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The Name of the Rose
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1001 book reviews > The Name of the Rose – Umberto Eco

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Paula S (paula_s) | 220 comments Rosens namn by Umberto Eco 3 stars

This is a brilliant book, and I now know more than I ever wanted to about 14th century heresies. It is also a book that is quite hard to read, mostly because Eco feels so much enthusiasm about 14th century heresies that he will go on page after page explaining the minute differences, pushing the interesting and well-crafted murder mystery into the background. I've read it before and loved it then, but apparently I had more patience for long winded info dumps as a teen. Still, it is brilliantly written, very erudite, and story and characters are engaging.

The afterword (by the translator) talks about how the political climate (especially on the left wing) of the 1960s and 70s have similarities to the infighting between different sect within the Catholic Church during the 14th century, and that Eco included political commentary and discussions about the threat created by humor towards the authorities. I don't know enough about the political history of the 20th century so I didn't catch much of that. What I did catch was very interesting and thought provoking.


Kristel (kristelh) | 4259 comments Mod
Read 2011
This first work of the Italian author, Umberto Eco, is set in the 1327 in an Italian monastery and is an intellectual mystery. Franciscan friar William of Baskerville and his Benedictine novice Adso of Melk visit this monastery to attend a theological disputation about Apostolic poverty. There is a mysterious death as they arrive and every day following another dies mysteriously. There is much discourse on things like the sin of laughter. Deductive reasoning is what William uses to try to solve the mystery. The deaths seem to be following the Apocalypse. The use of context and reasoning is constantly challenged. The abbot is the home of one of the riches libraries where access is totally denied. The work of the abbot is the safe keeping of learning. On another level the story is about different theological interpretations. The Inquisition is addressed during the visit of Bertrand del Poggetto (Papal legation) and Michael of Cesena (Spiritual Franciscans). This story may be set in medieval time but the author addresses postmodern ideas of truth. There is conflict of absolute truth verses individual interpretation and spirituality verses religion. William seeks a logical end and concludes that the result was accidental and without meaning. The last line of the book, "Stat rosa pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemus" "yesterday's rose endures in its name, we hold empty names". Eco borrows or is influenced by many other books including "The Visier Who Was Punished" from The Arabian Nights, The Hound of Baskervilles, the writer Jorge Luis Borges influences the creation of the library. There is also some influence of Rudyard Kipling's novel, The Eye of Allah. There is also actual history, geography and science in this novel. Some of the characters were actual characters though not always historically accurate. I am so glad to have read this book; it was rich on so many levels.


Jamie Barringer (Ravenmount) (ravenmount) | 481 comments 14th Century historical fiction meets modern crime fiction, somewhat. If you enjoy books in which a bunch of men debate tiny details about things that no one else particularly cares about, this might be your sort of book. There are several murders, and a former inquisitor is called in after the first suspicious death, to quietly investigate before things get out of hand. The whole story hinges on the ever-vital question- did Jesus Christ laugh? I felt sorry for the men in this book for the most part. They are so afraid all of the time, of pretty much everything, including their own bodies, and they are terrified of women. But of course since they are men and hold some power in their world, they can project their fear in ways that result in the torture and murder of innocent people outside their rather cultish monasteries, as well as of each other. If only they could just enjoy bickering about odd religious questions without feeling the need to kill or hurt people.
I sort of enjoyed this book, but all the comments about what the abbot and his monks thought of women got old, and kept otherwise funny scenes from being very entertaining. I suppose that would be appropriate enough if one assumes laughter is a bad thing, one of the central questions in the story, but without the humor much of this book is just sad, a story about a bunch of lonely, frightened men wasting their talents on silly questions that help them avoid acknowledging a real world they avoid engaging with.
I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads.


Gail (gailifer) | 1536 comments This was my second reading of this famous book. I would have given it 5 points on my first reading in my teens as the world that Eco creates was so new to me then. On my second reading I found it to be a bit more unbalanced between the medieval discussions of heresies, the post modern discussions about the nature of signs, and the actual murder mystery. Also, it was so much clearer to me on this reading that our "hero", Brother William of Baskerville, out and out failed and had to fail to demonstrate the illogical nature of the world that is presided over by an all knowing God. Eco does a great job of presenting the polarization of world views which is extremely relevant today. At the time it was "Did Christ own anything?" and "Did Christ laugh?' but is that so different from current discussions in which people believe on the level of faith rather than logic. Regardless of the world view, it still came down to power and the struggle for power between the poverty supporting Emperor and the gold obsessive Pope.
I did enjoy the architectural descriptions of the library/labyrinth, and the working out of the murder mystery, but mostly I simply enjoyed Adso, the old man remembering the perspective of the once young innocent man who wanted to believe in the logical powers of Brother William.
To mirror Jamie, it was disconcerting to have women be such a focus of fear but overall that was no doubt true of the times.
I gave it 4 stars
P.S. This time I did read the book with the Latin translations. Although Eco says you do not need to know what the Latin says, I found it very disrupting to have large parts of the book be outside my understanding. I enjoyed it better having the Latin at my fingertips and that also opened up the world view of the speakers. These were erudite men in a world where erudition was very rare.


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