Friday, March 14, 2014

The Prague Cemetery

Reading anything by Umberto Eco always makes me feel a little smarter, and that is true with his novel, The Prague Cemetery. However, this story is more clever than it is enjoyable, probably because the main character is so repulsive I was loathe to spend any of my valuable reading time with him.

Eco is a masterful writer. He chronicles the foibles, eccentricities and gullibilities of humanity, and in this novel, as in my favorite of his, Foucault's Pendulum, he revisits the bizarre terrain of conspiracy theorists, where freemasons and Jesuits are embroiled in elaborate plots, at least in some imaginations.

To appreciate Eco's cleverness, it would help to be acquainted with European history, particularly the latter half of the 19th century. Only the main character, the split-personality Captain Simonini/Abbe Dalla Piccola, is fictional; the supporting cast includes personages famous, infamous and obscure, using and being used by Simonini to thwart or further various intrigues. I frequently interrupted reading to look up names and events on the internet.

I would have enjoyed this story more if it had one prominent non-vile character, perhaps a nemesis to Simonini.

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