Dubai: Millions of readers worldwide have been riveted by the world of codes and secrets hidden in plain sight — and the adventures of the fictional ‘symbologist’ Robert Langdon. Come November, a lucky few will have the chance to meet his creator.
Dan Brown, 50, the celebrated author of The Da Vinci Code, will be the star attraction at this year’s Sharjah International Book Fair. “I’ve heard wonderful accounts of the event, and I’m very excited about attending it and meeting my fans,” Brown told Gulf News ahead of the fair. He will be speaking about his work at a special event at the Sharjah Expo Centre on November 6 at 7.30pm.
The American novelist’s six books have sold over 200 million copies, and have been translated into 50 languages, bringing him untold riches and making him a household name. Two of these — Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code — have been converted into Hollywood blockbusters. Inferno will be the next instalment in the movie franchise, with shooting slated to begin in April next year.
Robert Langdon — now immortalised by Tom Hanks — is a professor of religious iconology and symbology at Harvard University and has been the central character of Brown’s last four works of fiction, which have generated a fair bit of controversy, too. Brown created the character as a fictional alter ego of himself (he even gave Langdon the same birthday, June 22). The scholarly Langdon, as a rule, is dressed in a turtleneck, with a tweed jacket and khakis. Oddly, he also sports a ‘Mickey Mouse watch’, a birthday gift to him from his parents when he was a young child.
Through Langdon, readers have decoded symbols and ambigrams, confronting the secrets of Freemasons, the Illuminati and Mary Magdalene’s relevance to Christianity. Asked if he’ll now venture into Islamic theology, Brown said, “My character Robert Langdon is a specialist in western art, symbols, and religion. His knowledge of Islamic theology is very limited, so I do not imagine I will immerse him in the world of Islam anytime soon.”
Though Brown published his first book — Digital Fortress — in 1998, it was The Da Vinci Code in 2003 that truly put him on the path to international stardom. Speaking about the idea behind the book, he said: “I first learned of the mysteries hidden in the painting of Leonardo Da Vinci while I was a student of Art History at the University of Seville in Spain. Years later, while researching Angels & Demons and the Vatican Secret Archives, I encountered the Da Vinci enigma yet again. I arranged a trip to the Louvre Museum, where I was fortunate enough to view the originals of some of Da Vinci’s most famous works as well as discuss them with an art historian who helped me better understand the mystery behind the paintings’ surprising anomalies. I became captivated with the idea of codes and secrets that were hidden in plain sight, and I spent the next year doing research for The Da Vinci Code.”
In the book, while on a business trip to Paris, Langdon receives a call about the murder at the Louvre of its elderly curator. And next to the body, police have found a baffling cipher. Solving the riddle along with his new-found partner, Langdon is stunned to discover it leads to clues hidden in the works of da Vinci, ingeniously disguised by the painter. The curator was involved in the Priory of Sion — an actual secret society, of which Da Vinci too was a member. Unless Langdon and his partner can decipher the puzzle in time, the Priory’s secret — and a stunning historical truth — will be lost forever.
Surprisingly, Brown’s favourite book to research and write was not The Da Vinci Code. “It has to be Inferno, which enabled me to delve into three topics about which I am very passionate: Dante, Florence, and overpopulation. I particularly enjoyed blending the historical origins of ‘hell’ with the modern promise of genetic science,” he said.
Following its release last year, Inferno was on the New York Times Best Sellers List for 11 weeks. In his latest thriller, Brown has crafted his “highest-stakes novel to date”. In the heart of Italy, Langdon is drawn into a harrowing world centred on one of history’s most famous literary works, Dante’s epic poem Inferno. In trying to solve a historical mystery, Langdon looks for clues by analysing symbols in the masterpiece and in other works of art. And battles a dangerous madman who has revealed his scary intentions in a video: releasing a global plague.
Brown said that, on average, it takes him about three years to write a novel — one year for research, and two to pen it down. And no, he cannot share his plans for future books. “I prefer to keep my books a secret until publication day,” he revealed to Gulf News.
Brown had this message for his fans in the region: “ I feel greatly honoured to have so many fans in the Arab World, and I’m very much looking forward to visiting the Sharjah International Book Fair and meeting some of them in person!”