Thursday, 11 February 2016


Before I continue blogging about the research trips for The Madagaskar Plan, time for a brief interlude.

An unexpected consequence of my research was that I amassed more material than I could possibly use. Whilst writing I had to decide how much to include. Put in too little and the world is insufficiently brought to life; too much and the whole thing gets bogged down. However, some of the details I discovered simply had to be used.

One of the most horrific came from my visit to Dachau (see earlier blog here). Most people are familiar with the striped uniforms of prisoners in concentration camps. Inmates were also forced to wear armbands that identified their ‘crimes’. The yellow Stars of David for Jews are well known but there were also red triangles for political prisoners, pink for homosexuals, green for ‘common criminals’ and so on. See image below.

At the exhibition in Dachau there was a further, macabre detail. Those prisoners who were deemed trouble-makers or likely to attempt escape, had uniforms with large Xs painted or sewn on their backs: the idea being that should they try to break out, they would make easy targets for the guards.

I hope Madagaskar is rich with such details. Ninety per cent of them are real (including the most unlikely ones). On occasion I would make something up – either because the record was lacking or I wanted to create something to fit with the ‘aesthetic’ of the novel. If I’ve done my job properly you won’t be able to tell the fake from the real.

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