Synopses & Reviews
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 midlife crisis of Cary Grant, the founding of the KGB and the Neapolitan years of mafioso Lucky Luciano are just three of the plot lines woven into this dense, playful and always surprising literary behemoth set mostly in the year of the book's title, at the height of the Cold War. Anchoring the tale with a relatively conventional narrative is a young Bolognese man named Robespierre (Pierre), who embarks on a transcontinental odyssey to find his father, Vittorio Capponi, a former Mussolini loyalist who left the Italian army to join the Communists in Yugoslavia. Meanwhile, Britain's spy agency MI6 approaches Cary Grant (who's in a career slump) with a bizarre proposal: the role of Yugoslavian leader Marshal Tito in a propaganda biopic. It seems impossible that the multitudinous names and story threads could converge, but, deliciously, they do in Yugoslavia, where Grant meets Tito, Pierre finds his father, and Luciano's driver Steve 'Cement' Zollo tangles with the KGB, which is about to pull off a big hit. The latest joint effort (after the novel Q) from Wu Ming a collective of five Italian intellectuals who named themselves 'anonymous' in Mandarin offers political commentary-cum-complicated escapism for the brainiac reader. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Bullets fly, knives are inserted into backs, intrigues unfold, consciousness is raised under a 'lysergic sun' and a dazzling array of major and minor players the Emperor Bao Dai, Marilyn Monroe, Lucky Luciano, Hitchcock, David Niven, Tito passes by....[A] rewarding beach book for grownups." Kirkus Reviews
"Written by members of an anonymous arts collective....[A] mix of literary thriller and sophisticated satire." Booklist
meets The Name of the Rose
meets Dr. No
: a rewarding beach read for grownups."
"Enthralling. [T]weaks Hitchcock and James Bond while plumbing mysteries of personal identity, national loyalty, and idealism lost and regained. B+"
"A wildly inventive epic." Bloomberg News
"Don Camillo meets The Name of the Rose meets Dr. No: a rewarding beach read for grownups."
(starred review, Kirkus)
"A thinking person's beach read, a madcap dessert after the full meal of Delillo'sUnderworld."
"A wildly inventive epic."
UK PRAISE FOR 54
"A formidable feat of imagination that moves restlessly between Bologna, Naples, California, Moscow, Dubrovnik and Marseilles. Utterly convincing."-THE TIMES (London)
"An epic about identity and celebrity, communism and corruption. A stupendous, charming, provocative and profound novel. It makes most modern books seem paltry in comparison."
-SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY
PRAISE FOR 54"Enthralling . . . with a wrap-up that tweaks Hitchcock and James Bond while plumbing mysteries of personal identity, national loyalty, and idealism lost and regained."ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY"In 54, Cary Grant really is just around the next corner, preparing his hair, looking suave as can beand trying his darnedest to save the world from disaster."THE WASHINGTON POST
From the authors of the bizarre and extraordinary Q comes this equally bizarre and powerful thriller. Set in the former Yugoslavia in the 1950s, the new novel by the members of the Luther Blissett Project, now calling themselves the Wu Ming Foundation, tells a story of the intrigue, spying and paranoia around the hiring of Cary Grant to play the lead role in a Yugoslav propaganda film. Truly bizarre, truly culty.
About the Author
Wu Ming means "no name" and therefore "anonymous" in Mandarin Chinese. Four of the five members of the Wu Ming Foundation wrote the novel Q
under the pseudonym Luther Blissett. They live in Bologna.
A few words from Wu Ming:
In January 2000, a fifth person joined the four authors of Q and a new band of authors was born, Wu Ming (chinese for "anonymous"). Since then, we have authored further novels and essays. So far, our major collective effort has been 54, a novel set in 1954, with dozens of lead characters (including actor Cary Grant), also translated in English and several European languages. The book was an inspirational source for the Italian folk-rock band Yo Yo Mundi whose concept album (also titled 54) was released at the beginning of 2004. Because of our position on copyright, our experiments in collective writing, the hundreds of meetings with the readers we held in Italy and abroad and last but not least our involvement in social causes Wu Ming is now getting even more famous than the LBP ever was. The band's name is meant both as a tribute to dissidents and a refusal of the role of the "Author" as a star.
Table of Contents
ContentsThe Background 3
Part One: Šipan 23
Part Two: McGuffin Electric 297
End Titles 543