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The Island of the Day Before by Umberto Eco
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The Island of the Day Before (1994)

by Umberto Eco

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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5,38940808 (3.29)148
  1. 00
    Mason & Dixon: A Novel by Thomas Pynchon (paradoxosalpha)
    paradoxosalpha: Both are big beefy novels written in the waning of the 20th century, and concerned with the exploratory push of European powers (in early modernity and the Enlightenment, respectively), as well as the relationships between objective and subjective worlds.… (more)
  2. 00
    Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel (polutropon)
    polutropon: Sobel gives a less fantastical account than Eco of the quest to accurately determine longitude at sea, though it's surprising some of the proposals that Eco didn't have to concoct for narrative purposes.
  3. 11
    Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (hippietrail)
  4. 01
    Ex-Libris by Ross King (P_S_Patrick)
    P_S_Patrick: These books have some common themes, so may be enjoyed by the same people, but where Ex Libris is more of a "biblio-mystery", The Island of The Day Before is more of a general novel. Both books focus to a certain degree on the Age of Discovery, in the 17th Century, and the Longitude problem. They feature the historical conflicts, ships, and sailing, but this is perhaps where the similarities end. The Island of The Day before is better written, but whether you prefer the plot of one or the other will be due to personal preference. If you have an interest in the period, and enjoyed reading one, then I could recommend the other as a potential future read.… (more)
  5. 03
    Nation by Terry Pratchett (tronella)
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English (28)  Spanish (5)  French (4)  Swedish (1)  Italian (1)  Dutch (1)  All (40)
Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
"I challenge anyone to find himself abandoned on a deserted ship, between sea and sky in a vast space, and not be ready to dream that in his great misfortune he at least has had the good fortune to stumble into the heart of time" (273).

The Island of the Day Before is a fantasy about fantasy, with a documentary conceit and no genuinely supernatural elements. Some details of the seventeenth-century science may now seem rather occult, but the essential metaphysics of the entire tale are very much of our world. It is a tale about a quest for the secret of determining longitude, and it seeks to celebrate the mystery of the antipodes in the paradoxes of an international date line.

Although this story was set a century earlier, I found it rather reminiscent of Thomas Pynchon's Mason & Dixon. Both are big beefy novels written in the waning of the 20th century, and concerned with the exploratory push of European powers (in early modernity and the Enlightenment, respectively), as well as the relationships between objective and subjective worlds. But their titles show the biggest difference between the books. Mason & Dixon has two protagonists, and the surfeit of plot (to be expected from Pynchon) concerns their relationships to each other and their world. The insular Eco novel is instead nearly solipsistic in the extent to which characters other than the protagonist Roberto are practically reduced to figments of his imagination--the plot, such as it is, is largely in his reminiscences, dreams, and eventually, composed fictions.

The book is a long one, with many short chapters, and the slow pace of the plotting makes it easy to pick up and to put down. It took me more than a month to read it through. My two favorite chapters in the book could each stand on their own, and with particular reference to my occult interests. Chapter 26, "Delights for the Ingenious: A Collection of Emblems" is a long meditation on the symbolism of doves. Chapter 37, "Paradoxical Exercises Regarding the Thinking of Stones," is a contemplative demonstration of getting stoned in line with the discussion "On the Final Will" in Liber Aleph vel CXI.

The metafictional elements are pronounced in this novel, where the principal character himself ends up writing a "romance," in which his imagined half-brother and rival becomes his alter-ego. Eco makes both the opening and the closing of the book rather disorienting and unconventional, as part of his reflection on the composition of imaginative literature, and he uses the premise of working from a discovered three-hundred-year-old manuscript both to assert and to undermine the credibility of his story.
2 vote paradoxosalpha | Jan 23, 2017 |
Manca copertina
  vecchiopoggi | Jan 12, 2017 |
In the mid-1600s, a shipwrecked man fetches up not on land, but on another, strangely derelict ship in sight of an island he cannot reach because he can't swim and has no boat. Although that description gives you absolutely no idea what this book is about. Because mostly it's about long, rambling philosophical discussions on theology, time, navigation, love, sympathetic magic, and, above all, the nature of the universe. What is the world made of? Is there such a thing as empty space? How do the planets move? Are there other worlds than this?

I'm afraid that kind of makes it sound more interesting than it is, though. There's an odd feeling of pointlessness about much of it, for me, because these issues are all addressed from a 17th-century perspective -- well, more or less -- and so the cosmological and scientific ideas are mostly wrong, or at best only vaguely right. Of course, a look at how people thought about such things in the past is interesting in itself, or can be, but long, long discussions like the ones here don't work so well in the service of a novel; after a while they start to get tedious. On the other hand, since this isn't a textbook on the evolution of natural philosophy, but rather mixes its science, history, and philosophy in with fanciful ideas, anachronisms, and metaphors, its use in educating the reader is limited, too. One might certainly come away from it having been exposed to new ideas (or rather, to very old ones), but not necessarily with a very good understanding of those ideas and their historical context.

And, in my case, there wasn't a lot that was unfamiliar and exciting to me, anyway. There were times when I couldn't help conjuring up the mental image of Umberto Eco sitting in a college dorm in a haze of pot smoke going, "Did I just blow your miiiiind?" Which, well, no, Umberto. No, you really kind of didn't.

Which is too bad, because a lot of what he's doing here, otherwise, is actually very clever, featuring different layers of narrative that are tangled up in a really nifty way. I think he's also doing some good stuff with language, although, sadly, I fear that inevitably a lot of that gets lost in translation.

Rating: 3/5, but I have to admit that's basically me giving it an "E for Effort." ( )
2 vote bragan | Jun 16, 2014 |
I take pride withal in my humiliation, and as I am to this privilege condemned, almost I find joy in an abhorrent salvbation; I am, I believe, alone of all our race, the only man in human memory to have been shipwrecked and cast up upon a deserted ship. So begins Eco fanciful tale set in the 17th century Baroque era of an Italian nobleman, Roberto della Griva, marooned on a deserted ship in the Pacific Ocean. We learn how he came to the situation he finds himself in but more importantly, we witness Roberto's numerous ruminations on pretty much everything from religion, cosmology, metaphysics to science and technology of the Baroque period as well as his mental condition as a ship wreck survivor. The story is fascinating on a number of levels. I loved the examination of science and the race to discover the Punto Fijo or fixed point from which all other longitudes could be established. Roberto as a character and his mental state are also fascinating reading as is the multiple allusions to Alexandre Dumas' stories [The Three Muskeeters] and [The Man in the Iron Mask]. The sections at the start of the story with the siege of Casale had me hoping for a rollicking adventure read. Unfortunately, the story is really an adventure story of a completely different nature. Still good, but not as entertaining as I was looking forward to reading. The downside of this story for me was what I found to be an excessive waxing philosophical/metaphysical nature of the story. This is not a quick read by any means and the overloading of information reminded me a bit of my experience in reading Roberto Bolaño's [2666], another book filled with references and hidden meanings that went right over my head.

Now, I hope this review doesn't deter anyone from picking up and reading The Island of the Day Before for themselves. I am just not a big fan of the ship-wrecked man type of story that this one is and is something I need to be in the right frame of mind for. The metaphysical aspects of the story, while fascinating at first, became a bit of a laborious chore to get through and reached a level of eye rolling obscurity when Roberto examines whether or not a stone can feel or has any form of sentient thought. Even with these negatives, the story was not enough of a chore to deter me from wanting to retain my copy for a potential re-read at some point in the future. As you have probably guessed, this isn't exactly an easy book for me to write a review for. ( )
  lkernagh | Jun 8, 2014 |
An interesting premise, the plot of which has drowned in a sea of exquisite words. ( )
  jilyna | Jun 15, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (30 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Eco, Umbertoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Boeke, YondTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Franssen, MaartenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Krone, PattyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Saarikoski, TuulaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weaver, WilliamTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Is the Pacifique Sea my Home?

John Donne,
Hymne to God my God
Stolto! a cui parlo? Misero! Che tento?
Racconto il dolor mio
a l'insensata riva
a la mutola selce, al sordo vento . . .
Ahi, ch'altro non risponde
che il mormorar del'onde!

Giovan Battista Marino,
“Eco,” La Lira, XIX
Dedication
First words
I take pride withal in my humiliation, and as I am to this privilege condemned, almost I find joy in an abhorrent salvation; I am, I believe, alone of all our race, the only man in human memory to have been shipwrecked and cast up upon a deserted ship.
"Eppure m'inorgoglisco della mia umiliazione, e poiché a tal privilegio son condannato, quasi godo di un'abborrita salvezza: sono, credo, a memoria d'uomo, l'unico essere della nostra specie ad aver fatto naufragio su di un nave deserta."
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The 6 hour audiobook edition read by Tim Curry is an abridged edition and should not be combined with complete editions of the book. Thank you.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0156030373, Paperback)

After a violent storm in the South Pacific in the year 1643, Roberto della Griva finds himself shipwrecked-on a ship. Swept from the Amaryllis, he has managed to pull himself aboard the Daphne, anchored in the bay of a beautiful island. The ship is fully provisioned, he discovers, but the crew is missing.

As Roberto explores the different cabinets in the hold, he remembers chapters from his youth: Ferrante, his imaginary evil brother; the siege of Casale, that meaningless chess move in the Thirty Years' War in which he lost his father and his illusions; and the lessons given him on Reasons of State, fencing, the writing of love letters, and blasphemy.

In this fascinating, lyrical tale, Umberto Eco tells of a young dreamer searching for love and meaning; and of a most amazing old Jesuit who, with his clocks and maps, has plumbed the secrets of longitudes, the four moons of Jupiter, and the Flood.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:06 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

A 17th Century Italian knight recounts his adventures during a siege in the Thirty Years' War and afterwards in naval espionage against the British. In between, he describes the salons of Paris, lessons in fencing and reasons of state, and gives his thoughts on writing love letters and on blasphemy.… (more)

» see all 5 descriptions

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