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Re: Having read it in Italian and Spanish last year upon release... DomA Send a noteboard - 20/05/2011 02:25:04 AM
I was at first sorry to hear that he was misdirecting in his author's note, but then I thought about it a little (trying to figure out why I don't react to Eco doing it the way I did when Brown did). If the whole point of the book is the twisting of facts and the lack of clarity between what is fact and what is fiction, and it is setting us up to question the authorities that seem to direct in one particular way, carrying that over into the author's note would make sense.

I guess it was for him one last game. Mind you, it's more for the principle of the thing than for the thing itself, because it's harmless unless you start going in salons flaunting your newly acquired knowledge as historical truth. Eco says the people in the book existed and said what he had them say, and yes I'm sure he was careful not to give them dialogue that misinterpret their "visions", and all but their mundane lines are inspired when not taken straight from their works, or other documents.

Even for the specific case I noticed and that I found a bit hard to reconcile with the note History is quite safe. Eco even has the charlatan pretend in the end this person never existed, that it was his invention, as history recorded this person never did exist. Harmless enough.

Then again, it depends entirely on how it is done. (As long as he does not go on National Geographic Channel insisting it is all true, I will probably forgive him.)

He does tend to paraphrase his note in interviews, and reviewers tend quote it. As I said, it's just the principle.

Even a painful Eco book, I imagine, is better than most other books out there. And no matter how much you try to tone down my expectations, I am quite giddy with anticipation.

I wouldn't say it was painful. I read as bad or worse in books on Nazi propaganda, or in the history of the Pangerman League (where I met virtually all of Eco's French references.) The only aspect where it might be wise to tone down or deflect expectations is I find the book tends to be presented (back cover and all) a little too much like a very fun, feuilleton-like rocambolesque adventure, as if Eco had given us a some sort of new Monte-Cristo. That sure did create some wrong expectations for me, and it took me a while to adapt to the reality of the book. It's a much darker book than this, I guess because it's a little hard to "enjoy" villains like this, when you knwon the destruction people like this have wrought and still cause today.

But yeah, it's very, very much an Eco book - no fear there. There's just a bit less scholarly disgressions in this one, because while well-read the protagonist likes little beside gourmet cuisine and his obsessions. The vocabulary is also more simple, for this and because of the subject matter.

Thank you for the lovely, long review.

You're welcome.

One thing I'd note (and you cover this to a large extent) is that I believe one of Eco's central concerns is capturing the seediness of the 19th century, especially around the fin-de-siècle, in both the literature and the socio-politics of that time. Conflicted and frequently disgusting as that time is to us now, I believe Eco captures enough of it to make this novel a sometimes repelling, but mostly compelling story to read even despite its core components.

You say it better than I could, but yes that's the aspect of the book I found the most fascinating, quite beyond any interest in the plot. Eco makes the period come to life, and it all the more captivating that he looks almost exclusively at the underbelly. We like to remember Flaubert and Zola and Dumas, but we swept too easily the Leo Taxils under the rug. I don't remember who said that line I remember from reading an history of the pan-german league a few years ago, but it went like this: if a 19th century men travelled in time to 1950 and was told about the holocaust, he would exclaim "damn those French, they did it after all". It's this Paris, this Europe, Eco depicts with brilliance. The story he crafted around this depiction feels a lot like an excuse for it, though. He's done much better with that aspect before. But perhaps it's just that I've read not tons, but just enough about this period and antisemitism at the turn of the century (and to make it worse, I've read two monographies on the Jesuits in that period in the last two years) that I found it all way too predictable. That left me a lot of time to focus on the non-fiction elements, though. I'll re read it at some point for sure.
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Prague's Cemetary, by Umberto Eco - 19/05/2011 07:47:01 PM 8622 Views
I do look forward to it. - 19/05/2011 11:23:47 PM 1364 Views
Re: I do look forward to it. - 19/05/2011 11:53:40 PM 1317 Views
Having read it in Italian and Spanish last year upon release... - 20/05/2011 01:22:49 AM 1839 Views
Re: Having read it in Italian and Spanish last year upon release... - 20/05/2011 02:25:04 AM 1605 Views
"Cemetery", not "Cemetary". - 29/05/2011 04:42:49 AM 1414 Views

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