“Q“, authored by the Italian writers’ collective Luther Blissett, now morphed to “Wu Ming“, tells the story of Gert-from-the-Well, a young student from Saxony, in the aftermath of the monk Martin Luther’s ninety five theses, pinned on the door of the Wittenberg cathedral church in 1517.
I am on my second reading of Q, and have read the “sequel” (a misnomer) “Altai” by the same Wu Ming. Q is, in part, straightforward adventure through the troubled times of the various revolts that then momentarily challenged the power of the princes, the massacres of insurgents, the Anabaptists’ heresy and the horrors of the Counter-Reformation/Inquisition. The other face of the novel is a reflection on politics and the meaning of truth, perhaps reflecting the authors’ own questions on the state of post-war Italy.
The book starts in Wittenberg, where Gert meets his mentor, Thomas Müntzer, and finishes in Venice, with Gert now an ally of the rich and at time powerful Miquez family, and lover of Beatriz de Luna. On the way Gert is countered by the one who becomes his arch-enemy, the spy Qoelet, working to the service of Gianpietro Carafa, the future pope Paul IV. Q infiltrates the insurgency, and tracks Gert to Venice where they finally come face to face. The narrative is fascinating and often puzzling. What was to become Europe was then in the midst of continuous horrendous wars, fought through mercenaries and bands of thugs that terrorised the peasants and extracted what they could from the towns. In the background, violence is fuelled by the rivalries between the Emperor, Charles V, the German princes, the pope, Italian principalities, Venice, the King of France, and, the Ottoman Empire. The Jews have been expelled from Spain, and resettled in Venice, and soon Constantinople. Worse was to come, when the Tirty Year war ravaged most of what is now Germany, and concluded only in 1648.
A good read for those interested in European history, or simply a great adventure novel.
Image: Thomas Münzer By Christoph van Sichem – Das Wissen des 20. Jahrhunderts, Verlag für Wissenschaft und Bildung, 1961, Rheda, Bd.1 S.395, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26253b
Doña Gracia Nasi’s entry in the Jewish Womens’ Archive