March 1897,piazza Maubert,near Paris,...by the Bièvre,an affluent of the La Seine river. Paris is...moreHeavy historical novel. Very European context.
March 1897,piazza Maubert,near Paris,...by the Bièvre,an affluent of the La Seine river. Paris is not what it used to be, now with this pencil-sharpener called Eiffel Tower...so thinks sixty-seven-year-old Simone Simonini.
He wonders about his identity: "who am I"?.He defines himself by reference to others' defects.He bashes rudely at other races and peoples. He repels grossly the Germans: their repugnant sweat smell, their language...their addiction to beer...no interesting art; even great composers are depreciated under Simonini:"ordinary" Beethoven, "noisy" Wagner and "no-harmony" in Bach. The Germans took seriously that glutinous monk called Luther.
The French are also criticized: they are lazy and mean ("Ils grognent toujours").Italians as well.And yet,Simone's father was Italian and his mother a French woman.
Simonini became French because he could not stand being Italian: Italians are "liars" and "vile" and "traitors".He says (like with plants-crossing), if you cross a French with a Hebrew you have the present Republic III.
Nevertheless he's got "nothing against" the Hebrew people; his grandfather (captain Simonini) taught him: they are the atheist people 'par excellence'.Simone Simonini recalls eighteen centuries of hate, though.
But the worst of all are the Jesuits...and the Freemasons. Jesuits are "Masons dressed as women".
Thus,he considers himself to be a chaste man since he doesn't like women.He loves food and drink.
Simonini is a forgerer of documents and an antiques dealer.Strangely,he's got memory problems; even personality issues: it seems, he cannot distinguish himself from Abbot Dalla Piccola, who happens to live in the same building. There's a corridor connecting the two homes, and one day Simonini finds a wig:... his? Abbot's?... or of one and single person? And this was Chapter Two of Eco's book.
Chapter Three deals with acquaintances of the forgerer at the famous restaurant "Magny". 'Chez Magny' he meets a medical doctor,an Austrian Jew called Fröid,[any bell rang??]...thirty years old, studying with Charcot the hysteria phenomenon.Simonini sees Fröid as a "liar"...who studies and uses cocaine for his own sake,...and who suffers from "black billis".
Interesting references are made to the study of hysteria, the use of magnetism by some and hypnosis by others for the treatment of the psychiatric condition. Again, the antiques dealer digresses about the Hebrews, their smell...the "fector judaica"...and concludes "they're all communists!";he's got no Hebrew friends.
The case of Diana is introduced: two personalities in the same body; and different memories of the acts perpetrated by these two radically different personalities.
Chapter Four: grandfather’s times.Simonini recalls childhood in Turim,…he managed to speak the purest Grenoble French…not the Paris ‘babil’. Grandfather told him about the madness of the Revolution,….and the worldwide complot of the Knights Templar against Christianity.Also about his connections to Augustin de Barruel (1741-1820):a conspiracy theorist. Simone discloses his pleasure wearing the vests of priest Bergamaschi,how he felt superior...and about chocolate and coffee delights.
Amazing Chapter Five: because it's penned by Abbot Dalla Piccola. He knows more about Simonini than the other way around. He reveals that Simonini was an active "Mason" (that he belonged to the Carbonaria). A Simonini that in the previous chapter was so critical about Masonnery aims:"Lilia pedibus destrue" (destroy and step on the Fleur-de-Lis of France).The Freemasons wanted to destroy both "altar and throne".
And chapter Six? -Here, Simone severely decries about the Abbot: you know too much about me! Simonini envisions the Jesuits meeting at the Jewish cemetery in Prague;... them, conspiring under the moon, to help Napoleon III. Interestingly, Bergamaschi was a counsellor to the monarch.
The forgerer prides himself of his first masterpiece of forgery; and later, gets his first ("spy") mission: to join writer Alexandre Dumas in his ship Emma;of course, Dumas had joined the liberators, under Garibaldi. A detail: on his mission, the captain cannot avoid taking with him the vests of priest Bergamaschi.
Simone is now in Sicily. Through his eyes we see Garibaldi; the leader is not the “Apollo”, as Dumas saw him. He describes him as “of modest stature, blondish but not blond, with short legs…and affected by rheumatism”, he noticed when leader had to be helped while riding horses.
Simonini distrusts heroes….and doesn’t wear the Red Shirt of the liberators, but the ecclesiastic vests of priest B.
Garibaldi has received from the British Masonry 3 million French Francs (in golden Turkish piastras). ... So you think I would go on till chapter Twenty Seven?... No,I won't. Just a few words of closure for this review.
(1)The book has marvelous 19th century illustrations (from the author’s archive) that help a lot understanding the plot… or the story, if you will.
(2)Due to Simone’s likings the book is truly a cookerie compendium; menus abound.
(Protocols´, 1912 edition)
(3)It’s really historically thick the plot ahead; Simone will visit many places; will kill Abbot Piccola;…many adventures ahead, even with protestant Diana. But the core of the book may lie in the The Protocols of the Elders of Zion ; in fact, according to several sources they are a “lie”; Eco refers 1925 Hitler’s book Mein Kampf; and the London Times of 1921; both indicating a “forgery”.
(The Times, August 17, 1921)
(4)Finally, Eco says: all book characters were real persons, …but Simone.
PS About Simone name.In the book it is indicated why the main character got that name; someone in the family told Simone:"...in memory of Saint Simonino,a martyr kid of Trento,kidnapped by the Jews...that used his blood in their rites". That explains a lot. ---- From wiki: Simon of Trent (German: Simon Unverdorben; Italian: Simonino di Trento); also known as Simeon; (1472 – March 21, 1475) was a boy from the city of Trento, Italy whose disappearance was blamed on the leaders of the city's Jewish community based on their confessions under torture,causing a major blood libel in Europe.
(Dec 21st 2011)For fans of Eco:he's been recently interviewed by GR; some of his words may be elucidating about this and other of his books.And,within two months he'll be eighty years old.Nice.(less)
It is said that his father was an “aggressive atheist”. Some joke about Papini’s “conversion” (to Catholicism) calling it “perversion” (protestants...more
It is said that his father was an “aggressive atheist”. Some joke about Papini’s “conversion” (to Catholicism) calling it “perversion” (protestants say). But he was definitely an important literary figure in the beginning of the 20th century Italy. You cannot escape him when approaching Italian Futurism. This 1948 book is a compilation of those encounters and marking experiences since early childhood. It was published under the title Passato remoto [Remote past] .
I will refer some of those encounters.
(1) Papini says when a boy he had blue eyes and a blond, curly hair. For his time and birthplace (Florence) he looked foreigner. Once mother took him for a walk and he recalls two foreigners upon seeing him; one of them with a big moustache got close and “caressed” Papini’s curly hair. Years later in a portrait the writer recognized that man: F. Nietzsche. So the phrase: “And still today I am certain that the future writer of the history of Christ was caressed in a clear sunset of Autumn by the hand that wrote the Antichrist”.
(2)As a (“rebellious”) child he had a passion for circus and ferocious animals; those, “stirred his fantasy”. It was a great joy as a boy seeing those “exotic tribes from Asia (Ceylon, India) visiting his city Florence: “men ridding elephants …eyes with pupils of diamond black”. Or when Buffalo Bill and the “red skins” ….brought a “far west breath” to Florence. A “change of air”, as he liked.
(3) When 11 years old, he met a Darwinian priest called Trezza. The priest left his faith due to Darwin’s books; Papini was allowed to get in the library of Trezza; he recalls seeing “pictures of monkeys”; he was told “remember-Adam and Eve- it’s a legend”; a superstition.
(4) Politically forming was his own father’s experience, who dressed the “red shirt and the red beret… and got injured and jailed”; once Papini saw a parade of Garibaldi’s people; he almost cried.
(5) One day he was walking with his father; a carriage approached; two ladies inside; one clearly older than the other. Father complimented them and told Papini about: the older one was the queen of England, Queen Victoria, an old lady who used to spend winter months in Florence. But this is how Papini reacted: “she looked a moribund and mean lady”. “I understood that day that power and wealth don’t give happiness”.
(6) His mother was very important because she noticed early on his “writing attempts”; but it was his father who introduced him to a famous British writer: Louise de La Ramée, some considering her the best disciple of Dickens. Father took him to her place in Italy, when she was already 60 years old. She told him: “writing is the most beautiful and pleasant discovery of man but it requires vocation”.
(Marie Louise de la Ramée)
Papini wrote a book entitled “The story of Christ” in a very realistic language: “Jesus was born in a stable, a real [smelly] stable… the abode of cattle”. In another book (“The memoirs of God”): he impersonated God. “It is I, I in person who speaks face to face with man, all men without scribes, without in-betweens”.