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Villes-Mondes: the Obscure Cities

Villes-Mondes1), a program of France Culture, aired a documentary about the Obscure Cities. The two parts were aired at Sunday 8th and 15th September 2013 at 15hrs 2).

For the 50th anniversary of France Culture in September 2013, “Villes-Mondes” continues its border crossing and this time it will cross the boundaries of imagination …

A radio travel to the world and the cities of the famous comics the Obscure Cities by François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters, who also celebrated their anniversary year in September of the 30 years of publication of their series.

Travel with the creators Erik Orsenna, François Angelier, Bruno Letort, François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters and other dreamers of the imaginary cities …

Documentary of Laurent Védrine
Director: Céline Ters
Recording and mixing: Pierrick Charles

First stop: the Obscure Cities - a passage between two worlds

Sunday September 8th, 2013 at 15hrs

Live from the Palais de Tokyo, celebrating the 50th anniversary of France Culture 3)

In 1983, explorers Benoît Peeters and François Schuiten safely returned from an expedition across the continent of the Obscure Cities. This remote and relatively inaccessible world, was first described by them as a quirky reflection of the Earth. A world where cities are the ultimate form of social organization. Radically urban worlds eager for knowledge, mobility and progress, but still preserved from the excesses of modern technology. Despite the obvious truth of their field observations, despite the profusion of notes and sketches they brandished as evidence, most people still don't take their adventure seriously. Obsessed with extremely vivid memories, determined to throw any light on the obscure cities, the two men agreed to take us in the footsteps of their trip to Paris and Brussels.

Ville-Monde imaginaire by Catherine Liber

To go further, to verify rumors and document evidence, we also consulted an island writer, a visionary geographer, a musician connected to the parallel world and an esoteric explorer. Open to potential and imagination, armed with a map that we found in the archives of IGN, we went in search of passages between our world and the other world. These universes are they one over the other? To find out, we took the stairs, traps and tunnels. Are they on the contrary almost juxtaposed accessible through a simple “step aside”? Following this track there, we then experimented with trompe l'oeil, whites and darks, acoustic illusions and misleading evidence. Through these strange encounters, we believed to approach “Brüsel”, “Urbicande”, “Samaris.” And feeling prégnant of finger the shores of a continent not so distant. So maybe we really go? But maybe it was nothing more than an echo …


  • Benoit Peeters, writer and author, co-author of the cartoon series The Obscure Cities
  • François Schuiten, draftsman and designer, co-author of the cartoon series The Obscure Cities
  • Erik Orsenna, writer, academician, marine
  • Bernard Bèzes, cartographer at the National Geographic Institute
  • Leguebe Wilbur, director and producer of documentary films
  • Bruno Letort, musician, composer “obscurophile”
  • François Angelier, journalist, writer, explorer esoteric
  • Isadora Louis, librarian at the Central Records Office

Listen to the first episode

You can listen to the first episode (58 minutes):

or online at the Villes-Mondes website.

Second stop: the Obscure Cities - Journey to the heart of the map

Sunday September 15th, 2013 at 15hrs

Are the Obscure Cities continent accessible by normal means? Where to find a passage to the still unknown territory? How a team of radio professionals could bring credible and reliable records?

Faced with too many dead ends and false leads, we stored our luggage and decided to dive into the heart of the map of the Obscure Cities. A rare and valuable document, preserved in the secret vaults of the Map Library of the National Geographic Institute, somewhere between the plans of the Dutch scholar Ortelius and the Arab astrolabe.

On paper, the names of cities resonate to another reality. “Calvani” a horticultural and shimmering city, has given us lessons of ecological wisdom. “Alaxis” city of hedonistic pleasures, has paradoxically allowed us to discover the tragic fate of Mary Von Rathen, one of the most illustrious obscure citizens. Later, after crossing the Sommonites desert aboard assorted vehicles, we are aware of the dramatic events that shook the great city of “Urbicande.” Following the advice of savvy travelers, we collected stories about “Samaris” the eastern and carnivorous city, a fascinating place and traitor put on the dark equator, along the Sea of Silence.

Discovering the map we were accompanied by amazing strong figures: inventor Axel Wappendorf, the urbatecte Eugene Robick, the officer Franz Bauer, indigenous flat face people of the northern jungle. But we have not really been in contact with them, unsure of ourselves, troubled by the glare mirror that illuminates this world.

These imaginary city worlds of the Obscure Cities were almost always disturbing. Although all the information gathered it is still not enough to believe, not until we receive a message, a real proof. This is what finally happened to us via a letter. Bon voyage …


  • Benoit Peeters, writer and author, co-author of the cartoon series The Obscure Cities
  • François Schuiten, draftsman and designer, co-author of the cartoon series The Obscure Cities
  • Isadora Louis, librarian at the Central Archives
  • Bernard Bèzes, cartographer at the National Geographic Institute
  • Bruno Letort, musician, composer obscurophile
  • Mary Von Rathen, a resident of the Obscure Cities, specializing in unusual events and mysterious business

Listen to the second episode