Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

Title: The Name of the Rose
Author: Umberto Eco
ISBN: 0749397055
Publisher: Vintage/1998
Pages: 502

The Name of the Rose is the first novel by Umberto Eco. I have had it with me for a while now. But got around reading it only now. It is a fairly engrossing book after some pages. It is narrated in first person by a character named Adso of Melk, who has been taken from history. But this is a work of fiction which makes use of historical facts to a large extent.

It is based in an abbey run by Benedictines consisting of gardeners, cellarists, herbalists and young novices. A learned Franciscan, Brother William along with his disciple, Adso of Melk, is sent to investigate a unnatural death in the Abbey. While he is there trying to solve the mystery, we see more murders being commited and William is wholly embroiled in it all. He has great acumen and solves the mystery of the deaths. He has to decipher meanings from words, symbols, ideas, codes, signs etc.

This novel is based in and around a library which is more of labyrinth than anything else. It contains rare books and is jealously guarded by the librarian and the Abbot. Certain rooms are closed to the monks too. One can't enter those parts. Permission is not forthcoming either. It is not given to brother William who has come to imvestigate the murder. However, that does not stop him and Adso to find ways and means to enter it. Most intersting was how they finally find the ways to do it.

Now the question why are all those murders being committed? Which book/s is/are being so jealously guarded and by whom? Why is it so important to keep it away from prying eyes? What is the Abbot scared of? How does one define sin? Why shouldn't the secret vices of the monks be revealed? What is definition of lust? And many more question...

Solving the mystery is only part of it. Learning about history, philosophy and sciences along with arts of those times is but a bonus. It is also a political statement of those times. Very intriguing and filled with wisdom. A great book for all those who do serious reading.