Sunday, 9 August 2015

Z is for ZELMAN

ZELMAN is one of the new characters in the book and has replaced Kepplar as Hochburg’s deputy in Kongo. Although he only appears in a couple of chapters he will take on a more significant role in Book 3. His name comes from the psychedelic, original version of Afrika Reich, where he was an engineer building an opera house in the jungle, a character constantly goaded by Uhrig (remember him?). As I’ve written before I’m quite happy to recycle names from unpublished projects.

In fact The Madagaskar Plan is populated with unused characters. In the first version of Afrika Reich there was also a sardonic mercenary called Tünscher. And Jared Cranley comes from an unpublished pirate novel I wrote called An Oyster for the Devil (I always liked that title).

The issue of names is fitting for Madagaskar because one of its motifs is names and how we use them. Throughout the book names are either avoided, or changed, or morphed, or used for dramatic effect. This was not a conscious choice, rather something that crept into the text and I became aware of at a later stage. Once aware of it, I emphasised it more. Names are essential to our own identity but we rarely consider them so, perhaps because they’re as familiar, as taken-for-granted, as limbs. I always wonder, for example, whether Sting’s closest friends, call him Sting or Gordon (his real name). Similarly with Michael Caine / Maurice Micklewhite. Did anyone dare call John Wayne Marion Morrison?

This is salient to my world because the original surname of the Hitler family was Schickelgruber; Hitler’s father changed it in 1876 (thirteen years before his son was born). This may have been the most devastating name change in history. Some historians believe Hitler could never have risen to power with the name Schickelgruber. The massed ranks of Nazis shouting ‘Heil Schickelgruber!’ certainly has a comic ring, and comedy never led to war or death camps.

Elsewhere no name in the book was chosen at random. Mrs Anderson, Pebble, Dr Pavel, to mention a few, are all references. I’ll leave it to you to discover their origins...

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