120 of 130 people found the following review helpful
MOODY AND ATMOSPHERIC, WITH BRILLIANT TOUCHES OF COMEDY,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Name of the Rose: including the Author's Postscript (Paperback)
It is November, 1327. Adso of Melk, the narrator, has accompanied William of Baskerville to a remote, wealthy Franciscan abbey in the mountains of northern Italy. Upon arriving, William discovers that a murder has taken place and the body of the monk, Adelmo, has been discovered outside the abbey walls. The abbot, Abo, is very concerned and charges William with solving the murders. For, not only is the safety of the monks in jeopardy, a papal delegation from Pope John XXII in Avignon could well use the murders as an excuse for investigating the abbey, something Abo definitely wants to avoid. By the time the papal delegation, led by two inquisitors arrives, the situation at the abbey has worsened. Two more monks are dead and two more die soon afterward. The abbot's worst fears are realized when the papal inquisitors learn he has been sheltering monks who were once followers of the condemed heretic, Fra Dolcino. Although the abott dismisses Willliam, he remains and a few hours later, the mystery is solved, two more monks have died and the monastery has been consumed by fire. The Name of the Rose is first and foremost a mystery of the highest order, and it is possible to enjoy it on that level alone. But it is also a charming roman a clef, something I think many readers have missed. We don't have to look far to realize Sherlock Holmes in the guise of William of Baskerville or Adso as Dr. Watson. The blind Spaniard, Jorge of Burgos is easily recognized as the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges. Eco also challenges us by thinly disguising figures from postwar Italian politics as various other members of the abbey. The figures in the book thus correspond to other figures in different books or in real life. Each figure also represents a metaphysical concept: William, reason; Adso, mysticism; Jorge, evil, and then, in true medieval fashion, characters are thus pitted one against the other as opposing forces. I hate to see comparisons of this marvelous work of literature to Iain Pears's, An Instance of the Fingerpost. The books are as unlike as night is to day. While An Instance of the Fingerpost goes to great lengths to point out that ultimate truth does exist and can, indeed, be realized, The Name of the Rose is, at its heart, a book about uncertainty, especially the uncertainty of truth. In An Instance of the Fingerpost, the reader is asked to interpret a collection of signs and symbols, which, when interpreted in the one correct manner, will inevitably lead to the identity and motive of the criminal, i.e., the truth. In The Name of the Rose, the search for ultimate truth is far more ambiguous. Near the end of the book, William tells Adso that many hypotheses, false though they may be, can still lead one to a correct solution. And, while certainty is what's pursued in An Instance of the Fingerpost, certainty remains an impossibility in The Name of the Rose. As William says to Adso, "The only truth lies in learning to free ourselves from the insane passion for the truth." Umberto Eco's strength lies in his plotting and his layering. His books are like a collection of boxes, each one opening to reveal yet another and another. I found no such layering in An Instance of the Fingerpost. And, finally, while An Instance of the Fingerpost was certainly a phenomenon, The Name of the Rose is definitely much more. This book is literature, a timeless classic to be enjoyed by many generations yet to come.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 8, 2008 9:35:48 PM PST
how about a review with fewer spoilers?
In reply to an earlier post on Aug 12, 2011 11:08:40 PM PDT
P. Makk says:
What do people have against paragraph breaks these days?
Posted on Dec 23, 2011 8:42:14 AM PST
Regarding the petty, spiteful comments: Thus do small minds reproach great ones.
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