Tuesday, September 3, 2019

"The Ventriloquists"

Evan Roxanna Ramzipoor is a writer based in California. She also works as a content marketer, writing about cybercrime and online fraud. She studied political science at UC Berkeley, where she researched underground literature in resistance movements and discovered the forgotten story of Faux Soir. Her writing has been featured in McSweeney's and The Ventriloquists is her first novel. She lives with her partner and a terrier mix named Lada. She is never far from a notebook or a pair of running shoes.

Ramzipoor applied the Page 69 Test to The Ventriloquists and reported the following:
From page 69:
The Gruppenführer carried on as if he hadn’t heard Aubrion. “I’ve singled out Colère not because it’s particularly well-written or crafted. It is not. It’s long-winded for a revolutionary paper. The people like simple, catchy sentences. You’ll corroborate that with a great many theories, I’m sure, Professor.” He nodded at Martin Victor. “However, there is something unique about this paper.” The Gruppenführer turned it over and flipped to the third page. “This column here. Dispatches from the High Command. What can any of you tell me about this column?” No one replied. “Anyone?” Even Aubrion remained silent. “Oh, come now. Must I resort to crude threats?”

“It was written by a Nazi turncoat.” Tarcovich took a drag on her cigarette. “A former oberführer, I think. It was mostly information about military movements, and the like.”

“As you know, that sort of column is very much in demand,” said Professor Martin Victor. He attempted to smooth his tie—a nervous, compulsive movement—but it tangled in his handcuffs. “After I returned from my investigations at Auschwitz back in ’41, and I wrote about—what I saw there...” Victor paled. “After that, the Belgian people were clamoring for more information on the atrocities, the horrors—the numbers. It’s always the numbers that get them. One hundred thousand refugees. Twenty-two thousand casualties. You know. There became a great demand for information about what Germany has been doing, what its goals are.”

“And the column was born,” Mullier supplied.

“All we needed was a Nazi willing to sell himself.” Tarcovich smiled.

Wolff nodded. “Except that there was no Nazi traitor, was there? He is a fiction.”
When we reach page 69, our ragtag heroes have been captured by the Nazis. They’re sitting around a table listening to their captor, Gruppenführer Wolff, tell them why he’s brought them here: to force them to create a Nazi propaganda newspaper or be killed.

Wolff introduces the heroes to the concept of “black propaganda,” which is designed to look like it came from one source when it actually came from a different one. As he speaks, Marc Aubrion—who’s been roughed up for giving the guards some lip—comes up with a crazy idea to undermine the Nazis.

I love this conversation because it sets up a theme of the novel: the malleability of truth. In this era of “fake news,” we generally view propaganda and fake content as uniformly bad. But The Ventriloquists turns that idea on its head. The novel is about a group of people who want to tell the truth—to use their voices in a world that has become hostile to free expression. But to do that, they create a fake newspaper.

Seems counterintuitive, right? Not if you’re a misfit writer with nothing to lose…
Visit E.R. Ramzipoor's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Evan Ramzipoor & Lada.

My Book, The Movie: The Ventriloquists.

--Marshal Zeringue