To appreciate the complicated comings and goings in 54 it would be best
to have some understanding of the context in which the book is set. Today,
Trieste is a charming Italian city bordering Slovenia (formerly Yugoslavia) on
the Adriatic Sea, home to a wide mix of cultures (map
of Trieste), but in 1954 it was at the center of a Cold War quandary - what
to do with this little city-state caught in the power struggle between East and
Over the centuries Trieste became an important trade hub. It was constituted a free port by Emperor Charles VI (Holy Roman Emperor from 1711-1740) in 1719 and remained thus until 1891. It lost much of its autonomy during the Napoleonic Wars when it was occupied three times (eventually being returned to the Austrian Empire in 1813) but continued to prosper as the Imperial Free City of Trieste and was an important commercial port and shipbuilding center.
At the turn of the 20th century it was ...