The name of Jules Verne is mentioned less often than it deserves to be in relation to the French avant-garde of the early and mid-twentieth century. Indeed, the influence of his work is clearly to be seen in not only the writing of Raymond Roussel, and as a consequence in the internal publications of the Collège de Pataphysique (whose members, let us recall, have included Boris Vian, Eugène Ionesco, Raymond Queneau, and Michel Leiris), but also, though to a slightly lesser degree, in numerous productions of the writers and artists generally associated with the French and Belgian Surrealist movements. However, Verne's presence is even more strongly manifested in the writings of the Greek Surrealists, particularly those of Andreas Embirikos.
As Michel Leiris confided in his diary, Raymond Roussel's admiration for Jules Verne is in need of some elucidation. The same might be said of the equally unlikely affection with which the Surrealist movement viewed Verne. After all, the author of scientific adventure stories is frequently regarded as the spokesman of the very causative system which Surrealism set out to abolish. The present article will seek to present an overview of the manner in which these various writers and movements have perceived the author of Les Voyages et aventures du capitaine Hatteras(1866), Michel Strogoff(1876), Les Naufragés du ‘Jonathan’(1909), and L'Etonnante aventure de la mission Barsac(1919).
Verne and Roussel
‘Je voudrais aussi, dans ces notes’, wrote Raymond Roussel in Comment j'ai écrit certains de mes livres, ‘rendre hommage à l'homme d'incommensurable génie que fut Jules Verne’ [‘I would also like, in these notes, to pay hommage to that man of incommensurable genius, namely Jules Verne’]. He continues:
Mon admiration pour lui est infinie.
Dans certains pages du Voyage au centre de la terre, de Cinq semaines en ballon, de Vingt mille lieues sous les mers, de De la Terre à la luneet de Autour de la lune, de L'Ile mystérieuse, d’Hector Servadac, il s'est élevé aux plus hautes cimes que puisse atteindre le verbe humain.[…]
O maître incomparable, soyez béni pour les heures sublimes que j'ai passées toute ma vie à vous lire et à vous relire sans cesse.