This Verne is not focused so much on the technology of the future as he is the society of the future. It's an interesting and insightful view but it's a bit much to swallow.

In summary, not what I would have hoped for. This book has a lot to say for certain but it's just too tangled up with intimate details that just confuse the already rather brief plotline. One can understand why it may have remained unpublished for so long as a work of popular literature.
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