Thursday, January 01, 2009

Book Review: "Postscript to The Name of the Rose"

My first book of 2009 (the first I've finished, anyway) is actually a re-read: Umberto Eco's Postscript to 'The Name of the Rose' (English translation by William Weaver, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984). In a series of short essays, Eco muses about authorship and model readers, the writing process, the inspirations for The Name of the Rose, and other such things. It is a revealing glimpse at the genesis of the great novel (one of my favorites) and at its creation and subsequent reception.

Eco's pithy comments about the interference of authors with their work are instructive: "Titles must muddle the reader's ideas, not regiment them" (p. 3); "The author should die once he has finished writing. So as not to trouble the path of the text" (p. 7). His admission that a much-commented upon exchange in the novel was inadvertent, with a William of Baskerville line inserted during the galley stage that creates a certain (fortuitous?) ambiguity in the text was interesting to learn, as was the ultimate cause for his writing the novel: "I felt like poisoning a monk" (p. 13). Since I'm a sucker for such things, I also enjoyed reading Eco's account of the research he did to "construct the world" of his medieval abbey (both in terms of its physical description, its chronology, and the voices he used to narrate the story), and his exposition of why he chose the detective story as the model plot for his tale (although, he admits, "this is a mystery where little is discovered and the detective is defeated").

The book ends with a pair of essays on post-modernism, which are clear enough even for those of us who tend to shy away from theoretical gobbledegook. Eco's wry wit and supreme self-confidence are on full display here (as in all of his works), so if you enjoy those, I suspect you'll be intrigued by the Postscript.

1 comment:

rasamalai said...

Hi there!
Would you happen to know if this work is available for download over the internet? (for free) And if so, where?
Thank you! I'd really like to read it :)