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Baudolino: A Novel [Paperback]

Umberto Eco
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 15 2003
It is April 1204, and Constantinople, the splendid capital of the Byzantine Empire, is being sacked and burned by the knights of the Fourth Crusade. Amid the carnage and confusion, one Baudolino saves a historian and high court official from certain death at the hands of the crusading warriors and proceeds to tell his own fantastical story.

Born a simple peasant in northern Italy, Baudolino has two major gifts-a talent for learning languages and a skill in telling lies. When still a boy he meets a foreign commander in the woods, charming him with his quick wit and lively mind. The commander-who proves to be Emperor Frederick Barbarossa-adopts Baudolino and sends him to the university in Paris, where he makes a number of fearless, adventurous friends.

Spurred on by myths and their own reveries, this merry band sets out in search of Prester John, a legendary priest-king said to rule over a vast kingdom in the East-a phantasmagorical land of strange creatures with eyes on their shoulders and mouths on their stomachs, of eunuchs, unicorns, and lovely maidens.

With dazzling digressions, outrageous tricks, extraordinary feeling, and vicarious reflections on our postmodern age, this is Eco the storyteller at his brilliant best.

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From Amazon

The most playful of historical novelists, Umberto Eco has absorbed the real lesson of history: that there is no such thing as the absolute truth. In Baudolino, he hands his narrative to an Italian peasant who has managed, through good luck and a clever tongue, to become the adopted son of the Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa, and a minister of his court in the closing years of the 12th century. Baudolino's other gift is for spontaneous but convincing lies, and so his unfolding tale--as recounted in 1204 to a nobleman of Constantinople, while the fires of the Fourth Crusade rage around them--exemplifies the Cretan Liar's Paradox: He can't be believed. Why not, then, make his story as outrageous as possible? In the course of his picaresque tale, Baudolino manages to touch on nearly every major theme, conflict, and boondoggle of the Middle Ages: the Crusades; the troubadours; the legend of the Holy Grail; the rise of the cathedral cities; the position of Jews; the market in relics; the local rivalries that made Italy so vulnerable to outside attack; and the perennial power struggles between the pope and the emperor. With the help of alcohol and a mysterious Moorish concoction called "green honey," Baudolino and his ragtag friends engage in typical scholastic debates of the period, trying to determine the dimensions of Solomon's Temple and the location of the Earthly Paradise. And when the Emperor needs support in his claims for saintly lineage, who but Baudolino can craft the perfect letter of homage from the legendary Prester John, Holy (and wholly fictitious) Christian King of the East? A giddy and exasperating romp, Baudolino will draw you into its labyrinthine inventions and half-truths, even if you know better. --Regina Marler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In another grand mythical epic, Eco transports readers to the medieval Italy of The Name of the Rose (though almost two centuries earlier), where Frederick Barbarossa seeks to establish himself as the Holy Roman emperor. The story begins in 1204, as the Byzantium capital of Constantinople is sacked and Baudolino, the adoptive son of Frederick, recounts his life to Byzantine historian Niketas, whom he has just saved from the barbaric Latins. Unfolding amid religious conspiracy theories and mysticism, the narrative, which builds slowly, follows the life of Baudolino, an Italian peasant boy who fabricates stories he realizes people want to believe in. While studying in Paris, Baudolino meets several friends from all over the world, who together divulge their intimate dreams and share their desire to discover distant places. Two decades later, Baudolino calls together his friends to embark on what will be a lifelong journey to find Prester John, the Christian priest of the East, whose fabled reputation Baudolino has helped create. Eco seems to loosen the reins when the friends set out across unknown territories, where they grope through an eternally dark forest; traverse a river of stones and boulders; and encounter such mythical creatures as the sled-footed skiapods, dog-headed cynocephali and the Hypatia, beautiful sirens with the legs of goats. While the pilgrims are aware, to a certain extent, of Baudolino's truth-stretching, they all come to believe in their search, as does Baudolino himself. Eco builds his story upon light theological and historical debates, though fiction and history are more evenly balanced than in his previous book, The Island of the Day Before, making for a more engaging read. While this book lacks the suspense of The Name of the Rose, it is nevertheless a spirited story that might offer those previously daunted by his writing a more accessible entrée.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Rattisbon Anno Domini mense decembri mclv Cronicle of Baudolino of the fammily of Aulario. Read the first page
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Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The pilgrims lose faith along the way Sept. 17 2008
Umberto Eco is probably single-handedly responsible for inspiring the academic dimension of my high school and undergraduate imagination. However, I now shun his more recent efforts. (And I even read Travels in Hyperreality and How to Travel with a Salmon!)

With Baudolino, it would seem that Eco aims not merely to illustrate the medieval world but to articulate that world through a medieval mind. The result is, sadly, next to nonsense. I had great expectations for Baudolino - set amidst the Crusades, after all!

Despite my gratitude and respect for the author of the magnificent "Name of the Rose" and "Foucault's Pendulum", what I learned most from "Baudolino" is the courage to stop reading a book that no longer seems interesting or relevant to me.

If you have never read Umberto Eco, I can only recommend "Rose" and "Pendulum". The hapless "Island of the Day Before" spirals on to a dull colophon that is as unsatisfying as "Baudolino". I haven't picked up "Queen Loana" but I figure I've now traded my time for other reads.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Contemporary Classic . . . Jan. 12 2004
Baudolino, the latest novel by Umberto Eco, is more than just a playful historical romance or an excuse to indulge in Thomist disputatio. It is a true contemporary classic of literature, full of what makes fiction great: strong characterization, compelling plotline, exquisite narrative style (even in translation), and multiple layers of philosophical resonance.
The basic premise of the book has been reiterated enough times by other reviewers for me to be brief. Baudolino, an Italian peasant from Lombardy, is adopted by the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa. He rises to become a distinguished courtier in the emperor's service, mostly through his skill in deceit-he invents stories effortlessly, always in support of what he considers to be a good cause. He attends the University of Paris-a major center of Medieval learning and Scholasticism-and finds himself entangled in Barbarossa's difficulties in Italy, a land which he understands better than the emperor himself does.
But the novel's main focus is on the search for the kingdom of Prester John-the legendary king of an eastern Christian kingdom. Along with his student-friends at the University, Baudolino decides that Prester John should be found because, as rex et sacerdos (king and priest), John's approval of Frederick could help Frederick assert his authority over the temporal and spiritual realms, giving him a final edge over the Pope.
This first section of the novel is historical, political, and fairly realistic. Not to say it is inferior to what follows, but I got the distinct impression that Baudolino keeps improving as it goes on.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FLUID PROSE AND PROVOCATIVE THOUGHTS Oct. 23 2002
By Gail Cooke TOP 50 REVIEWER
Renaissance man Umberto Eco continues to enthrall with a return to the era he so masterfully painted in "The Name Of The Rose." An intrepid, nonparallel story teller he again visits the Middle Ages with Baudolino, a marvelous blend of history and imagination.
It is April 1204 and a northern Italian peasant, Baudolino, is in Constantinople, the resplendent capital of the Byzantine Empire. The city staggers under the relentless onslaught of the knights of the Fourth Crusade who pillage and burn. Oblivious to his own safety Baudolino rescues an important personage, a historian from sure death at the hands of the marauding warriors. This is the person to whom Baudolino recounts his life story - a colorful narrative laced with fantasy and adventure.
Although of humble birth, we learn that Baudolino is rich in two areas: the art of inspired prevarication and an aptitude for learning languages. When still a youngster he was adopted by Emperor Frederick Barbarossa who later sent the boy to the university in Paris. Affable and quick, Baudolino soon made friends in France with those who shared his somewhat reckless taste for adventure.
Together a group of them journey to the east and embark upon a search for a mythical priest-king, Prester John. It is believed that Prester John's domain is a fabled land inhabited by eunuchs, unicorns, beautiful maidens, and bizarre beings with misplaced orifices.

As is his wont the unsurpassed Eco weaves his story with ruminations of weighty matters such as theology, politics, government, and history. He does this with fluid prose and provocative thoughts that inevitably draw readers into the author's unique land of enchantment, a magical place that one is reluctant to leave.
- Gail Cooke
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5.0 out of 5 stars a captivating adventure April 25 2004
The first book that made me truly love Eco's writing was The Name of the Rose, and Baudolino is a welcome return to the sense of mystery, myth, and adventure that I found in the former. Baudolino's tale is funny, exciting, philosophical, and thought-provoking, and kept me interested from the beginning to the end. His medieval Europe and the fantastical lands beyond are detailed and lush, at times realistic and at others beautifully surreal. The issue of the unreliable narrator in this book is especially interesting as the theme becomes intertwined with that of false relics, false deaths, false loves, and false kingdoms. Eco's style means a lot of descriptive detail that you may find yourself skimming over, and I think his novels can be difficult to get into for many people, but give Baudolino a chance for 100+ pages and I guarantee you will become as immersed as I did. I read the second half of this book in one weekend, unable to put it down until I reached the end. I didn't think that Eco could write a tale more capivating and fascinating than The Name of the Rose, but he's done it with Baudolino.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Eco's Fanciful Fantasy
'Baudolino' is a fanciful and mythical novel by Umberto Eco, set in the twelfth century Europe and the Near East. Read more
Published on March 5 2012 by Dr. Bojan Tunguz
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read, sit back and enjoy the ride
It was an entertaining read. Sit back and enjoy the ride. Interesting insights into the Byzantine way of life as well as original interpretation of the various events that... Read more
Published on Jan. 12 2005 by john
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Like Foucalt's Pendulum or the Name of the Rose
After his second novel, the Foucalt's pendulum, Eco said,arrogantly in an interview, that even he writes a trash it will become bestseller. Read more
Published on July 13 2004 by ESMIKCIH
5.0 out of 5 stars Be Patient and laugh out loud
This book will make you lagh out loud about every 20 pages of so. As noted by the previous reviewer the book shifts genres about 2/3 of the way though. Read more
Published on July 7 2004 by J. Lomonaco
5.0 out of 5 stars A Timeless Book
Eco's Baudolino is a wonderful story -- but what makes it worth reading is his treatment of themes that are timeless and transcend the story -- how people come to believe what they... Read more
Published on June 28 2004 by Adam Blumenthal
5.0 out of 5 stars Dazzling tour de force
Baudolino, Umberto Eco's most playful novel, combines history with fantasy, Arthurian romance with a locked room mystery, while pondering the unanswerable question: what is... Read more
Published on June 20 2004 by lb136
3.0 out of 5 stars Eco's genius is everywhere but in quite a diluted form.
Oh my... It took few weeks to complete it.
While there were several gems in this book - exceptional thought provoking discussions and ideas, they were scattered in a less than... Read more
Published on June 12 2004 by az1963
5.0 out of 5 stars Magniloquently Mad
Yes, yes of course this novel isn't for everyone, and I must confess that I had a bit of a lark composing the negative reviews in my head that I was sure this lush novel would... Read more
Published on May 9 2004 by Daniel Myers
2.0 out of 5 stars This book is for Italian History buffs...
I'm still wading through the book, but I have to agree with the gentleman who said that this story is tedious, because it is. I'm not really engaged in the character Baudolino. Read more
Published on April 14 2004
2.0 out of 5 stars Baudolino is tedious
Page after page of Eco spinning his wheels, never really saying anything. Every sentence pokes fun at something. Read more
Published on March 20 2004
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