Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Prague Cemetery

The Prague Cemetery
Author: Umberto Eco, Translator: Richard Dixon
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Trade
November 8, 2011
ISBN: 978-0547577531
$ 27.00
464 pages

Have you ever read a book the reminded you of a bunch of old men kibitzing about the world? That
is my reaction to THE PRAGUE CEMETERY.

Throughout history there have been numerous conspiracies. THE PRAGUE CEMETARY is about the
multiple conspiracies against the Jews, Italians, French, Catholics, and the Freemasons with everyone
constantly spying and working one group against the other. During the late nineteenth century in this
Piedmont area overlapping parts of France and Italy, it appears that no one is loyal to anyone and
everyone wants to end on the side of the victor. No one knows who that will be. So many change
identities as frequently as their clothes and spend their time developing plots complete with forgeries
and murder.

For the main character, Captain Simonini who is also Abbe Dalla Piccola, his main focus is on the
unification of Italy. However, this character of Simonini/Piccola is flawed in that he has a split
personality and neither of the individuals is aware of the other so they are suspicious of the other’s true

Early on, Captain Simonini meets with a psychologist in France named Froide. He has interesting
perspectives about his childhood and his dreams. (Sound out the psychologist’s name.)

Between the split personality and the bigotry, the main character whether Simonini or Piccola is not
likeable. As a reader, you feel no connections with this unethical rambling individual. His encounter
with others are usually the same types of people. This aspect quickly becomes drudgery through the

When you read a novel that is translated into English, I always wonder at the balance between the
author and the translator. Can a translator turn a mediocre story into literature or can they take a gem
and turn it into a drab story? Both obviously are possible. That could be the problem with this book.

When you anticipate a book to be outstanding before you read it, are you setting yourself up for
disappointment? When you read a novel and are absolutely spellbound by the rhythm and the
author’s magical approach in utilizing the language and imagery that is an author that is masterful in
telling a tale. That was how I felt years ago when I first read Eco’s THE NAME OF THE ROSE. His other
books have been enjoyable, just not quite at the level though of the first. Unfortunately, THE PRAGUE
CEMETERY is one that I would not recommend for most people. For those who thrive on historical
intrigue, this book is for you.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.