REVIEW

Book Review: The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

September 30, 2007
Ashish

I must confess that when I started reading The Name of the Rose, I almost put down the book after the first 50 or so pages, but I had heard so much about the book that I continued, and boy, was I rewarded. This is a complex murder / detective mystery, but it is more than just that. For one, the book was set in the 14th century in a Benedictine monastery in Italy where murder has been committed. This was the time of the 'Dark Age' when the open thinking of the Renaissance had not yet commenced; logic, science, and reason were all dictated in the name of the Lord. It was not unheard of to blame murders on 'demonic possession'. Further, where humankind is present, there will be scheming and politics, and so it was so in that time. The novel presents the murder in the midst of medieval politics and religious intrigues (where a theory can be used to gain prominence over others if it can be presented as being based on religion), and derives the complex cast of characters by basing many of their attributes on real-life characters.

The book was written by an Italian Professor of semiotics and was translated into English and released in 1980 in Italian with the name 'Il nome della rosa' and in English in 1983. A complex book, with numerous Latin phrases, not a racy storyline and set in the middle ages, even the author would not have expected the book to be a bestseller. However, the book caught public fascination and has by now sold in the millions of copies, something that only increased when a movie 'The Name of the Rose' starring Sean Connery and Christian Slater was released in 1986. Many new readers caught onto trying to read the novel that was the basis of the movie, and found the novel to be even more multi-layered and richer than the movie suggested.

Umberto Eco: The Name of the RoseUmberto Eco named the lead detective in this novel, a Franciscan friar called 'William of Baskerville'. Does that ring a bell? The author took inspiration from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, whose famed detective Sherlock Holmes had one of his best mysteries in the book The Hound of the Baskervilles. The other famous person from whom the name and the character is derived from William of Ockham / Occam (famous for the saying Occam's Razor - 'The principle states that the explanation of any phenomenon should make as few assumptions as possible, eliminating those that make no difference in the observable predictions of the explanatory hypothesis or theory.'). In the novel, William of Baskerville, displays brilliant deductive reasoning, unswayed by the simple and easily acceptable reason of 'simple demonic possession'. He keeps an open mind, follows his intuition, decides what is important to investigate or not, and grabs all the chances that he gets. He is assisted by the narrator of the story, 'Adso of Melk', a Benedictine novice.

In the middle ages, there were many disputes ongoing, with an important one being the dispute over whether owning of property was sinful or not (in fact, in a slightly earlier time, the Knights Templar were based on the concept of warrior priests who had donate all their property and who form an integral part of another of Eco's books, but that is another story!) and with a section of the Franciscan Order demanding that the Church give up all its property (the Church was exceedingly influential and very wealthy); another was whether this time was the time just before the second coming of the Christ, and of course there was an incredible turmoil between the power of the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor.

The time period involves competing influences between these 2 authorities, with a lot of suspicion over what goes on at the monastery, and there is a need to investigate possible heresy at the abbey. Hence the arrival of a former inquisitor William and his disciple, Adso to investigate. However, they, on arrival, find that a series of brutal murders start to happen, and they get sucked into that. In addition, they find that a lot of the mysteries revolve around the library, and it seems to contain a lot of secrets that they are not able to penetrate. How they manage to resolve the mysteries is what the book is about.

In my opinion, this is one of the best books that I have read, and I would recommend it to all.

Ashish is a blogger who got bit by the blogging charm a few months back, and it has hit him good. He is able to express himself through his blogs. Currently working with a software manufacturing company in NCR, India. Did a BE and then an MBA and has been working for around 9 years now. Is pretty passionate about current affairs, but did not have a vehicle to express his opinions till now. I primarily blog at Modern Indian Man, also write about Delhi, Tech News, and Photos 1 & 2
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Book Review: The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

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Author: Ashish

 

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#1
Temple Stark
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September 30, 2007
07:47 PM

Excellent.

Actually, this is one of only two books that once started I did not finish. I tried to read this when it came out, when I was 12, and I could not get past, perhaps the first 50 pages as you say. I can't remember exactly when I put it in a drawer and forgot about it. I still have it somewhere, I have no doubt.

In the intervening years I've thought about this book but have had many others to read. I think I even tried to watch the movie and was similarly unimpressed by its slow place.

I do need to try again so thank you for the reminder and the endorsement.

The other book I could not finish was Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, also a clear classic. I enjoyed it tremendously but I lost complete interest when Crusoe was rescued and everything became, well, imperialistic is what comes to mind.

-Temple

#2
temporal
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October 1, 2007
08:10 AM

ashish:

i read the book after watching sean connery:)

#3
Ashish
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October 1, 2007
10:49 AM

I actually read Foucault's pendulum first, then this; both were very good reads.

#4
updike98
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October 2, 2007
07:27 AM

Aman it would be wonderful if you could persuade KVK to do a follow up .He truly loves this book.

#5
Aaman
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October 2, 2007
08:15 AM

I will try to get KVK to write for us - I've spoken to him in the past.

#6
Ashish
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October 2, 2007
09:13 AM

KVK ?

#7
Aaman
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October 2, 2007
09:18 AM

That's KVK Murthy, a wonderful Bangalorean, Sherlockian, War poet fan, and much more.

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