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 ?

34 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. parrish lantern
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 15:23:05

    yes read a few Eco, including A theory of Semiotics (hard work/brain ache) & recently Serendipities, Language and Lunacy (great fun) so this does appeal & won’t have time before the shortlist but may read this sometime anyway.

    Reply

  2. Frances Evangelista (@nonsuchbook)
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 15:53:26

    You just reminded me of how much I want to read this. The Name of the Rose is one of my favorite books, I enjoyed Foucault’s Pendulum and have read most of his nonfiction works as well. Little in awe of his work. Glad you found it an enjoyable read.

    Reply

  3. sakura
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 16:04:55

    I loved both The Name of the Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum so will definitely have to read this. I’ve also been curious about the Dreyfuss Affair since reading about it in one of C. P. Snow’s novels years ago. Great review Stu.

    Reply

  4. 1streading
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 19:46:33

    Have literally just posted on this – I think it’s his best since the early novels. Now I must finish The Emperor of Lies so I can read your post on that! What do you think will make the short list?

    Reply

    • winstonsdad
      Apr 07, 2012 @ 20:44:08

      I ve only read two before this but yes wonderfully readable book ,as for short list I feel new ,finnish ,parallel stories ,from mouth of whale and scenes from village be on for sure then about four others could make two other places ,all the best stu

      Reply

  5. gaskella
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 21:15:32

    I got given this for Christmas, so it’s good to hear that you enjoyed it. I haven’t read any Eco since Foucoult’s Pendulum and Name of the Rose – both of which I enjoyed.

    Reply

  6. Tony
    Apr 07, 2012 @ 03:09:01

    It’s an entertaining read, and definitely excellently translated. As I said in my review though, it’s a bit to clever for its own good at times, and it did sag a little in the middle. A candidate for the top six though🙂

    Reply

  7. Vishy
    Apr 07, 2012 @ 05:59:53

    Wonderful review, Stu! Umberto Eco is one of my favourite authors though I have read just one book of his – ‘The Name of the Rose’. Glad to know that you liked his latest novel so much. The thing I like about his novels is that they can be read at many levels – just as a story, and also as a story with a lot of symbolism which we can spend hours trying to decipher. Glad to know that you liked it so much. I liked very much Tony’s comment – ‘it’s a bit clever for its own good at times’🙂

    Reply

    • winstonsdad
      Apr 07, 2012 @ 20:49:16

      He is a great pone for symbols and signs in his fictiom ,he is too clever at times but he is a true genius so think he can get away with it ,all the best stu

      Reply

  8. Caroline
    Apr 07, 2012 @ 14:06:46

    Reply

  9. mel u
    Apr 08, 2012 @ 22:59:07

    I hope to read this one day-A few days ago I was shocked to find a Vintage Paperback with three Henry Green novels I have not yet read-do you plan a henry green week for 2013?-

    Reply

  10. Bellezza
    Apr 08, 2012 @ 23:40:51

    I so want to read this book! I loved The Mysterious Flame Of Queen Loana and I couldn’t finish Foucoult’s Pendulum even after several starts. I’ve been meaning to read The Name of The Rose and now this one, so hopefully I can accomplish that in 2012.

    Reply

  11. Rikki
    Apr 09, 2012 @ 12:55:29

    I got this from the library the other day but this was not the right time for me to read it. Will get it again another time, because I really like Umberto Eco in general.

    Reply

  12. amanda
    Apr 10, 2012 @ 00:19:41

    Just started The Name of the Rose over the weekend and am really enjoying it. The Prague Cemetery sounds quite interesting as well–I may have to check it out.

    Reply

  13. Max Cairnduff
    Apr 10, 2012 @ 11:15:22

    Sounds like a bit of a return to form, after some disappointing recent works. Nice to know.

    Reply

  14. Sarah
    Apr 10, 2012 @ 13:54:36

    I have enjoyed several of Eco’s essays, even when his subjects are too abstruse for me, but I wasn’t blown away by The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana.

    Eco talks about the Zion Protocols in an essay on Fictional Protocols. It’s a fascinating essay and I can see how he would be tempted to take it further into a novel. I’m glad he has and glad that you have reviewed it. Prague Cemetary (which was languishing in a book stash in the wardrobe, of all places!) has just jumped right to the top of my TBR. Thanks, Stu🙂

    Reply

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  16. kiss a cloud
    Apr 18, 2012 @ 21:23:44

    I’m glad to see you liked this a lot. I’m very excited to read this. I do absolutely love conspiracies, especially when handled by someone as brilliant as Eco. The Name of the Rose is one of my favourite books ever. I also liked Baudolino, The Island of the Day Before, and The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana. I haven’t read Foucalt’s Pendulum (the first book by him that I owned), but have vowed to finally read it this year.

    Reply

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