When I was a child, I had a passion for Jules Verne and was particularly in love with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I reread this thrilling tale recently, expecting to be disappointed, but found myself as enraptured as I had been when I was 9 years old. I can date this precisely, as I still have my copy, given to me by "Mummy and Daddy, Christmas 1948." This is one of the greatest of adventures, and I don't mind the flashes of James Mason as Captain Nemo that occasionally intrude. It was a great film too. There is something slightly guilty and regressive about returning to childhood reading, and I indulge in it more as I get older. Over the past months I have immersed myself in Verne, journeying with him to the center of the earth, to the moon, to the North Pole, to the Mammoth Caves of Kentucky. It has been a binge, a plunge, a wallow. As I read I transform myself into a submariner, an explorer, a geologist, just as I used to do when I was a child, curled up in a large armchair or reading under the bedclothes with a torch. My carefully preserved copy, published in 1946 in Cleveland, has beautiful illustrations of all these creatures and seascapes. I used to be somewhat ashamed of my love of Verne, but have recently discovered that he is the darling of the French avant-garde, who take him far more seriously than we Anglo-Saxons do. So I'm in good company.
Drabble's most recent book is The Sea Lady.
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