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Showing 1-10 of 222 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 338 reviews
on April 29, 2017
Given the reknown and accolades, I owed it to myself to give Umberto Eco a read. Perhaps this was not a good first choice (I will try another), but I found _The Prague Cemetery_ to be confusing, tedious and a struggle to stay interested. I rarely quit reading a book mid-way through, but I did so in this case.

The book is a series of diary entries, the identity of the protagonist is difficult to determine: he either suffers from multiple personality disorder or is merely having a laugh at our expense - it was never clear to me (even after reading the first 120 pages). To complicate matters further, Eco jumps around in time, adding a whole other level of confusion and mystery to who our narrator is and what he's on about.

In spite of my struggles and ultimate failure to finish the book, it is clearly apparent that Eco is a gifted writer. The voice(s) of Simonini are witty - funny, even, as he is abrasive, cantankerous, deeply mysogynisitc and prejudiced against all manner of people from the French to the Freemasons to Jesuitis - yet in spite of these repugnant character traits, he is not without some redeeming features. This is no easy feat for a writer to pull off, and Eco does so masterfully.

I am disappointed in my choice, but will absolutely give Eco another chance. It seems, sadly, that _The Prague Cemetery_ was just not a good choice for an introduction to Eco's writing.
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on October 27, 2014
But still worth the read. Whereas Name of the Rose was narrated by a 3rd person (Adso, as diarist), PC is presented through the mind(s) of the protagonist. There is some confusion on the part of the reader, because the protagonist is himself confused, and relates (a) fragmented story(ies) from his diary/diaries. Eco hints but does not confirm whether the protagonist is a mental wreck or there are hidden mysteries and persons yet to be presented to the reader. As such, the reader is forced to experience the story through the broken mind of the protagonist Simonini, who is, in many ways, a multiple fraud and knows it. The historical allusions are, as one might expect, up to the author's high standards, although you must remember you're reading about history through the eyes of someone who might not be the most objective observer.

Unlike the conclusions of "I, Claudius" (Graves) or "The Egyptian" (Waltari), PC's ending leaves the reader unsatisfied, because when Simonini reaches the end of the written diary, it ... just ... stops. The reader must surmise what, if anything, is the fate of the narrator, Simonini. This is totally unlike his earlier works, "The Name of the Rose" or "Foucault's Pendulum", in which the endings wrap things up in a believable and acceptable manner.

Ultimately, those readers who like Eco, will likely find this novel exactly the kind of thing they like. Enjoy.
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on October 10, 2013
A fever dream about hatred, and the 19th century conspiracies that really did happen (almost every character except the narrator is real) this is a powerful work, but a strange work. Naive readers might even believe that it is a hymn to hatred (and particularly hatred of Jews) although most will recognize the angry undercurrent of contempt. That said, it is not something for everyone: It is something that will mostly appeal to those with either (a) an obsession with 19th century European history (guilty!), (b) a deep interest in how anti-semitism moved into a political realm when it had previously been a superstition (ditto), or (c) an abiding love for the crazy linguistic trickery of Umberto Eco, which is still remarkable even in translation (in spades). Eco is never one to sacrifice impact for readability, and there are moments that are slow-going, but it is intense, interesting - and chilling. And yes, a bit crazy, as is appropriate for a book about a kind of mental illness that spread through Europe by one of our cleverest novelists.
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on August 30, 2014
By making figures from a pivotal period characters in a well-paced narrative, Ecco shows again how effectively fiction can be used to decode our history. Perhaps for those who know these characters and this history intimately, the reading is less dense and challenging. For myself, keeping well-oriented within a fast-paced and complex narrative,was sometimes a challenge. You'd be well-advised to use Kindle's search functions to help keep events in context, and track a wealth of characters and narrative strands. This is not an historical novel to pick up for escape from a drearier current time. As seen through Ecco's lens, the period is every bit as dreary, and meaner. The single plot element that didn't quite work for me was the protagonist's multiple personality disorder. Simone Simonini, sometimes Abbe' Dalla Picolla, is the single fictional character in the novel, one Ecco uses to embody much of the vile hatefulness toward the Other (Jew, Freemason, Jesuit) the period was known for. In allowing an individual psychopathology to stand in for the madness of civilizations, the author may wish to make a dark period less unthinkable for us moderns. Here you'll find no William of Baskerville from Name of the Rose, but a grubby hate-filled forger who invites neither compassion nor comprehension. What he does offer is a suitably grim tour guide through one of the less engaging Regions of Hell.
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on May 27, 2014
From the Jewish persecution perspective,this is probably ancient history revisited.Eco is one of my favorite authors,ever since the Name of the Rose,and this is a more modern era story.He follows one very unusual manic schizophrenic amnesiac throughout his many trials and tribulations making a living an an antiquarian,attorney/notary,priest,writer,historian.The Prague Cemetery itself,is not even mentioned until page 100,and not again for almost another 100 pages. It is an historical Cemetery,which deserves another whole book dedicated to its story.It is tangential to this book in retrospect,despite the title. Please do yourself the favor of at least looking at Google images of the Prague Cemetery to get an idea of the Jewish burial burden they faced in extremely limited space.The description of the overcrowded graveyard "looking like the crooked teeth inside a witches mouth" is very apt. It has to be seen to get perspective on what really happened,and then it is hard to fathom.The book is similarly bizarre,and worth the effort to understand history.
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on February 16, 2015
Through the course of the story you become aware of what seem to me lesser-known events of the 19th century in Europe. The narrator is ironically offensive to everyone, but with his particular hatred of the Jewish faith and people his words and deeds have a town of literary irony and tragedy in view of the events to follow in the 20th century. I can see why many might not tolerate this book. But the anti-hero narrator seems typical of Eco, who seems to prefer a narrator who is boisterous and even inclined to falsify facts for a good story.

The narrator of the story is as engaging as Barry Lyndon or Humbert Humbert; as offensive as either; as naive as Lyndon and as strategic as Humbert.

The main tension in the story is to resolve: is the main narrator, Simone Simonini, the same as Abbe Dalla Piccola? And of the course of the attempt to resolve this issue, another story unfolds--that of Simonini and Dalla Piccola and their involvement in various occult religious and state affairs.

Overall: an entertaining read.
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on March 15, 2016
The author is, obviously, a SUPER intellectual, which is evidenced by his frequent references to literary, historical events. These parts of the b ook were great, in that it almost forces the reader to research these allusions. I learned an awful lot regarding the origins of the Elders of the Protocols of Zion, which was good, since references, unfortunately, are still being made to these ugly events and should be slashed from the supposed pages of history as anti-Semites perceive these nightmares. I have read the author's other book, which gave med the same reaction(s). Concluding my critique, bearing in mind the prior comments, I definitely suggest that one should read this tome, which certainly enlivens your intelligence.
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on April 10, 2017
I know it the scholarly thing to give it a rave review, but I found myself laboring to finish it at times. As a fan of Evo's work, I was expecting something that did not require such an effort to stay with.
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VINE VOICEon July 12, 2012
Umberto Eco is a prolific writer of novels, the subjects of which tend to the peculiar and are impossible to categorize into any one genre.
You either get where he's coming from or you don't - it's that simple.
This novel is set in nineteenth century Piedmont, Turin, Sicily and Paris (an event in the Prague Cemetery is referred to through a lot of the story but we are never taken there). The era is fraught with suspicion, intrigues and paranoia. In Europe it's time of turmoil, political unrest and experimentation in almost every field of endever.
The protagonist, Simone Simonini an unlikable bigot, he hates Jews, Jesuits, Masons and distrusts just about everyone else and is the only fictitious main character within the book. Even his grandfather, Captain Simonini is known to history.
All the other main characters existed, said and did the things described, within the story. Huge numbers of historical characters people the exploits of this strange tale.
I've read several of Eco's books and enjoyed the novelty of each story and I did appreciate the massive amount of research, cleverness of the plot, the inclusion of events and notable people in history.
The Prague Cemetery, in parts is uncomfortable to read and I can't say I enjoyed this book but I felt compelled and fascinated by this very bizarre story.
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on November 23, 2012
This novel introduces a man who is probably the worst protagonist of whom anyone has ever dreamed. He starts off by establishing himself as a professional forger, a virulent anti-Semite and a misogynist, and it goes downhill from there. At any point when one feels that he might redeem himself he doubles down on the rotten again, doing something worse than before. His final act is the capstone of his life demonstrating again his casual moral indifference and self absorption.

And so we are introduced to the world of black propaganda used for mainly political ends in late 19th century Europe in which Monarchists, Republicans, Anarchists, Marxists, etc., vie for position. This struggle entrains religious groups as well such as the Catholics, the Protestants, the Jews, Knights Templar, and Freemasons all of whom have some degree of political preference or act as outright exponents of political groups.

Forgery, espionage, murder, and libel are all weapons in this struggle of which our protagonist takes part in various ways including his penultimate act of forgery and plagerism, the tale of the Prague Cemetery.
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