Wednesday, June 10, 2015
Three Novels by Umberto Eco
Eco has also written academic texts, children's books and many essays. He is founder of the Dipartimento di Comunicazione (Department of Media Studies) at the University of the Republic of San Marino, President of the Scuola Superiore di Studi Umanistici (Graduate School for the Study of the Humanities), University of Bologna, member of the Accademia dei Lincei (since November 2010), and an Honorary Fellow of Kellogg College, University of Oxford.
Eco employed his education as a medievalist in his first novel The Name of the Rose (1980), a historical mystery set in a 14th-century monastery. Franciscan friar William of Baskerville, aided by his assistant Adso, a Benedictine novice, investigates a series of murders at a monastery that is to host an important religious debate. The novel contains many direct or indirect metatextual references to other sources, requiring the detective work of the reader to 'solve'. The title is unexplained in the book. As a symbol, the rose is ubiquitous enough to not confer any single meaning. There is a tribute to Jorge Luis Borges, a major influence on Eco, in the blind monk and librarian Jorge of Burgos: Borges, like Jorge, lived a celibate life consecrated to his passion for books, and also went blind in later life. William of Baskerville is a logically-minded Englishman who is a monk and a detective, and his name evokes both William of Ockham and Sherlock Holmes (by way of The Hound of the Baskervilles). Several passages describing him are strongly reminiscent of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's description of Sherlock Holmes. The underlying mystery of the murder is borrowed from the "Arabian Nights". The Name of the Rose was later made into a motion picture starring Sean Connery, F. Murray Abraham, Christian Slater and Ron Perlman which employs the plot but not the philosophical and historical themes from the novel.
In Foucault's Pendulum (1988), three under-employed editors who work for a minor publishing house decide to amuse themselves by inventing a conspiracy theory. Their conspiracy, which they call "The Plan", is about an immense and intricate plot to take over the world by a secret order descended from the Knights Templar. As the game goes on, the three slowly become obsessed with the details of this plan. The game turns dangerous when outsiders learn of The Plan, and believe that the men have really discovered the secret to regaining the lost treasure of the Templars.
The Island of the Day Before (1994) was Eco's third novel. The book, set in the seventeenth century, is about a man marooned on a ship within sight of an island which he believes is on the other side of the international date-line. The main character is trapped by his inability to swim and instead spends the bulk of the book reminiscing on his life and the adventures that brought him to be marooned.
Baudolino was published in 2000. Baudolino is a knight who saves the Byzantine historian Niketas Choniates during the sack of Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade. Claiming to be an accomplished liar, he confides his history, from his childhood as a peasant lad endowed with a vivid imagination, through his role as adopted son of Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, to his mission to visit the mythical realm of Prester John. Throughout his retelling, Baudolino brags of his ability to swindle and tell tall tales, leaving the historian (and the reader) unsure of just how much of his story was a lie.
The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana (2005) is about Giambattista Bodoni, an old bookseller specializing in antiques who emerges from a coma with only some memories to recover his past. Bodoni is pressed to make a very difficult choice, one between his past and his future. He must either abandon his past to live his future or regain his past and sacrifice his future.
The Prague Cemetery, Eco's sixth novel, was published in 2010. It is the story of a secret agent who "weaves plots, conspiracies, intrigues and attacks, and helps determine the historical and political fate of the European Continent." The book is a narrative of the rise of Modern-day antisemitism, by way of the Dreyfus Affair, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and other important 19th century events which gave rise to hatred and hostility toward the Jewish people.
The Name of the Rose (1983)
Who is killing monks in a great medieval abbey famed for its library - and why? Brother William of Baskerville is sent to find out, taking with him the assistant who later tells the tale of his investigations. Eco's celebrated story combines elements of detective fiction, metaphysical thriller, post-modernist puzzle and historical novel in one of the few twentieth-century books which can be described as genuinely unique.
Set in Italy in the Middle Ages, this is not only a narrative of a murder investigation in a monastery in 1327, but also a chronicle of the 14th century religious wars, a history of monastic orders, and a compendium of heretical movements.
The Name of the Rose was made into a film in 1986, starring Sean Connery and Christian Slater and directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud.
Originally published in 1980 as Il nome della rosa, Eco’s first novel has rapidly assumed the status of a modern classic.
An extraordinary epic, brilliantly-imagined, new novel from a world-class writer and author of The Name of the Rose. Discover the Middle Ages with Baudolino - a wondrous, dazzling, beguiling tale of history, myth and invention. It is 1204, and Constantinople is being sacked and burned by the knights of the fourth Crusade.
Amid the carnage and confusion Baudolino saves a Byzantine historian and high court official from certain death at the hands of the crusading warriors, and proceeds to tell his own fantastical story.
It is 1204, and Constantinople is being sacked and burned by the knights of the fourth Crusade. Amid the carnage and confusion, Baudolino saves a Byzantine historian and high court official from certain death at the hands of the crusading warriors, and proceeds to tell his own fatastical story.
The Island of the Day Before (1995)
Set in the 17th century, Eco's third novel tells the story of Roberto, a young nobleman.
He survives war, the Bastille and shipwreck, and meets a variety of fantastical people, animals and machines as he voyages to a Pacific island straddling the date meridian.