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The Special Correspondent

Jules Verne

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Set in the early 1890s, The Special Correspondent tells the story of Claudius Bombarnac, special correspondent from the Parisian newspaper Twentieth Century, assigned to travel the newly-completed Grand Transasiatic Railway running from Uzun Ada (on the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea) to Peking (Beijing), China. Over his thirteen-day journey he meets an eclectic cast of characters, including an impatient American businessman, a detached English lady, a Russian major, a French actor and actress, a young Chinese noble accompanied by an eccentric Doctor, and a German baron racing to circle the globe in thirty-nine days—perhaps a nod to Verne’s Around the Word in Eighty Days, published twenty years earlier. As he meets them, Bombarnac assigns each a number in his notebook, and seeks to get to know them as they travel together.

As a dedicated special correspondent, Bombarnac’s greatest fear is that his nearly two-week journey will pass without anything interesting happening to fill his columns. But his fears turn out to be unfounded, and he sees as much—and perhaps even more—danger and adventure than he had hoped. Between these episodes, we’re also given an interesting look at Central Asia at the cusp of the twentieth century, influenced by the expanding political scope of Russia and China, and by the forces of modernity—Bombarnac mourns the sight of electric streetlamps in ancient towns, and expresses horror when passed by two locals in Samarkand riding bicycles.

The Special Correspondent was originally published in France in 1892 under the title Claudius Bombarnac. Written later in Verne’s life, it shows off his knowledge of languages, people, and customs, as well as his wry sense of humor. This English translation, originally appearing in The Boy’s Own Paper of October 1893, feels surprising fresh and modern, and takes the reader on an entertaining ride along with Verne’s indefatigable news correspondent.

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A brief history of this ebook

  1. [Editorial] Tachkend -> Tashkent

  2. Fix typos

  3. Finish metadata and initial publication

  4. Adjust semantics

  5. [Editorial] Replace some italics with quotation marks

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