Q and Altai both acquired by Tokyio-based Sogensha Co., Ltd.
Q and Altai both acquired by Tokyio-based Sogensha Co., Ltd.
In April 2008 Wu Ming 1 – on behalf of the whole collective – published the so-called “memorandum” on the New Italian Epic, which since then has been rippling the surface of Italian culture. The debate is still hot, attacks on our vision are constantly delivered by powerful senior critics and windbags, but we also opened several breaches: since 2008, no discussion of the current state of Italian literature has been possible without references – either positive or negative – to what we wrote. They just couldn’t ignore the “memorandum” (and the expanded version that was published as a book by Einaudi in 2009).
Not surprisingly, the first monography on the subject wasn’t published in Italy but in the UK. It is entitled Overcoming Postmodernism: The Debate on New Italian Epic, and it’s a special issue of the Journal of Romance Studies (Volume 10, Number 1, Spring 2010). We reproduce the Editor’s introduction and the Notes on Contributors.
Aims and origin
The contributors of this special issue of Journal of Romance Studies all offer a critical view of a single text. They all engage with different novels as primary material, but their analysis is based on Italian author Wu Ming 1’s essay New Italian Epic: Memorandum 1993-2008, the first version of which was published online in April 2008. Wu Ming is the name of a collective of Italian authors based in Bologna, formerly known as the Luther Blissett Project  The collective is currently formed by four members, known by a number from 1 to 5 (Wu Ming 1, Wu Ming 2, Wu Ming 4 and Wu Ming 5 – Wu Ming 3 left the group in 2008). New Italian Epic is commonly known as the ‘Memorandum’ . It describes and provides a taxonomy for a corpus of Italian contemporary novels by various authors – including Wu Ming. (more…)
He died of prostate cancer. He died in exile in Morocco on September 7, 1997. His name was Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Zabanga – literally “Mobutu, the warrior who goes from victory to victory as no-one can stop him” – but when he was born in 1930, in what was then the Belgian Congo, he was simply Joseph-Désiré Mobutu. The Africanization of his name was part of the visionary strategy that made him famous, along with the distinctive leopard hats, the carved tribal stick and the monumental choreographies.
There is always something ridiculous and farcical in dictators. Their clothes, their mannerisms, even their faces. They are pop stars, or rather crooners, who entertain the public from a media stage, in order to hide the atrocities they commit in the wings. That’s the reason why their style is very often over-the-top and excessive, and at the same time painstakingly constructed and cared for.
Mobutu, for example, was a bloodthirsty dictator, but he was also a key exponent and lover of a certain African glamour made of floral shirts, cloaks, and noteworthy events which attracted attention to him and the facade of Zaire, while obscuring the dictatorship’s crimes. Think of the most famous boxing match in history, Ali vs. Foreman, 1974, recounted in Leon Gast’s documentary When We Were Kings.
The king, of course, was Muhammad Ali, not that pathetic usurper Mobutu, who sought the light reflected by the giant to shine on the international stage. And yet, that clown had had a flash of genius. It was no ordinary thing to imagine such an event, the “Rumble in the Jungle”, a clash between two black fighters in the heart of Africa. (more…)
In a post on his Posthegemony blog, Jon Beasley-Murray makes a good point re a crucial passage of Spectres of Müntzer. WM1 seizes the opportunity to make things a little bit more clear.
FEATURE ARTICLES & INTERVIEWS:
A Life in Writing: Wu Ming (The Guardian)
The Struggle Continues (The Glasgow Herald)
‘We Get More Ambitious’: An Interview with Wu Ming (Social Text)
3. Frankenstein in Frankenhausen (2001-09)
Thomas Müntzer spoke to us, but we couldn’t understand his words. It wasn’t a blessing, but a warning.
It is impossible to disclaim the responsibility the Wu Ming collective had, at least in Italy. We were among the most zealous in urging people to go to Genoa, and helped to pull the movement into the ambush. After the bloodbath, it took quite a while – and a lot of reflection on our part – to understand our own (specific) errors in the context of the (general) errors made by the movement.
We had underestimated the enemy, and overestimated ourselves. Clearly, something had gone wrong with the practice of “mythopoesis” or “myth-making from the bottom up”, which was – and still is – at the core of our philosophy. (more…)
2. Müntzer Mojo Rising, or: the Castle under Siege (1999-2001)
The publication of Q was followed by an extended book tour all over Italy (and Ticino, the Italian-speaking canton of Switzerland). We met hundreds of readers in all kinds of venues (squats, libraries, bookshops, festivals etc.), answered their questions and discussed the reception of the book in the literary scene. During that tour we announced that, after the end of the LBP, we’d start a new project, more tight-knit, focused on storytelling and with no deadline ahead. Wu Ming was just around the corner.
We were still travelling when the Battle of Seattle broke out.
It was the thirtieth of November 1999. That evening we arrived at Lodi, a small town in Lombardy, and met readers at the municipal library. Instead of talking about the book, we raved about what had just happened at the WTO summit. We felt it was the beginning of something big.
And big it grew indeed. Very soon, the new movement erupted into a worldwide challenge to the global institutions regulating “free markets” from the top down: the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization and other bloodsuckers. (more…)
1. Marcos, Müntzer and Q (1994-99)
To this day, we don’t know if Marcos ever had a chance to read the book. He’s been supernaturally busy in the following years, and the situation in Chiapas (indeed, the whole Mexico) seems to have worsened considerably. However, to give him a copy had a precise meaning. To us, that present symbolised the completion of a cycle, from the 16th century Peasants’ War (the subject of the novel) to the Zapatista Levantamiento [Uprising].
The Peasants’ war was the biggest popular revolt of its time, it broke out at the heart of the Holy Roman Empire and was savagely repressed in 1525, one year before the Spanish Conquistadores started their bloody invasion of Southern Mexico and destroyed the Maya civilisation.
The Zapatista Levantamiento was the most inspiring peasant rebellion of our time, it took place in Southern Mexico on the initiative of Maya activists and had an influence on struggles all across today’s unholy empire.
Call it a chiasmus if you like.
The Peasants’ War was a prefiguring event, in the same way its main agitator Thomas Müntzer was a prefiguring character. It was literally a pre-figuration because the social order that Müntzer and the revolutionary peasants envisioned was far ahead of their time, indeed, it’s still ahead of our time, and yet it wasn’t just a collective hallucination followed by bursts of mass violence. That’s the conservative interpretation started by Martin Luther and refined by Norman Cohn, who described Müntzer as a forerunner of modern-day totalitarianism and Nazi madness. Bullshit. (more…)
[This essay was written in the Summer of 2008, to be used as a preface to this collection of Thomas Müntzer's sermons. It is a bitter piece of self-criticism on our "mytho-poetic" politics during the 2000-01 period (roughly from the "Battle of Seattle" to the mayhem in Genoa). It's been circulating widely in Italian and Spanish, but not in English, due to problems that delayed the publication of the book. Many people asked us for it. We decided to post it in four chunks on this blog. This won't harm the book, indeed, our long-time experience with anticipating stuff on the Internet tells us quite the opposite.]
0. A present from the monkeys
It happened one chilly night of March 2001.
It happened in Nurio, state of Michoacán, Mexico, where all the indigenous tribes of the country were gathered to demand an Indian Rights Act. It was the third meeting of the National Indian Congress, largely a creation of the Zapatistas, those media-savvy poetic warriors who had seemingly appeared out of nowhere – out of the depths of time – seven years before. U2 were wrong, sometimes something changes on New Year’s Day. Sometimes an army of balaclava-wearing Maya peasants occupy a city and get their message across to millions of people. It occurred in San Cristobal de las Casas, state of Chiapas, Mexico, on the first of January 1994.
And there we were, seven years later, in the darkness on the edge of Nurio, and the Zapatistas were there, Subcomandante Marcos was there, for the indigenous meeting took place during the famous and internationally covered March of Dignity.
The March: throngs of people travelling on battered coaches, covering thousands of miles, from the backwoods of Chiapas to a spectacularly crowded Zócalo, the biggest square in Mexico City. Twenty days of travel, twenty days of poetry delivered by Marcos in seven allegorical speeches called the ‘Seven Keys’. (more…)
January was a work-filled and travel-filled month, which made us neglect this blog, but we’ll make amends for this!
We’re still promoting Altai all over Italy (the novel has been in the Top 10 list of Italian fiction for 4 months), we just returned to France to promote Manituana, and Wu Ming 1 went to Kenya and climbed the mountain that gives its name to the country, walking in the footsteps of this guy.
Benuzzi wrote a famous memoir on his adventure, No Picnic on Mount Kenya, in print in several countries. WM1′s purpose is to write an Unidentified Narrative Object on Africa, daring escapes, World War 2 POW camps, writers climbing mountains, half-forgotten stories of inconspicuous adventures, and how the Fascist regimes manipulated mountaineering for political propaganda during the 1930s. The investigative journey has just begun, there will be more mountains to climb, people to interview, lost memories to recover, remote archives to consult.
In the meantime, Wu Ming 2 is almost through with another UNO, a quasi-novel that also works as both a trekking guide and a counter-information investigative piece on the Appennines between Bologna and Florence, a narrative survey of what is still beautiful and what has been devastated by all kinds of property speculation and – especially – railway projects. The book is also a spin-off of WM2′s solo novel War on the Humans (2004).
Wu Ming 4 is writing several essays on JRR Tolkien, Robert Graves, TE Lawrence and a dissection of the figure of the “hero” in mythology and popular culture. These essays will be published in book form at the end of 2010. Of course this has to do with WM4′s solo novel Star of the Morning (2008).
All together, we just started research for the second installment of the Atlantic Triptych.
As the Grateful Dead would put it: “What a long strange trip it’s been“.
On January 1st, 2000, one day after Luther Blissett’s “Seppuku”, we founded the Wu Ming collective.
A few weeks later, this very website went on line. Ten years of uninterrupted presence on the web. Ten years of conversations, confrontations, communal moments. Thank you all for having made it possible.
With the exception of our comments on the Fluxus-like assault on Burlesquoni, in the last month of 2009 we kind of neglected this blog. We’ve been (and still are) very much involved in the promotion of our novel Altai, which has sold about 30,000 copies so far, and has generated a huge, rich, multifarious debate. The book tour comprises nearly 60 presentations in 50 cities all over the Paeninsula. We already did 14 of them. Film critic Woody Haut says that we’re “indefatigable”, we hope he’s right.
In the meantime, we spotted some interesting things on the web.
For example, The Independent‘s Boyd Tonkin ranked Manituana among the best “general fiction” works published in the UK in 2009. Tonkin wrote that “the overthrow of American revolutionary myths in Manituana” reads as “a tale of our times”, and added: “the Italian Wu Ming collective craft a splendidly surprising, Mohawk-centred view of white colonists’ rebellion against the “Great English Father”, George III.”
In an interview we gave several years ago (BTW we were too influenced by “post-Operaismo” jargon and autonomo-marxist conceptual frames back then, you can see that in the first answer, but the rest of the interview is still good), we said that
We usually think of an historical period which seems fascinating to us, then we spend months watching microfilms, reading sources, doing research, writing down all kinds of stuff, then the brainstorm comes and it lasts several weeks. We have hallucinations, sort of. Historical research is like peyote to us. After we recover from all the shocks and flashes, we start to write.
In 2002 Nate, the guy running the “What in the hell…” weblog, was unable to grasp the metaphor. What in the hell were we talking about? In what way is researching history like taking peyote?
Eventually, after reading Manituana, Nate understood :-D
[Yesterday's tweets on what happened in Milan:]
B. called “a miracle” that he survived the assault. No, it’s a miracle he’s still around after 15 years & with such an obsession for death.
From the hospital: “Why do they hate me?” Maybe he really wonders why. For yrs he’s been living in a world apart, surrounded by yes-men.
Little girl, 4 yrs old: “Dad, what happened?” Dad: “A nutter hurt a villain”. Little girl thinks it over, then: “It’s a stupid story!”
@Meandy maybe Tartaglia and Berlusconi have more things in common than they’d want to know. Two delusional types bumped into each other.
Tartaglia from jail: “I HATE BERLUSCONI!”. Yeah, we kind of imagined that. Whatever the reason, how discourteous to jump such a long queue!
One of B’s aides “He will not exploit the assault in the next election campaign”. Usual self-negating denial, but there’s something strange.
It sounds like he and his clique were *really* taken aback, like they’re having problems trying to impose the Reichstag frame.
Opposition leader Di Pietro: “I’m no hypocrite, I won’t visit B. at the hospital”. We Rn’t fans of this guy but it’s the right thing to say.
Shopping frenzy in Milan. People rushing to buy a Duomo souvenir like the one used to smash Berlusconi’s face. No joke, it’s happening.
The right-wing wants to shut down websites and social networks where people are boisterously expressing solidarity to Tartaglia.
“Sow wind and reap whirlwind”. Because of this title on Di Pietro’s blog http://bit.ly/6yTMFP a spokesman for B’s party wants it closed down
Reports say he’s really in pain & can hardly eat. He didn’t expect it. He’s shocked. From now on, everything will be different in his life.
RT @synthjock: First Tiger Woods, now Berlusconi. It’s really not an auspicious time to be an oversexed billionaire right now.
When politicians get smacked. A top 10 list of assaults, http://bit.ly/5Fd72L
“Berlusconi looked like Floyd Patterson after a 7 round drubbing by Mohammad Ali” CounterPunch http://bit.ly/52Kk6A
Bogus pro-Berlusconi groups on Facebook. Names were changed, hordes of people found themselves enlisted as fans of B. http://bit.ly/71RLxx
Name of a huge FB group raising funds for earthquake victims changed to “Support Silvio Berlusconi against Tartaglia’s fans”.
t least 500,000 unaware people were passed on as fans of Berlusconi when FB group names were suddenly replaced, reports La Repubblica.
Until this morning, this Facebook group was devoted to promoting Italian brands, then the administrators renamed it http://bit.ly/8t5jfG
Until this morning, this Facebook group with 1 million members was devoted to protecting animals, now look at it http://bit.ly/6kqxUL
“I found him shaken, annoyed – as if woken, really out-of-sorts, from a bad dream.” A bad dream. What an interesting thing B.’s doctor said.
[Here's how we covered the event on twitter last night:]
Berlusconi punched in the face http://bit.ly/6i39Ez Is the Reichstag burning? Is Tartaglia a Van der Lubbe?
Does this really take us by surprise? Wasn’t it an orbital event, always on the verge of taking place?
Will there be retaliations tonight? And how long is “tonight”?
Tartaglia, the guy who hit Berlusconi in the face, is a multimedia performance artist, see his “dancing mirrors”: http://bit.ly/7x7ZzV
He didn’t punch Berlusconi. He hit him with a small model of the Milan cathedral, which one can buy from street vendors. Performance art.
Now, if there’s one thing the Milan cathedral is, that’s *gothic*, which means acuminated. No wonder it cut Silvio’s face http://bit.ly/NfYC
Tartaglia’s first words after being arrested: “I am nobody”. Are we witnessing the return of Berlin Dada?
Is a Reichstag on fire or “He that flies justice in the court must expect to find it in the street”? Edward Sexby, 1657 http://bit.ly/7lxK6U
Is a Reichstag on fire or “What happened to the king of Portugal is an occupational accident of kings”? Lenin, 1908 http://bit.ly/8bATTF
Years of facelifts & hair transplants & blepharoplastics, fake tan, thick layers of greasepaint, until at 73 he looked weirder than Jacko.
He wanted to turn his own face into a work of art, to challenge aging and death. Each David’s foot meets a Piero Cannata with a hammer.
The media is talking about it only in terms of political violence, solidarity with the premier as victim. Bad frame. The Reichstag frame.
We’ve got to understand what happened last night also in terms of culture, imaginary, the boomerang effect of icons and myths.
[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.