- Paperback: 469 pages
- Publisher: Harcourt; 1st edition (June 5, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0156030438
- ISBN-13: 978-0156030434
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.2 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 103 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,092,406 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana 1st Edition
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The premise of Umberto Eco's The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, may strike some readers as laughably unpromising, and others as breathtakingly rich. A sixty-ish Milanese antiquarian bookseller nicknamed Yambo suffers a stroke and loses his memory of everything but the words he has read: poems, scenes from novels, miscellaneous quotations. His wife Paola fills in the bare essentials of his family history, but in order to trigger original memories, Yambo retreats alone to his ancestral home at Solara, a large country house with an improbably intact collection of family papers, books, gramophone records, and photographs. The house is a museum of Yambo's childhood, conventiently empty of people, except of course for one old family servant with a long memory--an apt metaphor for the mind. Yambo submerges himself in these artifacts, rereading almost everything he read as a school boy, blazing a meandering, sometimes misguided, often enchanting trail of words. Flares of recognition do come, like "mysterious flames," but these only signal that Yambo remembers something; they do not return that memory to him. It is like being handed a wrapped package, the contents of which he can only guess.
Within the limitations of Yambo's handicap and quest, Eco creates wondrous variety, wringing surprise and delight from such shamelessly hackneyed plot twists as the discovery of a hidden room. Illustrated with the cartoons, sheet music covers, and book jackets that Yambo uncovers in his search, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana can be read as a love letter to literature, a layered excavation of an Italian boyhood of the 1940s, and a sly meditation on human consciousness. Both playful and reverent, it stands with The Name of the Rose and The Island of the Day Before as among Eco's most successful novels. --Regina Marler
From Publishers Weekly
When aging Italian book-dealer Yambo, hero of this engaging if somewhat bloodless novel of ideas, regains consciousness after a mysterious coma, he suffers a peculiar form of amnesia. His "public" memory of languages, everyday routines, history and literature remains intact, but his autobiographical memory of personal experiences—of his family, lovers, childhood, even his name—is gone. He can spout literary and cultural allusions on any topic, citing everything from Moby-Dick to Star Trek, but complains, "I don't have feelings, I only have memorable sayings." To recover his past, he repairs to his boyhood home to peruse a cache of memorabilia amassed in his youth during Mussolini's reign and WWII, consisting of comic books, schoolbooks, Fascist propaganda, popular music, romantic novels and his own poetry about an unattainable high school beauty. The setup allows semiotician and novelist Eco (The Name of the Rose, etc.) to indulge his passion for pulp materials by reproducing such objects as movie posters, song lyrics and a graphic novella rendering the Book of Revelation as a Flash Gordon melodrama, with intriguing asides on cognitive psychology and philosophy of mind thrown in. The result has a somewhat academic feel, but it's an absorbing exploration of how that most fundamental master-narrative, our memory, is pieced together from a bricolage of pop culture. Illus. Author tour. (June)
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Top customer reviews
At the urging of his doctor and his family he leaves his Milanese home to return to his family's country home, where he unearths a treasure trove of Italian popular culture from the Fascist era. This allows Prof. Eco to journey through comic books (including Italian versions of Mickey Mouse), popular fiction, magazine illustrations, newspaper articles, photomontages of Il Duce, and the like--many of which are reproduced in this handsomely designed volume.
It's part history, part fiction, part lecture on that wartime popular culture, and part a search for a lost love (alright--infatuation); and there's also a chilling wartime thriller lurking within. It ends (in a Deco daze of glorious color) with the Book of Revelation as told through the pages of Flash Gordon. And when it did, I could almost imagine the author, peering over my shoulder, seeing me smile, chuckling, "ah, you liked that, did you?"
Notes and asides: Geoffrey Brock's translation is whatever's better than first-rate. Giambattista Bodoni (1740-1813) designed a typeface (a truetype version is likely loaded on your own computer). As is noted on the copyright page, however, Prof. Eco's book is set in Sabon and Interstate. Another of the author's winks and nudges?
This is NOT a Mystery, nor is is it the type of story we are used to from Eco, although the voice is undoubtedly his, and recognizable to readers of his other works. Yet, it is simultaneously an altogether different story, more a tour of his heart and how a person grows into the adult they are via the collection of experiences they amass in child and young adulthood.
what I found interesting, is not only all the comic book covers, movie posters, political war posters, (and some excellent examples of the visual arts from that WWII period of Italy and Il Duce), and the way he not only brings that period alive for the reader, but how in the end, he ties some of these disparate memories together into a new whole, quite metaphorical for the journey we all take into becoming the person we ultimately become, and how memories morph and change as we age, morph and change ourselves. Yet there are also special memories that are so embedded as to NEVER change and that these can create the strongest base of our personality.
It is a fluid and easier read in comparison to most of his other works. I was struck, too, that being an American who grew up in the 60's and 70's, how different and yet how similar the formative years are the world over and throughout time. you can taste and smell the Italian countryside and the food or wine he describes and see the characters from WWII Italy in their tattered, worn clothes as well as the things and activities they used to get themselves through from one day to the next.There is one particular wartime adventure in which he takes part where his childhood activities had been a wonderful preparation for him to "become a man", almost like "an Italian WWII Bar Mitzvah". I won't ruin the experience for people yet to read it by telling it here. But life is here in 3D, the wonderings, (and the wanderings!), the building of an intellect, a view of the world around him, and even comments on his sexual awakenings and how in Europe, while Mistresses are tolerated on so many levels, the actual sexual education and the initial amazing experience of feeling the opposite sex for the first time, dreaming of a first kiss, and then the reality fulfilling, or not, that dream, in all its initial innocence and trepidation are explored.
For a man I'm used to getting intricate historical or philosphical novels from, (if usually tinged with a "wink-wink sense of humour" if you're not too tired to catch it), this book comes straight from the man's heart and it shows in the different style and the ease of the read in comparison to his other books. He's always been adept as describing things and people or setting a scene over which to play some action of a philosophical, or moral, question. But this story seemed to flow more naturally from his pen, perhaps because it is such a personal story. It is simply a different kind of read that you walk into an U Eco book expecting to read. At first, I was a little dissapointed, and then, once I understood what part all the scrapbooked sections played in the story, I fell right into it and went on a little trip to Italy in the time of Il Duce. Definitely an interesting book by and of itself. But if you are a fan, I believe its even more interesting as I felt that some of what I learned here, whether truly autobiographical or not, gave me a little window to better inform me about the author as I read his other books.
That said, I know this book is not for everyone. It is not a Beach Towel summer confection, nor is it a Dan Brown mystery. But its the closest we're probably going to get from Mr. Eco to that easier style of read. I'll take what I can get as I'm already a fan of his other books, even if I've had to start them a few times before I got all the way through. This book I read on three successive nights, and I enjoyed each one.
Most recent customer reviews
Like some of Eco's books, or parts of them, this is very Italian. In fact, it is the most Italian of his I have read.Read more