American thriller writer Dan Brown needs no introduction. The churner of bestselling novels such as The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons peppers his plots with symbols, codes and conspiracy theories, which eternally stoke the interest of readers. His novels have sold over 200 million copies worldwide and been translated into over 50 languages. In 2005 he was on Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people of the year.
Fans of Dan Brown will be delighted to know that he will be the guest of honour at the 33rd edition of the Sharjah International Book Fair in November. He will be speaking about his work at a special event at the Expo Centre, Sharjah, on Thursday, November 6, at 19:30 pm. In an exclusive interview with Sarah Taryam, Arts Editor of The Gulf Today, Dan Brown talks about his forthcoming visit to the Sharjah book fair, his mode of research and his success.
What have you heard about Sharjah International Book Fair?
I’m very excited to attend the Sharjah International Book fair. I’ve heard wonderful accounts of the event, which I know is hosted by His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah. It has become one of the largest book fairs in the world.
Why did you choose to write about The Divine Comedy?
The Divine Comedy – like The Mona Lisa – is one of those rare artistic achievements that transcends its moment in history and has become an enduring cultural touchstone. Like Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, The Divine Comedy speaks to us centuries after its creation and is considered an example of one of the finest works ever produced in its artistic field. For me, the most captivating quality of Dante Alighieri is his staggering influence on culture, religion, history, and the arts. In addition to codifying the early Christian vision of Hell, Dante’s work has inspired some of history’s greatest luminaries – Longfellow, Chaucer, Borges, Tchaikovsky, Liszt, Monteverdi, Michelangelo, Blake, Dali – and even a few modern video game designers. Despite Dante’s enduring influence on the arts, however, most of us today have only a vague notion of what his work actually says – both literally and symbolically (which of course, is of great interest to Robert Langdon). A few years ago, I became very excited about the prospect of writing a contemporary thriller that incorporated the philosophy, history, and text of Dante’s eerie descent into Inferno.
Can you describe your novel Inferno?
Inferno is very much a Robert Langdon thriller. It’s filled with codes, symbols, art, and the exotic locations that my readers love to explore. In this novel, Dante Alighieri’s ancient literary masterpiece – The Divine Comedy – becomes a catalyst that inspires a macabre genius to unleash a scientific creation of enormous destructive potential. Robert Langdon must battle this dark adversary by deciphering a Dante-related riddle, which leads him to Florence, where he finds himself in a desperate race through a landscape of classical art, secret passageways, and futuristic technology.
Has the success of your books affected your research process?
The success of the first novel has been a bit of a Catch-22 with respect to the research process. On one hand, I now have wonderful access to specialists, authorities, and even secret archives from which to draw information and inspiration. On the other hand, because there is increased speculation about my works in progress, I need to be increasingly discreet about the places I go to and the specialists with whom I speak. Even so, there is one aspect of my research that will never change – that being my resolve to make personal visits to the locations about which I am writing. When it comes to capturing the detail and ambience of a novel’s setting, I find there is no substitute for being there in the flesh... even if sometimes I need to do it incognito.