Posted by: Linda Proud | February 10, 2008

Dem Bones

So, the news is out following DNA testing on the exhumed bones of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola and Angelo Poliziano: they both died of poisoning. I heard about the exhumation just as I was making the book ready for press. What a quandry! Should I wait until I heard the results? What if that necessitated rewriting? In the end I decided to leave things as they were. After all, I had not categorically stated how they died. I was not writing a murder mystery. I stayed with Tommaso’s point of view at the time: he would not have known for sure himself, but would have had his suspicions (and fears). In the end, his suspicions have been vindicated by modern science.

I trust the scientists are better at their science than their history. The newspaper report said that Pico’s bones were those of a tall, burly man, contradicting all his portraits. There are no portaits, only written descriptions, which state that he was ‘tall and robust’.

So, science has added nothing to my story, and my story nothing to science, except for one thing. In the novel I dismiss the theory that Pico was murdered by his secretary, Cristoforo Casale. And I am rather inclined to go with my intuition. It has never let me down.

Will this finally put paid to the scurrilous character assassination of Poliziano that has been going on for four hundred years? Somehow I doubt it. It will go quiet for a while, then, in time, we will begin to read again that he ‘died of syphilis’ or ‘died falling down the stairs in the extremities of love.’ It takes a novelist to tell the truth.

The book? – out next week. The two-week delay waiting for the typesetter to return from holiday so that the printers could get the correct files turned out to be unnecessary: the printers had the files all the time. Was there ever a book so reluctant to come out into the light of day?


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