Jules Verne's 'lost' novel reveals Scottish inspiration for father of science fiction

One hundred years after Jules Verne's death, the publication of a "lost novel" by the science fiction writer is shedding light on his love of Scotland.

A new translation of The Underground City, launched in Glasgow yesterday, is the first unabridged English version of a little-known work about a city buried beneath Scotland in an abandoned coal mine.

In the original edition Verne gave detailed descriptions of Edinburgh, the Scottish battles for independence and customs, such as piping, but they were cut from the1877 English translation. Details of famous characters, including John Knox and Bonnie Prince Charlie, were also excised.

"It appears Verne's editors thought the reading public of the time wouldn't be interested of the descriptions of lochs and mountains," the publishers said. It is estimated that about 15 pages of Scottish "colour" were cut from the book's final 200 pages.

While the French author's work about submarines and flying machines have earned him a reputation as the "father of science fiction", many of his readers are unaware of his strong association with Scotland, with Verne claiming Scottish ancestry on his mother's side.

The Underground City , published first in Paris in 1877 as Les Indes Noires (The Black Indies) , a story of a utopian society built 1,500 feet below a Scottish loch, has been largely forgotten. In it, miners and their families living in Coal City, underneath Loch Katrine in the Trossachs, discover Nell, a teenage girl who has grown up in the mine and never seen daylight. When one falls in love with her they find themselves pitched against supernatural spirits.

The novel is more romantic than previous works and has details about Scotland that were gathered by him during the first of many visits. "It is a very unusual book for Verne," said Professor Ian Thompson, a Verne expert, who has written the foreword to the new version. "It is probably one of the darkest and most mysterious of Verne's works. It is a supernatural thriller and a love story, which is unusual for Verne as he doesn't go in for romance."

The book by Verne's visit to Scotland in August 1859 with his artist friend Aristide Hignard.

Comments