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Viewing Single Post From: Il cimitero di Praga
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Gran madrugador y amigo de la caza
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This novel is definitely better than Queen Loana, and although there were quite a few occasions when I got irritated with the story, I can confidently say that it was a deeply satisfying reading experience. There are a lot of illustrations, each of them bearing a caption with a passage from the novel a la 19th century chapbook novels. At first I was impressed by the mastery of the artist who was able to imitate so faithfully the style of the period drawings and etchings. As it turned out, all the illustrations are authentic, and most of them have been culled from Eco's personal archive. The interaction between the narrative and the imagery is one of the indisputable successes of the book.
The whole novel is a pastiche of sorts of the 19th century sensationalist roman-feuilleton. The events recounted to us are lurid, hair-raising, ridiculous, and unbelievable. The way it should be with a light sub-Dumas reading matter. But the thing is, most of them did take place, and there is only one character that has been invented: the rogue anti-hero Captain Simonini. (Although, as the narrator confesses, even he is a kind of collage of several historical personages.) Most of the issues discussed in The Prague Cemetery have already been dealt with in Foucault's Pendulum. It's as if Eco has taken one of the narrative strands of that juggernaut and refashioned it into a full-blooded novel. The reader will find here all the major preoccupations of the Italian writer: secret societies, conspiracy, occult knowledge and practices, forgery, mixed identities, amnesia, literature.
At one level The Prague Cemetery is about the emergence of the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion and as such is similar to what Danilo Kis has done in his short story The Book of Kings and Fools. At another level, Eco's novel can be viewed as yet another illustration to his interests as a semiotician and literary scholar, something he doesn't attempt to hide, to say the least. It is also a meticulously but unobtrusively researched guidebook to the fin-de-siecle France and its intellectual and political milieu complete with absinthe, salons, student revolts and exquisite food.
As for the main character, the forger Simonini is one of the most revolting characters you are going to meet. He deservedly belongs in the company of Gass's Professor Kohler, Littell's Maximilan Aue, and Roa Bastos' El Supremo.
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Il cimitero di Praga · Umberto Eco