The Name of the Rose

On August 16, 1968, I was handed a book written by a certain Abbé Vallet, Le Manuscrit de Dom Adson de Melk, traduit en français d’après I’édition de Dom J. Mabillon(Aux Presses de l’Abbaye de la Source, Paris, 1842).

I gave Umberto Eco a second chance; now I know that he isn’t my kind of author. This was like my Art History class all over again. Except with a few murderous monks added.

With some authors, you don’t want to know other people’s opinions. With some, you need their support. I heard ‘Give him time’, ‘have patience’ and a lot of variations on that. Also that you need to appreciate an eye for detail, but there’s only so many details I can appreciate. It’s dense, I lost the story before it started, thinking back I can only remember frustrations. Besides a mild sense of interest towards the library of the monastery, some of those books sounded very cool.

I’m sure there’s plenty of other history-themed books out there I can enjoy.

The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco, Vintage Classics Random House 2004

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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