Wednesday, January 17, 2007

54 Tells the Story of Life in the Shadow of A Failed Revolution

54 is written by the Italian Wu Ming collective (Mandarin for 'anonymous' and 'five names, depending on its pronunciation and perhaps most significantly, a nom de plume often used by Chinese revolutionaries), for their last book they were known as Luther Blissett an Englishman who used to play football for AC Milan. For those not au fait with the world of post-situ art hoaxers (for shame!), Luther Blissett is a nom de plume used by aforementioned hoaxers in the course of said hoaxing. Previous stunts under the same name (although not necessarily the same collective) include concocting a phony media scandal about a high ranking Italian cleric being involved in paedophile child smuggling ring and organising a bus hijack/techno party/riot with the cops through the streets of Rome. Their previous book, Q is an epic, it tells the story of the insurrections and peasants revolts that broke out in Germany and Holland in the 15th century, through the eyes of a nameless and wandering radical. The rebellions of this period challenged the authority of the feudal lords and the papal hierarchy which justified them; they turned religion against the Church, demanding an end to class society in biblical language. Q is a long story of rebellion, and inevitably its defeat, whether at the hands of the armies of the Catholic church, of the new Protestant elite, or those of a crazed and brutal demagogue.

If rebellion is the main story of Q, then its failure is the main story of 54. The book is centred around Italy in the year 1954, at the peak of the Cold War. The main character is one Robespierre Capponi, second son of a communist revolutionary and barman in the Communist Party Aurora bar in Bologna. His brother Nicola, who manages the bar, fought with the Italian anti-fascist partisans during the war and was permanently crippled by a Nazi bullet. The book opens during the war as the men's father, Vittorio Capponi leads a mutiny against his commanding officer in his unit fighting on the Yugoslavian front and runs off the join Tito's partisans. The war casts a long shadow on the rest of the book, as the old revolutionaries struggle to come to terms with the shallow victory that they have won. The revolution that they fought for has given way to a corrupt government propped up by the United States1, Mussolini is dead, but everywhere the fascists are being pardoned and are back in power while many of the former partisans are being persecuted. This failure, and how it's dealt with is one of the main themes of the book...review continues on Indymedia -
Ronan McHugh.

Editors note:
A lot of material on this blog links off to Indymedia at the end. The reason for this is because it is a site worth supporting with contributions and also due to its 'on Indymedia first' guideline, designed to eliminate cut and pastes spamming the site from elsewhere on the web.


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