Der Name der Rose

by Umberto Eco

Other authorsBurkhart Kroeber (Translator)
Hardcover, 1987



Call number

IV 25480 N174





In 1327, finding his sensitive mission at an Italian abbey further complicated by seven bizarre deaths, Brother William of Baskerville turns detective.

Media reviews

35 livres cultes à lire au moins une fois dans sa vie
Quels sont les romans qu'il faut avoir lu absolument ? Un livre culte qui transcende, fait réfléchir, frissonner, rire ou pleurer… La littérature est indéniablement créatrice d’émotions. Si vous êtes adeptes des classiques, ces
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titres devraient vous plaire.
De temps en temps, il n'y a vraiment rien de mieux que de se poser devant un bon bouquin, et d'oublier un instant le monde réel. Mais si vous êtes une grosse lectrice ou un gros lecteur, et que vous avez épuisé le stock de votre bibliothèque personnelle, laissez-vous tenter par ces quelques classiques de la littérature.
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3 more
The Name of the Rose is a monumental exercise in mystification by a fun-loving scholar.
One may find some of the digressions a touch self-indulgent... yet be carried along by Mr. Eco's knowledge and narrative skills. And if at the end the solution strikes the reader as more edifying than plausible, he has already received ample compensation from a richly stocked and eminently
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civilized intelligence.
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The Jesuits didn’t exist in William of Baskerville’s time, but – learned in Aquinas and Aristotle and prepared to use the empirical techniques of Roger Bacon – William would make a very good English Jesuit. Although in orders, he lacks the rotundity, Wildean paradoxicality and compassion of
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Father Brown, but clearly Dr Eco knows his Chesterton. Theology and criminal detection go, for some reason, well together... I probably do not need to recommend this book to British readers. The impetus of foreign success should ensure a large readership here. Even Ulster rednecks, to say nothing of mild Anglicans who detest Christianity cooking with garlic, will feel comforted by this image of a secure age when there was an answer to everything, when small, walled society could be self-sufficient, and the only pollution was diabolic. Patriots will be pleased to find such a society in need of British pragmatism.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member theokester
The Name of the Rose was a wildly interesting read that I'm glad I finally got around to reading. From a high level, the book is the story of a monk and his young assistant (novice) investigating a string of murders in a monastery in the 13th century. However, giving a "high level" overview of this
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book is a little misleading because there is just so, so, so much going on with this book. I read Foucault's Pendulum last year and the nature of the research and depth of this book is similar, but overall Name of the Rose is more accessible and likely to find a wider audience than Foucault's Pendulum.

A quote from Eco indicated that the book has three primary ways to be read: First, to read just for the plot. Second, to be read from a historical standpoint and learn about the workings and debates of the medieval church. Third, to be read as an intertextual novel.

The book follows a monk, William of Baskerville, and his assistant, Adso, as they travel to a monastery for the purpose of participating in a debate on a piece of church doctrine (the poverty of Christ) which was causing unrest and dissension among the various monastic orders. This particular issue, and many of the other conversations among the monks, is based on true historical events. The attention to detail and accuracy is one of the many things that impressed me a lot about this book and about Eco's writing in general. Reading some of the commentary of the book, it's explained how Eco went about determining the setting, the year and even the time of year for the book based on keeping true to research and data. Furthermore, the nature of the elements he wanted to include "forced" Eco to set his novel in a different century than the one he was already proficiently studied in (I believe the article indicated that Eco was well studied in 14th Century history)...but in order to keep the novel accurate, he set the novel in a different year and thus had to do more research.

As I mentioned at the beginning, the main plot follows the investigations of William and Adso as they try to solve a string of grisly murders within the monastery. We're also taken alongside them in the debate and discussion about theology and, as a later part of the investigation, get to see the nature of a medieval Inquisition.

The intertextuality of the story stood out to me quickly as William and Adso approached the monastery at the beginning and William deduced the "mystery" of a lost horse and then explained his deductive reasoning to Adso. I was quickly reminded of Sherlock Holmes and Watson. Indeed, William's home (Baskerville) served as another tribute to Holmes. The format of the narration is also similar to the way Watson narrates the Holmes adventures. In a large degree, William and Adso are presented as a sort of medieval Sherlock and Watson. William is sometimes quirky and snarky but also has a very methodical deductive process that seems to get results.

Some of the other intertextual references were less obvious. I thought about a possible relation between Jorge of Burgos (one of the main monks) to the author Jorge Luis Borges. I haven't read enough of his work to see comparisons or tributes or anything, but in the commentary I read, it indicated that Eco definitely wanted to give a nod to Borges. There were a few other potential intertextual references that were less known to me, but also very interesting. The title of the book is apparently an intertextual reference to lines of a poem quoted at the very end of the book. I don't understand the full relationship, but it is an added element to shine on the depth of meticulous research that Eco uses in his writing.

Overall, I found that the depth and detail of the novel was very, very intriguing but it also slowed down my reading progress at times. Especially when the text explored the elements of theological elements such as the nature of heresy, the poverty of Christ, the relationship between the Pope and the Emperor, etc., I felt myself get bogged down a bit. Part of me wanted to skip over these moments...but a larger part of me was so interested that I plowed through, not always understanding, but always intrigued. Apart from these slower historical moments, there were also a few significant sections of the book that were similarly slowing to my progress...Adso's dream/vision/nightmare and Jorge's sermon. Each of these had elements that were important to the plot but were also somewhat heavy in historical and theological detail (albeit obscure and strange to a layman such as myself).

In spite of the slowdowns which made this book take a little longer to read, I really enjoyed the book in terms of all of the elements Eco mentioned...the story/plot itself, the intertextual elements and the historical/theological commentary. The book is a very interesting read and a very well crafted murder mystery with plenty of bizarre and intriguing twists and turns. Even though some of the historical/theological segments may be a bit daunting at times, I recommend taking the time to read this book.

4 out of 5 stars
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LibraryThing member dougwood57
It has been said that The Name of the Rose was one of the most purchased, most displayed, and least read bestsellers. This notion expressed a belief that at least more people wanted to be perceived as sophisticated enough to read the book than wanted to make the effort of reading it.

On one level,
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The Name of the Rose is a decent whodunit set in an isolated northern Italian medieval monastery. William of Baskerville is our Sherlock and Adso, his young assistant, is the unlearned neutral narrator (His neutrality is seemingly due to lack of sufficient understanding to put a sophisticated gloss on his reporting - but he is writing the story decades later.). Upon their arrival, the abbot asks William to investigate the death of one of the monks. As he does so, the bodies pile up, a number of potential suspects and motivations are suggested and then rejected as the suspects themselves become victims. (In that regard, William echoes TV detectives who come to solve one murder, fail to stop several more, but then compensate by solving them all. See, for example, Midsomer Murders - The Early Cases Collection).

Mixed in with the mystery, however, are discursions in semiotics, hermeneutics, biblical analysis, religious debate, literary theory, and medieval history. And what would a medieval mystery be without the inquisition?

The Name of the Rose is a ludicrously difficult book to read if one insists upon understanding everything that one is reading. The book has spawned at least two book-length scholarly analyses as well as a book dedicated to supplying Latin-to-English translations for the dozens (hundreds?) of Latin phrases as well an explanation of the philosophical and literary theories that Eco introduces. (The product description to The Key to The Name of the Rose: Including Translations of All Non-English Passages (Ann Arbor Paperbacks) promises: "an approachable, informative guide to the book and its setting--the middle ages. The Key includes an introduction to the book, the middle ages, Umberto Eco, and philosophical and literary theories; a useful chronology; and reference notes to historical people and events.").

The book has also generated many conflicting interpretations and evaluations of its merit. Eco himself felt compelled to write a Postscript several years after the book's publication. The postscript is helpful in figuring out what Eco was `really' up to. Eco describes a novel as "a machine for generating interpretations." The book's popular success so surprised Eco that he ponders "why the book was being read by people who surely could not like such `cultivated' books." (He concluded that the unsophisticated Adso made readers feel it was OK to not fully comprehend the book.). The Postscript is now included in many versions of the book and I recommend it. The Everyman version does not appear to have the postscript, but this older version does: The Name of the Rose.

Eco clearly enjoys parading his learning - and there is little doubt he is an extraordinarily learned man. What is one to make of his casual use of the most obscure words? (I sometimes suspected he was making up words.) Is he trying to make most us feel stupid? Or is he writing for a very select audience? Or is he urging us to extend our grasp? He explains in the Postscript that wanted readers to become fully immersed in the medieval world, but once past that initiation to become his "prey, or rather the prey of the text". An author who views his readers as prey is just a little weird.

Eco expended great effort studying medieval history and transcripts and the effort shows in most respects, but it was disconcerting to learn that he felt justified in having William spout "disguised quotations" from Wittgenstein (who lived some 450 years after the events of this book) because such things were what William *should* have said. Such intentionally misleading writing violates an implied pact between author and reader. However, I do not wish to make too much of what I perceive as a transgression. The book should be read, pondered, and re-read - or it should be chucked in the trash can in frustration over the umpteenth foreign language or otherwise impenetrable word, phrase, sentence, paragraph, or page. Both reactions are understandable. I suggest reading it first.
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LibraryThing member SamuelW
I have heard The Name of the Rose described as 'The Da Vinci Code written by somebody with brains'. The author of this description is not far wrong. While it may have all the elements of a typical Dan Brown novel, The Name of the Rose is infinitely deeper, richer and more thought-provoking. This
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really is the book that has everything – murder, action, religion, sex, philosophy, suspense, and even a dash of well-placed humour. Though it took me a while to read, it has challenged my reasoning, stretched my mind and extended my vocabulary. (I had to read it with a dictionary to properly understand it!)

The pace will probably infuriate all but the most patient readers at some point or other. Our narrator, Adso, feels that there is nothing more wonderful than a list, instrument of wondrous hypotyposis, but I found it difficult to share his passion. The first hundred-and-twenty pages or so are filled with too much description, too many lists and too much discourse for my liking. It was not until I had read nearly a third of the novel that it started to get really interesting - and even then, the 'interesting factor' continued to ebb and flow. Be warned: those who read The Name of the Rose simply as a mystery or thriller novel will be frustrated by the omnipresent philosophy. ("Why yes, Mr Eco, I would love to stop all the excitement for a fraternal debate on the poverty of Christ.") Instead, it should be read as a work of philosophy, where the mystery and thriller elements are simply the icing on the cake.

While the pace may cripple the excitement, however, it gives Eco plenty of time to paint vivid pictures of the abbey in the minds of his readers. The descriptive language in The Name of the Rose is always exceptional, and sometimes breathtaking. (Ironically, its brilliance is probably due in part to Adso's annoying list-making!) There are very few books that manage to capture the world of their story as perfectly as this one does. Truly, Eco is a literary master.

It may be hard to read at times, but for those willing to turn the pages, the experience is well worth the effort. This is one book that I won't easily forget.
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LibraryThing member Clara53
I was torn between superb story-telling (from the author who claimed my respect in "Prague Cemetery") and my tepid interest in the type of characters in this historical novel, namely Christian monks of middle ages, and their problems. But the intricate plot, two inquisitive and bright protagonists
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(a master and a young novice monk) and the engaging narrative have won, and after 500 pages of the book, I went on to read The Postscript, where the title of the novel is tackled, along with other interesting issues, like how the author "furnished the world" for his historical novel, etc. Defending his choice of the title, Eco says: "A narrator should not supply interpretation of his work, otherwise he would not have written a novel, which is a machine for generating interpretations", and "A title must muddle the reader's ideas, not regiment them" - while the slight hint of the title is only at the very end of the book.

I can't help but offer a quote from the book (it comes in the first pages, and keep in mind - the time is late 1300s when the narrator, now a very aged monk, writes his story about events in 1327 when he was a young novice monk):

"In the past men were handsome and great (now they are children and dwarfs), but this is merely one of the many facts that demonstrate the disaster of an aging world. The young no longer want to study anything, learning is in decline, the whole world walks on its head, blind men lead others equally blind and cause them to plunge into the abyss, birds leave the nest before they can fly, the jackass plays the lyre, oxen dance. Mary no longer loves the contemplative life and Martha no longer loves the active life, Leah is sterile, Rachel has a carnal eye, Cato visits brothers, Lucretius becomes a woman. Everything is on the wrong path. In those days, thank God, I acquired from my master the desire to learn adn a sense of the straight way, which remains even when the path is tortuous."

And, just for fun: "He had perhaps seen fifty springs, and was therefore already very old...."
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LibraryThing member danconsiglio
The best thing about reading is that sometimes you put down an exciting murder mystery and realize that you've also just read a compelling dissertation on the nature of human understanding of history and the limits of faith and logic in an only partially rational world.
LibraryThing member Wereon
I struggle to see quite why this book is so popular. Is it a case of the Emperor's New Clothes - are people assuming that just because the novel is hard-going, it must be a "good book"?
I'm interested in the Church and the Middle Ages, and have a guilty fondness for Latin, yet I still found this
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book one of the worst I have ever read. It's full of impenetrable digressions and endless lists; one could quite happily halve the book's considerable length without anybody complaining. Eco needs to learn the virtues of brevity.
Nor does the plot hold water. All that fuss, over Aristotle's Poetics...! The explanation within the narrative seems almost apologetic, as if Eco himself realizes it doesn't quite make sense.

Really, rather than read this dross pick up C. J. Sansom's Dissolution. Its premise is near-identical, but the book is an order of magnitude better.
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LibraryThing member iayork
Works on several levels: After 263 reviews, what else can I say?

Don't let the poor film adaptation fool you. It works so well on so many levels.
* Detective story. Its a traditional (and very good) Sherlock Holmes-type murder mystery. The setting is colorful and unusual.

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Philosophical/theological/historical treatise. Eco is a world-class authority on Medievel theology. His academic book on Aquinas is a classic, for example. He knows his stuff and is able to give the readers all kinds of things to puzzle over: the poverty of Jesus; the history of the papacy; implications of William of Occam, etc. Eco's atheism shows through subtly, but is an interesting challenge to the believing reader.
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LibraryThing member NeverStopTrying
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco is, at the most simple level, the story of a medieval Franciscan Sherlock and his Dominican Watson setting out to solve a series of murders at an Italian monastery. These murders center on a mysterious library and a missing book. Eco makes use of an incredible
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vocabulary; I kept thinking that finding the necessary English words must have been an extended treasure hunt for his translator. Eco also uses language to create strong, complex, overwhelming visual effects, conveying powerfully the art and architecture of the place and the intense impact they had on his assistant.

The actual, so to speak “factual” ending of the story made me angry. Anyone who knows the ending can imagine why I would be upset. I was also angry because I felt I had been “had”. Eco had completely tricked me regarding the storyline he actually intended. Now that I have recovered my aplomb, I am amused and still shaking my head at Eco’s cleverness and at the extent to which the book I read had been my own creation. The material was there but the focus was my own. It will be interesting to go back and read TNOTR again sometime, knowing what I now know about it.

I think it would be hard to read this book just for the mystery story, as there is just too much else going on. Having read it, I am strongly tempted to tackle his others, but cautiously.
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LibraryThing member Miguelnunonave
A fantastic historical fiction, an intelectually-stimulating book, an incredibly researched piece of literature. It takes courage to set a murder mystery in a convent in the Middle Ages. The cultural digressions are sometimes tedious, though. Surprisingly dark passages too. The sucess seems to have
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opened the doors to an endless array of (not so good, not so careful) historical fiction novels ever since.
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LibraryThing member threadnsong
Where do I begin? This book is dense and multi-faceted, and worth every hour and brain cell and glimpse into post-Templar monastic life. The mystery is more relevant in the film adaptation, while the mystery of the Labyrinth and the conflicts between the different Orders are the main part of the
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Set "somewhere" in Italy in 1327 and written by the aged Adso, he recounts his journeys as a young man with his master, William of Baskerville, to solve a suicide (later two, later three murders) within a Franciscan monastery. William must also argue for a monk, Michael, who is shortly to journey to the Pope in Avignon to argue for the sanctity of the poverty of Christ. Arguments against the Benedictines, who hold that the Church should be rich in material things.

I don't profess to understand, or sometimes even follow, the various power-plays between the sects of Franciscans, Benedictines, Cluniacs, Minorites, and other monastic orders, except in the broadest possible scope. What I did find fascinating was the animosity between the Pope and the Holy Roman Emporer and how each side vied to gain the upper hand. And how, sadly, the ruthless Inquisitor Bernard Gui wins the unconscionable arguments.

While re-reading this I found my original pen drawing of the labyrinth, with its towers and openings and polygon sides. The search that William and Adso make of the labyrinth-library is meticulous and leads me to wonder if such a building ever existed. Just like the Library of Alexandria, all of the forever-lost learning is a central tragedy. As is the treatment of the poor, illiterate peasant girl and condemnation of so-called heretics.

A brilliant work by a brilliant mind.
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LibraryThing member Luli81
The greatest thriller of all times. Please, don't lose your time with "Da Vincis Codes" and these stuff, read this book and you won't regret it.
LibraryThing member antao
"Stat Rosa pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemus"

In "The Name of the Rose" by Umberto Eco

As a novelist Eco blends the style of Arthur Conan Doyle with that of Cervantes in a most intellectually entertaining way but with surprising heart, also. It makes me keen to explore the labyrinth of his
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philosophy, which seems to exist in a realm of its own immune from the tedium and drudgery of most contemporary attempts at philosophy. Do you remember pictures in which you can see a nice girls or an old woman depending on the prospective you are using: What I like of Umberto Eco's books is the indeterminate aspects of described situations which often are a surprise for readers. You can never predict how the story will develop and this is true for his first "The Name of the Rose" and his last "Numero Zero" book. “The Name of the Rose” contains a Latin sentence: Stat rosa pristina nomine: Does this mean that the rose existed before the name was given or that before the name a rose was present? Dense in the most wonderful way but, with Eco being what he was, you don't feel it is at all pretentious; I prefer savouring and pondering some of his sentences for minutes on end before moving on to the next. It's pretty clear that's what he did when writing it. The film was entertaining as a murder mystery but, precisely because of that, probably diverted most viewers away from what the ex-Catholic Eco was actually saying.

Umberto Eco invented the medieval mystery genre; and knew that 'modern' people have always been around; and that there were no 'medieval' or 'other' ones. He was a medieval scholar as well as a semiologist who I saw speak, on the subject of names for colours and any cultural difference there might be in this. In fact he spoke about translation and used this, and the translations of some of his works, as an example of what might be lost or not in translation from one cultural situation to another.

The book will last also because of its sense of a common humanity and an understanding of the petty jealousies and shortcomings of academic, sorry monastic life. Perhaps it's a sort of displaced campus novel, like David Lodge or Malcolm Bradbury. It also shows how academic studies can have a popular effect; and “The Name of a Rose” film, not like the book really, also contains his sense that it is tragedy that knowledge can lost in its transmission but also comedy in the way that through scholarly inquiry, and also effort and luck, much can be regained.

There is so much that can be gained when we look at 'reality' and received 'truth' in a new or fresh way. This is an avant-garde element of his thinking which was not of the left or radical like that but very liberal in the sense of libertarian. From a sceptical and erudite medievalist and thinker came a great and popular work that is Italian in its fable-like elements but also European. His leading character in the "Name of the Rose" is also English and he was an Anglophile.

Coming back to the last sentence is "Stat Rosa pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemus" (The first sentence of the actual narrative is as banal as it gets: "Era una bella mattina di fine Novembre." The first sentence of the Prologue is "I principio era il Verbo e il Verbo era presso Dio", i.e., identical with the opening of St. John's gospel!) It is by now well known that that final sentence is a quote from De contemptu mundi by Bernard of Cluny/Morlaix/Morlay. Of course the rose exists before the name is given, but the sentence more or less explicitly states that names remain after the referents have ceased to exist. It is of course open to further interpretation.

This great populariser of philosophical thought was always in search of a truth behind the appearance of things, just like his detective protagonist William Baskerville. This idea, his writing affirms, will last.

NB: One of my favourite statements by Eco (roughly formulated from memory) is that when critics objected that certain passages in "The Name of the Rose" were completely anachronistic, i.e., out of keeping with medieval sensibilities and attitudes, in almost each case the passages they cited were ones he had translated word for word from authentic medieval sources. Unlike the critics, who only knew the popular, simplistic view of the middle ages, Eco knew all the nooks and crannies of medieval culture.
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LibraryThing member Zathras86
This is one of the rare mystery novels out there that manages to be more than just a "whodunit." Mysteries, which come with the ready-made plot arc of crime/investigation/solution, often fail to give the reader much more than that, dressed up with a few different characters or a different setting.
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In Eco's book we get not only a decently plotted murder mystery , but also a close look at life in a medieval European abbey, plus an examination of the nature of books, of knowledge, of language, and ultimately of humanity. If that sounds like a lot, well, the book weighs in at about five hundred pages, so there's plenty of room for it.

The actual mystery is not anything to write home about, nor does it suffice by itself to keep the reader turning the pages. What makes this book a masterpiece is the way it steeps you in the fascinating world of the medieval monks, and places you inside the heads of people who look at the world so very differently than we do today - but still, by and large, are very much like us. I'm not sure about the accuracy of the details of the larger historical plot, but they fit in with what I do know about the period, and I think Eco generally has a pretty good record on that score.

I thoroughly enjoyed picking up on the subtle (and occasionally unsubtle) references to Sherlock Holmes that Eco makes in describing William of Baskerville's character and behavior. William is a little bit of an anachronism but not overtly; his beliefs and way of thinking are rather modern, but Eco provides sufficient evidence that he arrived at that mindset from available medieval literature and experiences, so we buy it and move on.

If you have no interest in history or theology, and aren't interested in a relatively slow-paced immersion in the historical world and mindset of medieval Catholic monks, you might find this novel too slow or too boring for your tastes. It's definitely not a quick beach-read mystery. On the other hand, if you like historical fiction, this is a gem of that genre; if you want a book that will entertain you while making you think, and which you can't finish in one sitting, this one's for you. Ultimately, the final revelation is less about the identity of the criminal, but the nature of crime, and I'm going to be pondering the theological/philosophical implications of the ending for a few days at least. I fully expect this book to stand up to a re-read in a year or so.
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LibraryThing member Mdshrk1
William of Baskerville, an ex-Inquisitor, goes to an Italian monastery, finds murder, heresy, and one of the best libraries of its time. I like this book more for the insights it gives into Catholicism, than for the mystery, though the mystery is excellent. Eco's philosophical insights into
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religion, books, and words make this a compelling read.
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LibraryThing member roblong
Further evidence that Catholics (lapsed or otherwise) write the best novels. As well as a compelling mystery this is as fine an evocation of another world (medieval Europe is much further removed from us now than any science-fiction fantasy) as I have ever read. For much of the time the novel feels
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like the monastery in which it takes place: a supposed oasis of calm and studied learning, infested and eventually overwhelmed by a lunatic and chaotic world of millennial cults, inquisitions and internecine accusations of heresy. When the mystery was resolved I feared the ending might fall flat but not at all, this is fascinating and challenging to the last.
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LibraryThing member MrsLee
Set in the 1300s in an Italian monastery, The Name of the Rose is a mystery revolving around missing manuscripts, convoluted relationships and theological debates. William of Baskerville sets out to find the culprit who seems to be killing a monk for every judgment day listed in the Apocalypse. His
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helper, the novice Adso, narrates this tale from memory. Adso is a young man, just forming his theological ideas and beliefs, and finding them being stretched and challenged by the events happening around him.

I enjoyed this book, the mystery was keen, the theology interesting, and the history revealing. I must say though, that while I enjoyed much of the talk between William and Adso, some of the other characters did go on a bit. It is a very long, slow paced book, and I found myself skimming some of the long lists of details and arguments near the end. I became impatient to get on with the mystery.
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LibraryThing member bartt95
I give this novel 4 stars, even though it is one of the best novels I have ever layed my hands on. It would have gotten 5 stars if I had connected more to the sentiments and ideas revealed by the characters, even though both Adso and William became dear to me throughout my reading. Perhaps my lack
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of faith in a god created a veil through which I read, creating a prejudice in me that is hard to overcome.

Perhaps that says more of my usage of the Goodreads stars, and not that much about what I actually thought of the novel, which I will shortly explain.

This book is a true masterwork of literary story-telling, it is superb in its use of pace, and the historical accuracy mixed up with a fictional account of the tale makes it truly worth your time. Eco can write economically if required, but he also crafted some of the most vivid, captivating sentences and passages that I have ever read. All in all, a novel that I will re-read at an older age, simply because there is so much to it that I could not have possibly grasped in my first reading, at my current age.
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LibraryThing member Eric_the_Hamster
As well as being a great piece of historical fiction, this is also a classic "whodunnit". Some pretty harrowing descriptions of the sort of persecution perpetrated by the Medieval European church.
LibraryThing member greeniezona
This is another book that had been languishing on my shelves for a very long time. I liked the movie ages ago, and one of my best college friends is obsessed with Eco, so I'd bought a few books and have been moving them house to house forever. I'd tried to read this one before, too, but I don't
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know how many pages of church history and architecture I made it through before I gave up. Have you ever heard anyone say Moby Dick would be a fine book if it weren't for all the damn whaling? Well, I felt this way about this book and church history. But I needed a book for book bingo that was over 500 pages, and this is also on the bookslut 100, so I persevered.

Of course, like the whaling in Moby Dick, it turns out all the church history was important to the book's plot. I just wish I had more hooks to hang it all on in my brain -- so many factions, so many unfamiliar names. I muddled through. But whatever details I missed, it ended up being a great framework for discussing big moral questions -- poverty and wealth, knowledge and who gets to have it, humility, humor, awe.

The experience of reading this book was damaged for me by my partial memories of the movie. I remembered part of the final resolution, but only a small part, so the whole way though I was struggling to make that part fit in with the unfolding mystery at the abbey -- the increasing body count, the hidden heretics, the prophecies of end times.

The more you read of any kind of church history, the more you realize how little of it changes. It must be the human condition. We're always dividing ourselves up and saying we have the true belief and you are infidels. But as much as it is unchanging, I am grateful that we've left some things behind. Like, you know, the Inquisition, and burning people at the stake.

It was very good. Maybe someday I'll give that other Eco book that's been sitting on my shelves forever a try.
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LibraryThing member Lisuebie
Eco's writing stems from the head and less from keen observation or love of words.

So, this mystery is full of information, puzzles, surprises, ideas. It is an intellectual pleasure to read.
LibraryThing member Stbalbach
This will be a difficult novel for anyone that does not have an academic background in the Middle Ages. Luckily, I have spent the past 3 years preparing with excellent surveys such as Norman Cantor (The Civilization of the Middle Ages), Joseph Strayer (The Middle Ages, 395-1500) and Morris Bishop
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(The Middle Ages). There is hardly a sentence that does not connect with a scholarly topic on the Middle Ages, which should come as no surprise as Eco was foremost a medieval scholar before he wrote this his first novel. The first 100 pages of the novel are like reading a medieval manuscript, trying to piece together what is known of Medieval history and figuring out what Eco is talking about, not unlike what happens with the characters in the novel. With that said, the novel can still be enjoyed by anyone without a medieval history background because of the excellent plot and Gothic atmosphere. The novel needs extensive annotations to fully appreciate (such as The Key to The Name of the Rose, although I found it lacking in many ways).

'Rose' works on many layers and can be approached from many perspectives. It's impossible to cover all the permutations in a single reading, indeed I have read it only once primarily a "reading for the plot" to understand the sequence of events. The movie helps in this regard, although it has some substantial "Hollywood" changes at the end and is much less subtle and interesting - recommend reading the novel first.

Most valuable for me was Eco brought to life the Guelphs vs Ghibellines dispute in color, shape and form that only fiction can achieve. It's the difference between intellectually understanding history versus emotionally experiencing, and for this alone the novel is priceless, the best of what historical fiction can achieve.
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LibraryThing member AlisonY
I have to admit I was a bit reluctant to pick this title off my TBR shelf. Somewhere along the way I'd gathered that it's not the most straightforward of reads, and I wasn't sure if the setting of a 14th century Italian abbey and divisions within the Catholic church would grab me enough to keep me
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ploughing through the more challenging sections. I am, however, delighted to have found this a really worthwhile and enjoyable read.

A young novice monk named Adso accompanies his mentor, Brother William of Baskerville, to an Italian abbey famous throughout Christendom for its superlative library. Here, William will be attending a theological meeting to discuss two contentious points which have been splitting orders within the Catholic Church, namely whether Christ was poor or not and whether the pope or the Holy Roman Emperor should hold political authority in Europe. Upon arriving, the abbott tells the visitors about the recent tragedy of a young monk falling to his death from a tower at the abbey, and as William was previously an inquisitor he is asked to discretely investigate how the death occurred so the matter can be quietly put to bed before the controversial delegation arrives. In the week that is to follow more suspicious deaths occur amongst the monks, and the young novice has the learning experience of a lifetime as he observes Brother William's enhanced powers of deduction as he deciphers the secret codes and symbols of the library to find the root of the malevolence within the abbey.

This is exactly the type of subject matter I would run a mile from in a book, so I was surprised at how quickly I became hooked by the story. The setting of the ancient abbey in the Middle Ages was a superb backdrop for the "whodunnit" aspect of the plot, and with a complex cast of pious characters it wasn't obvious who the perpetrator was until close to the end. The famed library of the abbey was so mysterious it almost became a character in its own right, and I thoroughly enjoyed the many scenes that took place within it.

Heavily woven into the story are the themes of the interpretation of signs and the political fallouts within the orders within the Catholic church at that time. Eco was a professor of semiotics, and I would argue that in some passages he loses himself in the joys of his own academic specialism to the detriment of the reading experience for the average reader who may not share the same depth of joy and understanding of this complex area. Similarly, I glazed over a little as some parts of the religious divides were expounded in much lengthier detail than I needed (or wanted). However, in fairness this was the exception rather than the norm, and although The Name of the Rose required close reading to keep track with everything that was going on, I found it hugely interesting and galloped through it accordingly at a fair pace.

4 stars - a book richly rewarding in so many ways. Dropping half a star for the sections in which Eco got carried away with his own ego, and spoilt by Mantel's Cromwell trilogy I really wish the publishers had created a similar list of who's who at the beginning of this novel as the cast of characters and religious political persuasions got complicated at times.
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LibraryThing member leforestiere
The film was good. but the book is better.
LibraryThing member stillbeing
I *finally* staggered through this one. An interesting read, but terribly, terribly dense and the monk-speak, although in character, does grate after a while. There was just enough mystery, intruige and wisdom in there to keep me from giving up, but I felt some of the plot devices were too
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convenient or just unnecessary and the characters diverged into philosophising too often, which broke the flow of action too much. That said, there was some fantastic imagery in there and it prompted me to have a really twisted dream after reading too late into the night, so that was fun.
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LibraryThing member P_S_Patrick
I've read three books by this author before, and would rank two of them among my favourite novels, perhaps along with this one, I have not yet decided. This being his most well know title, I was perhaps unreasonably expecting it to be his best; I don't think it is, though it comes close. The plot
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is pretty good, and anyone interested in medieval life and books should be fascinated, or at least moderately interested, while fans of (murder) mysteries have plenty here to enjoy too; I cannot think of a better example of how these genres should be done than here. Readers not accustomed to Eco's style may find it a bit hard going, though fans of his who have read Foucault's pendulum should find it comparatively easy. As with his other stories there is a focus on theology, philosophy, and general scholarly things, which may not be to everyone's taste, but which many like me enjoy. It would be easy to become confused with some of this if you were not already familiar with it, especially where some of the dialogue is composed of a mixture of languages, (I'm sure he did this one or two of his other stories too), which is unintelligible those who do not know at least a bit of the languages, which can include French, German, Spanish, and Latin, if I remember correctly, though most of the non-English bits are in Latin, potential readers should not be put off by this as the book as a whole is quite intelligible if none of these languages are known. For all this though, it can be a page turner at times, and in places is quite exciting, even if some passages proceed at a slower pace. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book to those interested in the genre, but I think that the Island of The Day Before would perhaps feel more accessible to those not too interested in the subject matter of this book, who wanted to try a novel by Eco.
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