“The Sodomized Dictator” by Marcus Speh appeared in the January Issue.
1. Where is the sodomy in this story or do you prefer to create titles to your work that misdirect your reader’s expectations?
The sodomy is not in the text per se but it is in the true story that made me write it and that surrounds the scene described, the capture and killing of Muammar Gaddafi, widely broadcast in October 2011 :
Â«At least four mobile phone videos showed rebels beating Gaddafi and manhandling him on the back of a utility vehicle before his death. One video pictured Gaddafi “sodomized with some kind of stick or knife” or possibly a bayonet, after his capture. In another video, he was seen being rolled around on the ground as rebels pulled off his shirt, though it was unclear if he was already dead. Later pictures of his body showed that he had wounds in the abdomen, chest, and head.Â»
I made the mistakes to watch some of these videos and the images unfortunately stayed with me. Technically, hinting at something through the title that isnâ€™t actually described in the story is a way to expand a micro narrative in time and space: if you have only 170 words to work with, such a title helps to get a sea of associations going. However, I would never misdirect my readerâ€™s expectations on purpose. Flash is too serious an undertaking for that. The title of a very compressed piece is like a fuse.
2. What ghosts would you like to speak with?
The ghosts of my father and my mother perhaps. The ghost of Gertrude Stein to teach me simplicity. James Joyce, though I expect his ghost to be too preoccupied for serious conversation. I imagine Freudâ€™s ghost to be wonderful to talk to.
3. What would you carve a lair into?
I donâ€™t really get the question. I like the word â€œlairâ€ though. It suggests a cold and stormy night, a count standing at the top of a cliff, a pack of wolves howling in the woods. It makes me want to sit down and write a vampyre novel, right now. Perhaps I will.
4. Which country do you wish you could rule with an iron fist?
I think as a people, Germans have given up on the whole â€œiron fistâ€ idea and personally I canâ€™t really relate. It seems other nations are beginning to doubt the usefulness of the concept, too.
5. What do you want to stop but can’t?
Thereâ€™s nothing like â€œcanâ€™t stopâ€, itâ€™s always â€œdonâ€™t want toâ€. I had too much therapy to believe otherwise. Iâ€™d like to stop teaching but the truth is, I donâ€™t really want to because it helps to keep me grounded as a writer. Iâ€™ve always been more interested in starting something than in stopping anything.
6. How would you stop a volcano from erupting?
Seriously? â€” I donâ€™t think I would want to do that. Thereâ€™s something very natural about a volcano erupting. We live on a volcano all the time, both as a collective and as individuals, and it wouldnâ€™t be quite as exciting if there was no chance of an eruption, would it?
Volcanos have fascinated me since I was a teenager when my dad took me to Pompeii, wiped out by a volcano in AD 79. I walked around alone in the ruins of that town: it fueled fantasies about a whole world gone under. Iâ€™m much more aware of a world disappearing than I was even a few years ago. Perhaps because Iâ€™ll be 50 in two years and Iâ€™m beginning to feel the grief for the perdition of my own world. As with the Arab Spring, the price of a new world gained is an old world lost. Thereâ€™s grief in that and a brutality that I feel acutely and that I long to express and that Iâ€™ve tried to paint without preaching in my story.