Summary and book reviews of 54 by Wu Ming

54

by Wu Ming

54 by Wu Ming X
54 by Wu Ming
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  • Published:
    Jul 2006, 560 pages

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Book Summary

Set during the height of the Cold War - with the world divided into East and West - 54 features Cary Grant as a real-life spy dealing with Italian partisans, KGB agents, Parisian lowlifes, and cameos by David Niven, Marshal Tito, and Grace Kelly.

In Hollywood, Cary Grant has grown weary of cinema's constant glamour, but Her Majesty's Secret Service will break his malaise with a bizarre diplomatic mission. In Naples, Lucky Luciano fixes horse races and launches the global heroin trade. And in Bologna, a bartender searches for true love and his missing communist father.

Set during the height of the Cold War - with the world divided into East and West - 54 features Italian partisans, KGB agents, Parisian lowlifes, and cameos by David Niven, Marshal Tito, and Grace Kelly. Wu Ming brings us a cinematic romp that is by turns edgy social satire and modern comic send up.

The Yugoslavian front, spring 1943
ITALIAN SOLDIERS!


The Slovenian people have launched an inexorable struggle against the occupying forces. Many of your comrades have already fallen in that struggle. And you will go on falling day after day, night after night, for as long as you remain tools in the hands of our oppressors, and until Slovenia is liberated.

Your leaders will lead you to believe that the Slovenian people love you, that you are being attacked only by ‘tiny numbers of communists.’ This is an insolent lie. All Slovenes are in accord with the struggle against the occupying forces. Under the leadership of the Slovenian National Liberation Committee, our entire people has organised itself into a single invincible liberation front.


ITALIAN SOLDIERS!


Your superiors are concealing from you the desperate situation into which Mussolini has hurled the ‘Italian Empire’ by selling it to Hitler. They are hiding from you the ...

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Reviews

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The latest joint effort (after the novel Q) from Wu Ming ... offers political commentary–cum–complicated escapism for the brainiac reader.

Booklist
This mix of literary thriller and sophisticated satire makes a tasty madcap dessert after the full meal of DeLillo's Underworld.

Kirkus Reviews
Don Camillo meets The Name of the Rose meets Dr. No: a rewarding beach book for grownups.

The Times (London)
A sprawling epic .... a formidable feat of imagination.

Scotland on Sunday
A stupendous, charming, provcative and profound novel. It makes most modern books seem paltry in comparison.

The Independent
Don't ask me just how the Wu Ming clan have pulled off this coup. I only know that their blend of outrageous burlesque and offbeat satire sparles like a bottle of the best prosecco from a worker's co-op vineyard.

The Guardian
Diverting post-modernist entertainment - about narcotics, the cheap potency of Hollywood, the coming of television, the balance of political power, and how the effects knock on down the line - is skilled in teasing fact and fiction.

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Beyond the Book

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 West? 

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 ...

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