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“Learn history and have fun at the same time”

“Learn history and have fun at the same time”

When art meets science

Who: Birsen Erdogan, political scientist at Faculty of Law

Book: Q, by Luther Blissett

Target group: all students, especially non-European students

“In 1999, when Q came out, a lot of mystery surrounded the author. Luther Blissett – a famous British football player in the eighties, whose name was printed on the cover – told reporters he had nothing to do with the book”, explains Birsen Erdogan. “Some people thought Q was written by Umberto Eco, not least because the story has many similarities with Eco’s thrillers: it’s historical – it follows the life of a Protestant for more than 30 years in the 16th century –and it’s incredibly intriguing. It’s a 30-year chase between the Protestant (we don`t really know his real name) and Q (the spy and assassin of the Pope) around Europe.”

After a couple of years it became clear that the book was written by four Italians going by the name Wu Ming (‘No Name’ in Chinese). They do not believe in copyright; nor do they like publishing houses. “They want open access for all readers. You can download all three books they’ve written for free. They also sabotage the news by planting fake stories to show that the popular culture and art is full of imaginary artists and gullible people. Wu Ming also fights against censorship and repression anywhere in the world. Above all, they reveal the real history of Italy and Europe that they believe was concealed by politicians and powerful people. Their mission statement is ‘telling stories by all means necessary’. You can call them a pirate or guerrilla movement.”

Q starts with the Protestant Martin Luther, who nails his 95 theses against indulgence to the door of the All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany in 1518. “It’s a thriller, but at the same time you learn a lot about the economic, political, cultural and religious developments of cities like Münster, Leiden, Amsterdam, Antwerp, Venice, Florence and Istanbul in the 16th century. It’s about the Reformation and Enlightenment. So it’s not only fun – it’s also an amazingly well-written, well-documented history of Europe. You see the impact of the printing press, of the development of the nouveau riche: the bourgeois. Of the new artists in Venice and Florence in the creation of today`s Europe. You see how the Catholic Church gets weaker and weaker and how the power of money, art, the free flow of ideas and trade grow in importance.”

Erdogan especially recommends Q to non-European readers. “It helps you to understand Europe. But be aware of the explicit violence. It was also the time of the Inquisition.”


In this column lecturers recommend art that throws a different light on their field than textbooks do



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