Why Hell Stinks of Sulphur
Mythologie en geologie van de onderwereld
Mythology and geology of the underworld
We know almost everything about the exterior of the earth, but for most people its interior is completely unknown. Beneath us, stretching for a distance comparable to that between Paris and New York, lies an underground realm associated with darkness and death. It has inspired writers and artists since time immemorial; when trying to imagine hell, they have usually located it under the ground.
Subterranean mythology is geologist Salomon Kroonenberg’s point of departure. With Dante’s Inferno to hand, he takes the reader on a journey in the footsteps of Homer, Virgil, Da Vinci, Descartes and Jules Verne. Along the way he turns a scientific spotlight on the background to myths of the underworld. At a small lake near Naples he searches for the gates of hell, as described in Virgil’s Aeneid. Kroonenberg’s vast reserves of knowledge and his expressive prose allow him to transform even inconspicuous features of the landscape into fascinating sites.
Kroonenberg has the gift of being able to explain complicated matters. He compares the inside of the earth to a gobstopper, ready to expose one gorgeous colour after another. Gasses, ores, liquids and metals add to its immense variety, and there are underground rivers and lakes that have never seen the light of day. The mineworkers of the past, who were often terrified by the strange noises, the darkness, the sudden gushing of water, had their own patron saint, St. Barbara. Even today she is asked to bless tunnelling projects before the drill sets to work.
Kroonenberg is not, however, concerned only with myths, or with the beauty of natural phenomena. He sees the earth beneath our feet as a source of information about the unimaginably ancient planet on which we humans live out our brief lives. We have never penetrated beyond a depth of twelve kilometres, but if this book makes one thing clear, then it is that we should not see the world as a supermarket for raw materials, or simply as rock to be tunnelled through, but as a unique archive, a living ecosystem whose riches we can still barely guess at.
- A fascinating search for the geological foundations of hell.
- An appeal to find ways to ensure a good life for mankind that will not exhaust the earth.
- Kroonenberg keeps up the suspense on all levels, so that his book reads like a voyage of discovery.