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Foucault's Pendulum [Mass Market Paperback]

Umberto Eco
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (293 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Nov. 13 1990
"As brilliant and quirky as THE NAME OF THE ROSE, as mischievous and wide-raning....A virtuoso performance."
THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
Three clever book editors, inspired by an extraordinary fable they heard years befoe, decide to have a little fun. Randomly feeding esoteric bits of knowledge into an incredible computer capable of inventing connections between all their entires, they think they are creating a long lazy game--until the game starts taking over....
Here is an incredible journey of thought and history, memory and fantasy, a tour de force as enthralling as anything Umberto Eco--or indeed anyone--has ever devised.

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Product Description

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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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By Amy L.
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I was digging through Amazon's online version of a bookstore's "bargain bin" looking for something new to read. I came across Foucault's Pendulum and it sounded interesting enough. It starts out, the first 10 or 20 pages, quite convoluted and confusing. I remarked to my husband that perhaps this book was a bit "too cerebral" for me. But, I perservered and I am so glad I did!
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.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Minnie Mouse is Mickey's fiancee. July 29 2007
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Umberto Eco is internationally renowned as an author, a philosopher, a literary critic and a historian. He is also a professor of Semiotics at the University of Bologna and lives in Milan. "The Name of the Rose", his debut novel, was first published in Italy in 1980 and became a bestseller throughout the world. It was also adapted for the big screen in 1986, a version that starred Sean Connery and Christian Slater. "Foucault's Pendulum" was first published in 1988.

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.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tough but rewarding May 25 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I discovered this book because my French teacher gave it to me as a challenge in high school, years back (I guess sleeping during class was a bad idea). So, I read it in French and the translation is slightly superior than the English version in my mind. Craaaaazy. The book IS difficult and anyone who says otherwise is either Eco himself or someone who, as one of the character would say, should take the cork out of his ass and let the wind out. Sorry.
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...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nothing is real but everything could be... Sept. 12 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Three editors go on a mental trek to rediscover and revise the history of the world based on the writtings of people who could be considered credible and others that could have zero credibility at all. As they do, they unravel a massive web of conspiracies orchestrated from the depths of history to the present day by innumerous secret societies and underground groups poised to control the world and take over. These "societies" often clashing amongst themselves and often figments of imagination of others (but how can we really know) take the three protagonists around the world as they search for more and more data to put together their story. And the more data that piles in the more the truth becomes a blur.
As the story spins, they, and we too, do not know which of their "facts" are real and which aren't. For some the devices are not available to test their authenticity, and for others, the suspicion lingers that strategically placed false information has been laid in their path to throw them off track.
But the worst element for the three investigators is the very real possibility that some of the "facts" could be mere inventions of their own brains! Thus, they constantly need to investigate themselves too to keep their story in check. But how easy, or rather, how feasible is that?
"Foucault's pendulum" is a book that spans over 650 pages, and a story that many people have found exhausting or even pointless. But if you had to attempt yourself to write a story with the outcome and the "moral" of this one then it would be very probable that you'd need a build-up as long and as "exhausting" as Ubmerto Eco here does.
Allthough i could agree with some that this incredible novel is at times "exhausting", i totally understand the need for its structure and length.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Paranoid, yet Learned Conspiracy Theory Thriller--a Single Malt to...
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 more
Published 18 days ago by Matthew Rettino
5.0 out of 5 stars Eco Reverberates in the Canyons of History
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 more
Published 11 months ago by Ian Robertson
4.0 out of 5 stars Swinging back and forth over liking this book
"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 more
Published on Sept. 22 2009 by D Glover
4.0 out of 5 stars challenging but worthwhile
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 more
Published on Aug. 10 2009 by I. Mitchell
1.0 out of 5 stars Ugh!
I've only read the first chapter, but boy does this writer like convoluted, artificial, pedantic prose. Read more
Published on Nov. 3 2008 by Meagol
1.0 out of 5 stars Worst book I never finished
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 more
Published on Feb. 4 2007 by Darth Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars Learned while reading
I love a book that inspires me to look up a particular subject just to learn more. This book does that. Read more
Published on Dec 10 2005 by Mirjam Berghuis
5.0 out of 5 stars The Game
It is a great book!!!
And Foucault's Pendulum IS the GAME!
Published on June 28 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars Incomprehensible
I thought I was dumb when I read over three fourths of this gobbledygook and didn't understand more than a line. Read more
Published on June 27 2004 by Sandeep Parekh
2.0 out of 5 stars Wordy & pretentious,with no sense of pace, or story-telling.
Unlike many reviewers of "Foucault's Pendulum", I loved Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code". This book, however, is MUCH different. Read more
Published on June 14 2004 by L. Schulz
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