A little musing today about famous French men who followed their own dreams. I suppose parents run the gamut in guiding their children in career directions. The child’s interest. Financial rewards. Respected professions. Family traditions. Two renowned French men (among many others, I’m sure) disregarded their fathers’ guidance to seek entirely different career paths than those desired by well-intentioned Dad.
Paul Cézanne, for example, initially followed his doctor father’s wishes by attending the University of Aix law school from 1859 to 1861, but he also continued with drawing lessons. Ultimately, with the encouragement of his friend Emile Zola, Cézanne left Aix-en-Provence in 1861 to pursue painting in Paris. His prolific body of work casts an affirmative final vote in favor of the son’s interests and wishes.
Who else chose to turn his back on father’s plan for his life? Like Napoleon, his name appears everywhere in France, on streets and museums, on statues and restaurants. And that man is Jules Verne, the renowned French writer, who pioneered the science fiction genre. Many of Verne’s traveler tales included inventions considered far
ahead of his time. Through his life of writing, he completed 54 major novels about life in the future.
Verne’s fascination with the sea began early in the sea port of Nantes, where he was born. Though he later was caught and returned, he even ran away at one point to be a cabin boy on a merchant ship. Bowing to his father’s vision, Jules Verne studied law in Paris, where he also discovered theatre. After finding that his son had published a play and left his legal studies, his father cut him off and forced Verne to earn his way by selling his written works.
After intense study in geology, engineering and astronomy; Verne expanded on the inventions he had seen and imagined future inventions. In his novels, he created a world that really would not come to fruition until the twentieth century.
He introduced the idea of long voyages by air in his first novel (1863), “Five Weeks in a Balloon”. Well before anyone could imagine space travel and moon landings, Verne wrote “From the Earth to the Moon” in 1866. His predictive writings really were uncanny, such locating the l splashdown point in his novel just a few miles from the actual site of Apollo 8’s splashdown. The launch point of the moon capsule also was close to Cape Canaveral. And he learned … or imagined that from visiting Parisian libraries to study science and engineering?
How about the fact that his capsule included three astronauts – two Americans and one Frenchman? Verne seemed to mix powerful doses of knowledge and imagination to produce an astounding number of on-target, futuristic novels. And we haven’t even touched “20,000 Leagues under the Sea”, “Robur the Conqueror” or the acclaimed “Around the World in 80 days”.
Who is to say how he might have fared as a lawyer, had he listened to his father? We do know that Jules Verne died in 1905, a very popular and rich man and one who has mesmerized readers throughout their ‘journeys’ with him. There’s certainly no mystery to the presence of his name throughout France.
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