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1999.09.10. - Luther Blisset, Heise and the truth about LB's seppuku

Subject: Heise and the truth about LB's seppuku
From: Luther Blissett
Date: Fri, 10 Sep 1999 17:28:55 +0200

The following piece appeared on the latest issue of "Heise" a German on-line magazine covering Internet and net-culture phenomena. The author seems to have read a lot of material about LB, and yet the piece contains several errors (probably due to such bad sources as the Nihil junk-list) and misinterpretations. For the last time before my "ritual suicide" as a Luther Blissett name-bearer, flag-waver and web-master, I feel I must set the records straight. After December 1999, it won't be none of my goddamn business anymore. My comments are at the foot of the message.
Long live Luther Blissett, become Luther Blissett!

Roberto Bui, aka Fabrizio P. Belletati
(one of the activists formerly known as "Luther Blissett")

09.09.1999

Luther Blissett is dead
Long live Luther Blissett

by Ashley Benigno

Taking inspiration from Yukio Mishima, Luther Blissett has announced he will be committing ritual suicide on the first day of the new millennium. At the same time, he has been kidnapping religious icons in the south of Italy, the ransom notes demanding money for the poor. While on the publishing front, his novel "Q" is taking Italy by storm. Random coincidences perhaps, or a beautiful example of the diverse identities a collective identity can develop. So why the call to Seppuku?

Rumours of the imminent demise of Luther Blisset had been circulating on Italian mailing lists for a few months, some declaring him already dead, until Luther himself announced his Seppuku on the Nihil list a few days ago, and has now gone global by posting on mailing lists such as Nettime and Rhizome his intention of committing ritual suicide on 1 January 2000. But as a multi-user name, who will die? According to Luther Blissett, it will be the veteran posse behind Bologna's equivalent of Karen Elliot, the anonymous ones that have been operating behind the name for at least five years. It is time, LB says, "to let the 'newcomers' free to develop their own plans". But who are these 'newcomers'? and could it be that Luther Blissett is pissed off with Luther Blissett?

The recent publication of the novel "Q" by LB and its subsequent success, with 30,000 copies already sold in Italy and soon to be published in Germany (by Piper who bought it from Einaudi for 120 million D-marks; a small fortune for a first novel), seems to have upset many of those behind Luther Blissett, opposed to the commercial exploitation of the name. Worse still, is the fact that the four authors of "Q" have revealed their own names behind the pseudonym, thus depriving LB of his image and giving him four actual faces. It is maybe not a coincidence that Luther Blissett's Seppuku note followed on the trail of a LB posting made by the authors of "Q", signed Luther Blissett and, in brackets, their four names. When we consider that multiple names were established to break away from recognition and financial reward in favour of anonymity, it becomes apparent that the authors of "Q" have committed what is in effect an act of cold-blooded murder. And if so, is the call to Seppuku simply coming from the ghost of Luther Blissett, dreaming of a more noble death?

At the same time, can multiple figures die? One thing is for certain, away from book and Net incarnations, Luther Blissett is currently alive and kicking (shit) in the south of Italy. Over the last two weeks, along the southern Adriatic coast, four statuettes of the Baby Jesus have been stolen from four different churches. At the feet of each Jesus-less Virgin Mary a note demanding the church authorities pay a ransom of 100 million lire (just over 50,000 US dollars) to be distributed among the poor, and signed by Luther Blissett. If the money is not paid, the statuettes will be destroyed, the note recites. Curiously, for a techno-saboteur, the notes were written on an old Olivetti typewriter. [end of article]

* * * * *

Will Luther Blissett die?
"Our own plan is to continue for a while, then learn from this experience and move to some other thing. On 31 December 1999, last day of the Millennium, Luther Blissett might as well die and become something else. Who knows?"
(One Luther Blissett, interviewed by Loredana Lipperini on *La Repubblica*, 13 March 1997).

By the way, the time of the Italian LBP will expire by year 2000. Why? "As the matchless Cary Grant said, it is better to leave one minute earlier, leaving people wanting more, rather than a minute too late, when people are getting bored.
(The authors of *Q* interviewed by the same journalist on *La Repubblica*, 6 March 1999)

"One of the stories about General Li says that when the Japanese surrounded his Headquarters by surprise and he was forced to flee at dead of night, he ordered his troops: "Get rid of Marx, get rid of Lenin and Stalin, get rid of Mao Zedong. Bury your books, you'll get them back later." Some of the men objected: "But... we've got to take our Marxism with us!". "Comrades", Li said, "what does 'Marxism' means at the moment? It does mean that when you are to flee, you've got to run faster!".
(A.L.Strong, *Red China*)

And faster we're running.

The "Seppuku" of the Rome and Bologna sections of the LBP was announced to the press more than two years ago, thus it's got nothing to do with the publication of *Q*.

Ours was a Five Year Plan. We adopted the name in 1994, and now we call it quits.

Our ritual suicide, however, doesn't imply the end of the name, as the Heise writer herself pointed out. Myths cannot die.
Indeed, since the first edition of the novel, there was a dramatic increase in the name's adoption, appearances and webpages. As to who these "newcomers" are... For example, the guys stealing statuettes in Calabria are newcomers - You bet your life.
All the people who have recently started to adopt the name on the Net are newcomers.

After more than five years, Luther Blissett is still king of the shit pile. Why should we "veterans" keep breeding a child that's already self-sufficient? Why should we run the risk of becoming ideological ballast, preventing other people to give their own practical interpretations of the name?

As to *Q* and the alleged commercial exploitation of the multi-use name... The book DID NOT upset "many of those behind Luther Blissett". Indeed, one of the problems about the LBP in Italy is that multiple-name bearers tend to *adore* us "first wave movers", a trend that made us sound like some sort of "central committee"... which we never were.
Actually, the only guy who pretended he was upset by *Q* - and posted an iracund message on the sorry list Nihil (entirely devoted to flame-wars and junk-mail) - had long ceased using the name, and his motive was strictly personal.
*Q* didn't came from nowhere. During the three years we'd been writing the book, the rest of the LBP (at least, the people we were able to reach) were constantly informed about the whole operation.
The fact that anonymous guerrillas have kept striking the media system by becoming LB is enough to prove that the novel's success, far from dissuading other people from taking the action, was and still is a powerful incitement.
A multiple name is not a collective identity one can betray, that's what my iracund acquaintance failed to understand. Rather, it is a flexible tool whose use can never be "wrong" as long as it respects the anti-copyright policy and a few other style clauses. Certainly, there are more ambiguous adoptions than writing a novel. As far as our "four faces and names" are concerned, I feel I must remind everybody that we don't appear on TV and there's just one photograph of "us" in circulation, nearly a panoramic picture: our faces are so small and far away that nobody could recognize us. However, are you really sure those four men are "us"?
As to "commercial" exploitation, since its beginnings the use of the name has always had "commercial" traits - unlike anarchists, LB never encouraged ideological or material pauperism. The multiple name was frequently used to promote pornographic and sexploitation websites, cfr. . The funniest example I can throw into this message concerns *Capital*, a high-brow Italian magazine appealing to businessmen and stock exchange freaks. All the book reviews on the mag (mainly financial crap) are signatured "Luther Blissett"! We don't support this kind of adoption, nay, we despise it, but what can we do about it? None of these things ever managed to kill the name.

Still king (or queen) of the shit pile.
Most likely you go your way and I'll go mine.
Become Luther Blissett, and I'll become someone else.

Roberto, Bologna, 10 September 1999


A clear, thorough LB primer - last update: August 1999 - English


The (in)Complete Archives 1994-99 - Italian/English


Luther Blissett and the "Huelga de Arte"(Art strike 2000-2001) - Spanish


Luther Blissett and Kommunikationsguerilla - German