Foucault's Pendulum Mass Market Paperback – Nov 13 1990
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From Publishers Weekly
If a copy (often unread) of The Name of the Rose on the coffee table was a badge of intellectual superiority in 1983, Eco's second novel--also an intellectual blockbuster--should prove more accessible. This complex psychological thriller chronicles the development of a literary joke that plunges its perpetrators into deadly peril. The narrator, Casaubon, an expert on the medieval Knights Templars, and two editors working in a branch of a vanity press publishing house in Milan, are told about a purported coded message revealing a secret plan set in motion by the Knights Templars centuries ago when the society was forced underground. As a lark, the three decide to invent a history of the occult tying a variety of phenomena to the mysterious machinations of the Order. Feeding their inspirations into a computer, they become obsessed with their story, dreaming up links between the Templars and just about every occult manifestation throughout history, and predicting that culmination of the Templars' scheme to take over the world is close at hand. The plan becomes real to them--and eventually to the mysterious They, who want the information the trio has "discovered." Dense, packed with meaning, often startlingly provocative, the novel is a mixture of metaphysical meditation, detective story, computer handbook, introduction to physics and philosophy, historical survey, mathematical puzzle, compendium of religious and cultural mythology, guide to the Torah (Hebrew, rather than Latin contributes to the puzzle here, but is restricted mainly to chapter headings), reference manual to the occult, the hermetic mysteries, the Rosicrucians, the Jesuits, the Freemasons-- ad infinitum . The narrative eventually becomes heavy with the accumulated weight of data and supposition, and overwrought with implication, and its climax may leave readers underwhelmed. Until that point, however, this is an intriguing cerebral exercise in which Eco slyly suggests that intellectual arrogance can come to no good end.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Library Journal
Eco, an Italian philosopher and best-selling novelist, is a great polymathic fabulist in the tradition of Swift, Voltaire, Joyce, and Borges. The Name of the Rose, which sold 50 million copies worldwide, is an experimental medieval whodunit set in a monastic library. In 1327, Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate heresy among the monks in an Italian abbey; a series of bizarre murders overshadows the mission. Within the mystery is a tale of books, librarians, patrons, censorship, and the search for truth in a period of tension between the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire. The book became a hit despite some obscure passages and allusions. This deftly abridged version, ably performed by Theodore Bikel, retains the genius of the original but is far more accessible. Foucault's Pendulum, Eco's second novel, is a bit irritating. The plot consists of three Milan editors who concoct a series on the occult for an unscrupulous publishing house that Eco ridicules mercilessly. The work details medieval phenomena including the Knights Templar, an ancient order with a scheme to dominate the world. Unfortunately, few listeners will make sense of this failed thriller. The Island of the Day Before is an ingenious tale that begins with a shipwreck in 1643. Roberta della Griva survives and boards another ship only to find himself trapped. Flashbacks give us Renaissance battles, the French court, spies, intriguing love affairs, and the attempt to solve the problem of longitude. It's a world of metaphors and paradoxes created by an entertaining scholar. Tim Curry, who also narrates Foucault's Pendulum, provides a spirited narration. Ultimately, libraries should avoid Foucault's Pendulum, but educated patrons will form an eager audience for both The Name of the Rose and The Island of the Day Before.?James Dudley, Copiague, N.Y.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Yes, those that say the book starts slow- it truly does. But then, it opens up to this magnificent and complex universe of religious history, conspiracy theories, murder, mystery and suspense and keeps you wanting to read more.
The vocabulary is intense and pretty advanced and there were, in fact, several words that I was unfamiliar with entirely- particularly those that were in LATIN (what was that about?) But, after sitting down with this book for a while, you feel that you have just worked out your brain. It's invigorating! I found myself having resurected a long-lost vocabulary that I almost forgot I even had!
To sum it up- great book. Very intriguing, complicated, and, sorry for the cliche, "page turning" story. But, as an added bonus, it is extrordinarily thought-provoking and brain exercising! Highly recommend it to those of you that don't want your brain to turn into oatmeal in the lazy summer months.
The story is told by Casaubon, as he looks back over the previous fifteen years of his life. A graduate of the University of Milan, he's something of a specialist on the Knights Templar - having researched their trial for his thesis. It was in the late sixties, while still a student, that Casaubon first met Jacopo Belbo at Pilade's Bar. Belbo was an editor with Garamond Press deals largely with reference books and university textbooks. (There is another side to Garamond - Manutius, a vanity press where the authors pay for the priviledge of seeing their books in print). However, Belbo also has to deal with the occasional submission on the Templars - which is unfortunate, as he believes that if "someone brings up the Templars he's almost always a lunatic". As a relative 'expert', it's almost inevitable that Casaubon starts spending a little more time with Belbo at the publishing house...
At Garamond, Belbo works most closely with Diotavelli - a cabalist who insists he's an albino Jew. However, of the two, Belbo is by far the more developed character. Although quite witty at times, he's a rather pessimistic character, with a very low opinion of himself. He sees himself as a coward, seems doomed to be unlucky in love and is frustrated at being an editor instead of an author.Read more ›
The plot is very simple: three editors start making connections between all the secret societies ever heard of, famous conspiracy theories, mainstream and less mainstream religions, Pandora boxes of metaphysic fun... You get the idea. But don't expect the plot to evolve much in action. As a matter of fact, don't even expect a novel. Try picturing three Mulder's from the X-Files on crack for hundreds of pages. The book is a trip, a stream of words and ideas. Dare I compare it to Joyce's Finnegans Wake? Nah, but it's one of those things where you shouldn't stop at every word you can't understand (lots of those in the book, lots and lots of it).
The knowledge is interesting and certainly worth digging further, but you can also enjoy it as what it is. Much, much better than the Da Vinci code...
About seven years ago, I bought myself a paperback copy of Foucault's Pendulum at the university book store. It looked like an engaging plotline, the reviews were excellent, and it had a really neat cover.
I realize now that most of the reviewers were probably intelligentsia-wannabes who didn't want to admit to the other reviewers they didn't have a clue what Umberto Eco was going on about. I remember seeing pictures of movie stars holding copies of Foucault's Pendulum in order to look brainy.
Expecting some sort of smart cyber tale with a mystical flavour, I started reading. It was the densest prose I'd ever encountered, even worse than the Webster's unabridged dictionary's definition for "existentialism."
Foucault's Pendulum is definitely not a cyber story. A word processor is the only computer, and there aren't any net-running scenes. Nevertheless, the mystical stuff is certainly there. Umberto Eco waxes philosophical for pages upon pages about word processors (and everything else) in a mystical fashion, all the while going off on Rosicrucian and Greater Key of Solomon tangents in languages like Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and medieval French.
I slaved over Foucault's Pendulum for about a year, always making sure I had a copy of Webster's unabridged dictionary on hand. Unfortunately, it didn't help very much. You see, many of the words in the book are not in the dictionary.
I think that in order to truly comprehend the intricacies of Foucault's Pendulum, a reader needs to be a polyglot with several PhDs in history, philosophy, occult studies, and sciences under her/his belt.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
A great read, intriguing, never standard or dumbed down thriller writing . Eco lets loose his vast store of knowledge.Published 3 months ago by PH
A group of editors gets together to write a parody of a conspiracy theory. What if the parody ends up becoming perceived as the source of ultimate truth for an actual underground... Read morePublished 16 months ago by Matthew Rettino
Umberto Eco, bestselling author of The Name of the Rose (later made into a movie starring Sean Connery), has continued his success with this even more erudite and convoluted... Read morePublished on Nov. 19 2013 by Ian Robertson
"Foucault's Pendulum" is packed full of esoterica, alchemy, Kabala, the occult, secret societies, conspiracy theories, alternative histories, the supposed "other side" of several... Read morePublished on Sept. 22 2009 by D Glover
This book is an intellectual thriller drawing on conspiracy theories involving the Templars and other similar organizations, but is definitely not in the "Dan Brown" vein. Read morePublished on Aug. 10 2009 by I. Mitchell
I've only read the first chapter, but boy does this writer like convoluted, artificial, pedantic prose. Read morePublished on Nov. 3 2008 by Meagol
As the title of my review states this was the worst book I never finished. I read a great deal and though not a scholar, I am not stupid either. Read morePublished on Feb. 4 2007 by Darth Reader
I love a book that inspires me to look up a particular subject just to learn more. This book does that. Read morePublished on Dec 10 2005 by Alie Berghuis
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