In a near future, not many years after a Crisis that has reduced Italy to a pre-industrial or even pre-modern condition, a middle-aged woman wanders in the half-flooded countryside between Ferrara and the river Po delta (North-Eastern Italy). She has no name, and refers to herself by antonomasias such as the Historian, the Writer, the Seer… She is seeking the places of her childhood and, perhaps even more important, she’s pursuing echoes of her native dialect. She is visited by different versions of the same dream. She meets a man called Matteo, they talk and then they experience an epiphany, an illumination: the word «Arzèstula» (ferrarese for Great Tit) evokes the very little bird it designates. Then the woman returns to the place she belongs, that is, a former motorway café at Cantagallo, south-west of Bologna, which is now home of a free community of outcasts affected by neurological disorders. At night, all together, they perform rituals that allow them to see the future. Not the future that’s behind the corner, but a future beyond that, an extremely distant future. (more…)
An interview with Wu Ming 1 is online at wordswithoutborders.com. Here’s an excerpt:
King’s style looks simple, but it is actually very difficult to translate. As an author, he’s very fond of puns, neologisms, idioms, local slang and so on. He plays with all the singularities of the English language, precisely the stuff that can’t be translated in any way! This is typical of, er, “monoglot” writers, by which I mean those writers who don’t care about what happens to their works when they’re translated into other languages.
There are basically two kinds of novelists: those who care about translations, like Italo Calvino and Umberto Eco, because they’re used to exploring foreign languages, and those who don’t care, like Elmore Leonard or Uncle Stevie, because they’re perfectly happy with inhabiting their native language, with no forays in other cultures and koines.
If you’re a careful, attentive reader, you can tell one kind of writer from the other simply by reading. There’s a prose that’s translation-conscious, and a prose that is not.
«It could be interesting to look closely at the classics the students chose to put on their shields. Let’s look at the frontline.
Boccaccio’s Decameron, which is about people sharing stories while waiting for the plague to end.
Asimov’s The Naked Sun, which is the description of a world where humans no longer touch each other.
Melville’s Moby Dick, which is an epic tale of obsession. (more…)
Manituana nominated for IMPAC International Literary Award (Dublin).
“A Choral, Polyphonic World”. WM1 and WM4 interviewed by 3AM Magazine.
Altai will be published in Greece by Exarchias Press.
WM4′s solo novel Stella del mattino [Star of the Morning] will be published in Spain by Machado/Acuarela.
Q‘s film rights were acquired by Fandango.
[WM1:] During my stay in New York City I met Ashley Dawson and Gabriella Coleman, two members of the collective editing and running the Social Text journal.
They interviewed me for about two hours. My friend and former fellow Blissett Marco Deseriis aka Snafu, who lives and teaches in NYC, took part to the conversation.
We covered a lot of issues, including our self-critique on how we dealt with “technified myths” in the months leading up to the anti-G8 days in Genoa (July 2001). We also wrote an essay about that, it will be published as an introduction to the collection of Thomas Muntzer‘s sermons which Verso is going to publish in 2010. The interview is a good introduction to the introduction…
We also talked about history, historians, Norman Cohn, the Iroquois, the difference between our work and postcolonial studies, contradictions in our cultural militancy, the current situation in Italy, our new novel Altai, the “War on Terror”, George Washington‘s genocidal strategies etc.
You can read the whole thing on the Social Text website.
Christopher Tayler spent a day with us in Bologna and now his article is in today’s The Guardian:
The group also persuaded a famous investigative show to look into the case of one Harry Kipper, a non-existent English artist who was said to have vanished in Italy while tracing the word “art” on the continent by bike.
The British avant-gardist Stewart Home, who obligingly posed as a concerned friend of Kipper’s when an Italian TV crew duly showed up in London, became friendly with the future Wu Mings at this time. They were, he says, “very smart and very funny”, lovers of good food and drink who were also up for “lots of headbanging discussions of Marx and left-communist theorists such as Amadeo Bordiga. I went over to Italy and they hosted a reading for me. They even put me up in a flat, and a riot went off in the street outside while I was there – so they really were the perfect hosts.”
We just came back from London, and it was a very good journey. Thanks to all the people who made it possible (you know who you are). The public events and the interviews went very well, the one at the Big Green Bookshop being particularly warmly attended (particularly warmly: how interesting that the English language lets you put two adverbs in a row! It isn’t possible in most Western European languages. In Italian, an adverb can’t modify another: “particolarmente calorosamente” would sound awfully incredibly wrong).
Here’s the interview we did for BBC Radio 4′s Today programme (it lasts 9 mins, the interviewer is Justin Webb).
Here’s Stewart Home’s blog post about the event at the ICA. Many thanks are obviously due to those who paid £9 to listen to us!
UPDATE 10/20: Here’s Stewart reading from Manituana (mp3, 4 mins). It’s the open letter the London Mohocks hand to Joseph Brant at his arrival in Pall Mall.
[WM1:] From Scotland, Gordon Darroch of The Herald daily paper sent me a barrage of smart and inspiring questions. I answered.
Then he sent more questions, and I also answered those.
A few days later, he sent a third batch.
What else could I do? I answered again.
When the dust settled, we agreed that the conversation was too good to chop it for use in a feature article. He got the whole Q & A published on the newspaper’s website.
Here’s Darroch’s intro. To read the interview, click here.
If there’s one thing you can depend on from the Wu Ming foundation, it’s that nothing will be quite what it seems. The Italian writing collective has a short but distinguished tradition of confounding expectations, overturning convention and coaxing readers into viewing history on the reverse-angle replay.
Their third novel, Manituana, recounts the American war of independence from the losing side – the Six Nations of the Iroquois – and employs all the tricks and devices familiar to readers of their previous offerings, Q (written under the name Luther Blissett) and ’54: conflicting narratives, false trails, elaborate games and back-and-forth propaganda. Seasoned throughout with a neo-marxist outlook that throws up dozens more questions than it answers, it’s an enlightening, sometimes infuriating, but always invigorating read.
An interview with Wu Ming is, similarly, far from a run-of-the-mill event. Not least because it’s conducted by email, partly as a nod to the group’s distrust of old-style media manipulation, though also because Bologna to Glasgow is a much shorter distance in cyberspace.
Wu Ming’s ethos is tied in with the 20th-century pranksterist tradition of “art terrorism” and its suspicion of “old” media as being inherently shallow, duplicitous and obsessed with trivia. They refuse to be filmed or photographed by the media and identify themselves by number (there are currently four Wu Mings, known as Wu Ming 1, 2, 4 and 5, the number 3 shirt having been retired recently when a member left the band). Yet they are far from reclusive, travelling around the world to promote their books and diligently tending their website, wumingfoundation.com, where all their fiction can be downloaded for free.
Over the course of a fortnight Wu Ming 1 and I traded more than 4500 words on war, literature, cognitive reality, football and why you should never refer to the group as anarchists. Please note there are a few spoilers here – no drastic giveways, but if you don’t want to know how the War of Independence turns out, or what happens to Dread Jack, look away now.
Joey Skaggs is the Arch-Bishop and chief theorist of pranksterism. He’s been organising and playing pranks on the media for such a long time that he’s become an archetypal figure, a character of alternative folklore, a piece of countercultural mythology, see his Wikipedia entry to have an instant grasp of what this guy means.
Back in the 1990s, Skaggs was a very influential figure on the Luther Blissett Project. Some of us read that legendary Re:Search issue entitled “Pranks!”, which featured interminable interviews with Skaggs and other pranksters (e.g. Alan Abel, Joe Coleman, and of course Abbie Hoffmann), and it blew our mind. We totally agree with an Amazon commenter who described that book as “life-changing” and “perception-altering”.
Skaggs runs both a labyrinthine, prosperous website and a blog called The Art of the Prank.
There’s another guy called W.J. Elvin III, editor and publisher of a book called Fiona: Mysteries & Curiosities Of Literary Fraud & Folly.
The link between Skaggs and Elvin is: Skagg’s blog is hosting a series of posts edited by Elvin, entitled LiteratEye.
And that’s where we enter the picture.
A few days ago Elvin interviewed WM1 for LiteratEye. They talked about pranks, Luther Blissett, Wu Ming, Manituana, the Mohawks at the Akwesasne reservation, and a doomed attempt at crossing the US-Canadian border a few months before 9-11.
The interview is here.
We’re not the only Italian collective of writers.
We’re not even the only Italian collective of writers with an oriental name.
Enter our “cousins” Kai Zen, authors of the novel The Strategy Of The Ram (2007).
“Kai zen” is Japanese for – more or less – “constant improvement”.
The Rap Sheet just published an extensive interview with them.
Have a good read.
[After All These Years, the Mutual Acknowledgement. An Interview with Luther and a letter from us.]
From the daily newspaper ‘L’Unità’, January 3 2009.
LUTHER BLISSETT: FROM FOOTBALL PLAYER TO SYMBOL OF A LITERARY PHENOMENON
The English striker arrived in Italy in ’83 to revive the fortunes of an ailing AC Milan. But the honeymoon didn’t last long. Luther disappeared, to be reborn as a collective pen name.
In Milan they remember his lack of grace, his awkward movements, the dreams that evaporated quickly. He had arrived amid fanfare and hope in the summer of 1983: a transfer market coup in a pre-Berlusconi Milan; the forward who’d scored over a hundred goals in England; the man who was going to fix every problem. Things went differently. A mutual lack of understanding lead into a dead end and an ignominious finale. Whenever he got the ball the catcalls that rang out from the stands become a cacophony – the constant soundtrack of his single Italian season. He departed amid insults, taking home a measly five goals in thirty games. (more…)
While we’re warming up the engine of this blog (reasonably soon to come: a reflection on the affinities and differences between brother Roberto Saviano and us, with an analysis of Saviano’s international best-seller Gomorrah*), it makes sense to draw the attention to some interviews that we put in our website’s RSS feed, but may have been overlooked because the newsletter was rarely sent out and many Giap subscribers weren’t following our feed.
The first interview is the one we called “the monster”, because we “frankensteinised” several interviews appeared both on newspapers and the web in the wake of Manituana‘s release. It was put on the Manituana website but it is buried under tons of untranslated stuff, a situation that will dramatically improve in the next weeks.
The monster-interview was translated into English by our Italo-Australian friend Jason Di Rosso, who’s from Perth and lives in Sydney. There’s an oblique reference to him in our movie Radio Alice / Lavorare con lentezza, when the camera lingers on a postcard from Perth whose sender is one Rachel Di Rosso, a girl that one of the film’s characters claims to have shagged 27 times during the few days she spent in Bologna.
The second interview was published on Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 1. It is a peer-reviewed collaborative journal devoted to such topics as “popular media, fan communities, and transformative works, broadly conceived [...] fan fiction, fan vids, mashups, machinima, film, TV, anime, comic books, video games, and any and all aspects of the communities of practice that surround them.” More info here. The interviewer is Veruska Sabucco, the interviewee is Wu Ming 1. Here it goes.
* Speaking of Gomorrah, some of you may not have seen this yet.