The Struggle Continues: An Interview with Wu Ming

Verso-978-1-84467-342-1-manituana-smallGordon Darroch in The Herald (Scotland):

As Manituana, the latest novel by the Italian writing collective known as Wu Ming, is published, Gordon Darroch probes one of the anonymous quartet on matters of life, war, literature … and football.

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,, 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.