The novel’s Setting is the mythical island of Pianosa, modeled closely on Corsica and located off the coast of Rome, eight miles south of Elba. The year is 1944, and as World War II draws to a close, the Allies continue to conduct round-the-clock bombing missions to Europe from their Air Force base on the island. Nearby Rome serves as the playground for off-duty aviators. The site of social madness in the form of brothels, debauchery, and senseless pain and murder, the city is symbolically the Rome of ancient times, just before the fall of the Roman Empire.

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