Friday, February 17, 2006

Setting the record straight ...

I cannot fathom how anyone could go to Paris or Rome on a "Dan Brown" tour, following the "history" of the place using one of his novels. Some tour guides in Rome give an "Angels and Demons" tour, but set the record straight.
Some tour groups, of course, try to cash in on Brown's inventions. But this, according to Tony Polzer, the director of Three Millennia Tours, only leaves a tourist so confused that they can't appreciate the genuine beauty and intrigue of the city.

"Rome is an amazing city on many different levels," Polzer told me. "Whether you're talking about the assassination of emperors or the power of the aristocracy in the Middle Ages, to the popes of today -- there have been some incredible things going on throughout the three millennia history."

Polzer said that his tour aims to debunk Brown's myths about Rome and the secret Illuminati society, in order to genuinely illuminate his clients. "Like the one the reporter from the Financial Times went on," he said. "Our tour covers the path of the so-called Illuminati -- the four altars of science and the illuminate lair."

(That includes the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo; St. Peter's Square; Santa Maria in Victoria; Piazza Navona; and Castel Sant'Angelo, for those who haven't read the book.)

"The difference is that instead of giving our opening introduction by describing the illuminate according to Brown's vision, we commit to proving the group never existed in this way, or stage of Rome's history, at least," Polzer said.
. Three cheers!


assiniboine said...

Sometime you must remind me to tell you about my old friend Rob Nonggorr, now alas deceased long before his time, who was a New Guinea Highlander and who until he was wearing white shirts and ties was wearing *as tangkets* (tangket leaves tucked into the bark belt to cover the hindquarters) and *yambals* (a woven bark apron tucked into the front), a stone axe to the side and nothing else except perhaps a little lard spread over the chest and back to ward off the cold. He was awarded a scholarship to study economics in Japan; this involved spending two years acquiring fluency in Japanese before proceeding to the substantive course. He was so successful that he was offered a job conducting Japanese tour groups around Europe. "Yes, yes, I know hilarious it was, me of all people introducing Japanese to the meccas of western civilisation; I laughed the whole time I did it!" he said. But WHAT, I wondered, are Japanese tour groups being told as they rush up to the various destinations on their tours only to take photos of each other (invariably with Richard Nixon V-for-victory fingers behind each others' heads)? Answer: they don't know and they don't care. I didn't say "This is the Louvre, which was a palace of the French kings; its front wing was the Tuileries where Louis XVI and his family were contains the Mona Lisa and the Winged Victory of Samothrace and the Venus de Milo." I said, "This is a big house. It has many pictures inside." To which the response was, "Ah so" (snap, snap, snap, and back in the bus). Strange but true! I wouldn't worry too much about the Dan Brown tours; Rome's pearls have been cast before plenty of swine before.

Heather said...

I don't think it is such a bad thing that there are so many people taking tours of Paris and Rome based on Dan Brown's novels. For the most part, history buffs are going to be taking their own guided tours or finding something they need. The pop-culture people taking the Dan Brown tours are doing it not just because they read the book (1st point for them) but because they want to see these things for themselves (2nd point for them). They earn their 3rd point by going on a tour to learn about the history anyway. So many travellers go to a place get drunk on different alcohol, stuffed on a foreign food and meander about the city in a way that will help them get acquainted but nowhere near educated about the things they are seeing. I am not against anyone debunking claims made in books. However, when the author has said that the books are fiction (look where you find it in the bookstore or library) why are so many people getting all upset about the facts? If it is because there are really people who are believing that stuff, then you have to give those people who thought it was all fact and went out to see it their credit and live with the knowledge that you were smart enough to know better. It should be a pretty gratifying feeling.

And kudos to the comment before mine.

chez said...

Its surprising how many take fiction so seriously :). My friends have tried getting into serious arguments with me after having read this novel. I only had one thing to tell them - why are you basing your arguments on a fictious novel ?. They were not convinced but hell bent on believing fiction for fact!

Gashwin said...

Assiniboine: you're full of fascinating anecdotes as always.

Heather, I see your point, at least in as much as "wanting to learn about history is a good thing." However, Amy Welborn has a recent post that's apropos, about the whole Dan Brown tourism phenomenon: "She concludes, "I'd rather have real history." And this is what is so sad and so maddening about this phenomenon - isn't it? As millions are determined to find Leonardo's codes, the miss Leonardo's art and real brilliance. As tourists look for where Robert Langdon stood, they miss Caravaggio. As Jesus' royal bloodline and marriage are analyzed, Blessed are the poor is ignored."

As to why Dan Brown has taken off so much? It's not just a question of fact vs. fiction, though that's at the heart of it. First of all, Dan Brown asserts that what he's written is based on real history. Just go to his website. The second is just how much people want to believe that, well, basically, Christinaity (specifically the Catholic Church) has either been mistaken, or has actively covered up the truth about Jesus for the past 2000 years.

People really want to believe this. And not all of them are non-Catholics.

Zee Nonggorr said...

(assiniboine) It was very interesting to find someone who knew my uncle Robert Nonggorr. My name is Zeenith Nonggorr and he was my father's younger brother. Could you please tell me more about the time you know my uncle. He was a very private person and only gave people what he wanted them to see and know. My email add is