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Eco. Eco.

    Eco's The Prague Cemetery is a dismal book whose protagonist is a proud anti-semite, a forger of documents, a murderer, a despiser of women and idealists, a remorseless scoundrel by all counts, but one who possesses the faintly redeeming quality of a sensitive palate.
    To Eco's credit his "ugly" protagonist seems to have been invented purposefully to embody humanity's most sceptic attributes in a single character so that his interplay with Eco's favorite-themed historical events and philosophical movements might take on some, if only fictional, deeper meaning. Perhaps to say that, though this man could not exist, he stands as a marker for the multitude of evil men that must have played countless smaller but similar roles in order for history to unfold as it did. In this outing he has created the human form of "pure concentrated evil" rather than the lump form forund in the movie Time Bandits.
     I am not an Eco scholar by any means but I am fearless in asserting that in some ways Eco's works read together like a single palimpsest-- repeated, erased, and re-written themes. It is hardly a pun to say that nobody echoes Eco like Eco.
    I expected that near the end the protagonist would confess, in one of his multiple identities, to be Jewish himself. This did not occur. Perhaps it was intended to be ironic that even in his professed hatred he exemplified the Merchant of Venice far more than he realized.
    Both the intial setup of the story and the end of it are cleverly mediated through the first-person narrator who has suffered a loss of memory and is trying to discover his own identity even as the reader must do so through his written words.
    Of Eco's last book Numero Zero: it reads like the "treatment" version of the usual Eco novel, as though it were a sparse and undeveloped chapter of Foucault's Pendulm, but is focused rather on yellow journalism and the last days of Mussolini.
    (Spoiler) After the reader hears the plan put forth by the editor of a "fake" magazine to let it be known that he will expose the evils of the rich so that the rich will "buy him off"--  well, by then Eco's readers already know how well that will work out!
    I will miss Umberto Eco, and I have strong doubts that the empty places I left on my shelves for his future books can be equally filled by books from another.
Cydonia photo: ESA

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