I’ve blogged a couple of times already that I’ve been reading Umberto Eco’s “The Name of the Rose”. Well today on flight CO5 to Houston I completed it.
I said before that the high mediaeval historical content made it difficult to sort fictional characters and events from real. Few of the important doubts (people or artefacts) survive the final carnage (I’ll say no more) so it’s mostly pretty clear by the end.
In many ways it’s a formulaic who-dunnit detective story – Holmes & Watson, Poirot & Hastings, Morse & Lewis. All the usual ingredients – multiple heinous deeds, even more motives and suspects, reversals of fortune snatched from neat conclusions, staged set-pieces involving all the suspects, heavy-handed investigation by the authorities cutting across the hero’s informal sleuthing, wise sleuth whose inexperienced sidekick unwittingly uncovers the key clues, denouement scene with “conversation” to allow explanation of the plot. Of course The Rose is far more than that. A tale of good and evil on a fundamental (philosophical) scale – is there any right and wrong at all; what is truth anyway ?
There’s also a good dose of “follow the money” and “cherchez la femme”, though in the case of mediaeval monks you can read “femme” as any young flesh, novices being more freely available.
Apart from intending to be an educational insight into the machinations of the holy roman church at the time of the inquisitions – the hypocritical paranoia in the name of the infidels and the anti-christ in political pursuit of wealth and power – the book’s main theme is the suppression of doubt by the imposition of faith.
In fact, the suppression of Aristotle’s “Poetics” is at the core, and the idea that humour, jest, irony and rhetoric can contain a good deal more truth than any declarative decree, papal bull being the main target.
(PS – the church conflict between the Germans and the Italians, with the ironic Brits mediating couldn’t help but remind me of my own recent experience of the Dutch / Norwegian / British saga in data standards collaboration, about which I’ll say no more, in order to protect the innocent. Go read it guys, you know who you are.)
Anyway, I hope I haven’t given too much away. A thoroughly recommended read. Top 5, maybe even top 3, of my all-time best reads.