This hugely engaging story of murder, superstition, religious politics and drama in a medieval monastery was one of the most striking novels to appear in the 1980s. The Name of the Rose is a thrilling story enriched with period detail and laced with tongue-in-cheek allusions to fictional characters, the most striking of which is the Franciscan friar William of Baskerville, who displays many characteristics of Sherlock Holmes. Although he looks at the past through a postmodern lens, Eco catapults his listeners into the dark medieval world as Brother William tries to discover why people are dying inexplicably and nastily in the monastery. There is something not altogether right within the library that is the pride of the establishment.... The old man Adso, who was an impressionable novice at the time, tells the story.
©1980 Gruppo Editoriale Fabbri-Bompiani, Sonzongo, Etas S.p.A (P)2013 Naxos AudioBooks
Sensational.. ( in the truest sense of the word) Humbling. Illuminating.
Near the ending of this dense, labyrinth- like novel, the novice Adso, through whose now aged eyes we share the myriad incidents and and ancient tales, witnesses his Master and champion for what he in part is. William of Baskerville is a man full of his own vanity sparring with another man full of hubris in the literary, intellectual vastness of each other's intelligence. It is remarkably rare to have the privilege to share the sounds of the philosopher's sword clash repeatedly with the maniacal clang of a frenzied believer over a Thought or Notion. The stakes are terribly high, have always been and one hopes always will be. One man utterly believes that if the gravitas of Aristotle is accorded to Comedy and Laughter all fear and therefore power over others will be irretrievably lost. The other believes that all freedoms are ours to take and use, whatever the consequences. The feelings aroused by this purely spoken interchange ( one of many, many throughout the novel) are overpowering and as visceral as the ubiquitous visual equivalents,No car chases, no explosions, no overt body count. Yet what is being discussed is the power of words wherever they are uttered and the often dreadful but also so often empowering gift some other person' s words can bring to us.
Again I sought out this actor's name and again, when it intersected with an interest of mine ,I chose to listen to his performance. What a tour de force. His voice is redolent of a medieval, cosmopolitan milieu...ranging from youthful, Latin, mad and arrogantly intelligent monks to an aged but still insightful narrator. What sustained, remarkable skill.To think last week I was transported through the streets of contemporary Oslo in a police car with the voice of this Actor. That in itself is a testament to the marvels of free imagining and the remarkable freedoms available to some.
Yes. Umberto Eco deserves his scholarly place amongst the firmament of semiotic academics who manages to successfully link such disparate historical facts( or imaginative guesses), religious events, massive knowledge of ancient history and the vicissitudes of all of our human appetites to meld together chapter after chapter where we cannot but be involved. One is coaxed into terrifying mists, funny conversations, smelly kitchens and horrendous grief at monumental loss. It is a provocation on every page for testing one's acumen from remembering " the joke about.." from a " The Simpsons " episode, yes, remembering a long forgotten sexual encounter, yes, and trying to remember what the Latin for disappointment was, yes. To assist laughing and crying lay a Bible, a Latin dictionary, a guide to ancient History, a semiotic/ signs text, a guide to architecture..I won't go on..you get the picture..or a great technological device alongside whatever you are listening with if you want to wring the most out of this novel.Or just enjoy the mystery.
Listen to this novel if you want to remember why you read it and wept so many years ago. Listen to it if you really want to learn or remember things you learnt and had forgotten about History and how important elemental things remain in all our lives.It is a challenge but it is worth it.
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
The preface of Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose (1980) explains that "as an act of love" and "For sheer narrative pleasure gloriously lacking any relevance to our world today" (because "it is about books"), the "author" is publishing his "Italian version of an obscure neo-gothic French version of a seventeenth-century Latin edition of a work written in Latin by a German monk toward the end of the fourteenth century." (And the Italian version has been translated into English by William Weaver!)
The German Monk is Adso of Melk, who, as an old man wrote a chronicle about his time in 1327 as the novice disciple of the Franciscan Brother William of Baskerville, when the pair traveled to an Italian Benedictine abbey whose name must remain secret due to the terrible events that happened there. William was on a mission to represent the separation of church and state views of the Holy Roman Emperor Louis to the Papal legates of Pope John, as well as to try to arrange a meeting of the minds between the Franciscan monks who embraced the poverty of Christ and the Papal authorities who denied it (to avoid calling into question their great worldly possessions and powers). No sooner do William and Adso arrive at the abbey than they learn that a talented young illuminator has fallen to his death from a high window, and William, a former inquisitor (a post he resigned because he could no longer distinguish between heretics and holy men or stomach the use of torture to obtain confession), is asked by the Abbot to investigate. Thus begins a murder mystery lasting seven days and involving the abbey library (both the greatest in Christendom and a labyrinth), a dangerous book, the Apocalypse, and a motley set of monkish suspects.
In addition to being an absorbing mystery, The Name of the Rose is such a vivid and detailed historical novel that it becomes both an encyclopedic window into the past and a distorted mirror of the present. The ethos of the Catholic monks, how they felt about science, love, women, animals, infidels, class, authority, heresy, piety, art, books, the Word, the world, the hereafter, Christ, God, Satan, and the antichrist, is fascinating. They earnestly argued about things like the laughter and poverty or lack thereof of Jesus, and lived in a chaotic era marked by feuding Emperors and Popes, starving peasants, and ravening vagabonds. The abbey feels like a real place, including the Church, Dormitory, Infirmary, Stables, Smithy, and Aedificium (the building with library, scriptorium, kitchen, and crypt). While vividly depicting all of the above, the novel treats themes about epistemology, semiotics, truth, and love, and explores matters like the preservation, pursuit, and sharing of knowledge, the uses and abuses of fantasy, nonsense, and humor, and the difficult attempt to find design, pattern, and meaning in a world that possesses either many or none of such things.
William is a medieval Sherlock Holmes, hailing from Baskerville and sharing with the great detective a faith in deductive reasoning, intervals of torpor, occasional "drug" use, a tall and thin body, and a desire to find the truth by reading the world like a book. His deductive method is opposed to that of Catholic inquisitors, who use torture to prove the guilt of the accused. The relationship between William and Adso, his naïve and earnest Watson, is entertaining and moving. Adso feels hero-worship for his master, punctuated by moments of incomprehension or disappointment.
The novel is replete with great lines, from descriptions (as when Adso sees the "glabrous face" and "bony skull, to which the skin clung like that of a mummy preserved in milk," of the revered monk Ubertino and feels that "He resembled a maiden withered by premature death") to statements about books, life, and the world:
"Books speak of books."
"A dream is a scripture."
"Inquisitors create heretics."
"True love wants the good of the beloved."
"Formulating hypotheses made me nervous."
"Madmen and children always speak the truth."
"The devil is the arrogance of the spirit, faith never seized by doubt."
Adso, who believes that "There is nothing more wonderful than a list," lengthily lists infernal animals (manticores, vultures, octopi, incubi, etc.), rascals (cardsharps, tatterdemalions, false paralytics, pardoners, etc.), relics (lace from the Virgin Mary's wedding dress, a portion of the crown of thorns, a shred of the table cloth from the last supper, a piece of the manna that fell from heaven, etc.), and more. The lists pleasurably express William's belief that "the beauty of the cosmos derives not only from unity in variety, but also from variety in unity."
The novel is often quite funny, as when a lovesick Adso reads various erudite texts about his condition: "How can a young monk be healed of love?"
Sean Barrett reads the chronicle, Nicholas Rowe the preface, and Neville Jason the chapter titles and headings. All three are excellent. Barrett has the perfect voice for this kind of book, sensitive, scratchy, and flexible. He's particularly good with senile, holy, or evil old men, scary inquisitors, wise, humble, and humane men (like William), and innocent, easily inspired or crushed young men (like Adso). His Salvatore, the ex-vagabond monk who speaks the language of Babel, is inspired. The only drawbacks of the audiobook are that it lacks the useful map of the abbey provided in the physical book, and if you don't know Latin (like me) you might at times feel left out without the printed text to aid you.
People who want to read an expeditious history or a tight mystery might mutter, "Adso, get on with the story already!" But patient readers interested in fourteenth-century Europe and the history of the Church and open to the pleasures of words, images, signs, lists, and ideas, must enjoy this book. It made me slow down to savor everything and to delay the end for as long as possible.
Eclectic mixer of books of my youth and ones I always meant to read, but didn't.
This historical search for the lost Second Book of Aristotle and the murderer of seven monks follows a labyrinthine path, like the rooms of the library the monks have sworn to protect. Now, 30 years since it was first translated into English, the pace seems too slow for modern tastes (compared to, say, "Wolf Hall"). The amount of detail is comparable, if not in excess of other very good historical fiction, but the "care factor" is lower. I have commented before that I never though that I could like Cromwell until I read Wolf Hall. I'm afraid I simply have no care for the dead monks, or even William of Baskerville (whom I pictured as Sean Connery throughout, although the narrator, Adso, I saw as no Christian Slater; more a minion than a martyr). I found the tale too dense, the characters unappealing (even the ones that you suspect you're meant to dislike, like Bernado Gui, the inquisitor) and the discourses too frequent to maintain the pace of the investigation. That investigation takes seven days, but it took me considerably longer to listen to the whole title. None of this can be laid at the feet of Sean Barret, who performs the roles with dexterity and good character differentiation. I wanted to like this more than I did and I suspect I will be condemned as a Philistine for the overall rating, but it simply was not my cup of poison.
"If you liked the film don't read the book"
Too many Latin quotations that were not translated, I kept feeling I was missing something important.
"Atmospheric, Erudite & Eclectic - a Treasure"
Few audiobooks are 'better' than their analogue progenitors. But this audio version allows the listener to imagine a different landscape. Not 'better' but a very welcomed addition to my Eco library.
It is challenging - on one level a simple historical whodunnit, on another, a deeper investigation into the nature of knowledge, of assumption versus deliberation, of belief versus empirical study. And, it's long enough to really become absorbed within it. Plus, it introduced Eco to many non-Italian speakers for the first time.
Adso, the neophyte.
Some pages are best left unturned...
When, please, will we get Tim Curry's narration of 'Foucault's Pendulum'? Or any other reputable artiste? I have the cassette version from the early 1990s but would love a digital edition. Come on, please, Audible!
"Can't take any more"
Someone who doesn't mind listening to incredible detail about monastic orders.
Sean Barrett, as always, is superb.
This book is highly rated by many people, but it just isn't for me. It is so slow and ponderous it's agonising. I've stuck it out for 3 hours but I just can't take any more.
"a test of patience"
The narrator is no doubt chosen for his ability to rattle off Latin as a first language but his sucking of his gums or false teeth is very disconcerting.
I prefer unabridged books but found the extensive theological dissertations extremely trying and slowed the story down immensely
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