Saturday, May 26, 2012

Fiction, Conspiracy, and Exploding Mangoes

In 1988, Pakistani dictator Zia-ul-Haq died in a plane crash. Nobody in Pakistan thinks it was an accident, but the actual identity of Zia's murderers has never been revealed. Pakistani writer Mohammed Hanif wrote a novel called A Case of Exploding Mangoes about the murder and the conspiracy theories surrounding it. He recently spoke to NPR about the book:
Like all young reporters, I was like, this is going to be my big story, and I started working on it. After a few months, I realized that there was no way I was going to get to the bottom of it. There were layers and layers and layers of deception and cover-ups to cover the other cover-ups. Then it occurred to me that I would just make up my own facts. If no one was willing to tell me who did it, then as a fictional character, I'll raise my hand and say, 'Well, I did it,' and I'll write a book about it. And so, basically, it was a failed journalist's revenge. . . . The funny thing is, after the book came out, a lot of people — and some of them were heads of intelligence agencies — I've run into them at a party or at a social gathering, and they take me into a corner and say, 'Son, you've written a brilliant novel. Now tell me, who's your source?' I used to find it a bit scary at the beginning that, my God, these people are running my country and they actually believe all the lies that I've written.
In such a case, is there anyone who knows the whole story? I suppose that depends, in a sense, on the size of the conspiracy. If one guy ordered his crack team of five operatives to do the job, then he knows. But what if it was a matter of lots of nodding and winking and cryptic statements among a bunch of parties until one poor sergeant thought he had been told to do it? Is there one mastermind who understands the whole situation, or is it just as murky to everyone involved?:

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