Friday, November 04, 2005

In which David Finishes Reading a Book

I don't have much time to read, especially since this blog. Last August I needed a book to help me fall asleep. I snatched Baudolino by Umberto Eco off a pile of Leslie's books by our bed. "The perfect soporific" I thought. I just finished it this week.

Years ago I tried to read Eco's "Name of the Rose". Couldn't do it. It wasn't until I watched the movie that I had any clue of what was going on. I decided then that my time was not worth reading more Eco.

But Baudolino's first chapter hooked me and now I'm happy to have read it.

Baudolino lives in the 12th century: Medieval Crusades, Holy Roman Empire, Holy Grail. If you know reams about that period you will not read the same book I did; apparently there are many historical and academic levels in Eco's writing to which my brain has no access.

I'd call it an epic novel, the story of Baudolino's life. He's good at telling lies and telling them makes them come true. He's also a man of great faith - especially that a kingdom of Christians exists in the far east. His lifelong goal: find it. He says "The kingdom of the Priest is real because I and my companions have devoted two-thirds of our life to seeking it."

In all this I find parallels to our time. Religous belief in "what is written" makes people do strange things now, too. Eco reminds us that history is what the historians say. Is telling history the same as telling the truth? These days people who disagree with our accepted story are regarded with suspicion.

On my flight back from San Francisco the woman next to me saw "Baudolino" and said "It's his best book". Great. But I still doubt I'll ever want to read another - unless I'm having trouble sleeping.

P.S. You could read this review but all his complaints are about things I liked.

P.P.S. The chapter headings in "Baudolino" were my inspiration for the "In which" headings of these blog posts.



Anonymous said...

Hello David,

The only Umberto Eco book I've read is The Island of the Day Before. It was long and tiring, and probably had more meaning than I was capable of understanding. And because of that, most likely, it will be the only Umberto Eco book I will ever read.

Ellis Shuman
(cousin of the blogger)

Anonymous said...

The figures looked more or less human. And they were engaged in religion. You could tell by the knives.

-- (Terry Pratchett, Small Gods)