Sunday, January 16, 2005

The Awkward Dead

Imagine this.

You're a crime writer. The best known crime writer in your country.

You're happily writing your best-selling crime novels. And then one Sunday, there's a knock on your front door. You open it, and find a man there, who has brought you an envelope. Your name is on it. And the words 'for your eyes only'.

So you open the envelope and inside is a letter from a man who has been the most wanted man in your country, the man who is the leader of a long-running rebellion that has drawn international attention and proved a constant thorn in the side of your government.

And in the letter, he says that he'd really quite like to write a novel, and would you like to co-author it with him?

That's what happened to Paco Ignacio Taibo II, Mexico's most famous crime writer.

The letter was from the famous Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, the leader of the Zapatista group in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas.

Taibo at first thought that the idea was ridiculous. But then, he thought to himself: "Paco, when have you ever shied away from something crazy?", and "It had the enormous attraction of insanity. For a writer like me who is always bordering on insanity, it was part of my, shall we say, greatest obsessions to do something like that."

So he went along with the idea, and after not very long the first chapter of Muertos Incomodos (The Awkward Dead) - this one written by Marcos - appeared in the Sunday edition of the national newspaper "La Jornada". Taibo contributed his first chapter a week later, and the novel was in progress. The hero of the Marcos chapters is a Zapatista called Elias Contreras, who is a detective under orders from a not even thinly-disguised character called Subcomandante Marcos. Taibo's chapters feature a character he has used before, Detective Héctor Belascoarán Shayne. Later on in the book, the two characters are going to meet. Marcos's chapters are written from a future perspective, looking back at events, whereas Taibo's chapters are in the present. Neither author knows how the book is going to end.

"It is a police novel with strong political content that obviously touches on contemporary issues in Mexican society," Taibo told La Jornada. "It is also a literary work and an adventure."

The proceeds from the novel will be donated to an non-governmental organisation that does work in Chiapas. Where somewhere, in the Zapatista dominated area, someone is wearing an Inter Milan number 4 shirt worn by the Inter captain, Javier Zanetti. After reports that the village of Zinacantán had been attacked by Mexican government forces early last year, Zanetti persuaded the Inter officals to allow him to collect the club's fines for late arrival for training, and donate them to the Zapatistas. Zanetti sent five thousand Euros, an ambulance, and his number 4 shirt. In response, Inter were invited to tour the jungle mountains of Chiapas. "We believe in a better world, in an unglobalised world, enriched by the cultural differences and customs of all the people. This is why we want to support you in this struggle to maintain your roots and fight for your ideals," Zanetti wrote in a note accompanying the donation.

Inter's great rivals, AC Milan, are owned by Silvio Berlusconi. I don't think he's likely to make a similar gesture.

Anyway, if you can read Spanish, you can read the first five chapters of Muertos Incomodos here: one, two,three,four,five



At 2:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, I thought this was prettu fascinating myself and linked it here. I wasn't aware they'd been written yet, though. I think I'll wait until they're collected in book form. Taibo's work I love. The Subcomandante's a little less so.



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