Manituana by Wu Ming

Following on from Q (authored as Luther Blissett) and 54, comes a new novel Manituana by the Bologna fiction collective known as Wu Ming. Verso are publishing Shaun Whiteside’s English translation, the proof copies were circulated last month, and the book will be available in both the UK and the US shortly. Like the earlier tomes by the same authors, Manituana is a heavily researched historical novel that speaks as much about a future we have yet to make, as the past in which it is set. The main action takes place around the ‘American War of Independence’, with the focus on the alliance the Iroquois Indians made with the English.
The Iroquois way of life was destroyed by the development of capitalism, and this entailed the exploitation of both Africa and the Americas, as well as the European working class. The diseases that accompanied European traders and their goods decimated the indigenous American population and thereby opened the way for their conquest. The Iroquois were caught between a rock and a hard place and mostly chose to ally with ‘perfidious Albion’, rather than the equally barbarous French or – slightly later – the genocidal armies of George Washington. However, for me the real ‘heroes’ of this novel are not the characters who take up the bulk of its pages (some are  actual historical figures), but rather those shadowy proletarian figures who attempt to make an alliance with the Iroquois when some of their leaders visit London.  From page 199 of Marituana:
“For the sake of clarity let us say straightaway that we Mohocks of London – with the exception of him who writes to you – have not a drop of Indian blood in our veins, but we feel similar to you in every way. The so-called honest men, in fact, see us as savages and like to attribute to us the most cruel misdeeds, before remembering us when they need cannon-fodder for their armies… The Mohocks of London, weighted down for centuries by deprivation and abuse, never had the opportunity to establish a pact with a sovereign. But they do have one advantage over their American brothers, which is that they live in the heart of the Empire, a few streets away from the house of His Majesty, and that they can raise a loud voice of their own. Imagine the Indians of the Colonies and those of the Motherland joining forces to form a single great nation….”
This band of rebels are a real prefiguration of the future. They are called ‘Sohocks’ in Marituana but they might as well be referred to as ‘Metropolitan Indians’ – a name attached to those segments of the 1970s  Italian autonomist movement who favoured Indian imagery and names, and who attacked the ongoing commodification of culture by tearing down fences at pop festivals and expropriating luxury goods. Marituana’s Metropolitan Indians rough up the rich and free those who have been imprisoned and abused in the Bedlam ‘lunatic assylum’. A continuation of this short thread will hopefully form the basis of a future Wu Ming novel, since in the one under review we follow the Iroquois leaders back to the Americas, where they meet defeat with dignity.
At the end of the book, a character called Esther (another prefiguration of the autonomists of the 1970s), views the future as a return-at-a-higher-level to earlier modes of human existence: “There is no destruction for those who understand the law of time. She thought of what she had seen in her sixteen years and the world that had collapsed around her. She thought of the life that awaited her and the new world they would build in the Garden in the middle of the Water. The Thousand Islands. Manituana.” This, of course, is the world we must win!
It has been a long time since English language readers had a new Wu Ming book, but when y’all get yo mits on this tome, you’ll see it was well worth the wait! Manituana is a groove sensation!
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – – you know it makes (no) sense!


Comment by dave kelso-mitchell on 2009-08-14 09:39:09 +0000

I’ll keep an eye out for this one.

Comment by McKenzie Wark on 2009-08-14 12:38:28 +0000

Yes, the London sections are quite fabulous.

Comment by Michael K Snorting Pepsi Cola Bubbles In Oxford Street on 2009-08-14 21:23:53 +0000

I actually read this book ten years ago by travelling into the future and plonking my astral body on your shoulder as you were going through it. The best Wu Ming/Luther Blissett novel yet! But let me telll you, the next one is even better!

Comment by The Real Tessie Hopped Up On Goofballs Pretending To Be Wu Ming 69 on 2009-08-14 22:11:23 +0000

Wu Ming is a name that refers to an individual human being who can be anyone. The name is fixed, the people using it aren’t. Smile is a name that refers to an international magazine with multiple origins. The name is fixed, the types of magazines using it aren’t. The purpose of many different magazines and people using the same name is to create a situation for which no one in particular is responsible and to practically examine western philosophical notions of identity, individuality, originality, value and truth.
Anyone can become Wu Ming simply by adopting the name, but they are only Wu Ming for the period in which the name is used. Wu Ming was materialised, rather than born, as an open context in the summer of ’85. When one becomes Wu Ming one’s previous existence consists of the acts other people have undertaken using the name. When one becomes Wu Ming one has no family, no parents, no birth. Wu Ming was not born, s/he was materialised from social forces, constructed as a means of entering the shifting terrain that circumscribes the ‘individual’ and society.
The name Wu Ming can be strategically adopted for a series of actions, interventions, exhibitions, texts, etc. When replying to letters generated by an action/text in which the context has been used then it makes sense to continue using the context, i.e. by replying as Wu Ming. However in personal relationships, where one has a personal history other than the acts undertaken by a series of people using the name Wu Ming, it does not make sense to use the context. If one uses the context in personal life there is a danger that the name Wu Ming will become over-identified with individual beings.

Comment by Plastic Fantastic Man on 2009-08-14 22:45:28 +0000

I thought a Metropolitan Indian was a happy hour cocktail until I discovered Wu Ming! After reading 54 I lost 45lbs and revolutionised my love life!

Comment by The Shook Down & Faked Up Totally Inauthentic Julian Barnes on 2009-08-14 23:06:38 +0000


Comment by Words Attributed By The Press To Det Con Colette Kelleher of Greater Manchester Police on 2009-08-14 23:49:33 +0000

On serial bigamist and former glamour model/porno actress Emily Horne getting two years suspended for multiple marriage:
“Bigamy is not something to be sniggered at or brushed under the carpet. It is a very serious offence and the lives of five men have been severely affected by Horne’s selfish and, quite frankly, cruel actions.”

Comment by Zen Polygamist on 2009-08-14 23:53:42 +0000

All us Metropolitan Indians consider bigamy to be a groove sensation since it helps smash the fake ‘sanctity’ of bourgeois marriage.
And just so you know, Emily Horne gives me the horn!

Comment by Karl Marx on 2009-08-15 01:07:07 +0000

But you Communists would introduce community of women, screams the bourgeoisie in chorus.
The bourgeois sees his wife a mere instrument of production. He hears that the instruments of production are to be exploited in common, and, naturally, can come to no other conclusion that the lot of being common to all will likewise fall to the women.
He has not even a suspicion that the real point aimed at is to do away with the status of women as mere instruments of production.
For the rest, nothing is more ridiculous than the virtuous indignation of our bourgeois at the community of women which, they pretend, is to be openly and officially established by the Communists. The Communists have no need to introduce free love; it has existed almost from time immemorial.
Our bourgeois, not content with having wives and daughters of their proletarians at their disposal, not to speak of common prostitutes, take the greatest pleasure in seducing each other’s wives. (Ah, those were the days!)
Bourgeois marriage is, in reality, a system of wives in common and thus, at the most, what the Communists might possibly be reproached with is that they desire to introduce, in substitution for a hypocritically concealed, an openly legalized system of free love. For the rest, it is self-evident that the abolition of the present system of production must bring with it the abolition of free love springing from that system, i.e., of prostitution both public and private.

Comment by Timothy Leary Reincarnated As The All Woman, The Goddess on 2009-08-15 01:17:02 +0000

Are you on drugs??????????????????

Comment by Michael K, chomping on a cheese bap and in total agreement that this is the best collectively-authored novel in the world…..ever!! on 2009-08-15 09:38:05 +0000

Long before the world was created, there was an island in the sky where dwelt a heavenly race. One day a pregnant woman fell through the hole of an uprooted tree and began to fall for what seemed like an endless amount of time. Leaving the darkness she saw the oceans below her. Everything was covered with deep waters, birds filled the air, and terrible monsters lived in the abysses.
The ducks saw the woman falling from the sky and immediately held a meeting. ‘How can we make sure she doesn’t fall into the water?’ they wondered. After discussing the matter, they decided at least to slow her fall. Each duck opened its wings until they touched those of the others, and thus united they lowered the beautiful woman to the surface of the ocean.
Then the monsters of the abysses held a council to decide how to protect this marvelous creature and keep her from drowning. They decided that only the Giant Turtle was big enough to support her weight. The Turtle happily obliged and the beavers laid mud on its shell to make it softer. The woman was gently laid on the back of the Turtle which began to grow until it became a big island.
After some time, Sky Woman gave birth to two twins. Right-hand Twin created all the good things on the earth, made maize, fruits and tobacco grow. Left-hand Twin created weeds, worms and beetles and all the creatures that harm animals and birds.
All the time the Giant Turtle went on growing, so the world became bigger and bigger. Sometimes the Turtle moved and caused earthquakes. After many years had passed, Right-hand Twin decided to create men and because he wanted them to surpass all creatures in beauty, strength and courage, he drew six couples from the base of the island, where until then they had lived as moles.
The first couple was left near a big river, now known as the Mohawk, and for that reason their descendants were called by the same name. The second couple was ordered to build a house next to a big rock and their descendants are called Oneida. A third couple was left on a hill and has always been called Onondaga. The fourth couple produced the Cayuga and the fifth the Seneca.
The sixth couple was led along the Roanoke River in what is now North Carolina, and that was the origin of the Tuscarora. The Tuscarora say it is there that He Who Holds Up the Sky built his house, he was teaching their people a lot of useful knowledge and techniques. But each of the other five nations would say it is near them that He Who Holds Up the Sky built his dwelling on Earth.
With the passing years, many Iroquois families were also distributed around present-day Pennsylvania, the Midwest and southern Canada. Some settled where the bear was the main prey, and for that reason were called the Clan of the Bear. Others lived where there was an abundance of beavers. For that reason they were called the Clan of the Bear. For similar reasons the Clans of the Wolf, the Dear, the Woodcock and Turtle received their names.
In around 1140, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca and Cayuga united to form the League of the Five Iroquois Nations, in what is today the state of New York. In 1715 the Tuscarora, coming from the South, were accepted as the sixth nation in the League.

Comment by Paul McCartney on 2009-08-15 10:08:33 +0000

Wung Ming (smoke) rock!

Comment by Luther Blissett on 2009-08-15 11:34:03 +0000

If you only read one book this year, read this new Wu Ming novel! Their best yet!

Comment by Time on 2009-08-15 16:16:07 +0000

Wu Ming are sex on a stick!

Comment by Old Rope on 2009-08-17 12:38:05 +0000

I’m a Mohock!
Your oldest of Mohocks,
Old Mohock

Comment by Michael K, unable to read novels because of Attention Deficit Disorder, since 1862 on 2009-08-17 13:17:06 +0000

Wu Ming are just as good a Luther Blissett but lacking horny sex scenes

Comment by henry on 2009-08-17 21:31:21 +0000

54 would make a great Bertolucci film. That is all.

Comment by The Man in the Iron Mask on 2009-08-18 13:42:58 +0000

Metropolitan Indians: the second wave of punks who sported ‘mohicans’ could be described as such. However, beware the confusion around this hairstyle: the mohican is worn long while the shorter tufty version is in fact a mohawk (eg as worn by Travis Bickle in TAXI DRIVER – ditto when that London statue of Churchill was transfigured by a well-placed sod). Those Parisian dandy criminals known as Apaches could also come into the Metropolitan Indian category (Pierre Clementi, with sword-stick and leather coat, plays one in BELLE DE JOUR). These ‘Apache’ roots go even deeper to the emergence of the 19c French dandy who was much taken by engravings of the Noble Savage. Nouveau romancier Michel Butor has explored the influence of ‘redskin’ dandyism on Baudelaire. It later found its way into Adam Ant’s look after he’d abandoned punk.

Comment by Clara on 2009-08-25 21:32:11 +0000

Published At