For us, there will be a before and after Coimbra.
We welcomed João Miguel Lameiras and João Ramalho Santos' initiative with enthusiasm. Firstly, because the proposal was flattering: the richness and variety of the programme and the quality of the speakers really impressed us. Secondly, because we were looking forward to discovering the city of Coimbra, its university, and the collection of machines that our friend Etienne Schréder had often told us about.
Today, however, it seems to us that we would have preferred never to have come.
Until those days in August 1998, the Obscure Cities were almost an intimate affair. Most readers saw our books as pure fiction. We didn't try to disabuse them of that notion. And even less to attract the attention of the general public: scandal does not suit the dark world.
But the events that took place in Coimbra, which we witnessed as well as all the participants of the Colloquium, have profoundly - and perhaps irrevocably - changed all the facts of the matter. Whether we deplore it or rejoice, the facts are in the public domain.
Yes, it is better to admit it straight out: these troubled places that we had only half-heartedly mentioned as probable points of passage have multiplied over the last few years. What a long way we have come since the solitary research of Maurice Maeterlinck and Augustin Desombres, or, closer to home, of the painter Robert Louis Marie de la Barque and the writer Pierre Lidiaux!
For a long time, the tangible manifestations of the dark world remained an essentially Brussels phenomenon. This is no longer the case: in Lausanne as well as in Paris, in Regensburg as well as on the island of Reunion, events as striking as they are unusual have been observed. In Brasilia itself, last year, we learned that a powerful sect claimed to be from the dark world. At the same time, many powerful testimonies have appeared on the Internet: those of Jérôme Le Perdriel, Sylvain Saint-Pierre and Jim Harrison, for example.
Nevertheless, it was in Coimbra, with what we must now call the “Ishmael Tolentino affair”, that things came to light. The popular press presented things in an excessive and often misleading light, which we continue to deplore. We would have gladly done without such publicity: arousing the enthusiasm of UFO worshippers was never our goal!
No one knows what the next few months will bring, or whether the work begun more than fifteen years ago can be continued serenely. Doesn't a too massive and superficial attention of the media risk to undermine the rigour of our research and to distance from the universe of the Cities those who should be most interested in it? Doesn't it risk, above all, provoking the anger of the “dark” and putting an end to communications between the two worlds? From the bottom of our hearts, we hope that this will not be the case.
Brussels, 31 August 1998.