Umberto Eco / The Name of the Rose

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Umberto Eco / The Name of the Rose

Dic 20, 2007, 5:56pm

I've been meaning to read this for almost 20 years. It's a book I KNEW I was going to love.

Call me a heathen, but I don't get off on line after line of Latin dialog. I'm also not keen on dialog where one character talks for 3 pages.

I read almost 100 pages. I attached a post-it note with the words "Take Me, I'm Yours" on it and left it on a table at a local hangout. I have NEVER in my life randomly ditched a book. I just couldn't choke down another page or justify taking it to the Goodwill and making someone else pay good money for it.

Dic 20, 2007, 7:25pm

I think The Name of the Rose is an excellent book, but I'll be the first to admit it's not for everyone. I loaned it to my girlfriend, who was sort of lukewarm on it. It definitely helps if you have a fondness for philosophical digressions or academic/intellectual endeavors in general. It also happens to be pretty allusion rich, so the more classic (and not so classic) works you're familiar with, the more you'll get out of it.

What I thought was great about it was that all of the philsophical speeches/arguments and latin really gave a sense of what the time period could have been like. It's set at a time period when the middle ages are starting to give way to the renaissance--the modern world is making its first appearances, but just barely. The whole mystery, in fact, seems to be as much about figuring out how do you solve a mystery (criminal or otherwise) as whodunnit. It also gives you a feeling that it's a world where ideas have power.

And though Eco isn't renowned for characterization, I actually thought that was one of the strengths of the novels. The characters way of speaking, for example, seemed to be pretty connected to their station and certain tactics for wielding power. And William of Baskerville is a great character--sympathetic, smart, compassionate, stubborn, ironic. He almost doesn't seem to fit, as he's just so modern--but all his grounding in philosophy makes him pretty plausible.

Dic 20, 2007, 10:21pm

I found it difficult too, but I was highly motivated when I read it. I was also fresh out of a course on Medieval literature, which helped. I also saw the movie before reading the book--often a mistake, but in this case it helped. I liked it a lot, but it wasn't an easy book, and I *was* really into anything Medieval at the time.

Early this week I was in a foreign language bookstore looking for a Christmas present for my Italian mother-in-law. She swaps Italian Harlequin romances with her friends, so I try to buy her something a step or two up for Christmas and birthdays. I asked the manager his recommendation, and pointed to the shelf and said that she wouldn't read Dante or Umberto Eco. He said "no one reads Eco," and I said "well, I read Eco, but I know she won't" and he replied "you read Eco? All the way to the end?" Uh, yeah, I have. I thought it was a funny conversation. Maybe they simplify him in translation. He's not easy, but he's not THAT bad, is he?

Editado: Dic 21, 2007, 2:00pm

I also saw the movie first, a crime for which I really can't be blamed. It was a Matthew Broderick movie, and I would have been ostracized by every girl at school if I'd shunned Broderick. {correction: Christian Slater, not Broderick; I would have gotten the boot for missing a Slater film as well...}

I agree about the characterization of William--very intriguing man--and that the book is a peek into how the Middle Ages could have been in the monasteries, the bastions of knowledge and books (is that redundant?).

After twelve years of higher education, I don't have a challenge appreciating the academic/intellectual. Having spent four of those years in pursuit of a degree in Literature, I also am not burdened with a dearth of classical knowledge. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for a Latin lesson at that particular time. Truth be told, in my casual reading, I'm not looking for academic. I get enough of that elsewhere. I do appreciate an intelligent read, but don't think "intelligent" has to mean academic.

I'll probably give this one another shot at some far distant point, but I won't be surprised if I put it down, unfinished, again.

Editado: Dic 21, 2007, 11:27am

I have to admit, I sort of just skimmed over the Latin. The book is so dense, I figured I'd just pick up what I could and not worry about stuff I couldn't. Eco is really dense, and I find I have to be in the right mood to read his stuff, especially his fiction. (His essay collections actually make for easier reads.) I've had Baudolino on my shelves for several years now, and I still haven't worked up the gumption to delve into it. I know there's a "companion" book (not written by Eco) that translates a lot of the Latin and explains allusions.

The movie is pretty entertaining, and when I read the book I ended up chucking Eco's description of him and picturing William as Sean Connery! (I think in the book, he's supposed to be blond.)

It's definitely not the most suspenseful of thrillers. I think of it as one of those books that sort of allows you to get lost in a different time or place where you normally couldn't go. That's why I don't worry too much about the Latin. I think of it like being a visitor in a foreign city; I'm just not going to be able to absorb everything and should relax and appreciate what I can.

Another thought: I think I can sympathise with wanting something different than the stuff you've studied. Being a physics major pretty much killed my interest in physics non-fiction books and "hard" sci-fi. (The God Particle has been in my TBR pile even longer than Baudolino, and the very name Larry Niven kind of gives me hives.)

Dic 21, 2007, 10:16am

pdx woman - "It was a Matthew Broderick movie, and I would have been ostracized by every girl at school if I'd shunned Broderick."

You mean Christian Slater, right? Broderick wasn't in this film.

Dic 21, 2007, 10:30am

#5 -

Good point about skipping over the Latin . . . yes, I did that too. If there was a word or two I could figure out, it was bonus. Otherwise I didn't give it a second thought.

Also, you reminded me about the companion book. A friend suggested it, and so I had my library purchase it. I can't remember how helpful it was to reading the novel (it probably was, I just don't remember), but it was very interesting in its own right. It was called The Key to the Name of the Rose.

Dic 21, 2007, 11:18am

I thought The Name of the Rose was pretty good, I liked the imagery and the time period. The cloister of knowledge and the whole feel for it. Along with the philosophical debates raging back and forth. But I also agree it is not for everyone.

I've also read Baudolino which was a little strange but also cool in it's own way. What I found interesting was that the book in the center of the fiasco in The Name of the Rose could have been Baudolino buy the description I vaguely remembered.

I also have The Island of the day before which I haven't quite built up a willingness to read yet.

Dic 21, 2007, 12:31pm

The Island of the Day Before is a wonderful book. Do not hesitate to check it out. I agree though that The Name of the Rose is indeed a rough one to tackle. I had to take it in small doses and I agree with the posters above who mentioned that watching the movie first definitely helps. I bought Baudolino for a long plane flight and was repelled by the prose. I tried tackling it several times and gave up. Upon landing I made my way to a Barnes and Noble and exchanged it for Zazie in the Metro which I loved.

Dic 21, 2007, 1:58pm

Bookmarque: Well, do I get to use the "I'm getting old and forgetful" excuse if I'm just pushing 40? Yeah, it was Christian Slater...when I was typing I got a picture in my head of Broderick in that *other* movie with monks. But, I still would have been kicked out of the girls' club if I'd missed a Slater film so...

Dic 21, 2007, 2:22pm

I am one of the people who could not get through the book, either. I have tried several of Eco's books now, and I just cannot read them. Maybe my brain is in sideways or something?

Dic 21, 2007, 3:04pm

I tried Baudolino, too & didn't like it at all.

Dic 21, 2007, 3:47pm

>9 twacorbies: Wow - twacorbies - I did the same thing. I bought Baudolino for a transatlantic flight and ended up watching the onboard movies instead - I found it to be extraordinarily boring.

I had enjoyed The Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum back when I was in graduate school, so perhaps you need to be in an academic state of mind to really get into Eco.

Dic 22, 2007, 4:34am

I thought your job was to convince me I needed to take another shot at it ;-)

Dic 22, 2007, 10:32am

I haven't read Name of the Rose, but I listened to an abridged (oh horrors) audiobook of it that I got from the library. That might be another way to get the meat of the plot if you don't want to watch the movie.

Dic 22, 2007, 2:43pm

I read it years ago, and really enjoyed it, but you've made me want to go back to take another look.

Being a Sherlock Holmes fan helps.

Dic 23, 2007, 6:57pm

I love Sherlock Holmes.

Dic 23, 2007, 10:50pm

#13 Talbin - right? I couldn't have been more excited to read the thing too. *Sigh* Eco is really touch and go for me. Foucault's Pendulum didn't thrill me, but at least I could digest it at a clip. Island of the Day Before however I thought was an outstanding bit of imagination, taking his views on literature ("books talking to other books") and then spinning it into a lovely adventure story with a postmodern end worthy of Calvino at his best. I have The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana now so I'll be tackling that one sometime next year.

#14 pdxwoman - I hesitate to suggest adding more reading to your workload when you just want someone to convince you that Rose is worth reading, but I found that reading Eco's essays really put me into the spirit before reading his novels. His ruminations on literature and pop literature are always fascinating, and it might give you that bit of background interest that will illuminate Rose for you (there is also a very good postscript to the novel, included in some of the editions).

Dic 27, 2007, 7:25pm

#18: Good suggestion. I'll check out some of his essays. Maybe I just need to ease into his work...

Editado: Dic 30, 2007, 1:03pm

Just a thought. Or a memory. Or something -- not a defense of The Name of the Rose. I read an interview with Eco years ago and when asked about this book and in particular how difficult it was to read (for some at any rate, including myself though I pressed on, and I guess for the interviewer in this article I am remembering), Eco replied to the effect that he felt the the first 100 pages were a penance the reader had to endure. It was probably a joke. But I have never picked up one of his books, essays, or grocery lists since. Give me Calvino any day.

Ene 27, 2008, 5:46pm

I quite enjoyed "Foucault's Pendulum", and look forward to reading "The Name of the Rose" as well.

Feb 20, 2012, 4:08pm

I feel exactly the same, could not go after 30 pages!!!!!

Dic 13, 2012, 10:35am

>8 readafew:, that's a nifty thought, picturing Baudolino as the mentioned book.

I like the reason-vs-faith theme that recurs in Eco's work, and he is one smart man to boot. I read The Name of the Rose in university and thought it was great. It felt like a long book to get through, but I enjoyed its murder mystery and the evoked atmosphere of a medieval monastery. I think William's character made the book for me.

Foucault's Pendulum raised Eco to my list of favourite authors, fantastic if you're a cynic who scoffs at nonsense like The Da Vinci Code. Baudolino takes a definite turn for the bizarre about halfway through, but I enjoyed the whole thing. I'd like to read The Prague Cemetery, next time I come back to him.

>20 petescisco:, Calvino is great, too! Everyone oughta give a chance to the 2nd-person meta-fiction of If On a Winter's Night a Traveller.

Editado: Ago 23, 2013, 8:02pm

William is a detective who solves the mystery using Aristotelean logic. The library itself is a puzzle, a riddle that has to be deciphered.

Start from that perspective and you'll understand why the book was a hit with every philosopher, logician and historian in the global academy. Jokingly, I could say that William of Baskerville is the only guy who ever found a use for the liberal arts.

I thought both the book and the movie were tons of fun.

Ago 24, 2013, 9:12am

Can someone recommend where to start with his essays? I also gave up on The Name of the Rose (although I was 16 at the time, so I definitely plan to give it another go some day soon) and would love to ease myself into Eco again with his essays.

Editado: Ago 25, 2013, 8:37am

> 25 -- I don't know "where to start with his essays". But I have a little book titled "How to Travel with a Salmon and Other Essays". That seems to me like as good a place as any other.

As for "The Name of the Rose," the Umberto Eco page in Wikipedia cites one of their sources: ^ Eco, Umberto; Translator: W. Weaver. (1985). Reflections on The Name of the Rose (in English, translated from Italian.). London: Martin Secker & Warburg Limited.

Y'all might give that a look.

Ago 25, 2013, 9:44am

>25 sparemethecensor: Can someone recommend where to start with his essays?

As prep for reading The Name of the Rose (which I loved) you might try a little book called Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages, which is not nearly as dry as it sounds.

Ago 26, 2013, 7:30am

>26 dekesolomon:&27 -- Thanks, I'll check those out.

Oct 26, 12:25pm

>1 pdxwoman: The Name of the Rose is an incredible story. When picking up an Umberto Eco novel there are some things that must be understood. Most of his books are purposely written in a format that is laid out to deter anyone from reading more than one hundred pages…….unless they are dedicated and already pre conceived to read the work. None of his work is light and none of it is written to be taken lightly. He targets a certain audience. He was a professor of Semiotics…and it shows. He writes like he taught. And while this is a novel concept it is also an unfortunate one. I say this because his stories are extremely entertaining and a large audience will never get to experience them because they are alienated. I highly recommend revisiting his work. It will enlighten, strengthen and bring out feelings and awakenings most people never get to experience in literature.

Editado: Nov 16, 6:27am

>23 Cecrow: I just finished the Prague Cemetery and like other Eco books it will challenge you and put you in a slightly uncomfortable place...but it is surely one of his best.

Oct 26, 12:43pm

>29 Joe73:
Umberto Eco corrected an interviewer who described him as an author who was a lecturer in Semiotics. He said he was a lecturer in Semiotics who wrote novels at the weekend for fun.

His non-fiction can be very rewarding. Mouse or Rat: Translation as negotiation is very interesting and provides plenty to think about. In this book he explains some of the content of Joyce's Finnegans Wake; he is the only person I know who has clearly explained any part of that book.

Oct 26, 12:43pm

>30 Joe73: "Hear! Hear!"

I recommended it for a book club I am in. It is to be discussed in a couple of weeks. From some of the comments I have received from the club members it would appear they are missing the point. I think they will fall into the common misconception. It was criticised as being anti-Semitic, but if you read the book to the end you discover it is quite the opposite.

Oct 26, 12:51pm

What I cannot understand about Eco is his lack of judgement about prolixity. If one is describing the contents of a room, why would the listing of seventy-five items somehow be better than cataloguing only, say, twenty well-chosen things? Eco seems to be enamored of the very act of verbal effusion, rather than informing or delighting his reader.

Having said that, I have enjoyed The Name of the Rose, Foucault’s Pendulum and The Island of the Day Before. I just wish some editor had been a bit more assertive in reining in Eco’s tendency to perseverate.

Editado: Oct 26, 1:19pm

>31 pgmcc: I have read most of his work and all of his fiction. I will be soon be tackling Kant and the Platypus. I have heard that it is one of the hardest books there is to comprehend short of astrophysics. He was a brilliant man. To see the chair and understand that it is a chair but also understand the possibility that it can undeniably be a chair or what we are taught is a chair in the understanding the purposes of a chair and what it means to be a chair in the context in which a chair is to be used.

Oct 26, 2:27pm

>32 pgmcc: I'm really interested in hearing more about what's under your spoiler tag if you don't mind elaborating. I didn't notice anything particular anti-Semitic nor the opposite, though my focus was elsewhere.

I haven't been able to get into anything else by Eco, but Rose is one of my favorite books, period. I love how many themes and messages people pull out of it.

Oct 26, 3:14pm

>35 Watry: The Name of the Rose was my first Eco book. I loved it. I will respond to your point in a PM. I do not want to get into a big debat in front of the masses. :-)

Dic 1, 7:40pm

I read The Name of the Rose when it first came out. I was 20 years old and had no schooling in the classical languages, but I found it easy to understand. If you have read widely, so much of Latin is fairly easy to figure out on the fly, is it not? And the book itself, riveting. Philosophically fascinating. The nature of comedy is — like the nature of tragedy, or rhetoric, or beauty — a fundamental concept for our humanity. So I enthused over the book and recommended it to everyone I knew.

Now I realize that many of my friends and family may have expressed many of the rather negative reactions of readers here!