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The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco
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Sep 23, 12

Read in September, 2012

Umberto Eco is a great scholar with a formidable intellect. That might be the problem. "The Prague Cemetery" bristles with erudition: all of the characters except the narrator are fully historical and the novel presents a sweeping account of the antisemitic plots and conspiracies floating about during the latter part of the nineteenth century that eventually led to the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," a document with a horrific influence on subsequent history. But however powerful and even important the topic might be, learning alone does not a great novel make. And this, at least in my opinion, is far from a great novel. Eco is more convincing in his construction of a historical setting than he is in the creation of a character. "The Prague Cemetery" remains very much on the surface as the author moves his characters, especially his central character, around in time and space so as to touch upon the largest possible number of historical events. But in the process, he leaves his characters paper thin. We do know some of them are incredibly evil, but Hannah Arendt's famous comment about the "banality of evil" notwithstanding, it has to be more complex and nuanced than this.
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Viviane Cordeiro I whole heartly agree with your comment: Eco is perfect in a historical construction but I cannot say the same about his original characters. I'm feeling really awful for not enjoying this book the way I supposed to.


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