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I, Nemo
A journal

J. Dharma et Deanna Windham

286 pages
2011 - États-Unis
Roman

Intérêt: **

 

 

Retracer la vie du capitaine Nemo avant les événements décrits par Jules Verne, telle est l’ambition de ce roman. Et pour l’imaginer, les auteurs ne sont pas allés chercher loin : ils ont tout simplement décalqué la trame du Comte de Monte-Cristo.

Le livre commence en 2015 par l’histoire d’un navire d’exploration dans le Pacifique qui découvre l’épave du Nautilus et, à l’intérieur de celle-ci, le journal de Nemo. Le reste du volume est consacré à la reproduction de celui-ci.

Jonathan de Chevalier Mason, dont le récit débute en 1860, est au sommet de la réussite et du bonheur. Ingénieur de la marine britannique, il lance ce jour-là en présence des plus hautes autorités de l’Etat un navire de guerre ultramoderne. Parallèlement à son succès professionnel, Jonathan est amoureux fou de sa femme Lavinia et de leurs deux filles. Il a également un ami intime, le capitaine Harrison Randolph Barrington.

Jonathan confie à ce dernier qu’il a imaginé un navire sous-marin extraordinairement puissant. Harrison veut qu’il en remette les plans à l’Amirauté mais l’ingénieur refuse : il estime que ce sous-marin serait une arme trop terrible qui serait forcément mal utilisée. Harrison le fait condamner pour haute trahison et en profite pour récupérer la belle Lavinia qu’il convoitait depuis toujours.

Jonathan est envoyé dans un pénitencier situé sur une île tropicale où il subit les pires traitements. Il y fait connaissance d’un autre prisonnier, le prêtre français Jacques Blondeau. Grâce à un trou dans le mur mitoyen de leurs cellules, les deux hommes ont de longues conversations. Le prêtre révèle à Jonathan qu’il a été confident de Napoléon et que ce dernier lui a confié un énorme trésor pour le mettre à l’abri. Blondeau l’a caché dans une île du Pacifique sud (!).

Jonathan organise un soulèvement des prisonniers, essentiellement des fidèles du prêtre qui dirige en fait une sorte de secte. Blondeau est tué pendant l’affrontement et le jeune homme devient le leader du groupe. Avec ses hommes, il s’empare d’un bateau et se rend sur l’île au trésor.

Devenu richissime, il entreprend la construction du Nautilus. Il fait fabriquer les pièces par divers industriels aux USA et en Europe. Au passage, il constate que sa Lavinia adorée est désormais heureusement remariée à Harrison, devenu son ennemi mortel.

Utilisant désormais le nom de capitaine Nemo, il fait expédier les pièces du Nautilus à Panama où il suscite beaucoup d’intérêt de la part des espions des deux camps de la guerre civile qui fait alors rage en Amérique.

Le Nautilus est assemblé dans l’île secrète de Nemo, dans le Pacifique sud. Quand le sous-marin est prêt, Nemo commence ses expéditions. Son objectif principal est de se venger d’Harrison, devenu entre temps amiral de la flotte anglaise. Nemo le provoque en coulant des navires de guerre britanniques : l’amiral n’a pas de mal à comprendre que son ancien ami, évadé, a finalement construit son redoutable sous-marin. Nemo détruit également le camp de détention où il avait été enfermé. Harrison finit par se rendre dans le Pacifique sur le plus gros navire de guerre britannique pour un affrontement direct avec le Nautilus. Ce dernier l’emporte, Nemo est vengé. Son journal s’arrête à peu près là où commence Vingt mille lieues sous les mers.

 

I, Nemo, on le voit, est une copie conforme de Monte-Cristo, avec les ajustement nécessaires pour coller aussi au roman de Jules Verne. Bien mené, le livre est plaisant. On peut malgré tout regretter le peu de créativité dont ont fait preuve les auteurs dans leur utilisation du chef d’œuvre de Dumas.

 

Extrait du chapitre 3 Belial Island

One night I heard a strange sound like stone grinding against stone. Suddenly a pale gray square appeared in the cell’s stone wall. I sat up in my cot and stared in wonder.

A bony arm beckoned to me. “Does monsieur care to visit me in my chateau?”

I slid from my cot and crawled through the opening with the bitter thought that before arriving at the penal colony, I would have been too large to pass through.

The old priest greeted me warmly. I looked around Father Blondeau’s cell. By the standards I was now accustomed to, it was furnished opulently with several piles of books standing against a wall; there was a low stool, and even a candle jutting from a bottle on the floor beside his low cot. My host bade me to sit on the stool, and he sat on the edge of his bed. A small framed picture of Bonaparte hung on one wall behind him.

Beside the books were several shells arranged from largest to smallest. I picked up a Chambered Nautilus, a large cephalopod whose bony body structure was extruded as a shell. Internally the shell was divided into several chambers. As the creature matured it created newer larger sections arranged in a logarithmic whirl. It was thought that with such a strong shell the mollusk could dive to one thousand meters. As an engineer I could see how this could be, and I further noted that the Nautilus had the further advantage of being able to withdraw into its shell for protection from predators. The creature was able to adjust its buoyancy by admitting water into special sacs. I had kept an especially fine specimen of the creature’s shell on my desk at home. I put the shell back with the others and smiled at the elderly priest. “All the comforts of home…”

Father Blondeau said, “When I first came here, there was a different man in charge of the penal colony and he permitted me a few small comforts.”

“May I look at your books?” I asked.

“But of course.” He lit the taper and set it on the ground near the books. I was thrilled to see that among the many titles was Homer’s Odyssey, which I had often carried around and enjoyed reading in the original Greek. I picked up the volume and opened it with reverential fingers, as I had thought I would never see a real book again.

“Ah, you read Koine Greek.” Father Blondeau said. It was not a question.

“And Latin,” I replied in French.

Blondeau chuckled. “Your French is very good, Monsieur.” He nodded toward the volume in my hand. “You may have it.” It turned out that Father Blondeau was a man of many interests including a well-developed appreciation for the natural sciences. For hours we engaged in learned discourse about the ocean and the mysteries it contained. He opined that an undersea passage existed between the Mediterranean and the Red ‘Sea, as he had noticed that the same type of fish were to be found in both bodies of water. He mentioned that he had read a young professor’s book on the natural wonders of the sea, a man named Arronax. He could not remember the scientists Christian name.

“Monsieur Pierre Arronax is now a famous scientist and has penned many books about the world’s oceans and seas,” I replied, warming to the subject. “Of course, there are better ways to study the sea than a diving suit or dredging the bottom.”

“Direct observation,” Father Blondeau replied smiling.

We were talking one night, in low whispers so as not to draw the attention of the guards on patrol. “If you could do anything with your life, Monsieur Mason, what would you do?” The question was posed mildly, but the priest’s gaze on my face was shrewd.

I looked down at the floor. “I would build my undersea ship and never step foot on solid land ever again.”

“That is not all you would do though, is it?” he pressed.

I looked away to avoid the piercing stare fixed on my face. “I would find the man who robbed me of my life and make him pay for his crimes with his life.”

“I can’t say that I blame you.”

I looked at the priest in surprise. He gave a careless shrug. “Vengeance is not always the Lord’s sole prerogative. We here on earth must take into account the simple fact that we dwell closer to Hell than Heaven.”

It was then that Father Jacque Blondeau gave my life back to me. He had been modest when he had at first told me that he was a courier between the late French emperor and the man who controlled his finances. Just before the battle of Waterloo, the young priest had been entrusted by the emperor with the task of taking the bulk of his vast treasure, loading it onto a ship in great secrecy and bearing it away to a place of safety.

“It is how I ended up here. They wanted to know where I had hidden it. I was flogged countless times, hung by my thumbs day after day, but I did not tell them. Finally, me and the young acolytes of my order, some boys not yet in their teens, were sent here. After a few years the English forgot about me. So you see Monsieur, I possess the means to make your dreams become reality.”


 

 

 

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