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10 thoughts on “54

  1. says:

    Set in 1954 Italy and Yugoslavia Croatia mostly at the height of the Cold War with the Russians trying to bring Yugoslavia back to CommunismLucky Luciano fixing horse races dealing heroin His fixer Steve Cement after the concrete shoe services gets picked up for a murder and held 3 months under interrogation Meanwhile he needs to recover the tv set that he hid the drugs he skimmed to make his sale and escape out of ItalyPierre has lost touch with his father who is in Yugoslavia but has fallen on the wrong side of Tito Pierre must complete some work for a smuggler to pay his way to Yugoslavia to track down his father but is also in trouble with the husband of the woman he is having an affair withCary Grant meanwhile is asked by MI6 to go to Yugoslavia to meet with Tito as background to a film they want to make to bring Tito to the British Of course he must go undercoverAnd somehow albeit tentatively in some cases the threads of the story comes togetherIt was interesting the read characters which were woven into the story Luciano Lucania Tito Cary Grant and James Bonds Casino Royale a copy of which features in the story 35 stars rounded down

  2. says:

    great adventurecrimepoliticalfamily sagahistorical novel written by wu ming in Italian and translated into english you'll notice all the slashes as wu ming is really 5 different authors so you can imagine the complications that may add takes place in cold war italy but tries to explain what;s going on within the context of all that had happened in europe for the past 50 years or so it's funny how Europeans just assume one knows all about history and geography and they make that integral to the plot but i am sure lots of usaers would be completely lost on this portion also they have a hollywood slant to parts of the plot and THIS portion seems a bit forced and frankly farcical great parts of this novel deal with poor people and it is made very clear why they are poor kings thieves churches govts and capitalists i like that plus there are some great violent and crime aspects here that would make jean patrick manchette proud and some black comedy that would make will self proud so yes it's a bit schizophrenic sprawling and didactic but rubs me in all the right places thanks jason for the lone of this my first wu ming

  3. says:

    Great fun with multiple storylines that overlap against the backdrop of Cold War intrigue pulp crime and the political disillusionment of the Italian working class The scenes in the Bar Aurora are especially wonderful Frequent changes of location perspective and the large cast of characters are a bit confusing initially but don't let those deter you Other perks short chapters which are nice for those who read on public transport And it's available free for download on the authors' website

  4. says:

    Spring 1954 Stalin is dead the cold war is starting to take the shape it would hold for a generation to come Joe McCarthy is kicking commie ass and taking names the French are in trouble in Indochina and in the free territory of Trieste between Italy and Slovenia the big boys are trying to wrap up the last of the unresolved border disputes following WWII Of course to do this it helps if they have Tito on their side And so the MI6 call in Tito's favourite movie star to convince him yes it's Cary Grant secret agent Meanwhile Lucky Luciano and his gang are setting up the world's heroin trade a young Triestean is searching for his father who disappeared into Yugoslavia during the partisan years a poor American TV set gets stolen and keeps changing owners and a bunch of old Italians sit around at their local bar solving the world's problems over an espressoIf this all sounds both confusing and insane that's because it is sorry I meant to say that's because it is the plot of a very ambitious 550 page novel condensed into a few sentences Wu Ming AKA Luther Blissett the collective pseudonym of no less than five Italian writers have managed something quite impressive here it's a novel that almost manages to balance a I mean several political thriller plots with a wild sense of humour an underlying metaphor of the beginning US domination of the Western world both in terms of military and culture if slightly hamfisted there's an American TV set full of heroin ferchrissakes talk about your Trojan horse a lament forsatire of the failure of democratic socialism in the post fascist age an attempt to sketch the outlines of a post war half century which would start with 20 years of war in Vietnam and end in Iraq and Afghanistan plus a just all around entertaining riff on spy and war novels Basically they're trying to write V The Odyssey Casino Royale Underworld Pereira Declares and The Godfather all at once And have fun with all of themAnd the thing is they almost manage to keep it together anchor it just enough in reality and history to make even the madcap parts believable Obviously it sprawls With five writers working together you have five people wanting their favourite bits in so it gets overwritten; and with a bunch of storylines stretching out from Mexico to Dien Bien Phu and from Hollywood to Dubrovnik with literally dozens of protagonists they end up working just a little too hard to tie them all together But damnit it's flawed but it works For one thing because they keep coming back to their characters and building the plot from them rather than the other way around Even Cary Grant isn't in it as the movie star he's in it as the struggling 50 year old soon to be has been who's never reconciled himself with the working class lad Archie Leach who wanted to be an actor a living embodiment of both class cultural and personal conflicts You laugh at them yes but you smile with them and wince for them too For another it's so much fun that like political or philosophical ideals it just makes you want to believe in it even when you know it's not practically feasible In the end of course nothing here changes history in any big way the last scene notwithstanding Most of the time individuals even dozens of individuals working in separate storylines don't change the world at large Some of them die some of them run away some just stay at home and do their job and the world marches on towards what we have today But damnit it's entertaining It captures a world on the cusp of something that wants to go in several different directions but for reasons that become painfully clear end up going in a direction very few of them actually want to go Takes out the warmth leaves in the fire

  5. says:

    Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll beginVittorio Capponi sided with Tito's partisans during the war and remained in Yugoslavia afterwards but spoke in favour of Tito's rivalsback in Italy Pierre his younger son works miserably in his brother's bar and lives for dancing and his affair withAngela whose doctor husband is a leading light in the Communist PartyFefe her brother is in a psychiatric hospital under his brother in law's 'care'Lucky Luciano is kicking his heels in Italy fixing horse races and controlling drug traffickingSteve Zollo his driver fixes all his bosses enemies but wants to break freeMI5 want Tito to side with the West rather than the USSRCary Grant wants to return to films but as a British agent he is to meet Tito to make a film of his lifeThe KGB want Tito to side with the USSR not the WestThe King of Vietnam likes gambling away US money at Casinos across EuropeEttore misses the excitement of the war and smuggles cigarettes across borders in his lorryThere is a sentient television that just wants to show Tom and Jerry and make people happyKociss lives by nicking stuff from the docksWith it so far?Now mix together in short chapters which will switch from one character to another with no scene setting and will switch between the first and third person within those chapters leaving it to the reader to work out which character we are with nowConfused? You probably will beSo you can either decide to get frustrated as you try and work it all out or you sit back and enjoy the ride trusting it will all come together in the end Which it mainly does but not everybody gets to the end unscathedNot as good and profound as Q but I enjoyed it all the same I particularly liked the Hitchcock references yes he appears as well naming the TV McGuffin in tribute But of course the real McGuffin is probably Grant himself

  6. says:

    I can't bring myself to give a rating to a book I never finished but my god 200 pages in and I still don't give a shit? This can't just be my fault

  7. says:

    Change century change country change the name of the authors but keep the same inimical style that intertwines different action lines into a wonderful and complicated plotQ by Luther Blisset centred on the chaos of reformation Germany The group of authors formerly known as Luther Blisset returns to the chaos in post WWII Italy with trips to the US to Yugoslavia and over the border into FranceThe plot is complex shifts viewpoint and embraces communist schism horse race fixing a Doppelgänger to enable a film to underpin an unlikely alliance and the Mafioso with their own internal divisions Oh and a television that doesn't work but with the unlikely make of McGuffin Electric doesn't quite live up to its nameA great read plenty to look up in the encyclopaedia if you are that way inclined lots to puzzle about It was a delight to encounter in their new incarnation of Wu Ming So thanks to Matthew for finding this one for meTry it

  8. says:

    I discovered the Wu Ming collective when I bought a copy of The New Old Thing ESP Disk Free Jazz Anthology Its liner notes were written by Wu Ming 1 one of the collective's five writersI like 54's short chapter format usually four pages The numerous characters and their nicknames lost me from time to time and there are frequent references to actual events such as the murder of Wilma Montesi whose purpose I never understood in the context of the storyFans of historical fiction in the vein of Thomas Pynchon will probably like this book Shaun Whiteside's translation from Italian is good; the book reads comfortably as if it was originally written in English

  9. says:

    A bold attempt to create a thriller by the collaborative effort of five anonymous writers They almost succeed although I thought the book could have been condensed somewhat What also perplexed me is why they did not write under their own names and why they remained anonymous? Are these already famous name literary authors trying to make a bit on the side by dabbling in genre fiction? Perhaps their next story will be Who is Wu Ming?

  10. says:

    a fictional history of 1954 a good albeit long read with interesting intersecting plots the writing is a bit dry this could be a problem of the English translation The story behind the writing of the book is possibly interesting than the book itself