September 28, 2008KR BlogUncategorized

The Uncomfortable Reader

My roommate read The Uncomfortable Dead for a seminar on aesthetics and politics, and she passed it on to me. “It’s funny,” she said.

Funny is the word. This “novel by four hands” is the result of a collaboration between Paco Ignacio Taibo II, history professor and author of a mystery series, and Subcomandante Marcos, who is (according to the back of the book) a “spokesperson and strategist for the Zapatistas.” One narrator claims to be dead. Another narrator calls himself an involuntary character in the novel. Subcomandante Marcos also appears in the text, participating in the plot.

“He’s not really an insurgent, though, right?” I said. “I mean, this is all Taibo, right?” I asked my roommate if this were a William-Goldman-deal, where the author of the text is actually a character. She assured me Subcomandante Marcos is an actual person, and I still didn’t believe her.

Then I had questions. How did these two authors–and their four hands–come together? (And how does any collaboration “work out,” really?) Should there be clear boundaries between fictional characters and real-life politicians? How do political convictions give rise to an impulse to craft fiction? Is it misguided for me to assume that fiction doesn’t have roots in political conviction?

And when does an insurgent have time to write funny, charged, and insightful chapters?