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Jules Verne and Scotland

January 18, 2014

Walking, writers and landscape

I have been reading, with great enjoyment, a recent translation of Jules Verne’s Scottish novel Les Indes-Noires, published by Luath Press as The Underground City, underneath Loch Katrine. Translation by Sarah Crozier.

This is a strange but wonderful novel, which deserves a place on the shelf next to those classing Verne Works, such as Journey to the Centre of the Earth etc.

It is part thriller, part romance, adventure yarn, utopian novel – or perhaps it is distopian – you’ll have to judge for yourself.

It certainly deserves a place alongside considerable Scottish novels.

Briefly put, a mining engineer and his former colleagues, exploring a worked out coal mine –  improbably, geologically, situated under the Trossachs – when they find a vast complex of coal covered caverns under Loch Katrine. As they explore and began to work the coal, they begin a troglodyte existence underground, building a “city” in one of the huge caves.

But all the time some sinister individual is setting out to sabotage their endeavours.

Though much of the novel is set underground there is an overland journey through Edinburgh and Glasgow, out to Lomondside and on to the surface of Lock Katrine – based on a journey Verne took in 1859.

Verne shows a rather romantic view of Victorian coal mining, but that is incidental to the main thrust of the plot. And is the villain a true villain, or can you make out a case for his activities.

Not having read Verne for many years, I had forgotten what a cracking good storyteller he was – and this is a particularly lively and readable translation.

If you like reading all things Scottish I commend it to you. The Underground City is out in paperback at £7.99 or $13.95.



3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 18, 2014 5:23 pm

    He’s a great author – when you say ‘translated’ – what language was it in to start with?

  2. January 19, 2014 8:01 am

    He was French.

  3. January 19, 2014 5:00 pm

    Ah – I thought his name didn’t sound Scottish 😉

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