Michael Strogoff

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Michael Strogoff
Jules Verne Michel Strogoff 1876 cover.jpg
First edition, 1876
Author Jules Verne
Original title Michel Strogoff
Translator Agnes Kinloch Kingston (published under her husband's name: W. H. G. Kingston)
Illustrator Jules Férat
Country France
Language French
Series The Extraordinary Voyages #14
Genre Adventure novel
Publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel
Publication date
1876
Published in English
1876
Media type Print (Hardback)
Preceded by The Survivors of the Chancellor
Followed by Off on a Comet

Michael Strogoff: The Courier of the Czar (French: Michel Strogoff) is a novel written by Jules Verne in 1876. Critics, including Leonard S. Davidow,[1] consider it one of Verne's best books. Davidow wrote, "Jules Verne has written no better book than this, in fact it is deservedly ranked as one of the most thrilling tales ever written." Unlike some of Verne's other novels, it is not science fiction, but a scientific phenomenon (Leidenfrost effect) is a plot device. The book was later adapted to a play, by Verne himself and Adolphe d'Ennery. Incidental music to the play was written by Alexandre Artus in 1880. The book has been adapted several times for films, television and cartoon series.

Plot summary[edit]

'Michael Strogoff' by Jules Férat 19.jpg
Journey across Siberia

Michael Strogoff, a 30-year-old native of Omsk, is a courier for Tsar Alexander II of Russia. The Tartar Khan (prince), Feofar Khan, incites a rebellion and separates the Russian Far East from the mainland, severing telegraph lines. Rebels encircle Irkutsk, where the local governor, a brother of the Tsar, is making a last stand. Strogoff is sent to Irkutsk to warn the governor about the traitor Ivan Ogareff, a former colonel, who was once demoted and exiled and now seeks revenge against the imperial family. He intends to gain the governor's​ trust and then betray him to the Tartar hoards.

An illustration from the novel Michael Strogoff: The Courier of the Czar by drawn by Jules Férat.

On his way to Irkutsk, Strogoff meets Nadia Fedor, daughter of an exiled political prisoner, Basil Fedor, who has been granted permission to join her father at his exile in Irkutsk, the English war correspondent Harry Blount of the Daily Telegraph and Alcide Jolivet, a Frenchman reporting for his 'cousin Madeleine'. Blount and Jolivet tend to follow the same route as Michael, separating and meeting again all the way through Siberia. He is supposed to travel under a false identity, posing as the pacific merchant Nicolas Korpanoff but he is discovered by the Tartars when he meets his mother in their home city of Omsk.

Michael, his mother and Nadia are eventually captured by the Tartar forces, along with thousands of other Russians, during the storming of a city in the Ob basin. The tartars do not know Strogoff by sight, but Ogareff is aware of the courier's mission and when he is told that Strogoff's mother spotted her son in the crowd and called his name, but received no reply, he understands that Strogoff is among the captured and devises a scheme to force the mother to indicate him. Strogoff is indeed caught and handed over to the Tartars, and Ogareff alleges that Michael is a spy, hoping to have him put to death in some cruel way. After opening the Koran at random, Feofar decides that Michael will be blinded as punishment in the Tartar fashion, with a gleaming hot blade. For several chapters the reader is led to believe that Michael was indeed blinded, but it transpires in fact that he was saved from this fate (his tears at his mother evaporated and saved his corneas) and was only pretending.

Eventually, Michael and Nadia escape, and travel to Irkutsk with a friendly peasant, Nicolas Pigassof. They are recaptured by the Tartars and Nicolas witnesses Nadia being raped by a tartar soldier and murders Nadia's assaulter. The Tartars then abandon Nadia and Michael and carry Nicolas away, reserving him for a greater punishment. Nadia and Michael later discover him buried up to his neck in the ground. Thwi continue onwards where they are delayed by fire and the frozen river. However, they eventually reach Irkutsk, and warn the Tsar's brother in time of Ivan Ogareff. Nadia's father, who has been appointed commander of a suicide battalion, and later pardoned, joins them and Michael and Nadia are married.

Sources of information[edit]

Exact sources of Verne's quite accurate knowledge of contemporary Eastern Siberia remain disputed. One popular version connects it to the novelist's meetings with anarchist Peter Kropotkin; however, Kropotkin arrived in France after Strogoff was published.[2] Another, more likely source, could have been Siberian businessman Mikhail Sidorov. Sidorov presented his collection of natural resources, including samples of oil and oil shales from Ukhta area, together with photographs of Ukhta oil wells, at the 1873 World Exhibition in Vienna, where he could have met Verne.[2] Real-world oil deposits in Lake Baikal region do exist, first discovered in 1902 in Barguzin Bay and Selenge River delta,[3] but they are nowhere near the commercial size depicted by Verne.[4]

Verne's publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel sent the manuscript of the novel to the Russian writer Ivan Turgenev in August 1875 asking him for his comments on the accuracy of the conditions described in the book [5]

While the physical description of Siberia is accurate, the Tartar rebellion described is entirely fictional and rather implausible. Wars with Tartars and Mongols were a major aspect of Medieval Russian history, but the Russians gained the upper hand long before the 19th Century, and no Tartar Khan at the time of writing was in a position to act as Feofar is described as doing; depicting late 19th Century Tartars as able to face Russians on anything resembling equal terms is a manifest anachronism.

Adaptations[edit]

Title Year Country Director Strogoff Notes Refs
Michael Strogoff 1914 US Lloyd B. Carleton Jacob P. Adler silent
Michel Strogoff 1926 France / Germany Victor Tourjansky Ivan Mosjoukine silent [6]
Michel Strogoff 1935 France Jacques de Baroncelli,
Richard Eichberg
Anton Walbrook [7]
Der Kurier des Zaren 1936 Germany Richard Eichberg Anton Walbrook [8]
The Soldier and the Lady 1937 US George Nicholls, Jr. Anton Walbrook later released as Michael Strogoff [9]
Miguel Strogoff 1943 Mexico Miguel M Delgado Julián Soler [10]
Michel Strogoff 1956 France, Italy, Yugoslavia Carmine Gallone Curd Jürgens [11]
Le Triomphe de Michel Strogoff 1961 France, Italy Victor Tourjansky Curd Jürgens [12]
Strogoff 1970 Bulgaria, France, Italy Eriprando Visconti John Phillip Law Released in Germany as Der Kurier des Zaren and in France as Michel Strogoff [13]
Michel Strogoff 1975 Austria, France, Germany, Switzerland, Hungary Jean-Pierre Decourt (fr) Raimund Harmstorf 4-part TV drama [14]
Michele Strogoff, il corriere dello zar 1999 Germany, France, Italy Fabrizio Costa Paolo Seganti [15]
Les Aventures extraordinaires de Michel Strogoff 2004 France Bruno-René Huchez,
Alexandre Huchez
Anthony Delon
Michael Strogoff 2013 Italy episode of TV series "JV: The Extraordinary Adventures of Jules Verne"; totally divergent plot [16]

The town of Marfa, Texas was named after the character Marfa Strogoff in this novel.[17]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Verne, Classic Romances of Literature: Michel Strogoff, Forward
  2. ^ a b Fuks, Matveychuk, pp. 371-373
  3. ^ Fuks, Matveychuk, pp. 374-375
  4. ^ Fuks, Matveychuk, p. 372
  5. ^ I.S. Turgenev, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem v 30 tomakh: Pis'ma, vol. 14 (1875) (Moscow, 2003), p. 136.
  6. ^ "Michel Strogoff" British Film Institute, retrieved 9 February 2014
  7. ^ "Michel Strogoff", British Film Institute, retrieved 9 February 2014
  8. ^ "Der Kurier des Zaren", British Film Institute, retrieved 9 February 2014
  9. ^ "Michael Strogoff", IMDb, retrieved 9 February 2014
  10. ^ "Miguel Strogoff", IMDb, retrieved 9 February 2014
  11. ^ "Michel Strogoff", British Film Institute, retrieved 9 February 2014
  12. ^ "Le triomphe de Michel Strogoff", British Film Institute, retrieved 9 February 2014
  13. ^ "Strogoff", British Film Institute, retrieved 9 February 2014
  14. ^ " Michel Strogoff", British Film Institute, retrieved 9 February 2014
  15. ^ "Michele Strogoff, il corriere dello zar", British Film Institute, retrieved 9 February 2014
  16. ^ "Les aventures extraordinaires de Michel Strogoff ", British Film Institute, retrieved 9 February 2014
  17. ^ "Marfa". The Southwestern Historical Quarterly. 48: 295. 1944. ISSN 0038-478X. LCCN 12-20299. OCLC 1766223. Retrieved 2013-05-05. 

Sources[edit]

  • Fuks, Igor; Matveychuk, Alexander (2008). Istoki rossiyskoy nefti (Истоки российской нефти) (in Russian). Moscow: Drevlekhranilische. ISBN 978-5-93646-137-8. 
  • Verne, Jules (1937). "Forward". Classic Romances of Literature: Michel Strogoff. Pennsylvania: Spencer Press. 

External links[edit]