0124 | The Name of the Rose – Umberto Eco

Context: Finished off this on my bed at the Wycliffe centre.

REVIEW
An amazing book that, for a first novel, is a great feat of literature. There’s so much going on that it’s very hard to review it concisely.

What did I love, well, i loved the whole murder mystery that the book is based around. That’s a great device. But what I loved especially here was the setting, a 14th century abbey where it is the monks who are victims, suspects and detectives.

Using that setting, Eco is able to have a free hand to introduce the far ranging issues of the day which makes for a fascinating read if you are at all interested in the history of thought, Christianity or science. All of these combine to give you a very rich portrait of the time which, with hindsight is at once sobering, puzzling and amusing.

And the mystery is well written. So much so that the final line illustrates not only the conclusion of the novel’s fictitious narrator but also of the reader. You aren’t sure what the book’s about.

Here lies Eco’s genius. He’s a philosopher particularly concerned with semiotics or the study of signs. The book is absolutely heaving with not only discussion of symbols and signs but symbolic events and signs themselves.

It’s a great read.

FIRST LINE
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

QUOTES

not infrequently, books speak of books: it is as if they spoke among themselves.

Books are not made to be believed but to be subject to inquiry. When we consider a book, we mustn’t ask ourselves what it says but what it means.

I have seen many other fragments of the cross in other churches. If all were genuine, our Lord’s torment could not have been on a couple of planks nailed together, but on an entire forest.

In my country [Austria], when you joke you say something and then you laugh very noisily so everyone shares in your joke. William [a Briton] laughed only when he said serious things, and remained very serious when he was presumably joking.

CLOSING LINE
I leave this manuscript, I do not know for whom: I no longer know what it is about: stat rosa pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemus.

RATING
rubbish | poor | mediocre | okay | good | very good | excellent | superb

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  • Suchismitha October 31, 2008, 9:35 am

    Hi,
    Great blog! I watched the movie before tracking down this book (The Name of the Rose) and believe me, the movie was in no way an indicator of what the book was like! It’s a great mystery – but a pedantic read (my two cents!). Umberto Eco’s take on Christianity/theology was a little heavy going – but the research is fabulous and so is the setting. More power to you, Arukiyomi, and your blog! BTW, I believe Mary Hoffman’s Falconer’s Knot “borrowed” quite a bit from this book. Check it out: http://www.maryhoffman.co.uk/novels.htm

    Suchi

    Reply
  • Anu December 5, 2008, 5:11 pm

    Why didn’t Venerable Jorge just destroy the book and be done with instead of getting the Library to protect it? Even the Abbot would have supported him.

    Reply

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