Archive for September 2007
Urville is the creation of Gilles Tréhin, a Belgian-born autistic savant who created the fictional city of Urville from the mid-1980s on, starting with Lego and proceeding onto increasingly detailed sketches. Tréhin’s Urville is located in “Provence insulaire,” a fictional archipelago located off the Provençal coast near Cannes that enjoyed a precocious urbanization under the Phoenicians and developed by the 21st century into the largest city in France and a global centre. The book Urville is a superb collection of Tréhin’s Urville-related drawings and notes, a sketched counterpart to the sort of tourist photo guidebook that one might buy at an airport on arrival and departure, replete with detailed images of Urville’s various districts and notable buildings. The below YouTube-hosted documentary provides more background of Tréhin and Urville.
Although Urville works wonderfully as a sampler of an alternative reality, but it fails to pass the litmus test of uchronical plausibility for purists: How could such a major Mediterranean metropolis be founded nearly two and a half millennia ago and have so little impact on world history? Almost certainly there wouldn’t be a Fifth French Republic founded by De Gaulle, or al-Qaeda suicide attacks in New York City on 11 September 2001. I’d suggest that the existence of a Provençal metropolis just as influential as Paris would have significant effects on French history. Look at Spain, where the national capital of Madrid in Castile is rivalled by a rich Mediterranean Barcelona that’s the centre of a vibrant Catalan culture and the historic nucleus of the non-Castilian kingdom of Aragon. In a world where Urville did exist, I’d be inclined to bet on the existence of, if not a broader Occitania, then at least an autonomous Provence. This significant point aside, I’d still recommend Urville to fans of alternate history, on the sole condition that they don’t get too excited about the background implausibilities of Urville–it’s a well-executed book with an interesting that deserves a readership.