This hugely engaging story of murder, superstition, religious politics and drama in a medieval monastery was one of the most striking novels to appear in the 1980s. The Name of the Rose is a thrilling story enriched with period detail and laced with tongue-in-cheek allusions to fictional characters, the most striking of which is the Franciscan friar William of Baskerville, who displays many characteristics of Sherlock Holmes. Although he looks at the past through a postmodern lens, Eco catapults his listeners into the dark medieval world as Brother William tries to discover why people are dying inexplicably and nastily in the monastery. There is something not altogether right within the library that is the pride of the establishment.... The old man Adso, who was an impressionable novice at the time, tells the story.
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The medium is the stupendous message.
Sensational.. ( in the truest sense of the word) Humbling. Illuminating.
Near the ending of this dense, labyrinth- like novel, the novice Adso, through whose now aged eyes we share the myriad incidents and and ancient tales, witnesses his Master and champion for what he in part is. William of Baskerville is a man full of his own vanity sparring with another man full of hubris in the literary, intellectual vastness of each other's intelligence. It is remarkably rare to have the privilege to share the sounds of the philosopher's sword clash repeatedly with the maniacal clang of a frenzied believer over a Thought or Notion. The stakes are terribly high, have always been and one hopes always will be. One man utterly believes that if the gravitas of Aristotle is accorded to Comedy and Laughter all fear and therefore power over others will be irretrievably lost. The other believes that all freedoms are ours to take and use, whatever the consequences. The feelings aroused by this purely spoken interchange ( one of many, many throughout the novel) are overpowering and as visceral as the ubiquitous visual equivalents,No car chases, no explosions, no overt body count. Yet what is being discussed is the power of words wherever they are uttered and the often dreadful but also so often empowering gift some other person' s words can bring to us.
Again I sought out this actor's name and again, when it intersected with an interest of mine ,I chose to listen to his performance. What a tour de force. His voice is redolent of a medieval, cosmopolitan milieu...ranging from youthful, Latin, mad and arrogantly intelligent monks to an aged but still insightful narrator. What sustained, remarkable skill.To think last week I was transported through the streets of contemporary Oslo in a police car with the voice of this Actor. That in itself is a testament to the marvels of free imagining and the remarkable freedoms available to some.
Yes. Umberto Eco deserves his scholarly place amongst the firmament of semiotic academics who manages to successfully link such disparate historical facts( or imaginative guesses), religious events, massive knowledge of ancient history and the vicissitudes of all of our human appetites to meld together chapter after chapter where we cannot but be involved. One is coaxed into terrifying mists, funny conversations, smelly kitchens and horrendous grief at monumental loss. It is a provocation on every page for testing one's acumen from remembering " the joke about.." from a " The Simpsons " episode, yes, remembering a long forgotten sexual encounter, yes, and trying to remember what the Latin for disappointment was, yes. To assist laughing and crying lay a Bible, a Latin dictionary, a guide to ancient History, a semiotic/ signs text, a guide to architecture..I won't go on..you get the picture..or a great technological device alongside whatever you are listening with if you want to wring the most out of this novel.Or just enjoy the mystery.
Listen to this novel if you want to remember why you read it and wept so many years ago. Listen to it if you really want to learn or remember things you learnt and had forgotten about History and how important elemental things remain in all our lives.It is a challenge but it is worth it.
A Pattern Emerges
- Ian C Robertson