Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Book Review: The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco

On the jacket:

Nineteenth-century Europe—from Turin to Palermo, to Prague, to Paris—abounds with the ghastly and the mysterious—The Jesuits who plot against the Freemasons, Freemasons, Carbonari and Mazzinians who strangle priests with their own intestines, a bow-legged arthritic Garibaldi, the Dreyfus affair, the makings of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the notorious forgery, that was to inspire Hitler in his creation of concentration camps, machinations by secret services in Piedmont, France, Russia, and Prussia, massacres during the Commune in Paris, where people eat mice, stabbings, befouled haunts for criminals who, among the fumes of absinthe, plan bombings and rebellions in the streets, false beards, false lawyers, false wills, an abbé who dies twice, a hysterical female Satanist, celebrants of black masses—gore enough to satisfy the worst in readers. 

Except for one detail. Apart from the protagonist, all of the characters in this novel existed and did what they did. The protagonist also does things that actually happened, except that many of these things were likely done by different people. But who knows—when you are dealing with secret services, double agents, traitorous officials and sinning priests, anything can happen. And does. 


This book has been translated from Italian to English by Richard Dixon. This was my first read of any book by Eco and it took me a while to settle in. Not because the book isn't good, but because it's a bit beyond what I normally read. Set in 19th century Europe, and it explores the conspiracies that surrounded the wars which were apparently doings of one man, Simone Simonini, a master forger. Simonini tries to regain his memory about all the happenings in the past and the book is written in flashbacks. 

The book will come across as a challenge, one thrown in by the author, compelling you to rack your brains and whatever other senses you can. Eco has claimed that the book is almost true, so keeping that in mind, the read becomes more interesting. Talking even a bit about the plot will require getting into it, in-depth and this including major spoilers. So, no can't do!

The Prague Cemetery is the kind of a book for which you don't need to read reviews, really. An interesting read, a very well-spun story, reading the book is one hell of an experience.

Rating: ****/5

[This review is for Random House India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

1 comment:

  1. I have read his Name of The Rose and it was very appealing. I have known people who have given up on Prague Cemetery but its good to know you read and liked it.


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