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The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco

The Prague Cemetery (original 2010; edition 2012)

by Umberto Eco (Author)

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Title:The Prague Cemetery
Authors:Umberto Eco (Author)
Info:Vintage (2012)
Collections:Your library

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The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco (2010)

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English (73)  Spanish (13)  Dutch (8)  French (5)  Italian (5)  German (3)  Swedish (2)  Catalan (2)  Norwegian (1)  Danish (1)  All (113)
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“Revelations have to be out of the ordinary, shocking and fantastical. Only then do they become credible and arouse indignation.” (Chapter 12)
“For my grandfather it was the Jews, for the Jesuits it was the Masons, for my Garibaldian uncle it was the Jesuits, for the kings of half of Europe it was the Carbonari, for my Mazzinian companions it was the king backed by the clergy, for the police throughout half the world it was the Bavarian Illuminati, and so forth.” (Chapter 4)
Complex historical novel; covers 19th century European history. Something like Dan Brown for highbrows. Fictional biography of the author of Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an actual document purportedly about the world wide Jewish conspiracy to control the world that had considerable malign influence in the 20th century, e.g. Nazis and, outside of Europe, reactionaries in the Middle East, Japan and elsewhere. Timely, due to current politico-cultural obsession with conspiracy theories and “false news,” e.g. the satanic Clinton pedophile pizza house ring, anti-vax, etc. Occurs to me it might be easier to follow as a graphic novel. In any case, the book is profusely illustrated with period reproductions.
The first half is summarized handily in chapter 18; bookmark it for reference if you get confused. However, read chapter 4 for the “original” master narrative.
Meta aspects. Fictional story about the origin of an actual document of fabricated history. In the novel, the Prague Cemetery document (the earlier version of the Protocols) is derived from actual novels by Eugene Sue and Alexander Dumas. The fictional author tries to authenticate the fabrication which he is trying to pass off as true by having it vetted by a conspiracy theory novelist, who incorporates the fictional “authentic” document into his conspiracy novel. When the author of the Prague document later offers the document to a representative of the Jesuits, the representative interprets the document as derived from the fictional novel that plagiarized it, and attempts to blackmail the author by threatening to expose it as a plagiarism of the novel that was of course a plagiarism of the original fabrication. Or something like that. Eventually all’s well that ends well, the plagiarist and the blackmailer are eliminated, and the revised document ends up with the Russian secret service for distribution as authentic to the credulous. Eco does not go into the catastrophic results except in a brief entry in the timeline appendix.
A parallel with the metafictional aspect on the political level involves conspiracies within conspiracies: double agents, disinformation, terrorist acts initiated by the government to validate government security measures, the Dreyfus forgery. The source of conspiracies is what structuralists like Eco call a floating signifier: Jews are really Freemasons are really Jesuits are really capitalists are really Satanists are really Protestants are really government agents. The conspiracy merry-go-round can stop anywhere. Although the signifiers can be ridiculous, there is no question that some of conspiracies are authentic, although it is unclear whether the conspiracies come from the top or are initiated by the intelligence agencies independently. ( )
  featherbear | Feb 15, 2017 |
At times it had the feel of an evil Forrest Gump character (He's everywhere!) but I generally enjoyed it. ( )
  heggiep | Jan 4, 2017 |
Umberto Eco says about this book that only the narrator is a fiction and all the other characters from the second half of the 19th century are real people. The events correspond to historical facts. The whole thing reads like a thriller. It tells of Garibaldi's campaign in Sicily, the Dreyfus Afaire, anti-Semitism, the fear of the Masonic lodges and the psychiatric 'mode' of Dr. Freud and his contemporaries.
It starts with the amnesia of the narrator, who decided, therefore, what he has experienced and done to bring in the form of a diary on paper. He suddenly discovered that a second I, which appears in the form of a priest, writes down his memories in this diary, too. This is made great because of the font in the book changes, according as who writes down his thoughts.
It is not only the fears at the time, about Eco writes but also the rapid technological and political changes. ( )
1 vote Ameise1 | May 4, 2016 |
I've delayed a bit, writing about this book, because I have some ambivalent feelings about it.
Don't get me wrong, I love Eco, and admire his writing greatly - for its prose style, its structure, its meticulous research - the book more than deserves 4 stars. It's a very worthwhile read.
However, time spent reading this book is time spent in the company of venal, reprehensible men. It's not a pleasant experience. Eco is theorizing, recreating the character of the bigoted, self-serving individual who may have created the infamous 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion,' and he, and everyone around him, is corrupt and nasty. However, this character is not unintelligent, and in his philosophizing, often speaks with Eco's voice... but then turns around and says something just awful - it makes for an interesting but challenging read, figuring out the author's intentions.
I also have mixed feelings about the plot device of having the narrator be an amnesiac/split personality, trying to piece together his identity and past. It was interesting, yes, but it wasn't necessary to the story, and I felt it was also too similar to the device used in 'Queen Loana.' Much like 'Loana' as well, the book is 'illustrated' with historical engravings 'from the author's collection.' The images are fascinating, but I wish that more specific historical context/credit for them had been provided. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
This would have been a terrific non-fiction book. Lots of fascinating facts and factoids from the second half of the 19th century, and a lesson in how prejudices and conspiracy theories are rehashed and re-rehashed and re-re-rehashed. Unfortunately, as a novel, this gets very tiring as the plot advances very slowly, and mostly in very predictable ways. It also doesn't help that the "Narrator" creates some sort of modernistic estrangement effect, as if the reader were in any danger to identify with any figure in this novel. What's more, the characters are pretty shallow, and the main plot device, the split personality, just seems contrived in my view. Bottom line: great if you want to learn about history, but if you seek suspense, read the Name of the Rose. ( )
  Frederic_Schneider | Jan 23, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 73 (next | show all)
Eco's mastery of the milieu is evident on every page of "The Prague Cemetery."
If the creation of Simone Simonini is meant to suggest that behind the credibility-straining history lurks a sick spirit compounded of equal parts self-serving cynicism and irrational malice, who can argue? And even if the best parts of “The Prague Cemetery” are those he did not invent, Eco is to be applauded for bringing this stranger-than-fiction truth vividly to life.
The real story, then, is one that “The Prague Cemetery” hints at but does not for all its polymath erudition manage to capture: our impotence in the face of an obvious forgery, an absurd pastiche against which the ramparts of reason afford astonishingly feeble protection.
added by rab1953 | editHa'Aretz, Benjamin Balint (Nov 17, 2011)
Eco’s 19th century shocker has an Italian, Captain Simonini, as the man responsible, the only fictional character in the book. The story involves Freemasons against Catholics, Garibaldi against the Bourbons, Russian spies, German double agents, murky murders, plotting prelates, black masses and orgies. If all this sounds like a richly sensational read, you couldn’t be more wrong.
added by Shortride | editDaily Mail, John Harding (Nov 17, 2011)
Simonini’s as disgraceful as they come, and those who feel the need to bond with a narrator will be instantly put off by this novel. But “The Prague Cemetery” isn’t trying to make us feel better about ourselves. It’s meant to remind us of the dangers of complacency and credulousness. It’s meant to be unsettling. And by that measure, it’s a huge success.

» Add other authors (20 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Eco, Umbertoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Arenas Noguera, CarmeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Boeke, YondTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dixon, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Juul Madsen, LorensTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kangas, HelinäTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kroeber, BurkhartTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Krone, PattyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Madsen, Lorens JuulTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nordang, AstridTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Since these episodes are necessary, indeed form a central part of any historical account, we have included the execution of one hundred citizens hanged in the public square, two friars burned alive, and the appearance of a comet—all descriptions that are worth a hundred tournaments and have the merit of diverting the reader's mind as much as possible from the principal action.

—Carlo Tenca, La ca' dei cani, 1840
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A passerby on that gray morning in March 1897, crossing, at his own risk and peril, place Maubert, or the Maub, as it was known in criminal circles (formerly a center of university life in the Middle Ages, when students flocked there from the Faculty of Arts in Vicus Stramineus, or rue du Fouarre, and later a place of execution for apostles of free thought such as Étienne Dolet), would have found himself in one of the few spots in Paris spared from Baron Haussmann's devastations, amid a tangle of malodorous alleys, sliced in two by the course of the Bièvre, which still emerged here, flowing out from the bowels of the metropolis, where it had long been confined, before emptying feverish, gasping and verminous into the nearby Seine.
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Op grootse wijze neemt Umberto Eco in zijn nieuwe, grote roman De begraafplaats van Praag de misschien wel meest megalomane eeuw aller tijden onder handen: de negentiende eeuw. Plaatsen van handeling: Turijn, Palermo en Parijs.De geschriftvervalser Simone Simonini is een nauwkeurig observator van zijn eigen tijd. En hij ziet veel: een hysterische sataniste, een abt die twee keer sterft, lijken in een Parijs riool, jezuïeten die samenspannen tegen vrijmetselaars, vrijmetselaars en Mazzinianen die priesters wurgen met hun eigen darmen, de krombenige, aan artrose lijdende Italiaanse held Garibaldi, de bloedbaden tijdens de Parijse Commune van 1871 waar zelfs pasgeboren ratjes worden gegeten, onwelriekende kotten waar tussen de absintdampen bomexplosies en volksopstanden worden voorbereid, nepbaarden, zogenaamde notarissen, valse testamenten, diabolische broederschappen en zwarte missen. Simonini ziet veel, maar hij maakt nog veel meer mee, en bijna als vanzelf wordt hij steeds dieper betrokken in het complot dat zal leiden tot de lasterlijke Protocollen van de Wijzen van Zion, die de gehele twintigste eeuw het antisemitisme zullen aanwakkeren.Maar de vraag is of Simonini er alleen maar zijdelings bij betrokken is. Is zijn invloed niet veel groter? De Protocollen zijn een vervalsing, maar van wie precies?

De begraafplaats van Praag is een aangrijpende en belangrijke roman, die een verontrustend licht werpt op het historische en politieke Europa van de negentiende eeuw, met zijn complotten, aanslagen en samenzweringen.

Umberto Eco (Alessandria, 5 januari 1932) is een van de bekendste en succesvolste schrijvers van Europa. Dertig jaar geleden werd hij wereldberoemd met zijn historische roman De naam van de roos, die miljoenen lezers zou betoveren, en die werd verfilmd met Sean Connery in de hoofdrol. Van De begraafplaats van Praag werden in Italie binnen enkele weken al meer dan een half miljoen exemplaren verkocht, en het boek zal verschijnen in 35 landen.
Płyta CD, format MP3.
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"19th-century Europe--from Turin to Prague to Paris--abounds with the ghastly and the mysterious. Jesuits plot against Freemasons. In Italy, republicans strangle priests with their own intestines. In France, during the Paris Commune, people eat mice, plan bombings and rebellions in the streets, and celebrate Black Masses. Every nation has its own secret service, perpetrating conspiracies and even massacres. There are false beards, false lawyers, false wills, even false deaths. From the Dreyfus Affair to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the Jews are blamed for everything. One man connects each of these threads into a massive crazy-quilt conspiracy within conspiracies. Here, he confesses all, thanks to Umberto Eco's ingenious imagination--a thrill-ride through the underbelly of actual, world-shattering events. "--… (more)

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