(1951- ) US academic and translator, in Hong Kong from 2005; through his career he has focused very heavily on the work of Jules Verne, both as critic and translator. He is a strong and knowledgeable student of that author, and as his Jules Verne inédit: les manuscrits déchiffrés ["The Unpublished Jules Verne: The Manuscripts Deciphered"] (2015) demonstrates, is deeply familiar with the tangled manuscript evidence; here and elsewhere he vividly conveys a sense that in the long term Verne cannot be properly understood without close examination of that evidence, his earlier novels in particular reaching publication only after complex and sometimes damaging interactions with his publisher Jules Hetzel.
Within the broad-church remit of this encyclopedia, on the other hand, Butcher's assertion that Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea(s) (1870) is not in fact science fiction seems eccentrically restrictive. When he states, in the course of introducing his strong if streamlined 1998 translation of that novel, that "Verne is not a science fiction writer: most of his books contain no innovative science" [his italics], he may have been attempting to position himself within the not unfractious field of modern Verne criticism; but assertions of this sort are of little use to those not engaged in internecine warfare. The comment is not only difficult to credit when applied to Twenty Thousand Leagues [see entry on Verne for details], but represents so unusual a point of view about sf in general – a field no longer plausibly describable so peremptorily – that Butcher may be its only proponent.
Butcher's translations of Verne, in an increasingly crowded field, remain among the best available. [JC]
translations (selected; in chronological order of original texts)
- Jules Verne. The Extraordinary Journeys: Journey to the Centre of the Earth: Space and Time in the "Voyages Extraordinaires" (Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1992) [trans of Voyage au centre de la Terre 1864: pb/]
- Jules Verne. The Extraordinary Journeys: The Adventures of Captain Hatteras (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005) [trans of "grand in-8" version of Voyages et aventures du capitaine Hatteras: Les Anglais au pôle Nord: Le Désert de glace dated 1867 but 1866: pb/]
- Jules Verne. The Extraordinary Journeys: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas (Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1998) [trans, corrected by Butcher, of "grand in-8" version of Vingt Mille Lieues sous les mers 1871: pb/]
- Jules Verne. The Extraordinary Journeys: Around the World in Eighty Days (Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1995) [trans of Le Tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours 1873: pb/]
- Jules Verne. Lighthouse at the End of the World: The First English Translation of Verne's Original Manuscript (Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 2007) [trans of designated version of Le Phare du bout du monde 1905: pb/]
Previous versions of this entry