The Prague Cemetery

A passerby on that grey morning in March 1897, crossing, at is own risk and peril, place Maubert or the Maub, as it was known in criminal circles (formerly a centre of university life in the Middle Ages when students flocked there from the Faculty of Arts in Vicus Stramineus  or rue du Fouarre, and later a place of execution for apostles of free though such as Étienne Dolet), would have found himself in one of the few spots in Paris spared from Baron Hausmann’s devastations, amidst a tangle of malodorous alleys, sliced in two by the course of the Bièvre which still emerged here, flowing out from the bowels of the metropolis, where it had long been confided, before emptying feverish, gasping and verminous into the nearby Seine.

For years, my boyfriend told me I would really like Eco’s The Name of the Rose. And the review of The Prague Cemetery I read in my favourite news paper was very positive. So I thought with those powers combined, I was in for a lovely book-reading-experience.

Boy, was that a disappointment. The plot in one sentence is that a forger in the nineteenth century makes up a letter and changes history with it. Sounds cool, right? But maybe Eco didn’t think that would be enough or he always likes it confusing, I don’t know. Because quickly there comes a gap between Narrator and protagonist, are some syndromes of MPS added and personality twists and the time line stops being chronological and BAM you’re lost.

Even if you’d like a puzzle instead of a story, there is the fact that the protagonist hates everything. Jews, French people, Germans, Americans, rich people, poor people, religious people, there is only bitterness in his life.

It took me 114 pages to -sort of- get into this story and the remaining 300 to regret not giving up on it. And now I really fear The Name of the Rose.

The Prague Cemetery, Umberto Eco, Bombiani 2010

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