Mary Soderstrom's Reviews > The Prague Cemetery

The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco
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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 background material for the respective groups.

Two years ago Umbert Eco's The Prague Cemetery sounded like a good one to include for these reasons and because many of the groups' members really like historical novels. No one objected when I suggested it, but then none of them had read it either.

Mistake! The book is based on a great deal of research: Eco says that there is only one character invented, that all the rest is true. Unfortunately, the story creaks under the weight of all this erudition, with the result that it is truly a chore to read.

Eco is extremely personable, funny, the kind of intellectual that you'd love to have for a prof, as you can see from Youtube videos like this one: My suggestion is to watch it, and give the book a miss. The questions the novel raises--among them, why are conspiracy theories so attractive--are worth thinking about. But I don't know if the average reader would get far enough into the book to see the questions because he or she would be too annoyed with the narrator and the form.

The book, by the way, is not anti-Semitic, as some have suggested. Eco shows us dreadful things--all documented--done by many sorts of people, but the Roman Catholic Church is just as terrible as anyone else. Perhaps the fact that Il Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, was the first to accuse the book of anti-Semitism should be a tip-off. If one part of Eco's research and interpretation can be challenged, so could his portrayal of greed, intellectual dishonesty and corruption in the Church.
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Comments Showing 1-4 of 4 (4 new)

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Laura Sounds like we viewed this book the same way. I'll be interested to see if we have the same views on other works.

Laura Agree! This book was so much work. I felt like I would have really enjoyed the history if only I could have made sense of the writing.

Tessa Je pense la même chose. Ce livre croule sous la montage d'érudition qui a présidé à sa rédaction. Dommage. Le lecteur s'ennui très souvent et j'ai dû m'y prendre à quelques reprises pour en terminer la lecture.

Tracie Agree I am up to page 60 and really struggling think I will find something else!

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