Fake news ascends to its finest hour in Oakland author E.R. Ramzipoor’s debut novel “The Ventriloquists” (Park Row Books, $26.99, 544 pages).
Her fact-based fiction is sourced in the skeletal bits that history has actually recorded about a group of Belgian resistance fighters who hornswoggled their German oppressors in World War II by writing, printing and distributing, partly on the Nazis’ dime, a satirical newspaper that savaged Hitler and his hordes. This underground sleight-of-literary-hand, amazingly, was accomplished in just 18 days, and most of the accomplices were severely punished for their stunt. Ramzipoor, a 26-year-old graduate of UC Berkeley, stumbled upon a sentence about it in a U.S. War Office document while researching a seminar paper. The topic became her senior thesis, but she had to turn to her imagination to flesh it out as a novel. We’ve peppered her with questions.
What became known as “Faux Soir” to the resistance fighters who schemed to put it out was distributed in thousands of copies in German-occupied Belgium during World War II.
Q: Do you think people will have a hard time accepting the book’s premises?
A: Absolutely, and in fact, they have, from Day One! One of the funny things I ran into when I was trying to get an agent is that people would read it, and then they would say, “I really like this book, but I think you should edit out some of the more far-fetched plot points.” And I had to say, I’m sorry, but these things actually happened. And it’s so extraordinary to think that these ordinary people could pull off such an amazing feat. There’s one part of the book that received a lot of pushback, even though it’s actually true, where these ragtag architects of this scheme were able to convince the Royal Air Force to bomb Belgium – and that actually happened.
Q: How much did you have to go on before you had to start making things up?
A: Not a whole lot, to be honest. The story, first of all, unfolded in secret, and second of all, took place in 18 days. So there isn’t a lot of primary source material documenting this because they didn’t have time to stop and make notes about what they were doing. So I found other mentions of the story in books about World War II and about the Belgian resistance. I was able to piece together information about, oh, this person must have participated and this must have happened. But it was really kind of this strange process where I was taking these bits and pieces from other puzzles that I couldn’t necessarily see and trying to create my own story out of that.
I also had a couple of copies of the newspaper itself, which is amazing. I just found them on eBay, relatively cheap, because nobody had heard about the story yet, and I was able to translate parts of it (from French) myself using Google Translate online and having a friend of mine help out.
Q: How …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment