The Times, London (UK), May 14, 2005
Gang of five
By James Eve
Deep in the hills above Bologna a secretive band of writers has hatched
a truly evil plot — to overthrow the world of celebrity
If you believed everything that was written about the group of Italian
novelists known as Wu Ming, you would think that they were red-toothed
revolutionaries. Under their former pen name — that of the former
Watford and AC Milan footballer Luther Blissett — they published Q, a
sprawling, bloody spy story set in the religious wars of 16th-century
Europe. It became a bestseller across the Continent, though the group's
non-literary activities, which according to several breathless
newspaper reports included hijacking a night bus in Rome, prompted as
much interest as the sales figures.
The mystery surrounding the group is deepened by their refusal to be
photographed. "Dear James, we can't have a photographer running around
during the interview," reads an e-mail from Roberto Bui, otherwise
known as Wu Ming 1. "No photographers and no faces — those are our
conditions." His promise to take me somewhere "in the hills" after our
chat sounds faintly threatening. I wonder whether they might be
considering kidnapping a journalist.
As it turns out, there is no need to worry. The only connection between
the Roman hijackers and this Bologna-based writers' collective happened
to be their choice of pseudonym. They can't explain the Luther Blissett
tag, other than that it was a name used widely by artists and hackers
in mid-Nineties, mostly for planting fake stories in the media.
Besides, their involvement with the Blissett persona is history. The
four original members — Bui, Giovanni Cattabriga, Luca Di Meo and
Federico Guglielmi — discarded him at the end of 1999. Since then they
have added a fifth member, Riccardo Pedrini, and assumed the name Wu
Ming, which means "Anonymous" in Mandarin.
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