A Book To Be Digested Very Slowly: The Name of the Rose

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The Name of the Rose
by Umberto Eco

 

*Before I relate the tale of The Name of the RoseI feel I owe anyone who stuck through my prolonged absence a sincere apology. To anyone who thinks I relinquished my love of books, I say fie! In all honesty — I was lazy. After graduating from college I went on a literal and metaphorical holiday. I literally traveled to two states and one country. I metaphorically took a hiatus in a land of no responsibility. As summer comes to an end, I find myself restless (as usual) and ready to attend to sharing literary findings again. That and graduate school is around the corner — gulp. On to books!

Fourscore and seven years ago….not really, but it does feel as if I read The Name of the Rose ages ago. Back in February (remember that cold, cold month?) I was lent The Name of the Rose. At first I was extremely daunted by this tome — it’s 502 pages. Upon finishing, I was still daunted, but that may be because I am not sure I fully understood everything that happened. Why, you ask? To explain such complexities in prose would be difficult, so I shall address my reasons in a list.

1) Latin – as I mentioned in my previous post, there is a lot of Latin in The Name of the Rose. Instead of being a proactive reader and looking of translations, I would glance over it and hope to understand due to context. Sometimes this tactic worked, but I fear I missed out on some of the finer details of plot and a great learning opportunity. I do not believe that to enjoy this book you have to read Latin, but I will say that to understand and appreciate Eco’s work you do need to recognize the importance of the smallest detail.

2) The immense amount of detail – Latin aside, the thought that clearly went into the plot astounds me. As a semiotician, Eco invests a great deal in ensuring that every word and object holds meaning. Whether it is a carving on a door or a choice word by an unassuming character, the reader should take note. Having read the majority of The Name of the Rose as I fell asleep each night, I clearly missed a great deal of important information. I do take comfort in the fact that this book requires more than one reading to fully comprehend everything.

3) History – I take pride in the fact that I know a fair amount about the Reformations, but I sadly know very little about Church history prior to the Reformations. The Name of the Rose requires, if not prior knowledge, a keen interest in learning about Church politics. While the heart of the plot, the murders, can be followed without understanding debates on scripture or detailed historical knowledge, a great deal of sub-plot and nuance will be lost.

My difficulties aside, The Name of the Rose is a captivating read that educates its readers. Eco’s writing resounds beautifully out loud and in the reader’s mind. The philosophical reflections he bestows upon his characters inspire the reader to approach examine the most mundane of ideas or actions with a new perspective. The Name of the Rose is not a book for the faint hearted, but its beauty astounds and resonates long after the last page is turned.

“The good of a book lies in its being read. A books i made up of signs that speak of other signs, which in their turn speak of things. Without an eye to read them, a book contains signs that produce no concepts; therefore it is dumb. This library was perhaps born to save the books it houses, but now it lives to bury them. This is why it has become a sink of iniquity.” – pg. 396

 

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