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A fever dream of hatred - a crazed exploration of the roots of modern antisemitism and 19th century nationalism
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.