Jules Verne Out-Stripped

Von und zu Peckelsheim, Baron Siegel. The Adventures of the U 202. Century Co. $1.

WERE the subject matter of this volume of no more than ordinary seriousness, its style would make it one of the funniest books of the year. The author writes by ear, attempting to make his narrative “sound like a book,” often with curious results. Also, his knowledge of English syntax is hardly exhaustive. When he remembers that he should introduce a “light touch” now and then, and tries to be facetious (always a difficult matter for the German), the result is sad indeed. And when again he strives to be tremensdously literary, he makes one smile. It is as though our ingenious baron had written his narrative in his own tongue and trusted the translation to a school girl relative who, having studied English in the “Hoeheretoechterschule,” knew all about the tongue as masters never can know.

But after one has made all allowances for what is unintentionally funny in the narrative, so much astounding reality remains that it requires a strong effort to close the book before it is finished.

In nine chapters are set forth as many adventures that befell one German submarine during one voyage. Now and then the author, momentarily losing himself and his literary pretensions in the memory of a perilous moment, achieves admirable vividness; as when he describes the scuttling of a huge transport laden with horses. “The hot steam set the horses crazy — I could see a splendid gray horse with a long tail make a great leap over the ship’s side and land in a lifeboat already over-crowded with men, but after that I could not endure the spectacle. Pulling down the periscope, we submerged into the deep.” And the adventure in the “witch’s kettle,” when the U 202 plunged desperately through a mine field during a terrific storm. Fiction is seldom so tense as is the bald description of this hair raising episode. And again, when the submarine, after resting all night on the bottom of the ocean, refuses to “rise,” or when, coming to the surface, the captain finds himself surrounded by British trawlers! And the subsequent wild dash through the encircling steel nets, with the dull booming of the enemy propellers overhead.

It is a new variety of big game hunting that the author describes, and his base fact makes the wildest fancies of Jules Verne seem poor indeed.