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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 March, 2005, 11:46 GMT 12:46 UK
How Scotland inspired Jules Verne
By David Henderson
BBC Scotland

Book cover
The Underground City is being republished this week
A century after Jules Verne's death, science fiction writers still follow in the Frenchman's footsteps.

But it has emerged that Scotland provided him with much of his inspiration.

He came here for the first time in 1859, recording gems such as an encounter with "an unusual steam-operated machine" which was seen in a pork butcher's shop in Glasgow.

He wrote: "It was very ingenious. A live pig was placed at one end and it came out the other in the form of appetising sausages.

"'What a people,' Jacques exclaimed. 'What genius to apply steam to a charcouterie. No wonder the British are the masters of the world.'

"After such a discovery, it was time to leave Glasgow."

Verne scholar

Jules Verne then embarked for Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, where the striking terrain inspired a novel about a metropolis hidden beneath Loch Katrine, which he called New Aberfoyle.

The book, The Underground City, is being republished this week with a foreword by modern-day geographer and Verne scholar Professor Ian Thompson.

"He liked to think that his geography was authentic," he said.

If you examine a lot of his other books, some would say that he is in fact describing Scottish mountains even if he has placed these mountains elsewhere
Gavin MacDougall
Luath Press

"It was correct as of the time that he was writing, but obviously he would never let geographical facts get in the way of good fiction.

"The majority of the book is accurate description, but where he for the purposes of his plot has to set a coalfield underneath the Trossachs, that is pure fiction and imagination."

To fuel his imagination Jules Verne certainly did his research, climbing Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh and skinny-dipping in the sea at Portobello.

Gavin MacDougall, the director of Luath Press, said the writer's experiences left an impression on his later books.

"Verne saw his first mountains in Scotland, he had never seen mountains in France growing up," he said.

Uncanny prophecies

"If you examine a lot of his other books, some would say that he is in fact describing Scottish mountains even if he has placed these mountains elsewhere."

The Underground City is among Jules Verne's less-celebrated works, so the reissuing of the book comes as a surprise to many Verne aficionados.

The writer made some uncanny prophecies - flying machines, submarines and a journey from earth to the moon.

But a vast city under the Trossachs is still an idea ahead of its time.


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