Good and Evil in Story

The Name Of The Rose, by Umberto Eco – Part 2


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It’s sometimes difficult in the best novels to separate philosophy from literature. I think this is because their authors  (and you have to read a bit of literary theory to see how the two are commingled) seek, as in the storytelling of older ages, to give guidance via story. In this case, Eco has a philosophic point he wishes to make about the nature of good and evil, in its grandest manifestations. And what better way to do this than by examining a realistic – albeit exaggerated – abbey and its life, its ethos.


Eco takes the pose of perhaps a seventeenth-century novelist in speaking often to the reader. He also dwells, through Adso, on the story in narrative. But he’s modern enough to present the reader with some of the wittiest dialogue around, and to refrain, despite his emphasis on narrative, from keeping the reader at arm’s length. This is the work and skill of a master storyteller/novelist – one that transcends epoch and genre.


This is, of course, a European novel – Eco is Italian – and European readers don’t recoil at the tangents such writers present in their works. We Yanks prefer taut prose, both in narrative and dialogue, and have little patience with an author who doesn’t get down to business – and who won't stay there.

Despite such leanings, this reader views the book is a literary panorama – even though it takes place in only a few days and in the most specific of settings. Again, this testifies to the author’s skill as a writer. Even we fast-paced citizens of the Colonies have to appreciate the manner in which Eco unfolds his project – despite the hurdles he places before us as we read along.


My rating: 18 of 20 stars





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