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The Name of the Rose Paperback – May 1, 2008
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"The late medieval world, teetering on the edge of discoveries and ideas that will hurl it into one more recognisably like ours...evoked with a force and wit that are breathtaking" * Financial Times * "A novel of sunning intelligence, linguistic richness, thematic complexity" * Il Giorno * "This novel belongs with Voltaire' philosophical tales-in the entertaining guise of an erudite fiction story, it is also a vibrant plea for freedom, moderation and wisdom" * L'Express * "A brilliant deconstruction of the traditional crime novel" -- Iain Rankin * Mail on Sunday * "Whether you're into Sherlock Holmes, Montaillou, Borges, the nouvelle critique, the Rule of St. Benedict, metaphysics, library design, or The Thing from the Crypt, you'll love it. Who can that miss out?" * Sunday Times *
From the Back Cover
The year is 1327. Franciscans in a wealthy Italian abbey are suspected of heresy, and Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate.When his delicate mission is suddenly overshadowed by seven bizarre deaths, Brother William turns detective. He collects evidence, deciphers secret symbols and coded manuscripts, and digs into the eerie labyrinth of the abbey where extraordinary things are happening under the cover of night. A spectacular popular and critical success, The Name of the Rose is not only a narrative of a murder investigation but an astonishing chronicle of the Middle Ages.
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The nutshell is this is a murder mystery set in a fourteenth century Benedictine abbey, with Franciscan monk William of Baskerville and his Benedictine novice Adso of Melk on the case. And it's genuinely fun! A Holmesian romp set in medieval paranoia. But everything in this book is a conceit; the entire abbey vibrates with a deconstructive menace. Behind the beautifully described murals, the rich and perversely interesting history of the persecution of mendicant monks, and even the trappings of a wicked murder plot, there is a nagging metafiction suggestion that what you see is wrong, and darkness is inevitable.
Honestly, I don't recommend this to everyone. This is my second Eco novel (after The Island of the Day Before), and this time around his writing is far more focused. That being said, Eco loves to indulge himself and deluge the reader with historical minutiae. The curious background character Salvatore speaks in an odd pidgin language, with mixes of bad Latin and whatever else he's happened upon. It's a book that requires work, and it is super easy to feel deflated when the climax hits. But I just spent two very enjoyable weeks chugging through it every night, intrigued by the tapestry, and I reckon I will think often about it for the upcoming months.
Aside, as much as I appreciate Eco's erudite prose and keen eye for mixing philosophy, religion, and literature, I'm in awe of the translator, William Weaver. The English reads well and I can still feel the character of Umberto Eco -- and he had to contend with a mass web of Latin, French, German, and a lot of specialized medieval terms. I'm interested in the man behind the book, but I think I'm even more interested by the man in-between.
Eco, a scholar specializing in signs and symbols, depicts this world of bookish monks and warring religious factions with painstaking detail. (Alas, at times the reader might also experience pain; Eco’s lengthy philosophical and historical conversations can grow tiresome.)
The plot is driven a la Agatha Christie – someone is picking off abbey denizens, one by one – and the protagonist is courtesy of Arthur Conan Doyle – a brilliant Franciscan friar named William of Baskerville investigates the murders – but above all it’s the atmospheric sense of time and place that makes this tale so absorbing. -- grouchyeditor.com