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Manituana is the first episode of an 18th-century pan-Atlantic trilogy which the authors call "the Atlantic Triptych". All novels will be set in the 1770s, all across the Atlantic Ocean (North America, Europe, the West Indies and Africa), before and during the American Revolution.
Setting and plot
The novel is divided into three main sections entitled "Iroquireland", "Mohock Club" and "Cold Cold Heart". There are two brief interludes between the sections, entitled "The Crossing" and "The Return".
Among the numerous real historical characters that populate the book, the most important ones are Joseph Brant, war chief of the Mohawk nation, and Molly Brant, a matron of the Wolf clan in the Iroquois Six Nations.
- Sir William Johnson, 1st Baronet. Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the northern colonies.
- Joseph Brant. Mohawk war chief and translator for the British Indian Department.
- Molly Brant. Joseph Brant's older sister and Sir William's common-law-wife.
- Philip Lacroix (fictional). A Mohawk brave nicknamed "Le Grand Diable"
- Guy Johnson. Sir William's nephew and successor as Superintendent.
- Esther Johnson. (Fictional) eldest daughter of Guy Johnson.
- Lord Warwick. (Semi-fictional) mentor of the Mohawk delegation during their stay in London.
- The "London Mohocks". An East End street gang taking inspiration from Native American imagery and the Mohock Club.
- Ethan Allen. Revolutionary leader and Colonel Commandant of the Green Mountain Boys.
- Johannes Tekarihoga. A Sachem of the Mohawk Nation.
- Jonas Klug. A land-owner and militiaman in the Mohawk Valley.
- Nicholas Herkimer. Brigadier General in the Tryon County militia.
- Panifex. A London journalist.
- "North", "East", "South" and "West". Four London merchants and opinion-makers.
Reactions and interpretations
In the springtime of 2007, Manituana reached #4 in the Italian best-seller charts. In the following months, it was awarded the Premio Sergio Leone 2007 and the Premio Emilio Salgari 2008. The US, UK, Spanish and French editions were all published in 2009. The novel was translated into English by Shaun Whiteside. In November 2010 the novel was nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
In an entry on their weblog, Wu Ming wrote that "Manituana was written between 2003 and 2007, and it soaked up all the tensions of that period: S11, the Neoconservative hegemony on US foreign policy, the lies on Saddam allegedly keeping weapons of mass destruction hidden in the desert, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, George W. Bush winning his second term thanks to the Christian right in 2004, Silvio Berlusconi conquering the hearts and minds of the majority of Italians etc."
This was acknowledged by many reviewers. Film critic and writer Woody Haut wrote that the novel "has clear parallels with the war in Iraq, and the pitting of "good" Muslims against "bad" Muslims, just as Native Americans were used during the revolutionary period, only for the colonists to exploit and devastate both groups."
Reviewing Manituana on CounterPunch, Ron Jacobs recognized "a mirror of this situation in today's manipulations of the indigenous peoples in the lands the west wants as its own today: the Shia vs. Sunni conflict in Iraq and the manipulation of tribal conflicts in Afghanistan are but two examples that come immediately to mind. Manituana evokes the dangerous conceit of men who believe it is their destiny to rule the world.
British newspaper The Independent wrote
The authors gleefully revise orthodox history to present the loyalist Mohawks as victims of canting, racist rebels who march into battle under banners such as "Civilisation and death to all savages". But there is nothing smug or glib about this rivetting reversal of two centuries and more of textbook and big-screen platitudes.
The French newspaper Le Monde wrote that in Manituana "history is never simple nor reducible to pre-fixed schemes... Reality is much more complex and tangled, and every character has gloomy facets, weaknesses and contradictions. No-one is neither completely innocent nor completely guilty, and one's legitimate battle for liberty and independence may bring about the loss of someone else's independence and liberty."
- Italian: Einaudi, 2007, ISBN 88-06-18584-5
- Italian: Einaudi SuperET (paperback), 2009, ISBN 88-06-19637-5
- English: Verso, 2009, ISBN 1-84467-342-1
- French: Métailié, 2009, ISBN 2-86424-688-0
- Spanish: Mondadori, 2009, ISBN 84-397-2185-4
- Reported on Italian daily paper La Stampa on April 7, 2007, article included by Wu Ming on their website.
- Awaiting Manituana: A New Beginning in the English-speaking world?, Wu Ming Foundation Blog, April 27, 2009.
- Woody Haut, "Manituana by Wu Ming", Woody Haut's Blog, October 30, 2009.
- Ron Jacobs, "Collective Fiction: Manituana, a Novel of the Fourth World, CounterPunch, Weekend Edition, October 2–4, 2009.
- Boyd Tonkin, Manituana, by Wu Ming, The Independent, November 6, 2009.
- Fabio Gambaro, "Avec les Mohawks, l'Histoire côté perdants", Le Monde, August 27, 2009. English translation on the book's website".