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Monday, November 15, 2004

More Accidental Revelations in Fiction 

I am fascinated by incidences of novelists who find the truth uncannily revealing itself in their work, and recently I described examples by writers Amy Tan and Isabel Allende. This weekend I watched The Dancer Upstairs, a movie about an unnamed Latin American country besieged by a vicious shadow terrorist organization. In the movie, dead dogs hang from lampposts with signs of nonsensical political statements scrawled on them and sticks of dynamite shoved in their throats. Child suicide bombers detonate themselves in crowds. School girls ambush and assassinate military leaders with machine guns. A mysterious, undeclared revolution seems to be underway, one without manifesto except for a vague Maoist ideology. In response to the terrorism, the country's government, already corrupt, is a hairsbreadth away from imposing martial law and unleashing right wing death squads to patrol the streets.

The movie is based on book by Nicholas Shakespeare about his experiences in Peru while visiting his diplomat parents. After witnessing a ten year old boy blow himself up in the lobby of a hotel, he became journalistically obsessed with The Shining Path, a Maoist terrorist organization ultimately responsible for the deaths of over 30,000 Peruvians. He was never able to penetrate the wall of secrecy around The Shining Path (and 40 journalists were murdered trying), so he decided to write a fictionalized account of Peru under The Shining Path. Although nothing was known about the leader of the Shining Path, Shakespeare reported that for years after the bombing he was haunted by the image of a man in an upstairs room surrounded by books, the skin of his face enflamed with some painful skin condition. Shakespeare modeled the character of the head of the terrorist organization after the image of this man he invented, and gave the character psoriasis. He has the book's main character, a detective, track him down through prescriptions for his psoriasis to a dance teacher’s upstairs studio apartment. When the Shining Path's leader Abigael Guzman was caught, he was living with his lover in a house rented by a dancer. Officials had tracked Guzman by tracing the prescriptions he used for his psoriasis medication. The novel The Dancer Upstairs  was well under way when these details emerged.

Comments:
SHUT UP! And doesn't it make you bitter that our blogs didn't win awards? And STILL doesn't mention that bizgirl is a man-but details all the award prep. Hilarious.

Matthew
 
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