So tell me what you know about Around the World in 80 Days. Would you say Michael Palin? Philias Fogg? Ridiculous flavours of crisps perhaps? A trip in a balloon?
When I sat down to read this copy of the wonderful Golden Picture Classics book of Around the World in 80 Days from 1957 (inscribed “To Michael with love Mum + Dad Xmas 1965”) it was a shock to find out that no balloon was involved. There are steam trains, steam boats, horse-drawn carriages, an ice-boat sledge and even elephants but no hot air balloons. I suppose that was an invention of the film-makers for the 1950’s cinematic version. There are no balloons in Jules Verne’s original French language Le Tour du Monde en Quatre-Vingts Jours either.
The book’s an evocative Empire piece with a imperturbable lead character and a trusty sidekick with Philias Fogg and Passepartout in the mould of Don Quixote and his trusty Sancho Panza. Written at a time when Britain’s Empire still stretched the Globe with the sun never setting on it, the adventures of Philias Fogg show 1870’s attitudes to ‘the colonies’. There’s excitement, exoticism and savagery with a young woman about to be burnt to death in India and Native Americans running amok and attacking a train in North America. Every interruption to the epic journey, every disaster and every setback is dealt with in the calmest most imperturbable way possible. Philias Fogg is the epitome of the perceived English national character; polite, implacable and rational at all times.
The wonderful illustrations by Tom Gill have a definite vintage colour palette with pink, orange and mint green all crashing into one another.
Tom Gill is well known as the artist of The Lone Ranger series of comic books. His art is perfect for the book.
So why did Philias Fogg undertake his perilous journey around the world? Ostensibly it was for a wager, but money was not important in the end, for “…he had won a charming and beautiful young woman as a wife.”
Romance trumps wealth in the end. What a great story.