Book Review – Baudolino by Umberto Eco

Don’t expect the earthquake power of The Name of the Rose in this one.  Don’t even expect the addictive confusion of Foucault’s Pendulum.  Umberto Eco never does the same job twice.  After he’s done it once it doesn’t need doing again.  Even though the reader-heart might hunger, grovel and beg.

So the monastic whodunit, the Dante-esque tour through a maze of mist and myth are replaced by the subtle, savage Eco wit, a God’s Little Acre fantasy, and inevitable, once again, awe.  Where the hell does a writer such as Eco come from?  Why can’t I create characters, plots, webs of credible craziness to challenge dreams and nightmares?

For instance, near the time of the 4th Crusade sack of Constantinople:

“[I] told the whole story to my father Galiaudo who said you big booby getting mixed up with sieges and the like one of these days you’ll get a pike up your ass that stuff is all for the lords and masters so let them stew in their own juice because we have the cows to worry about and we’re serious folk forget about Frederick, first he comes then he goes then he comes back and it adds up to fuckall.”

Yeah, we’re talking the 4th Crusade.  It ain’t enough Baudolino, a peasant lad, befriends Frederick Barbarossa, gets himself adopted and sent off to Paris for schooling.  Eco’s not going to be satisfied until he can rain it down knee-deep.  He sends Baudolino off searching for Prester John, where plots, characters and settings have some elbow room.

Gargantua and Pentagruel, by Umberto Eco, more-or-less.  If you can’t laugh until you cry reading Rabelais, you’d best stay-the-hell away from Baudolino.  But if, on the other hand, you can, if you’ve done it so many times you roar when you notice Gargantua on the bookshelf, you need Baudolino.   And quite possibly some professional help.

A damned good book.  A keeper.

Old Jules

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8 responses to “Book Review – Baudolino by Umberto Eco

  1. Thanks for the recommendation. I’ve been following this guy for a while, but my Italian came up short when I tried to read him in his own language. And as you said, he’s so good he may actually improve through the translation, if it’s at all possible. Even his Tweet interventions are interesting. Best. W

    • colltales: Good seeing you. I can’t wrap my mind around the thought of reading him in Italian. Next lifetime maybe if I’m born in the right local. If you happen to read this, I mentioned in a reply to an earlier post you made that I can’t comment, can’t sign up for email following on your blog. Some sort of problem with the buttons. Just saying. Gracias, J

  2. I love good prose more than gravy, and that’s saying something. I enjoyed ‘Rose’, and thought ‘Pendulum’ the most wonderful thing I’d ever read. I’ve owned a hard copy of ‘Baudolino’ since it was first translated, and I simply cannot make my way through it. Maybe it’s the translator’s fault, I don’t know, but it just doesn’t do it for me.

    Not saying you’re wrong, just adding my two cents worth. Maybe I just don’t laugh at Rabelais hard enough…

  3. Just what exactly blogs and forums for the purpose of governmental criticism do you endorse my family to learn?

    • Aus: I don’t endorse anything related to politics, government, military adventures, or families learning about them. No shortage, though, of people, blogs, websites who will. You shouldn’t find it difficult to locate a plethora to echo your sentiments. Thanks for coming by. Jules

  4. Thanks Jules. I’m still trying to fix that. Then again, there’s not a single geek fiber in this body, so everything seems daunting to me. Yup, I’m challenged. I used to feel the same about gadget manuals which could as well be in Sanskrit, for I had no idea what they were talking about. Stuff got considerably ‘upgraded’ and I seem to be walking backwards on this and other particulars.
    I’ll keep on trying; WordPress support is given by nice volunteers, who hardly have any time to address specific concerns. Mostly the system refers you to the Forums, and then, well, read Manual, Gadgets above. Sorry for the inconvenience. At least you’re ‘following’ it, right? Have a great one. Best. Wesley

    • Hi Wesley. I hope you won’t do it on my account, but it would definitely make things easier in my particular situation. Especially once I’m getting online with less frequency. Gracias, J

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