Foucault's Pendulum

by Umberto Eco

Hardcover, 1989

Call number




Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (1989), 641 pages


Bored with their work, three Milanese editors cook up "the Plan," a hoax that connects the medieval Knights Templar with other occult groups from ancient to modern times. This produces a map indicating the geographical point from which all the powers of the earth can be controlled-a point located in Paris, France, at Foucault's Pendulum. But in a fateful turn the joke becomes all too real, and when occult groups, including Satanists, get wind of the Plan, they go so far as to kill one of the editors in their quest to gain control of the earth. Orchestrating these and other diverse characters into his multilayered semiotic adventure, Eco has created a superb cerebral entertainment.

Media reviews

Umberto Eco has launched a novel that is even more intricate and absorbing than his international best seller The Name of the Rose. Unlike its predecessor, Foucault's Pendulum does not restrict its range of interests to monastic, medieval arcana. This time Eco's framework is vast -- capacious
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enough to embrace reams of ancient, abstruse writings and a host of contemporary references or allusions... True believers, skeptics, those waffling in between: all are in for a scarifying shock of recognition.
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4 more
You may call the book an intellectual triumph, if not a fictional one. No man should know so much. It is the work not of a literary man but of one who accepts the democracy of signs. .... To see what Mr. Eco is really getting at, the reader of his fiction or pseudofiction should consult his
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scholarly works, where observation and interpretation are not disguised as entertainment. I don't think ''Foucault's Pendulum'' is entertainment any more than was ''The Name of the Rose.'' It will appeal to readers who have a puritanical tinge - those who think they are vaguely sinning if they are having a good time with a book. To be informed, however, is holy.
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I doubt if we will see a more exhilarating novel published this year, and you don't have to take a reviewer's word for it: can 600,000 Italians be wrong?
U ovom delu Eko se lucidno podsmehnuo svim teorijama zavere od srednjeg veka do danas. Posle čitanja ovog romana sigurno je da će mnogi čitaoci pohrliti da obogate svoja saznanja o alhemiji, kabali i srednjovekovnim tajnim društvima. U ovom romanu Eko se lucidno podsmehnuo svim teorijama zavere
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od srednjeg veka do danas.
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U ovom delu Eko se lucidno podsmehnuo svim teorijama zavere od srednjeg veka do danas. Posle čitanja ovog romana sigurno je da će mnogi čitaoci pohrliti da obogate svoja saznanja o alhemiji, kabali i srednjovekovnim tajnim društvima. U ovom romanu Eko se lucidno podsmehnuo svim teorijama zavere
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od srednjeg veka do danas.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member MeditationesMartini
How delightful to see this referred to as "The Da Vinci Code for the thinking person," dismiss it as marketing blurbage, broadly suggestive at best, and then read and proceed to see it demonstrated with precision exactly how a novel called the Da Vinci Code would function - and in 1988, which
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unless you buy into the sort of reverse conspiratin' that Eco's funsters in Foucault's Pendulum purvey with their "Plan," really is a definitive win for Umberto, isn't it? He even manages to get in a dig at his future, foreseen adversary, when Casaubon is like "Yes, yes, Jesus and Mary Mag. 'Sbeen done." And then, once the Da Vinci portion of the Plan is revealed to the world by Brown, poor dupe, Eco can't resist the temptation to slip in the knife with a twinkle. "Dan Brown is a character in my novel Foucault's Pendulum." Or in the idiom, Dan Brown: UR DOIN IT WRONG.

I also love how you don't know - you're set up in the opposite way from the Dan Browns, where the arrogant representative of modern science or whatever is comeupped by the ancient mysteries which are O SO REAL; here, you're like, yes, erudite Eco is having fun in many languages for the dry satirical amusement of cultivated intellectuals like me (Burgess was right - to get the most out of this book you really have to be a polyglot with an index), and the conspiracy stuff is low culture via Barthes, and there is a point to be made about truth and postmodernism and slavery and freedom and the other Foucault, the book's non-namesake, but it would be declasse to make it" - but then, shocker, you actually buy in. you're like, oh crap, Umberto is actually telling a fantastical adventure story! Believe, crabbed self, and quickly, before anyone realizes you were taken in by the clearly marked skeptic's path! Excelsior!

And for once I will self-edit and not give away the ending, but of course it's not simple "it's real." It is something altogether more (real, and) poignant, and sad.
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LibraryThing member carolcarter
Foucault's Pendulum is one of my all time favorite books. I've read it three times now and it never ceases to thrill and make me laugh out loud. Eco is probably more well known for The Name of the Rose but I hated that book and have not been able to finish his more recent, Baudolino. Foucault is
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unlike either of those two. It is an intellectual romp in the genre that includes The DaVinci Code, The Eight, etc. Intellectual is the operative word here as there is really very little action except in the minds of the three protagonists (and the reader).

Structured like the Jewish Kabbaleh, the story is an occult phantasmagoria. In Milan three editors of scholarly publications, constantly having to sift through 'crackpot manuscripts' on all forms of occultism, decide to create their own 'plan' or conspiracy. They begin to feed bits and pieces of Templar myths, Rosicrucian plots, Grail legends, etc. into a computer and let it make deductions and connections. As time passes they come to include the Illuminati, Freemasonry, Bacon, Shakespeare, Dante, the Assassins, Marx and Engels, Cagliostro, Swedenborg, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and, of course, Hitler, among many others. Along the way Eco pokes fun at every conspiracy theory, religion, secret organization and the individuals who espouse them. "...but mystical subtractions and additions always come out the way you want." For example: "Thirty-six knights for each of the six places makes two hundred and sixteen, the digits of which add up to nine. And since there are six centuries, we can multiply two hundred and sixteen by six, which gives us one thousand two hundred and ninety-six, whose digits add up to eighteen, or three times six, or 666."

The numerology alone is hysterical but Eco goes further: "It's said that Porsena used electricity to free his realm from the presence of a frightful animal called Volt.' 'Which is why Alessandro Volta chose that exotic pseudomyn. Before, his name was simply Szmrszlyn Khraznapahwshkij.'"

The editors, Belbo, Causaubon and Diotallevi, are irreverent, mocking and derisive when visited by various authors who wish to publish their version of the secret. This secret is the same one that believers have pursued since the dawn of time the possession of which will make them King of the World. What the three don't realize is they are playing with fire. True believers will follow any new lead to its death or theirs. The three become slowly aware that characters from the legends are watching them for signs of esoteric information which only makes them work harder to include everything in their 'plan' and they succeed. "Because you don't see the connections. And you don't give due importance to the question that recurs twice: Who was married at the feast of Cana? Repetitions are magic keys. Of course, I've compiled; but compiling the truth is the initiate's right. Here is my interpretation: Jesus was not crucified, and for that reason the Templars denied the Crucifix. The legend of Joseph of Arimathea covers a deeper truth: Jesus, not the Grail, landed in France, among the cabalists of Provence. Jesus is the metaphor of the King of the World, the true founder of the Rosicrucians. And who landed with Jesus? His wife. In the Gospels why aren't we told who was married at Cana? It was the wedding of Jesus, and it was a wedding that could not be discussed, because the bride was a public sinner, Mary Magdalene. That's why, ever since, all the Illuminati from Simon Magus to Postel seek the principle of the eternal femine in a brothel. And Jesus, meanwhile, was the founder of the royal line of France." Dan Brown would have no problem understanding all of this. Foucault's Pendulum, however, was published in 1988.

As the 'plan' progresses it draws pretty much everyone and everything into it. It is possible, after all, to find esoteric connections everywhere and Eco doesn't let much escape his net. What our three editors do not understand is that 'everyone' wants their information be it legitimate or not. The seekers' only purpose is to search because they will never find what they are looking for and it is this perhaps which accounts for the eternal proliferation of secret societies and conspiracy theories. The search alone can consume you and it is a lot of fun besides. Which is just what this book is. A lot of fun intellectually.

Even at the third reading I needed to have a dictionary in the other hand and I have a massive vocabulary. I also researched many of the characters and events, but by no means all - the book is encyclopedic, and found every one to be factual. The amount of research Eco must have put in is enormous. I hope he had as much fun creating as we can have reading.
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LibraryThing member Joycepa
Nearly 20 years have elapsed between my first reading of this book and now. I had forgotten entire sections of the book, including the Brasilian segment, and had remembered primarily the main plot. However, it wasn’t very long when the most striking characteristic of the book—the staggering
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scholarship—became immediately evident. In effect, what Eco has written is, from a very narrow, biased point of view, the history of the History of the World.

To summarize the plot: three editors of a less-than-ethical publishing company that has decided to cash in on the current (in 1988) fad for the occult, are forced to read manuscripts written by fanatics filled with crackpot ideas of secret societies and exotic rituals that sooner or later are based on the story of the Knights Templar. Bored by their work and encouraged by the publisher, they decide to write their own history of the occult and invent connections between both famous and obscure societies and movements, starting practically from the beginning of civilization. This starts out as a game but becomes all too real in the minds of the senior editor and ends up in a surreal confrontation in the chamber of Foucault’s pendulum in the Conservatoire des Artes et Métiers in Paris near the site of the Temple of the Knights Templar.

That’s the plot. From this overarching theme, what follows is a book whose sections correspond to the Kabbalistic Tree of the Sefiroth. Every chapter has at its beginning a quotation from some book of alchemy (which up until the 17th century was science) or occultism. Given that there are 120 chapters (not accidental), that’s a staggering number of relevant quotations from books which are for the most part obscure. It’s one thing to quote Francis Bacon. It’s quite another to quote, say, Trithemius, who is not exactly a household name.

The sheer number of societies, religious sects, historical figures, movements, is just about overwhelming. What it meant for me is that I could not read this book in my normal fashion. I like to keep track of connections, like to follow the interconnectedness of things, love to discern patterns. But if I were to complete this book within my lifetime, I had to step away from all that and not worry about keeping track of the innumerable people, places, organizations, and events that move through the pages. That actually worked out well—by relaxing, I was able to retain more of the main threads (of which there are many).

Frankly, I’m not sure if this book could have been written much before it was. In 1988, computers were just coming into general use. I had one then; it was laughable compared to what is available now, but it gave one the ability to keep track of what had been up to then an unhandlable amount of information and even make connections among that data. A computer—Abulafia—is an important character in the story. Without a computer, I don’t see how Eco could have possibly kept track of the number of characters and events and how they intertwined.

When you get right down to it, with few exceptions, there is very little action in the novel until the end. Out of sheer necessity, Eco uses chapter after chapter of exposition in order to get the information across. Normally, this would be deadly boring. Instead, in his hands, you wind up reading about 10-12 books within the main storyline, all of them fascinating and downright exciting. Yet when you look at it, they’re simply one character in the book reciting a list of names and dates to some other characters. It works brilliantly.

There is one segment that is action, not exposition, and that is the Brasilian episode. Causabon, the protagonist who narrates the novel, follows a lover back to Brasil where he becomes an observer at rituals of the two major Afro-Brasilian religious sects, candomblé and umbanda. Eco’s descriptions of those events are exciting and as far as I know, right on. It’s one of the best parts of the book.

A bizarre but tremendously satisfying little detail: for those of us Harry Potter freaks, we know that in the first book, an important character is Nicolas Flamel, a famous alchemist who has lived, at that point, something like 667 years. Well, bravo to J.K. Rawling—Flamel is a historical figure who worked on creating a philosopher’s stone, and who did indeed have a wife named Perenelle!

Foucault’s Pendulum is a monumental work that I think can’t be totally appreciated in just one reading. Its appeal lays not in the resolution of the plot, which is more or less predictable, but in the way Eco handles the materia prima—all that wonderful, glorious dazzling display of history seen through a very narrowly focused lens.
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LibraryThing member jpporter
There may be something of a spoiler in what follows.

This is my first exposure to Umberto Eco, and it will not be my last. Eco writes an intelligent novel without holding his intellect over the reader - you do not feel like he is talking down at you, but simply telling a fascinating tale.

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Pendulum is another of those books that take on the challenge of the centuries-long conspiracy theory centering around the Knights Templar, the Rosicrucians, Caballism, etc. - along the lines of Dan Brown's DaVinci Code and numerous other books (both good and bad). Eco, however, seems to be the only author who takes his treatment seriously enough that it is well researched, plausibly constructed, and exhaustively explained.

The story centers on the attempt by three friends - Casaubon, Diotallevi and Belbo - who, while planning a project on the occult for the Publisher for whom they work, try playing a practical joke: taking all "facts" various sources have come up with about the Knights Templar, feeding the facts into a computer, then seeing what comes from all that when added to their own thoughts about "The Plan" (as they call it). Problem is, their Plan may be closer to the truth than they expect, and they may have gotten themselves into something they (ultimately) cannot get out of.

What is so great about Eco's treatment is how well-researched it is, how thoroughly explained it is, and how he is able to mingle some deep, scholarly, logical narrative with the elements essential to a very compelling thriller.

I was so caught up in his characters (especially Casaubon - the main narrator), that I found the ending of the book to be thoroughly devastating.

I also had to admire how Eco took the story to the only logical ending it could have. Some writers (Brown, for instance) place their characters on a pedestal, immune to the world around them. Eco's characters are treated the way real life treats people.

This is not a casual read, although one could skip over some of the more esoteric material and focus on the real plot itself. However, to skip over any pieces of Eco's work is to miss the entire point of the book's having been written. It may not be easy, but it is captivating, intelligent and rewarding.

Eco's works will easily go down in literary history as classics of their period.

This is a MUST READ.
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LibraryThing member ewalrath
Yes, I know, it starts with a quote in Hebrew and it took me two readings to understand what-all had happened. Read it anyway. This book is frosting-covered fudge brownies with marshmallow sauce for your intellect. Warning: Can induces intellectual snobbery, esp. regarding the various post-DaVinci
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Code popular works about Templars.
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LibraryThing member clydec
Difficult and pretentious, this book feels more like Eco is just trying to prove he has a bigger vocabulary than you. A wonderful book for exercising your dictionary.
LibraryThing member todd534
When people asked me what this was about, I would say something like, "It's sort of a cerebral version of The Da Vinci Code." And then I would think, "Christ, if I overheard anyone else saying that, I would hate him immediately." In the end, the description works better than any other one sentence
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I've come up with. Feel free to want to punch me, if that suits you. One big difference is that Eco's book doesn't suck. It is, at times, still a freewheeling romp. But instead of flagellants chasing people with guns, the action is in the form of people reinventing history. The action basically takes the form of people making fun of the same characters who Dan Brown attempts to make terrifying. Most importantly, though, Eco is a great writer. Every 10 or 15 pages there will be a whole paragraph that is so well put together it makes you giggle.For me, the middle of the book was a bit slow. I enjoyed the word games and twisting of history, but 400 pages of it is a lot. On plotting and execution of story, the book is a three. But I'm bumping it up one for the occasional sparkle of the writing.
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LibraryThing member lilithcat
It certainly held my interest, though I admit it took a bit to get into it.

Our narrator, Casaubon, is a doctoral student, preparing his dissertation on the Templars. His friends, Belbo and Diotallevi, work for a publisher who has a side business in vanity publishing. One day, a man calling himself
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Colonel Ardenti arrives with a manuscript, one in which he has, he says, decoded the truth about the Templars, a truth that says they are still extant, with a deep secret. Casaubon and the editors decide that they will prepare a manuscript of their own, on similar conspiratorial lines. They will gather up all sorts of bits from hermetic theories, Rosicrucianism, Brazilian voodoo, and any other odd ideas they can come up with, feed them all into a computer, and come up with a grand scheme. But it appears they may have accidentally stumbled upon the truth . . .

Complex, confusing, brilliant, intelligent, a splendid skewering of conspiracy theorists (I broke into loud laughter when, in the midst of medieval crusaders and Kabbalah, someone cries out, "I'a Cthulhu! I'a S'ha-t'n!") and an interesting mystery. Well worth the trouble.
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LibraryThing member reading_fox
Absolute rubbish. Very slow, stupid plot, that didn't go anywhere. Very glad to have finished such drival.
LibraryThing member otman
I challenged myself to read this book in its entirety, and I did. I can't honestly say I enjoyed it; I couldn't even tell you what it's about.
LibraryThing member ATechwreck
Interesting concept, but could have been told in half the pages.
LibraryThing member Drifter83
I often get sleepy when I read, but this book absolutely exhausted me. Every passage is a battle. I had to accept very early that I would simply not understand a number of the words and references. One of the back cover reviews called the book "encyclopedic" - I'd say that covers it pretty well.I
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do wish I knew more about Italian political history when reading this book. I don't think you need to be particularly well-versed in Templar mythology - a fair amount of context is given for that part of the story. Having some familiarity with Kabbalah was quite helpful. It is not necessary for following the plot, but takes a central role in establishing the framework for the novel and is never explained.With all that said, I really enjoyed "Foucault's Pendulum." I appreciate the layers of the plot - this is a story about three editors who create a conspiracy theory as a way to mock conspiracy theorists but get caught up in their own creation. As the reader, you also get drawn into this trap, and I often caught myself forgetting that it was a game. The semiotics angle is also very strong in this book, showing the leaps people make between symbols and associations.It took me maybe 80-100 pages to really get drawn in, but then I was hooked. I was fairly indifferent towards the narrator but really liked the development of Belbo's character. I thought this was a 5-star read for about 90% of the book - I was a little underwhelmed by the climax and end of the book. I don't know that it could have ended any other way, but it still left me feeling a bit unfulfilled.It's hard to recommend this book freely because it is such a struggle, but I imagine one day I will be returning for a second reading.
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LibraryThing member asciiphil
I liked The Name of the Rose, so when I saw Foucault's Pendulum at the bookstore, I decided to grab it. Unfortunately for me, it's a rather different sort of book than The Name of the Rose.

The Name of the Rose is essentially a detective story. It's set in medieval times and is told in a wonderfully
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baroque manner, but with all the descriptive flourishes pared away its story is relatively straightforward. Foucault's Pendulum is more of a surrealist book--the journey matters more than the destination, and the book's climax is just a single element in the tapestry of the narrative, a fact for which I was not completely prepared.

The pacing of the book is also rather slow, and not always in a good way. In, say, A Fire Upon the Deep, the pace is slow, but there's a feeling of grandness, of something gradually but inexorably building as the story progresses. I often felt that Foucault's Pendulum was dragging along without necessarily going anywhere, especially during the elaboration of the Plan, where the characters just keep piling details on details seemingly without end.

I should note that the edition I read had an annoying synopsis on the back cover. It claimed that the main characters put facts into a computer that drew connections between apparently disparate facts. In the book, those events don't take place until about two-thirds of the way in, and the actual details are somewhat different than those which the synopsis implies. At least it didn't completely give away things, like the summary text at the beginning of my copy of Archangel.

Spoilers below.

Again, Foucault's Pendulum is not a straightforward tale. Since I was expecting one, the ending came as something of a disappointment to me. Throughout the entire book, the narrator referenced the events of that night in terms that were filled with portent. When the book actually got around to describing it, I thought it very anticlimactic. There's the implication that the main characters have somehow divined something true, but the climax arrives and the reader is told, "No, sorry. It's all fake."

I suppose I should read it again in the right frame of mind, but it's really dense and I'm not sure the effort would be worth it. Goes on the "someday, if I get around to it" list.
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LibraryThing member jddunn
It’s the best book I’ve ever read about the intoxicating simultaneous joy and danger of ideas, and the rather frightful liberties we’re willing to take with reality in search of the reassurance of meaning and order. The desire to remake the world in the image of our ideals is a strong
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temptation, and it’s not something that is totally beyond our grasp, but is such wish-fulfillment advisable or humane? That’s the main problem that this book is trying to get at. It’s also a great cock and bull story and a veritable encyclopedia of human knowledge, both spurious and legitimate.
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LibraryThing member theokester
I picked this book up more than a decade ago. I started reading it once but couldn't get into it. When The DaVinci Code came out, somebody recommended this book to me as a "thinking man's DaVinci Code." And yet it still took me another 4-5 years to read it. I'm sad that it took me so long to
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finally get to this book.

The first thing I'll say is that this is an incredibly dense book. I'm generally a pretty fast reader. But with this book, my reading speed was generally cut at least in half either by the writing or by forcing myself to slow it down. There is just so much going on that this book truly requires more time spent on each page.

The high level story is actually fairly simplistic. To an extent I would almost simplify it and say that this is the story of what happens prior to the opening pages of the DaVinci Code novel...the book opens in a museum with our protagonist, Casaubon anxiously awaiting some midnight ritual that could result in death but then the next ~400+ pages are told in flashback to let us know how we got to this point. So where DaVinci Code starts with a ritualistic death in a museum and works to solve the mystery, Foucault starts with the musuem but then backtracks to show how we got there and (eventually) ends with the events in the museum.

The story involves a group of overly educated folks working together at a publishing house. As they receive a number of outlandish books about various conspiracy theories, they finally decide to create their own theory from their own knowledge and information as well as by piecing together bits from all of these other books. They create a very coherent plan that outlines centuries/millenia of plotting by Templars and other Holy Orders. Naturally, their plan comes too close to the truth (or does it?) and gets them all in trouble.

Interestingly, this basic synopsis was outlined on the back cover of the book. However, aside from the first few pages in the museum, it takes a few hundred pages before the group of people get together at the publishing house and start working on their own plan.

Instead of jumping right into the action and giving us an intense action-packed novel, the author provides us a "teaser" of the action to come (the museum) but then takes us back in time many years and allows us to follow the educational pattern that eventually provides the adequate knowledge to develop this intricate plan.

We follow Casaubon from Europe to South America and back again over decades. We relive his interesting experiences with different cults, mystics, and others. We're also taken on flashbacks as he talks with one of the other men, Belbo, about his childhood during World War II and there are numerous segments of psychological analysis of his experiences. Indeed, even though we are living the story through Casaubon's narration, there are a number of segments told from Belbo's point of view either as he spoke to Casaubon or as Casaubon reads some journal-type writing by Belbo.

So, the general story of this book is fairly simple and easy to follow. But the amount of information presented is staggering. It took me a number of chapters to get a feel for the narrative style but once I did, I found a lot of passages to be very humorous and witty.

Naturally I didn't have time or energy to go through and validate each of the various historical commentaries made by the characters. They were all presented with a great sense of authority. Indeed, part of the theme of the novel, at least from my perspective, is that readers SHOULD question what they're presented rather than just accepting it as fact. Furthermore, even if there is plenty of truth in what is presented, that doesn't necessarily mean that the end result is true.

Through the absurdity with which Casaubon and his friends develop "The Plan" and the further absurdity by which it is accepted, Eco seems to be presenting the argument that conspiracy theories and theorists are far to eager to jump at their desired solution rather than appropriately seeking out the true and logical answer. I especially loved a scene near the end of the book where Casaubon's girlfriend Lia reads "The Plan" and gives her own interpretation of their pieced together interpretation much more mundane and far less dangerous.

While it took me a long time to get into this book and a long time to finish it due to the density of reading....I really enjoyed this book. I loved hearing the various historical stories (true or not) and the interesting analysis of the motives and ideas of these various cults and groups. The action/adventure of the story was a lot of fun too, though in terms of page volume, that was definitely a very small portion of the overall work.

I certainly can't recommend it to everyone. But if you're a history buff, a conspiracy theory fan, a literary buff or just looking for a deep and thought provoking read (and you have the time and energy to invest in it), then definitely check this out.

3.5 out of 5 stars
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LibraryThing member crazybatcow
I hate to review/rate a book that I simply could not finish because, well, how can I rate a book that I didn't finish? But, on the other hand, I can slog through the toughest, dumbest and cheesiest books available, given enough time. I could not get through this one... I've discovered that boredom
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is one hurdle I can't overcome!

Nothing happens; the writing is thick; the conspiracy is slow developing. I put the book down and will not be picking it up again. There are too many books to be read to be wasting any time trudging through this one.
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LibraryThing member tole_lege
If nothing else, should be read for the fantatstic (in the high old sense) curriculum which includes "urban planning for gypsies" and "the art of splitting a hair four ways".
LibraryThing member Beatniq
I (half-jokingly) think of this novel as a pre-emptive strike against Dan Brown books and those who read them believing, wondering, and hoping that the stories within them are real.
Three men, the narrator Casaubon, Belbo and Diotallevi work for two sister publishing houses. One publishing
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legitimate texts and reference books; the other tricking vain amateur/tourist authors (SFAs – self-financing authors) into spending their savings on getting their ‘masterpiece’ into print.

The occult/hermetic ramblings of the SFAs (or diabolicals, as they come to be known) intersect with Casaubon’s academic specialisation and the trio embark on an ironic adventure: The Plan - to piece together the mystery of the Templars using the warped logic of the diabolicals.

Somewhere each man crosses a line and the project loses its humour. Diotellevi, always interested in the cabal and the magic of numbers, is stricken with cancer. Belbo is trapped in the straits of his relationship with Lorenza and the existential crises of his past which loom like shadows over his present. Casaubon meets Lia, who falls pregnant and perhaps he feels unnecessary or powerless in the face of her pregnancy and turns to the Plan for solace.

The three are not merely writing the Plan and mocking the ‘diabolicals’. They dishonestly believe in the Plan and in their mastery and superiority. They are like Aglie, a mysterious connoisseur of the occult, who uses the language of brotherhood but speaks from a tone of superiority. Aglie has intimate knowledge of occult beliefs but it is not clear that he shares them. At times he is cynical of the phenomena he researches, yet at others he is dismisses the cynicism of others as short-sighted and closed-minded. He explains that his position to the diabolicals is that of an initiate to a mystic – the initiate has “an intuitive comprehension of what reason cannot explain” having gone through a deep transformation process, acquiring superior abilities. But it is internal, humble, not for display, whereas a mystic is a slave, used by the initiate to observe the signs of secrets and forces.

As the story and Plan progress Aglie is revealed to be more sinister, powerful and determined than any of them realised.
Underlying the plot is a warning against reverse-engineering the multi-strands of history into a single linear narrative. It’s not clever. The three, in the footsteps of the diabolicals, use guesses, associations, analogies and circular logic to glue their story together.

As Lia castigates Casaubon when she learns of the Plan - “You’ve invented hair oil. I don’t like it. It’s a nasty joke” (p541).
They are selling something which sad, needy people will believe is true, despite its flawed logic and their own better judgement. They will want to believe it’s true – they want there to be a grand organising theme or plan to history, they want there to be an incredible, solvable mystery behind the universe, they want to be a part of something, to not be insignificant and anonymous; they want to be powerful.

The tension between fact and fiction, reason and fancy, credible and incredible is part of the novels strong allure. It appears in events, such as the gira ritual which affects Amparo. Eco is well researched and the quotes and excerpts so authoritative that many doubts and scepticisms I had were frequently bamboozled away in the complexity and tight, intertextual fabric of the Plan.

Unlike Brown, Eco is honest about his pretence. It is the characters who make the secret society real chasing what the reader knows (albeit waveringly) is a falsehood. He peppers the novel with clues – Belbo’s definition of cretins, fools, morons and lunatics; psuedo-scientific nonsense language used by Bramanti (necromantiam, medicinam adeptam, phyiognosis, hermetic zoology, psychometry, gymnosohy, onomancy, mercurial chemistry); Casuabon, named for a French Calvinist who studied Greek and proved the hermetic texts did not date from the time of Moses, but from 200-300AD; and ridiculous spectacles with robes, drums and incense. An occult setting is a brilliant place to plot a thriller. It is ready-made with excitement and intrigue, criss-crossed with magic, power and conspiracy. But no-one should finish Foucault’s Pendulum wondering whether it was all true. If they do, they've missed the point.
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LibraryThing member Jstefanlari
Sooo pretentious. Hated it from the word go. It's just Eco showing off. The trnsaltion is also very peculiar at times which doesn't help. I've been told "The Name of the Rose" is much beter, bt I can't quite bring yself to bothering with anything else by him for a long time after this dreadful tome.
LibraryThing member john257hopper
I'm really not sure what to make of this - is it a sublimely constructed masterpiece or meaningless drivel? Well, I have given up after ploughing through 40% of it. There are some interesting historical discussions and some amusing bits, but the whole is much less than the sum of these intermittent
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good parts, and the characters flat and didn't evoke any sympathy with me. Much of it reads like some vast brain dump of every cultural, religious and mystic reference the author could lay his hands on (that is, assuming those parts of it that don't mean anything to me have not just been made up by the author). I had made quite rapid progress with reading it (skimming a few parts) but then decided, in light of the vast number of other books on my TBR list, that I was simply not willing to spend any more of my life on it.
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LibraryThing member AuraNefertari
For the conspiracy theorist, philosopher, or historian who is secretly interested in the arcane and esoteric. This seems to be the research that Dan Brown never did.
LibraryThing member samlives2
At first only intrigued by the jacket cover description, I found that this book was so much more than just a mystery thriller. Granted, it starts out slowly and somewhat unclear, but I thought it was a nice change of pace from the ordinarily action-stuffed novels of today. This novel is filled with
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immensely descriptive detail when appropriate and references to historical events, figures, places, and books are on nearly every page. I loved the main theme of making connections, as it brought together so many different aspects of the world and placed them all into a single novel, into the Plan. While some may find the chapters spent entirely on explaining histories most likely unknown to the reader dull, I found the way in which Eco shared this information enriching. The characters, though not the most colorful or charming people in the world, remained true to life in my perspective, where not everyone has their shining moment of glory in the way they pictured it, and not everyone has the courage to face the truth.
For readers expecting a fantastical adventure centered around the Templars and a Plan to dominate the world, this is not the book for you, though it does have those aspects. Most of this novel is very reflective and comments heavily on the human need for religion and the search for truth, with the action primarily taking place at the end, and then from a spectator's standpoint.
Overall, this book can be very enriching and even eye-opening for someone who can sit down and read it thoroughly.

Note: Dictionaries, Wikipedia, and French/Latin dictionaries are very helpful at parts. You should keep them handy to get the full experience of this novel.
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LibraryThing member hugh_ashton
My sort of book: complex, erudite, witty and with more than a touch of philosophy to it. IMHO, the best of his books.
LibraryThing member LittleKnife
Don't read this book if you don't like your authors long-winded; don't read it if you find name-dropping, academic smugness and multiple languages irritating and definitely don't read it if you are bored of the Templars.
I however enjoyed every moment of it. Yes, it is pretentious - that is sort of
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the point, and additionally without those excessive amounts of learning and the endless cross-referencing the plot would fall apart and some of the subtler philosophical points would also fall by the wayside.

This book is about the creation of the mother of all conspiracy theories spanning centuries and a variety of civilisations by academic publishers. The ideas spin out of the control of their originators and teach the a few unexpected things.
The story reminds us a little bit about the connections we make in our everyday lives and our desire to attribute all sorts to a higher power. It is also a warning to academics about the nature of proof and documentary evidence.

The novel is packed full of facts and history. It has some brilliant quotable quotes and pithily puts forward important ideas but in general its too long. I recommend reading it fast so you dont get swamped and don't take it too seriously.
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LibraryThing member MyopicBookworm
I wasn't really sure what to expect. I was not encouraged by a long opening epigraph in Hebrew, which is simply a blatant announcement by an author that he has a certain kind of contempt for his readers. Uninspired by cabbalistic symbols, I found my heart sinking at the verbose and fact-heavy
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introduction of the Templars (along with their sidekicks, the Masons and the Rosicrucians), and sank even further when we got dragged out to Brazil for some candomble (which turned out to be a complete irrelevance). And I've read enough alchemical and Gnostic texts to know how thoroughly tedious that kind of thing can get. Fantasy occultism and esotericism can be entertaining, but the real thing is deadly dull, and this book is almost documentary in its representation of the crushingly boring crank. Nothing happens in this book for the first 150 pages, and it's another 100 pages before anything else happens, other than a lot of semi-Joycean drivel in need of a ruthless editor. The book is far too dense and overpowering to be effectively lifted by the occasional witty remark or pleasing intellectual joke. The journey is too much work for the eventual result, and even the journeying itself is not reward enough for the making of it. I think Eco is taking the piss, not only in mocking conspiracy theories, but in simultaneously taking his readers for a ride. It might have made a good novella.

MB 18-ii-2014
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