‘Miguel Strogoff’: an adventure in its purest form | Present

Jules Verne was born in Nantes in 1828 and died in Amiens in 1905. He was a novelist, playwright and one of the forerunners of science fiction. Among his most famous novels are ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ‘,’ Five Weeks in a Balloon ‘,’ Around the World in 80 Days’, ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’, ‘The Children of Captain Grant’ and even a total of 62 novels published in life inscribed in the collection ‘Extraordinary Travels’.

Ideas such as trips to the Moon or to the center of the Earth, to the poles, are attributed to him, which were only being projected for future expeditions; but also ideas that would materialize in the future such as helicopters, ocean liners, weapons of mass destruction or high-speed travel.

The quintessential adventure novel

‘Miguel Strogoff’ It was published in 1876, but a year earlier it had already appeared in installments. It is the adventure novel par excellence and has an unforgettable protagonist. It’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s fast-paced, and it tells of an extraordinary journey.

‘Miguel Strogoff’ is an adventure in its purest form that is crossed by the magnificent narrative springs that make Jules Verne one of the greatest cultivators of the genre. Perhaps that is why, deep down, it is a more refined book than others, less digressive, more direct, tailored to its formidable main character.

An unforgettable character not because of the richness of features with which he is drawn, but simply because of the wonderful conviction with which, of his sum of virtues, Jules Verne makes him a symbol of tenacity. Before anything else, that is what this novel is: an apology for tenacity, that of the man who must cross a space full of dangers because, once he has agreed to do so, he adjusts to his inalienable motto: “I will arrive! ! “

‘Miguel Strogoff’ is a signature book by Verne. In fact, it is one of those novels of the straight line that mark its best time, that is, of those whose characters, for different reasons, undertake a journey from whose previously traced trajectory they should deviate as little as possible. The lineage of ‘The children of Captain Grant’ or ‘Around the world in 80 days’, in the same way that, in his obsessive determination not to deviate one iota from the proposed objective, although that forces him to perform behaviors that are inexplicable for those who do so. surround, Strogoff is directly related to one of the greatest (and unknown) characters of the author, Captain Hatteras.

Jules Verne, a Cartesian storyteller

Verne is a writer who leaves nothing to chance, not even the structuring of his narratives. Usually the narration begins in a placid way, saving the strong episodes for later. When an important action occurs, it stands out because the author never recreates it, but narrates it as quickly as possible, seeking percussion before recreation. But there are a couple of Verne novels whose opening chapter has extraordinary force. One of them is ‘The Mysterious Island’, the other is ‘Miguel Strogoff’.

Verne gives the name Tatars to the invaders from Central Asia, specifying that their leader, Feofar Khan, is the Emir of Bukhara, an enclave today located in modern Uzbekistan. In Jules Verne’s drawing of the terrible Tartars there is much of the Eastern conventions of the time: the author delights in the voluptuous descriptions of the different peoples that make up the horde, their camps, their weapons and objects.

There is no doubt that the racist prejudices of the time are filtered into the novel to which the author, to a different extent depending on the book, was not insensitive. But it is an anachronism since the last Tatar state, the Crimean Khanate, was annexed by Russia in 1783.

The fortune of the novel starts from the unlimited adhesion caused by its protagonist, Miguel Strogoff, the courier of the tsar. Verne is often accused that his characters are one-dimensional and that they do not have a psychological thickness worthy of the name, but there is no more emotional, more arrogant, more irresistible portrait of an indomitable human nature, unavailable to discouragement, never a a mere inhuman machine but, on the contrary, a man full of feelings that he has to subject to the execution of the company that he has sworn to fulfill, like that of Miguel Strogoff.

A title agreed with Prince Nikolay Alexeyevich Orlov himself

The novel was to be titled ‘The Tsar’s Mail, from Moscow to Irkutsk’, but the publisher Hetzel, aware of the large number of subscribers he had in Russia and fearing the censorship of his authorities, consulted with Prince Nikolay Alexeyevich Orlov himself , Ambassador of the Tsar in Paris.

Orlov saw no objection to the title, but keeping in health he advised the editor to change it. Criticisms of the autocratic regime of Tsar Alexander II and his father Nicholas I were also softened. Appeals to divine providence were also added by Hetzel. As a curiosity to say that the manuscript was read and validated by the Russian writer Ivan Turgenev, friend and adviser of Hetzel. Verne had done, as always, a magnificent job of documenting the geography, history, and customs of the places he described.

Javier Coria points out that there is an unconfirmed fact, but that some Russian Vernians cite that, through his friend Eliseo Reclus (the famous French geographer and anarchist), Jules Verne met Piotr Kropotkin (Russian geographer, follower of Bakunin) and this He provided documentation on Siberia that the French writer would use for his novel.

The most daring see in this novel traces of the anarchist theorist’s exile in Siberia. In 1880 and with the collaboration of Alphonse D’Ennery, Verne adapted the novel to the theater. The play premiered on November 17 of that year at the Châtelet Theater. The success was tremendous and the author and editor were enriched by a work that would soon be premiered in the most important theaters in the world.

Jean-Paul Sartre, in ‘The Words’, in 1964, wrote: “When I read ‘Miguel Strogoff’, I cried with joy. What an exemplary life! To prove his courage, this officer had not had to wait for the bandits A higher order had brought him out of the darkness (…). For me, that book was like a poison. So, had I chosen? Did the highest demands make their way? Holiness disgusted me, but in Miguel Strogoff fascinated me because he had taken the appearances of heroism “.

This article contains excerpts from the article by José Miguel García de Fórmica-Corsi published in the blog ‘La mano del Extrano’

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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