What I learned from Wu Ming

Last night, Wu Ming 1 and Wu Ming 4 visited Dalston. The salient points:

1: Wu Ming is a band. If musicians can group together, why not writers?

2: Wu Ming 6 is the waste paper basket, and a most valuable contributor to the works. (But they have also said Wu Ming 6 is their translators.)

3: Filuzzi – for me the great revelation of 54, although admittedly I never finished that novel – is breathtaking: History is Made at Night has a video, as does Wu Ming’s YouTube channel.

4: The translator is to blame for the dreadful dialogue of the London Mohawks in Manituana, but the original Italian had them speaking a sort of Nadsat, from A Clockwork Orange, which strikes me as an odd choice.

5: The surprising, sideways view of history – such as Lafayette introducing mesmerism to the American Indians, in the next volume of their Atlantic Triptych – is how Wu Ming transcend the formulas of historical fiction. They make the past a subject for inquiry, and so say something new, rather than pile up clichés as scenery or mount a freakshow for mocking inspection.

6: The position of the native Americans in the American revolution is another such sideways view. It almost sounds obvious when one thinks about it, but conceiving of it is the great leap.

7: Historical practice is (or should be) the making of such jumps. A systematic derangement of the senses. The shock of the old. Or as they said in an interview:

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.

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