Dan Brown: Inferno is is not an activist book, I don't have a solution to overpopulation

The author on what is expected to be this year's publishing sensation

Dan Brown is moaning about how difficult it is being a successful author. "I wish I could travel for pleasure," laments the man behind The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, in which secrets and suspense are combined with a guided tour of Italy and other stops in Western Europe. 

"Everything I see is a potential idea and I wish I could turn that off. Maybe I shouldn't. But, yes, every little work of art that I see or place that I travel to is a potential idea."

Brown, 48, spoke recently at the New York offices of publisher Random House, where he jokingly imagines setting a novel called Random Cipher, with hidden passageways running throughout the building. Brown is a New Hampshire resident spending the week in Manhattan to promote Inferno, a return to his beloved Europe and a chance, he hopes, to interest readers in the classic 14th century journey in verse by Dante that provides the title for his new novel.

"My hope for this book is that people are inspired either to discover or rediscover Dante. And, if all goes well, they will simultaneously appreciate some of the incredible art that Dante has inspired for the last 700 years," says Brown, who with The Da Vinci Code helped inspire tourist trails in the Louvre, Westminster Abbey and other landmarks in the novel.

Brown's new book, published today, is already high on the bestseller lists of Amazon and America's Barnes & Noble, a position to be expected for an author whose novels have sold 200 million copies worldwide. The Da Vinci Code alone has sold more than 80 million copies and ranks Brown with J.K. Rowling among novelists for whose publishers the deadliest sin is spoiling the plot.

Brown's fictional alter ego, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, is once again on the run. Caught up in a struggle to prevent a deadly virus from spreading around the globe, he wakes up in a daze in an Italian hospital at the start of the novel and spends the rest of the book trying to regain his bearings. There's a love interest — sort of — visits to historical landmarks in Florence, Venice and elsewhere and mysterious codes that allude to passages from Dante.

Everything about Inferno is a tease, including the way the author has written and promoted it. Brown makes a point of visiting the locations he describes, and since The Da Vinci Code published in 2003, his fans have obsessively tried to discern where his next books might take place and what they're about. Details of his 2009 novel The Lost Symbol emerged thanks to reports that Brown, whose dimpled chin and sandy-colored hair are known to many, had been spending time in Washington, D.C. Counter-espionage became necessary during his European travels for Inferno.

"Researching now is a double-edged sword," Brown says. "It's great because I've got access to things I never had access to before. But it's also more difficult because I'm trying to write in secret on some level and people know who I am. So half of the questions I ask are totally irrelevant to the book, just to keep people guessing."

Dante was highly critical of the Catholic church and Brown was happy to let readers and critics wonder if he would renew the controversies of Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code, both of which enraged church officials with such speculations as a marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. But the target in Inferno is overpopulation, an issue not raised by Dante even in his crowded rings of Hell.

"I'm always trying to keep people guessing," Brown says. "When people heard I was writing about Dante, they said, 'Of course, he's going to be critical of religion.' ... That would have been too obvious."

Brown does briefly take on the Vatican in Inferno for its "meddling in reproductive issues" and he praises Melinda Gates, "a devout Catholic herself," for raising hundreds of millions of dollars to improve access to birth control.

But instead of reviewing church history, Brown has spent the past few years studying the future. He has immersed himself in transhumanism, which advocates the use of technology to alter the mind and body, and has his characters debate the morality of genetics. Among those thanked in his acknowledgements are not just art scholars in Italy, but the "exceptional minds of Dr. George Abraham, Dr. John Treanor and Dr. Bob Helm for their scientific expertise."

The book subscribes to no faith, but does contain a moral, from Dante himself: inaction during a time of crisis is a sin. Overpopulation, Brown says, is an issue so profound that all of us need to ask what should be done. The author himself has not decided.

"This is not an activist book. I don't have any solution," he says. "I don't fall on the side of any particular proposed solution. This is just my way of saying, 'Hello, there's an issue that people far more skilled than I am in these topics need to address."'

AP

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'