Liam Guilar's Reviews > The Prague Cemetery

The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco
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's review
Jan 19, 2012

really liked it
Read in January, 2012

When Umberto can keep Eco #1 the theoretician, semiotician, historian, lover of fakes forgeries and lists, under control and make him collaborate with Eco #2, the novelist, lover of books, devotee of Conan Doyle and Dumas, teller of stories, the results can be unique: Name of the Rose, Foucault's Pendulum. When Eco #1 bullies Eco #2 into the corner, the results are downright unreadable whatever their conceptual framework.

In The Prague Cemetery the uneasy alliance works better than it has done for a long time. The literary games are there:a split narrator, a Narrator who fusses and organises the material and wonders if this stuff might make a novel. There are times when the book drifts towards the status of an essay on the history of Anti-Semitism in the 19th century but Umberto's mostly got it under control and wrote a novel rather than a tract on forgery.

The central protagonist keeps the story going. And while his rabid anti-semitism is discomforting, we're never allowed to forget that this is a novel and we're not being invited to endorse, support or agree with it.

I read it in less than twenty four hours. Whether it holds up in retrospect is a different matter. The black mass incident which caused the protagonist's trauma wasn't convincing. (Eco the novelist does not do sex well: cf The Name of the Rose). For all the references to Herr Froide the split diarists seem strained and the desire to cram every significant character of 19th century Europe into one book at times seems gratuitous.

But a novel.
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