Wolfram Fleischhauer is the author of, Fatal Tango. In it, his characters Giulietta Battin and Damián Alsina share secrets via coded dance steps, and pursue a dark truth linked to Argentina’s brutal past. We asked Wolfram about his inspirations from the world of dance.
Question: What inspired you to write this story?
Wolfram Fleischhauer: The first time I spent an evening in a Milonga (a tango club) I knew I would one day write a novel set in the tango universe. What immediately fascinated me were the codes. I was completely taken in not only by the sophistication of the music and the dance, but also by all the rituals that go along with it: the unspoken rules, the glances, the body language. I love codes. I think art is a way of expressing the unspeakable. So from the very beginning I had the idea of a tango dancer whose dance contains a secret.
Q: How did you become interested in tango and how did you decide to use it as backdrop for this story?
WF: I discovered tango for two reasons: Astor Piazzolla and Feminism. Piazzolla’s album Tango Zero Hour just blew my mind. I must have listened to this record a thousand times. This was in the late 1980’s. I was living in Berlin, I had almost completed my MA in German and American Literature. I wanted to write novels but had no clear idea how and about what, and I was single again after a painful breakup. At that point in time, feminism had reached its peak, especially in Berlin. So when I visited some tango bars, I was very surprised to see that the place was teeming with women who I knew to be very outspoken about male chauvinism. The same women who considered it a provocation if you held the door for them were dancing tango in sleazy tango joints-- dressed to kill and expecting to be led! The Tango Renaissance in the 1980's was the first sign of a strange cultural reversal and as such it was an ideal starting point for the kind of novel I write: the cultural suspense novel.
Q: How did you create the tango code featured in this story?
WF: Tango is already in code. Anyone learning tango will soon be familiar with the names of the basic figures and sequences like basse, ocho adelante, ocho atrás, giro a la izquierda, traspié and so forth. Some sequences of dance figures are very common, others are more rare or difficult, and some are impossible. Damián does not only dance tango. He uses tango to mask his trauma, his anger, and his grief. He imposes his own language on the traditional tango language and this makes him so special and controversial. He breaks the mold by creating strange sequences that, if you analyze them, yield names of events and people that haunt him.
Q: Are there any particular tango albums or artists you’d recommend to your readers?
WF: As I already mentioned, Piazzolla’s Tango Zero Hour was a revelation for me. It was like an infection, a fever. So while I was writing Fatal Tango, I constantly listened to tango music, especially one album by Julia Zenko. She was my muse. Her version of Renaceré sends shivers down my spine, and every time she sings Chiquilín I have to fight the tears. I love Milva’s version of Oblivion, and El Violin de Becho. The tango music universe is so vast. I started on the contemporary end with Piazzolla, but for you it may be Troilo, Di Sarli, or Pugliese. Just go and discover it for yourself--but be prepared: it may change your life.