The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco

The Prague cemetery by Umberto Eco

Italian fiction

Translator Richard Dixon

Well what can you say about Umberto Eco the man is a living legend one of Italy’s greatest writers but also a professor of Medieval philosophy and is from the semiotics school of philosophy (study of signs and meanings ) .He didn’t write his first novel until he was 48 ,he had done a lot of literary criticism from the early 1960’s .he is considered among the cleverest men on the planet .So a new novel from him was a challenge I ve tried him twice before enjoyed one and struggled with the other .

So this book Prague cemetery ,is a book set in the 19 TH Century and follows a man called Captain Simone Simonini  he is a dark figure a sort of alternative james bond but for evil for the 19th century .Like in the other book I read by Eco I also sensed a connection to the works of Conan Doyle in the name of the rose he called his main character William of Baskerville in homage to Doyle and maybe he has gone further here as I could see Simonini as european version of the arch villain from the Holmes story Professor Moriarty but in this story there is no Holmes as we se how this man is the puppet master behind numerous events and documents in the 19th century that involve the masons and anti Semitism (I saw an interview on uk tv with Eco when this came out saying the fact the book was so dark in tone when he was writing it he had been unbearable to his wife ,she said she knew why when she read this book ) so you get the idea this book is full of bile,dark events and ideas .I was worried about the tone of the book before I started but was suprised how readable he had made these dark events and the man at the centre of it ,. The action focus on two well-known piece of history from the 19th century the first a document called the protocols of the elders of Zion ( this document state a jewish plan for world domination ) although provide a hoax it in some little part may have been the first domino in the events that lead to the holocaust,I was also reminded about a x file episode called die hand die verlezt in which Mulder and Scully discover a document on-line that originally was about Jews and from world war two , but had been changed to fix witches as the evil in society  .The other event is a French history event that of the young Captain Dreyfus affair ,he was a young Jewish officer that was sent to devils island after he was accused falsely of passing secrets to the German embassy  .When he was found innocent it was an act due to his religion more than anything else .

My childhood years were soured by their Spectre .My grandfather described those eyes that spy on you ,so false as to turn you pale ,those unctuous smiles ,those hyena lips over bared teeth ,those heavy ,polluted brutish looks ,those restless creases between nose and lips wrinkled by hatred that nose of theirs like a beak of a southern bird …and those eyes oh those eyes

How he became so anti semitic from the second chapter who am I .

What I enjoyed most about this is how Eco had mixed true events with fiction like a couple of other books in the longlist .He shown how he mixed philosophy and semiotics .Ideas and signs are abound throughout this book .It shows how disturbing conspiracy’s can be this is a work of fiction but as we see on many tv shows and in the papers some people will join the dots together of history and come up with a figure like Simonini or in the case of one ex British public figure it’s all down to the lizards .This book is the best book I ve read by Eco and made me want to try some of the others by him I ve not read .I also like the illustrations from the time and illustrating people mention in the book that were real .A  flowing translation from Richard Dixon ,I missed it wasn’t a William Weaver translation it was that good .

Have you read Eco ?

Do you like conspiracies ?

April 2012
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