Cover of French edition
|Original title||Mirifiques Aventures de Maître Antifer|
|Series||The Extraordinary Voyages #40|
Published in English
|Media type||Print (Hardback)|
|Preceded by||Foundling Mick|
|Followed by||Propeller Island|
Captain Antifer (French: Mirifiques Aventures de Maître Antifer, literally "The Wondeful Adventures of 'Captain Antifer", 1894) is an adventure novel written by Jules Verne. The novel tells of a treasure hunt, where the clues - arriving in bits and pieces - lead the seaman Pierre Antife of Saint-Malo and various others of diverse nationalities and backgrounds on a cmplicated route - from Tunisia to the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Guinea, and then to Edinburgh, Spitzbergen, and finally to the Mediterranean off Sicily.
The novel was completed in 1892. It was serialized in the Magasin d'éducation et de récréation, from January 1 to December 15, 1894. It was then published in book form by Verne's regular publisher Hetzel.
English translation: 1895, London, UK: Sampson Low, 319 pp.,
1799: The French campaign in Egypt and Syria. At Jaffa, General Napoléon Bonaparte ruthlessly orders the killing of 4500 Turkish prisoners of war. A Breton sea captain attached to the French force notices a still living young Turkish soldier among the piled bodies, and saves his life. The Turk, who would later rise to great wealth and prominence in Cairo, will not forget his savior.
1831: The wealthy Egyptian Kamylk-Pasha buries his treasures in the rock of an unknown islet, to save them from the greed of his family.
1862: In Saint-Malo, Pierre Antifer, an impulsive and gruff Breton sea captain, meditates on a document bequeathed by his father - a latter sent by Kamylk-Pasha, whose life the father had saved. This document mentions the latitude of the island where the treasure is hidden, with the longitude to be communicated to Antifer once upon a time. Antifer's nephew, Juhel, thinks only of his coming marriage with his beloved Enogate and fears the consequences of a possible trip.
The Egpyptian notary Ben-Omar - accompanied by Saouk, the last heir of the Pasha - arrives at Saint-Malo and reveals to Master Antifer the long desired longitude. The impulasive seaman immediately embarks, drawing with him his friend Gildas Tregomain and poor Juhel, whose marriage was put off indefintely.The islet is located in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Muscat.
Alas! Instead of a the expected treasure, the travelers discover a second parchment, indicating a new longitude, and referring them to the Maltese banker Zambuco, who once helped Kamylk-Pasha and thus deserves a share of the hidden treasure. Zambuco has the latitude, and the new location turns out to be another islet - off the African coast, in the Gulf of Guinea.
There, they find a new message, including a small diamond to defray their mounting travelling costs, a new longitude and the name of a new treasure-colleague residing in Scotland. However, when arriving in Edinburgh, they find that the Reverend Tyrcomel is an advocate of the complete abolition of wealth: he has no interest in finding the treasure himself nor in helping others get it, and obstinately refuses to hand over the latitutde in his possession.
Saouk, violent and unscrupulous, resorts to brute force: coming back in the night, undressing and tying up the unfortunate Tyrcomel - and discovering the required information tattooed on the Scotsman's body, put there by his late father who had once traveled to the Orient and helped Kamylk-Pasha. The brigand would not benefit from his violent deed - Saouk ends up in a British prison, but the rest of the treasure hunters know where to head to next.
Antifer, equipped with the new latitude, charters a ship for Spitzbergen, where a third islet is located. He discovers only a half-illegible document, and is unable to identify the final location of the jackpot. Sick and tired with frustration, he returns to Saint-Malo and Juhel can finally marry Enogate.
Unintentionally, it is the young woman who will provide her husband (and his uncle) with the solution of the enigma, enabling him to interpret the recalcitrant parchment: the treasure is hidden off Sicily, at the exact center of a circle described by the three divergent islets which they visited. Everybody hurries there - to find only an empty sea. Julia Island, of volcanic origin, had emerged from the depths of the sea in 1831 and was used to bury the treasure - but unfortunately, it returned to the depths shortly after its emergence. Adieu, then, to Kamylk-Pacha's gold and precious stones!
Antifer, cured permanently of his dreams of opulence, is able to laugh off his misadventures - to the great relief of his family.
Julia Island (also known as Graham Island) which figures in the book's dramatic conclusion, is historical and did indeed appear in 1831 and disappear in 1832, creating a considerable international stir at the time. As of 2016, there are indications that it might reappear - though far too late for Captain Antifer and his companions.
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