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I really need to reread that. I mostly remember loving the library. Legolas Send a noteboard - 02/05/2012 08:09:48 PM
The knowledge of humanity is a fragile thing. Although in recent centuries the diffusion of information has gathered pace exponentially, first with the printing press and now with electronic means of dissemination, our understanding of the world around us and our common cultural heritage remain subject to the vagaries of time and human folly. We may never know whether Amr ibn al-‘As really ordered the burning of the famed Library of Alexandria on the basis that the books contained within were either in accordance with the Quran and therefore unnecessary, or at odds with it and therefore heretical. However, we do know that Hülegü Khan, in the process of butchering the hundreds of thousands of inhabitants of Baghdad, destroyed the library there, causing the waters of the Tigris to run black with ink. The works of Catullus survive on the basis of what appears to have been a single copy made ten centuries ago, which was so corrupted the translator apologized to any reading it and expressed his desperation. The participants of the Fourth Crusade destroyed countless works of art when they sacked Constantinople in 1204, and in modern memory the Taliban, in their infinite stupidity and barbarism, destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas and almost all the art in the Afghan National Museum.

I don't think anyone takes the accusation against 'Amr ibn al-'As seriously anymore. I was under the impression that most scholars are doubting the notion of a single event destroying the Library, regardless of when it occurred.

But yes, 1258 was one of the biggest calamities in the history of mankind.
Il Nome della Rosa, The Name of the Rose, is first and foremost a story about the struggle of civilization, humanity, knowledge and reason against barbarism, ignorance and hatred. Much has been postulated about the name, and Eco himself apparently wanted to originally call the story Adso di Melk before his publishers nixed the idea. The restored title is, I think all would agree, much more evocative. Eco, as a professor of semiotics (or “symbology” for any Dan Brown afficionados who may come across this review), understands the full deeper meaning of the rose as a symbol. To my mind, it refers to both the girl who seduces Adso halfway through the novel and whose name he never finds out (Dell’unico amore terreno della mia vita non sapevo, e non seppi mai, il nome, says the narrator at the close of the Fifth Day), as well as an allusion to all the books which were lost in the Dark Ages, for which we only have a name.

It's certainly a better title than "Adso di Melk", yes. I doubt a book with that title could've become as big a classic as this one did. The Shakespeare connection can't hurt, either.
The book is, for those who have not heard of it, a complex story that is at once a detective novel of sorts, in which two monks search for a killer in a medieval monastery, as well as historical fiction covering events during the Avignon papacy of John XXII concerning the Franciscan order. The debates of the Scholastic thinkers of the Middle Ages spring from its pages, and, although it is impossible for a modern reader to know for certain, Eco has done a convincing job of making us believe that people from an age long past (only the name remains) are speaking in their own voice, with their own perspective and their own understanding of the world.

John XXII, is it? The same one who plays such a prominent role in Les Rois Maudits? The world is a small place sometimes.
I previously read this novel in English and was struck by how the Italian original seemed almost like an entirely different book. A small part of this may have to do with the fact that the Latin phrases which are liberally scattered throughout the book do not break the continuity of the narrative since the Latin is so similar to (and in the case of some words identical with) the Italian that at times I didn’t even notice that Eco had switched languages. However, I think that the primary reason for the difference is that because I wanted to make sure I understood every word and phase, I paid far closer attention to the text and didn’t let myself skim through sections I had found somewhat tedious when reading in English. As with almost any intellectually significant book, the effort was rewarded with insight and a deeper appreciation of the novel as a whole.

Sounds good, but I'm still not going to read it in Italian. :P
Before finishing my review, I would like to mention that Eco has also engaged in something of a comic parody of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Guglielmo is set up at the beginning of the novel as a Sherlock Holmes sort of character, guessing upon his arrival at the monastery from some very specious clues that the abbot’s horse, Brunello, had gone missing, and telling the monks where to find Brunello. He explains to Adso how he guessed the horse was missing, that it was the abbot’s, that its name was Brunello and where it went. However, this is a set-up for the reader, tricking him into thinking that Guglielmo will continue to display a preternatural erudition and observational talent in the manner of Sherlock Holmes. However, as the story progresses we see Guglielmo paralyzed by endless speculation, unable to solve the crime taking place at the abbey in a meaningful way. He even seems to ignore his supposed friend’s contribution to philosophy, Occam’s Razor, and on numerous occasions ignores the most likely explanation for something to wildly speculate about what might be. He is an intellectual hamstrung by his own education and knowledge, unable on numerous occasions in the story to filter the information he has on hand to act decisively and prevent further loss of life. At several points he even admits this to Adso. Furthermore, all of his erudition is meaningless and powerless to stop Bernando Gui, who represents religious obscurantism and ignorance, and his confidence in the end causes massive destruction. In other words, Guglielmo’s Holmesian erudition does not, ultimately, help him at all. He is an anti-Holmes.

Perhaps Eco is just trying to point out the absurdity of Conan Doyle's premise?
Il Nome della Rosa is a thoroughly enjoyable book that can be enjoyed at a number of levels and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys good books.

Nice one. :P You did convince me to reread it sometime soon, though.
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Il Nome della Rosa by Umberto Eco (The Name of the Rose) - 02/05/2012 06:01:04 PM 7976 Views
It's one of my favourites. - 02/05/2012 07:52:27 PM 1271 Views
Awful pun! - 03/05/2012 02:48:25 AM 1233 Views
You liked it. - 03/05/2012 04:21:17 PM 1171 Views
*groans* *NM* - 04/05/2012 12:12:59 AM 584 Views
I really need to reread that. I mostly remember loving the library. - 02/05/2012 08:09:48 PM 1823 Views
There is still speculation about the Amr story - 03/05/2012 02:53:46 AM 1198 Views
It is so lovely - 03/05/2012 11:31:31 AM 1248 Views
It seems an expansive use of the term "postmodern". - 04/05/2012 12:12:19 AM 1223 Views
My understanding of postmodernism... - 07/05/2012 08:14:06 AM 1531 Views
It's a great book. - 03/05/2012 07:15:03 PM 1128 Views
I think the re-read will be richly rewarded. - 04/05/2012 12:09:05 AM 1168 Views
One of my favorites - 04/05/2012 12:31:51 AM 1081 Views

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