Obscure Cities On The Other Side Of The Sun

As the authors behind the graphic novel series Les Cités Obscures, published by Casterman, the two Belgian comics artists François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters have been sketching, drawing and writing since the early 1980s – and are going strong ever since. Schuiten, as the designer behind this bande dessinée, is busy with the artwork while Peeters, the novelist, provides the text. Both were born in the year 1956 and have known each other since they were classmates in the 1960s where they had already collaborated on the school newspaper.

On 17 October 2013 Benoît Peeters will delight us with their presence at the Stroom’s lecture series The Knight’s Move in The Hague and will present us a world that cannot possibly exist – or can it? We are very much looking forward to it and pleased to give you a brief introduction on their oeuvre.

We’re giving away 2×2 tickets to our readers! Please send an email to mail@popupcity.net in case you’re interested.

François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters

Both have been very busy (and successful) in their respective fields. Schuiten, who stems from a family of architects, continuously mixes his passion for buildings with his works that include various scenographies and the restoration of the first house designed by Art Nouveau architect Victor Horta, the Maison Autrique. Besides that, he did the cover design for Jules Verne’s rediscovered novel Paris in the Twentieth Century and he created the design for 15 Belgian stamps. Peeters holds a philosophy degree and studied under the direction of Roland Barthes. When he is not at work as a comic writer he publishes novels. He can look on over sixty works on a variety of subjects, among his recent publications is the first biography of Jaques Derrida. Peeters is also the author of several documentaries and short films.


Despite all of their other work, it is Les Cités Obscures that receives most of Schuiten’s and Peeter’s attention and dedication. In a one-page-a-week process Les Cités Obscures describes a fictional counter world, a parallel universe, that functions as an alternative realm for different ways of living as opposed to our Planet Earth. Made up of various independent city-states, where each has a distinct kind of civilization and architecture, each story focuses on one particular city or building. Architects, urbanists and, ultimately, the fusion of both, so-called urbatects, hold all sovereign powers, making architecture top priority on society’s agenda. The actual Cités Obscures cannot be seen from our planet because they are located exactly behind the sun, making them invisible to us. Only so-called Obscure Passages make travel between these two worlds possible by means of gates, which are mostly found in buildings that resemble architecture that can be found on both planets. The city Brüsel is, for instance, characterized by skyscrapers, another city, Mylos, has lots of brick architecture and many chimneys.

Les Cités Obscures

On several websites, Schuiten and Peeters regularly provide Obscurantists with alleged reports from people who have succeeded to cross over to the other world, either by purpose or by accident. Only recently a letter by the prominent figure Mary Von Rathen has been found. Although Obscure Passages are hard to find travel is not that uncommon, Jules Verne being probably the most notable person to travel between the two worlds. Other Obscurantists are less lucky and have been looking for Obscure Passages for years without success. Fans have the possibility, though, to get a customized Obscure Cities Passport – to make sure they are not stopped by the authorities when they finally get the chance to cross the border.

The Leaning Girl

By the end of this year fans can expect an English edition under the title The Obscure Cities, translated and published by Stephen D. Smith at Alaxis Press who has been a loyal fan for many many years. The word “obscure” in The Obscure Cities is not to be understood as in the American English sense, meaning something like “little known, odd”, but it should be read as the French use it, in the sense of “mysterious, hidden, secluded”. In order to make this English edition possible Schuiten, Peeters and Smith used the services of Kickstarter. To everyone’s great advantage, the campaign was successfully funded so on November 12 Alaxis Press will launch their first release, titled The Leaning Girl. It is the story about a girl named Mary Von Rathen (who had coincidentally just recently left a letter in our world) who has to spend the rest of her life consistently leaning in a 30 degree angle as a result of an accident in an amusement park. The story depicts Mary’s five-year-journey of finding a cure to her illness, strangeness, otherness – who is to say? Many more editions are yet to come.

The Leaning Girl

Les Cités Obscure is an award-winning timeless document that offers an interesting, literally, other-worldly take on, well, our world. Based on an ever-expanding community of fans the French comics have been translated into 10 different languages and to date there have been 12 published volumes, not including another 12 spin-offs which were accessible as a limited print only. During their talk at the Stroom’s lecture series The Knight’s Move Peeters is going to present their graphic novel and speak about architecture, urban planning, utopia, and lots more.

We’re giving away 2×2 tickets to our readers! Please send an email to mail@popupcity.net in case you’re interested.