The Impenetrable Umberto Eco

In general I’m all for a novel that presents difficulty for a reader, but the novels of Umberto Eco seem to raise obscurity to a new level. I’ve enjoyed and continue to enjoy complex novels by García Marqués (A Thousand Years of Solitude) and Robert Pinchon (V, Gravity’s Rainbow), but the Italian author’s novels and essays seem to be impenetrable. Time now for me to tackle my stack of novels by Umberto Eco and either enjoy them or deaccess them to free-up space on my library shelves.

Eco’s first novel was The Name of the Rose, which I read in a state of total bewilderment. Then came the movie based on the book starring Sean Connery and F. Murray Abraham. The movie kept the book’s title and had the ironic subtitle: “Who, in the name of God, is getting away with murder?”. After watching the movie, I returned to the book and this time I enjoyed it.

Revisiting The Name of the Rose and reading the first few pages, I am struck with the heavy feeling that I would not care to read it a again. So out it goes. My other titles by Eco give me the same feeling, except for Foucault’s Pendulum his grand novel of murder, secret religious organizations, intrigue, and, of course, terror.

Reading Foucault’s Pendulum the first time was hard for me and a painfully slow process. I started it twice before I was able to read it through. Looking again and reading the first few pages, I  realize that this novel now captures my attention. Maybe the scientific description of the pendulum or the Paris location or the expectation of intrigue provided in the first few pages get my attention. Whatever the reason, this book is a “keeper” for my library.

The Island of the Day Before, Eco’s third novel has an interesting set-up: a person who was swept overboard from one ship finds himself marooned on another ship that has been abandoned by its crew. I started reading with great expectation, but, despite repeated attempts, I never finished more than the first 50 or so pages. Looking again at Chapter 1, I get the feeling that the novel should interest me, but now I am skeptical of that expectation. Off it goes.

The collection of essays: Travels in Hyperreality likewise does not grab my attention. It seems that I must part ways with the Italian professor on this work also.

I was at first undecided on whether to keep my Spanish translation of Baudolino, Eco’s 4th novel. Now I’ve decided that is also going to join the exodus of books from my library. The English translation by William Weaver, who also translated Eco’s other novels, is a nicely written piece of work and easier for me to read than the Spanish.

Eco, who is reported to have a library of 30,000 volumes in his Milan residence, has said that the most important books in a library are those you haven’t read—perhaps my keeping Baudolino is a good idea from that point of view.

I will reshelve Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum and Baudolino; perhaps I’ll put them next to Man and His Symbolism by Carl Jung. If they had met, these two authors from different epochs and academic backgrounds might have had an interesting conversation.

The count goes up by 4 (and all 4 are thick books that were taking up lots of space).
The deaccession count: Posts 13, Books 64.

About carto

Retired software engineer who grew up in Montana, went to Montana State College in Bozeman, and moved to California to work at Stanford Research Institute (SRI). Carto's Logbook is about photography, travel and adventure; Mt. Maurice Times is tall tales mostly biographical; Carto's Library is about books I've read and liked.
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