Monday, October 06, 2014

The Name of the Rose

I've been an admirer of Umberto Eco since reading his marvelous novel Foucault's Pendulum in my mid-20s. For many years, I counted it among my top-five favorite books, although I was less enchanted when I re-read it a few years ago. I read 3 of Eco's subsequent 4 novels and a collection of essays, but none have matched the delight of my first experience of Foucault.

The glaring omission in my Eco-sphere has been his most famous work, The Name of the Rose. If my enthusiasm for Eco has waned with each reading, perhaps I could rekindle it by visiting his masterpiece. I had never read Rose, primarily because I had seen the Sean Connery film version and rarely read a book after seeing the movie.

I quickly realized that this novel was not one to rush through in the midst of a book-a-week challenge, yet I soldiered on. I was in no humor to decipher medieval theological arguments, particularly those partially presented in Latin, so I skimmed those passages and tried to focus on the crime mystery plot.

This novel is full of allusions that are above my education level, but in the first chapter, I was tickled to spot an allusion to this book from a less erudite work of fiction. The story is narrated by Adso of Melk. Where had I heard that name before? Hmm, isn't Claire Fraser's cat called Adso? All of the seven Outlander tomes I've read this year are back at the library, but with a wee bit of googling I found the passage in which the cat gets its name. Jamie says his mother, a very learned woman, liked a book written by Adso, a German monk from the city of Melk. Well, Adso of Melk is a fictional character in a book published in 1980, which leads me to wonder: is this a clue that Jamie's mother time-traveled, or is Diana Gabaldon simply playing a joke? I'm now very eager to read the most recent Outlander novel in hopes of unraveling this mystery.

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