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The Prague Cemetery

3.46  ·  Rating details ·  23,888 ratings  ·  2,423 reviews
19th-century Europe—from Turin to Prague to Paris—abounds with the ghastly and the mysterious. Conspiracies rule history. Jesuits plot against Freemasons. Italian republicans strangle priests with their own intestines. French criminals plan bombings by day and celebrate Black Masses at night. Every nation has its own secret service, perpetrating forgeries, plots, and mas
Hardcover, 445 pages
Published November 8th 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published October 25th 2010)
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Michael Mann Eco has made hate -- anti-Semitism -- farcical, absurd, as indeed it should be understood. I laughed and laughed. The scene in the cemetery could only…moreEco has made hate -- anti-Semitism -- farcical, absurd, as indeed it should be understood. I laughed and laughed. The scene in the cemetery could only be taken seriously by demented minds as, unfortunately, it was.(less)
And_it_spoke I aboslutely agree. I'll go even further and say that Mr. Eco was not just commenting on conspiracy theories, but how various media outlets can distor…moreI aboslutely agree. I'll go even further and say that Mr. Eco was not just commenting on conspiracy theories, but how various media outlets can distort or amplify aspects of everyday events to meet the demands of their own agenda.

The competing journals and newsletters you see in this book can easyly be seen filling the role that mass media networks, and social media fill today. Providing a custom reality to serve the echo chamber needs of the audience. (less)

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Average rating 3.46  · 
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Jeffrey Keeten
Nov 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: italians
In the 1980s I read The Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum and came away from those books knowing that I had been exposed to a brilliant mind. The complexity of the writing and the layers of plot turned many readers away, but I found it so refreshing to have a writer that demanded more from his readers and more importantly had faith in his readership. These are books that need to be read many times and each time the reader will develop a better understanding of the writer's intentions.

Ahmad Sharabiani
Il Cimitero di Praga = ‭The Prague cemetery, 1st American ed., 2011, Umberto Eco

The Prague Cemetery is the sixth novel by Italian author Umberto Eco. It was first published in October 2010; the English translation by Richard Dixon appeared a year later.

Shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2012, it has been described as Eco's best novel since The Name of the Rose.

The main character is Simone Simonini, a man whom Eco claims he has tried to make into the most cynical and disag
Jan 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
“A mystic is a hysteric who has met her confessor before her doctor.”
― Umberto Eco, The Prague Cemetery


So, I dropped one star because (first) I was a little disappointed that none of the stars on Goodreads were upside-down pentagrams or hexagrams. Also (second), I left off one star because by about page 400, I was drained of all my anti-Semitic antibodies. The crazy fundamentalism, fractured insanity, and conspiracy rich shadows of anti-Jewish attitudes in Europe during the 100 years from the m
Nov 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Eco:" We have a limit, a very discouraging, humiliating limit: death. That's why we like all the things that we assume have no limits and, therefore, no end. It's a way of escaping thoughts about death. We like lists because we don't want to die".

Interview in Der Spiegel, November 11, 2009

Update; thank you Eco...

Umberto Eco, 84, Best-Selling Academic Who Navigated Two Worlds, Dies

Eco in an interview of 2011, said he had
Scribble Orca
Eco makes abundant use of his prolific academic training to animate 19th Century history while applying delightful postmodern chicanery to blur fact and fiction as well as finesse the whole with a protagonist suffering an identity crisis which can only be resolved through recourse to the theory and application of one of the 20th Century's greatest freudsters.

This is a return to the vivacity of language and ideas paraded in The Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum while simultaneously demonst
Dec 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Plausible. Witty. Satirical. Challenging. Educational. You should see my Google search history - early in the book I realized I knew a few of the major players (not well) and none of the others at all - so I Googled every name and place I came across and discovered that this is a well-researched book! No wasted words, no ornamentation, tight prose - a well crafted story on many levels. More accessible than earlier books, or maybe I'm getting better at researching. Read this book. Take out your s ...more
Dec 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Don't consider it a spoiler that in the afterword, Eco claims that most of this book is true, or as true as can be surmised from a patchwork of historical and circumstantial evidence, and oral history. His book is no less than an attempt to trace the origins of anti-Semitism in Europe over the last two centuries. His vehicle is a more-or-less true, but nonetheless implausible, story behind the multiple versions of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Eco's account is narrated by the one characte ...more
Gather up every conceivable prejudice and a discriminating thought against most of the significant nations or groups in 19 century Europe. Spice it well with history, add some culinary recipes, stir well, and cook slowly on medium heat for about five hundred pages, adding gradually a number of conspiracy theories to your taste… If you follow this recipe, the result might be an indigestible soup with a bitter aftertaste. Or, if you happen to possess Umberto Eco's skill and knowledge, it might tur ...more
Kara Babcock
I like to try to pretend I’m not a literature snob. I like to try to pretend that all I care about in a book is a good story, that genres are meaningless, and that authors who are experimental or who go to great lengths to show off their vast intellects are, generally, more trouble than they are worth. I like peeling back the layers of hype and praise piled upon popular books and to get at the soft nougat of story at the centre and judge it based on the quality of that alone.

Except all that pret
3.5 - I'm not sure, stars.

Anyone who tells you Umberto Eco is an easy read is a) delusional or b) screwing with you. He can weave a story that goes up down and around and ends up where it started with a million revelations in between, and that is what he has done with The Prague Cemetery.

Based on historical figures, with an entirely fictional main character, this is the story of how one man influenced the European progression of anti-Semitism that ended in Germany with the final solution. From a
Sep 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
3.5 – 4 stars
While not the masterpiece that was The Name of the Rose, or quite the tour-de-force that was Foucault's Pendulum, _The Prague Cemetery_ is both an excellent read and a worthy addition to the erudite canon of Umberto Eco’s works. I must admit to having been somewhat disillusioned with the books he produced immediately after the first two named, finding The Island of the Day Before interesting though not really compelling, and I could frankly not get past the first chapter of Baudolin
(3.5 stars) I have something akin to rock-star admiration for Umberto Eco: he is such an erudite, cultivated, European, aesthetically aware Renaissance man with an encyclopedic knowledge, a reverence for the good life, and the ability to combine high literature with popular mystery. Not to mention – in this novel - sinister characters, opulent prose, abundant sarcasm, Paris, and an homage to Alexandre Dumas – a delectable mix of ingredients in a novel.

It is the latter half of the 19th century, a
Nate Q
Oct 31, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
This is the Forrest Gump of the conspiracy-theory historical fiction novel. A master forger influenced European history and personally met and inspired the likes of Freud, Victor Hugo, Garibaldi, Napolean III, Dumas, and I'm sure many others. His importance had a lot to do with filling in the blanks on anti-Semite material and conspiracies that influenced world wars and ultimately the holocaust. Some very interesting bits of history, although a bit buried beneath a few layers of multiple-persona ...more
Most readers of Umberto Eco's new book will have great precedents in his earlier works: the mysterious "Name of the Rose" or the magic "Baudolino". Those are great sagas with all the complexity that characterize the author, but with an engaging and unified plot. Unfortunately, "The Prague Cemetery" disappoints in all these fronts (I was also disappointed by "The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana").

The story follows a man (Simonini) that wakes up with amnesia in late 19th Century Paris. In order t
Every nation has its own secret service, perpetrating forgeries, plots, and massacres. Simone Simonini is called upon to help create a political conspiracy by forging a document known as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Simone is an adventurer, forger and secret agent working for a powerful secret organisation or is he working for himself? Is he playing both sides against each other or will he end up being a scapegoat?

I love Umberto Eco; every time I read a book by him, I get a mind crush; h
Jan 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Simonini is a forger who helps the secret services of Piedmont, France, Prussia and Russia implicate the Carbonari, the Republicans, the Freemasons, the Jesuits, and the Jews and his allegiance is only to the paycheck. He travels with Garibaldi as the general defeats the Kingdom of Two Sicilies and unifies Italy. He helps the French and Prussian spy on each other before the Franco-Prussian War. He forges the document that implicated Dreyfus in the famous affair. But his masterpiece is The Protoc ...more
Jun 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(German version below)

From Garibaldi's March of the Thousand over the Parisian Commune, to the Dreyfus-Conspiracy, Umberto Eco lets his protagonist Simonini take part in some of the most memorable historical events of the 2nd half of the 19th century - and also in every negative prejudice about jews, free masons, foreigners, and women that ever existed.

Eco's novel is an encyclopedia about the power of prejudice and Simonini is for all his 68 years of life profiting from it: without any second th
Stephen Durrant
Sep 23, 2012 rated it it was ok
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 imp ...more
Jason Pettus
Nov 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: contemporary, history
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

A few years ago I got the chance to read Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose for the first time, as part of the CCLaP 100 essay series on literary classics; and now, I'm a bit ashamed to admit, I've finally had a chance to read a second book of his, the recent The Prague Cemetery which has been getting an u
The Prague Cemetery is a very erudite book in the sense that many historical facts are absolutely real and others no. However, the author solve this apparent dichotomy by telling two stories in parallel, one of them as a flashback: the plot, which is told by The Narrator and the story where real historical facts are coming up into the narrative itself. No matter what, I am a big fan of Eco’s books, including his non-fiction ones. All illustrations come from the iconography of the author's file.

Translated from the Italian by Richard Dixon

Opening quote:

Since these episodes are necessary, indeed form
a central part of any historical account, we have
included the execution of one hundred citizens
hanged in the public square, two friars burned
alive, and the appearance of a comet - all
descriptions which are worth a hundred tournaments
and have the merit of diverting the reader's
mind as much as possible from the principal action.
(Carlo Tenca, 'La ca´dei cani', 1840)

Opening: A passerby o
Nov 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Eco has done it again. He’s managed to take the conspiracy theme and turn it into one twisted, mysterious intriguing story. And he’s shown me how much I don’t know. I’d never heard of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and this book is an interesting way of learning about it.
One reviewer recommends reading The Plot: The Secret Story of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, with a forward by Umberto Eco, before reading this book in order to bring context to The Prague Cemetery. I’m going to chec
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion inspired Hitler's final solution. Eco leads us through a world of intrigue, espionage and counter espionage, virulent anti-Semitism, fantasy woven in with actual events. It's an intriguing book that I found difficult to put down. It was easy to forget that it's based on real characters and real events as so much of it is completely ridiculous and risible. No one escapes derision - Masons, Jesuits, Popes, Garibaldi, revolutionaries - and I had to keep googling ...more
Erudite, playful, paranoid and obsessed with conspiracy, playful with and in love with literature, and also disturbing, Prague Cemetary is Eco at his best. Eco roots a character in the creation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and various other controversies of late 19th century Europe and gives insight into that notorious fraud, the bitter unification of Italy, the disaster of the Franco-Prussian War, the bloody rise and fall of the Paris Commune, Dreyfuss affair, and various mysterious d ...more
Cathal Kenneally
I'm sorry I haven't read more of this guy's books. He is without doubt a genius. He can set his books in any time period and still concoct a good story. This book is no different but, he has history on his side. When secret group s,sects and coteries have a big influence on European politics, who do you trust? Including a little background on the Dreyfus affair this, although sounds anti Semitic but that's the narrator's view. It was this kind of thinking that led to the final solution. They wer ...more
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This is not a book for those looking for an easy read, it has a deep multi-threaded plot that requires time to stop and think.

While I was reading this I found myself reading up on the people, books and events, purely for pleasure and to confirm the odd thing here and there.

A good meaty read that needs a bit of obscure historical knowledge to enjoy.

Timothy Mayer
Aug 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I’ve been a fan of Italian writer Umberto Eco every since reading his monumental Name of the Rose back in 1984. Few people can match him for working obscure historical data into complex novels like. Foucault’s Pendulum was a long work where a group of bored book editors attempted to create a unified filed theory of occult lore, only to find it coming true. Baulodino was another of his medieval novels which looked at the backstage to a major historical event. Prague Cemetery takes the reader into ...more
Richard Newton
Eco returns to an old familiar vein of conspiracy, which he wrote so brilliantly about in Founcault's Pendulum. This is an interesting, intelligent book which gives a great perspective on how conspiracies can develop and grow. The subject is interesting and cleverly portrayed. It is all let down by rather poor writing. The standard is inconsistent, occasionally it is very good, but at other times the writing is well below the standard I would expect from a writer of the talent of Eco. Read this ...more
Mary Soderstrom
Aug 19, 2012 rated it it was ok
Eco's Prague Cemetery is Deadly
This is the time of year when I make up the reading lists for the discussion groups I lead in several Montreal-area libraries. The groups' members suggest books, but I always have at least a full set of my own ideas. Usually they are books I've read, but sometimes I'm tempted by books that have a particularly interesting buzz. Given that my groups are in English and French, if a book is available in both languages, so much the better because I can prepare the same
Dec 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a tough book, but I liked it. It was also my first effort at reading Eco and I will likely try to reread this at some point.

The book is a historical novel about a political culture of hatred, racism, and paranoia that dominated parts of the European scene in the mid-19th century, especially after the revolutions of 1848 and the various revolutionary regimes, reaction, and political violence that followed it through the Italian revolution, the Franco-Prussian War, the assassination of th
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Eco lovers who are struggling with this one? 38 502 Nov 16, 2014 08:31PM  
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Umberto Eco was an Italian writer of fiction, essays, academic texts, and children's books. A professor of semiotics at the University of Bologna, Eco’s brilliant fiction is known for its playful use of language and symbols, its astonishing array of allusions and references, and clever use of puzzles and narrative inventions. His perceptive essays on modern culture are filled with a delightful sen ...more

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In The Prague Cemetery, a new novel from the Renaissance man who gave us The Name of the Rose, a master forger stokes the flames of conspiracy in...
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“People are never so completely and enthusiastically evil as when they act out of religious conviction.” 306 likes
“Someone said that patriotism is the last refuge of cowards; those without moral principles usually wrap a flag around themselves, and those bastards always talk about the purity of race.” 63 likes
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