Altaplana, world of Francois Schuiten and Benoit Peeters

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Letter to Benoît Peeters

Dossier number: 1565200-BE
Date: 2 January 1999

In the archive of Joseph le Perdriel that I received via the Authorities I found this letter.

It isn't clear if this letter ever reached Benoît Peeters.

Some fragments of a diary were attached.

Unknown date

party yesterday night. I'm not sure I like it. I gess that the fact of commuting does not help getting in the ambience !


Laurence showed me a nice comic strip yesterday: “The Walls of Samaris”. The drawings are really great, especially the backgrounds. I must be a bit attracted by architecture. The scenario on the other hand is a bit strange, especially at the end. You wonder what is true and what is not ! Or may be my mind is still blurred by the party.


I nearly fell asleep in the train. I 've only commuted for 3 months and I am already exhausted.


It's not very pleasant to have your birthday during the exams, nobody remembers it. Of course, I can not organize a party with algebra tomorrow ! I still received 3 birthday cards, two from my sisters and one from Laurence. She even gave me a comic strip: “Fever of Urbicande”. Despite tomorrow, I already read it. It was also some kind of algebra. I have to review the growing formulas of the Web.


I think I did well at the exam. I will surely not get an A but I will pass. It's not the case for everybody, Mersch did not miss many. It's really the killing exam.

Unknown date

moved into my room. I should rather say moved “back” into my room. It's annoying that they rent the rooms during the holidays. I saw Henry who gave me some “Obscure Cities”.


I spent the whole day reading the “Obscure Cities”. It's really great. They are all different and still you feel they are all parts of the same universe. “The road to Armilia” is probably helping to that unification. Re-reading “The fever of Urbicande”, I saw there is already a map of that “universe” in the office of Robick (Robick who is also appearing in “The walls of Samaris” !). I am going to try to get all the “Obscure Cities”. I am sure there are tons of other links.

Unknown date

get some documentation. I don't know if it was such a good idea to choose the tutorials !


Laurence told me there is a conference by Schuiten and Peeters next week: “The Wappendorf Mystery”. I have to go. May be they will talk about “The Encyclopedia of present and future transports”. That's the last one I don't have together with “The Mystery of Urbicande”. I wonder if they are real or pure fiction.


We talked again about next year. We have to give the application forms before the end of the month ! I think we will call it “Allegro”. That's the name I prefer.

Unknown date

really dirty !


I went to “The Wappendorf Mystery” last night. It's funny how they act as it were real. For example, they said they could not re-print “The Encyclopedia of present and future transports” because Wappendorf did not agree ! They also showed a cool thing, the quarx ! A beautiful computer generated animation. Wappendorf makes me think of the engineer side of Leonardo da Vinci.


We did it ! Our application form is sent. I hope it will be accepted : the first mixte gender group ! They said they would accept only two of them.

Unknown date

nearly fell asleep at the steering wheel. Ardeche is far away but I would not mind going there again !


I've just re-read all the “Obscure Cities”. Each story is a story on its own and at the same time it is adding to the coherence of the whole. Each time I re-read them, I notice another detail in the first books that is explained or complemented in the later ones. In “The walls of Samaris”, you can already find the tram 81, “The unexpected discover” of Desombre standing on one of the roofs, Robick, Urbicande and, of course, the “Art Nouveau” architecture. In “The fever of Urbicande”, apart from the Web and Robick, you also meet Isidore Louis, the archiver ! Of course, in “The Archiver”, there are lots of references to both previous and following books: Xhystos, Brüsel, Alaxis, Calvani, the Tower,…

I could probably go on for pages, not taking into account all the details I missed. The book which at first glance seems the most out of the picture is “The Tower”. And still, it is a perfect “mythology” book, the fondement of the Obscure Cities. Also, among Elias treasures, many references are made to the Obscure Cities. For example, there are a book entitled “Obscurae Civitates”, a strange polygonal map including Xhystos, Urbicande and Samaris. There is also the Web.

It's really a complete universe. You can nearly forget its imaginary. It reminds me of Tolkien and its universe which has become part of our culture.


I re-read again the Obscure Cities. Not only are they a real universe (real ?), but also, you sometimes mix the obscure universe with our own universe ! You go to the same places: Brüsel, Pâhry, Genova, Kobenhaven, Muhka,… You see the same buildings: the Pompidou centre of Paris at Pâhry, the palace of justice of Brussels at Brüsel, Saint-Basile of Moscow at Galatograd, the cathedral of Amiens at Samarobrive, the Cauchie's house of Brussels at Mylos,… You meet the same people: Spanach/Anspach, Poelaert, Ardan/Nadar, Jules Vernes, Paul Cauchie,… Are those passages actually existing ?

It's non-sense, I'm not going to believe in the existence of those Obscure Cities !

Unknown date

tomorrow !


Laurence just told me that before working at the palace of justice, Joseph Poelaert worked at the restauration of the theater “La Monnaie” ! When I think theatre, I can't help thinking “Samaris”. Did Poelaert have a contact with the Obscure Cities before working on the palace of the three powers ? It's very tempting to think that he passed to the Obscure Cities using the back stages of “La Monnaie”. He has to have a contact with the Obscure Cities before the palace of the three powers, otherwise, how could he have drawn the plans ? What I have just written is non-sense, the Oscure Cities do not exist !


Laurence's birthday party ended rather late. And I had to wake up early.

Unknown date

we know when we get in but we dot not know when it is finishing !


I went by Overijse this morning. All these greenhouses made me think of Calvani. It's more and more difficult for me to get rid of those Obscure Cities. I always try to find a “passage”. I see details of the Obscure Cities everywhere I go. If they are not real, I think about them so much that they will become real !


I'd better hurry up to finish my conclusion. I have to bring my thesis to the copy machines: the deadline is on Tuesday !

Unknown date

of Chambord. For me, it's not the most beautiful. It's the most complex but not the most beautiful. I prefer Catherine's Castle: Chenonceaux.


During the holidays, I had forgotten the Obscure Cities. And in just a few hours I found an “autogyre” and a “chronogyr”. Wappendorf's work ? These are not transportations but still very technical. I wonder if those two devices are linked.


I went to the FOREM office. It took me the whole morning ! You have to wait a first time to be put into a waiting list. And then you can wait for real.

Unknown date

15 letters and still no answer !


I found it ! I found the origin of the chronogyr and autogyre. They are both manufactured in the same factory ! I have to go there. I have to know if it's all true or if it is only my imagination. I did not find a phone number but if they do not have one, I will write or even go there. I think it is not very far from here.


I just received my first answers: three letters, three no's ! I thought computer science was still a very dynamic sector.

Unknown date

Interview. I wonder what they get from all those “psycho-technic” tests ?


I phoned to them ! It's incredible. They seemed happy that I asked them to visit their factory. I am due to go next week. I am really impatient to see the place where two devices as different as the autogyre and the chronogyr are produced. Thursday is the day !


Yet some other negative answers ! Out of seventy letters, I received sixty no's, eight requests for more information and only two interviews ! It's very discouraging.


I did it ! I did visit the manufacture. I did not notice anything special except for the way it works. No mounting chain, no robot, no machine. Everybody works on his device in a strange quietness for a factory. I am not very honnest. In fact, this atmosphere is very weird. You really feel like being in a different world. I also found on the floor a strange picture: I think it is a quarx ! More precisely a spatio-striata. I will go back tonight. I looked carefully and did not see either any alarm system or any guard.


I was right ! This factory looks more like a study center for Obscure Cities than like a manufacture. The first part (the center circle and two aisles) is the one they have visited. The second part is a set of cells, each one studying a different aspect of the Obscure Cities.

One of them is dedicated to the quarx. There is a device looking at the same time like a camera and like a drawing table. It has probably been used to create the spatio-striata picture I found yesterday. I also found a device (I tried to sketch) which seems to be used to catch the mille-folio. Disks placed at the extremities of a glass tube are acting like polarizing filters. If they are aligned, the mille-folio can go through. If they are placed orthogonaly, it is emprisonned.

A cell is dedicated to the buildings you can find in both worlds: the cathedral of Amiens / Samarobrive, the house of Paul Cauchie, the palace of justice / of the three powers, etc… In fact, I am sure there is at least one other cell dedicated to those buildings, there are so many of them !

Other cells are devoted to cooking, clothing, music, painting, sculpture, transports, languages, finance, history, geography, etc… One cell is even only studying the Web.

I did not have enough time to visit all the cells and some of them are locked. I have to go back tonight. I will take tools to open the locked doors.