Friday, 16 August 2013


In my gushing enthusiasm about Raymond Chandler in a previous post I was proably a bit harsh on Umberto Eco and his great literary crime fiction The Name of the Rose.

It wasn't a book I would consider reading if it weren't for the fact that I have to study it, and it was hard going when I first picked it up, but I must admit as I've read further into it, I find I am enjoying it a lot and reading it just as much for pleasure as edification.

I particularly like the way Eco describes love as a human condition and a sickness that can be cured. If left untreated, says Eco, it can cause death:

"... the sincere lover, when denied the sight of the beloved object, must fall into a wasting state that often reaches the point of confining him to bed, and sometimes the malady overpowers the brain, and the subject loses his mind and raves... if the illness worsens, death can ensue..."

But we have no need to fear because, according to Eco, there is salvation. Love can be cured by marrying the object of your desires, or by sleeping with as many other people as possible to drive the demon of the loved one from your soul, or to find someone willing to denigrate your lover so that you are put off them. Apparently, old women are more expert at this than men.

The other interesting aspect of this book, apart from the murders themselves and who dun'em, which has me riveted, is the theological discussions on such things as whether Christ laughed or owned property such as the clothes on his back. As a born and bred Catholic myself, but not one who practises, I must admit they are not aspects I ever considered before.

I've got about 150 pages left to read and, like the work of Chandler, I find The Name of the Rose impossible to put down. I'm sure I have seen the 1986 film with Sean Connery in the role of William of Baskerville - after all, I can hear his voice in Eco's book - but I can barely remember it. When I've finished reading this great work I'll see if I can get the film on DVD. It will be interesting to see how it compares.

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