Larry's Reviews > The Prague Cemetery

The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco
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May 21, 12

bookshelves: kindle
Read in May, 2012

Umberto Eco is a quixotic writer who I usually enjoy (The Island of the Day Before being the exception). His focus on conspiracies and his dismissal of them truly endear him to me. Indeed, in many ways Foucault's Pendulum is the anti-The Da Vinci Code. The Prague Cemetery continues his debunking of conspiracies, as his protagonist creates and destroys them as need's be. Other reviewers have described the story, and there's no point in my repeating them. Eco grabbed me in the first few sentences, describing the contents of a junk shop, and stopped me dead describing "a pair of firedogs that would disgrace any hearth". Eco's use of language, even in translation, is unmatched among modern authors (which probably also makes him the anti-Dan Brown).

What I find most delicious is how Eco has created a protagonist who is truly the most despicable character in modern literature, and possibly in literature of all time. There is nothing redeeming about him; you can feel no sympathy for him, and his activities untimately (in Eco's interpretation) to the Holocaust. He murders when convenient, (expertly) forges documents for a living, betrays friends, befriends foes, is violently anti-Semitic, but also hates everyone else (Catholics, Protestants, Jesuits, Masons, doctors, women, royalty, commonfolk, satanists, even himself). The only pleasure he has in life is good food. Eco emphasizes this by having the scoundrel describe meals in detail, and also occasionally recipes for the dishes in the meals he enjoys.

The Prague Cemetery is also historical fiction. In a postscript Eco explains that all of the characters except his protagonist (even his grandfather) were real people, and their words were things they actually said.
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