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Baudolino by Umberto Eco

Baudolino (original 2000; edition 2002)

by Umberto Eco

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6,54684943 (3.53)204
Eco returns to the Middle Ages with Baudolino - a wondrous, provocative, beguiling tale of history, myth, and invention. It is April, 1204, and Constantinople, the splendid capital of the Byzantine Empire, is being sacked and burned by the knights of the fourth Crusade. Amid the carnage and confusion, one Baudolino saves a Byzantine historian and high court official from certain death at the hands of the crusading warriors, and proceeds to tell his own fantastical story. Born a simple peasant in northern Italy, Baudolino has two major gifts - a talent for learning foreign languages and skill in telling lies. One day, when still a boy, he met a foreign commander in the woods, charming him with his quick wit and lively mind. The commander - who proves to be the emperor Frederick Barbarossa - adopts Baudolino and sends him to the university in Paris, where he makes a number of fearless, adventurous friends. Spurred on by myths and their own reveries, this merry band sets out in search of Prester John, a legendary priest-king who was said to rule over a vast kingdom in the East - a phantasmagorical land of strange creatures with eyes on their shoulders and mouths on their stomachs, of eunuchs, unicorns, and lovely maidens. As always with Eco, this abundant novel includes dazzling digressions, outrageous tricks, pages of extraordinary feeling and poetry, and vicarious reflections on our postmodern age. Baudolino is an utterly marvelous tale by the inimitable author of The Name of the Rose.… (more)
Authors:Umberto Eco
Info:Secker & Warburg (2002), Hardcover, 512 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, pb

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Baudolino by Umberto Eco (Author) (2000)

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English (67)  Spanish (5)  Italian (4)  German (2)  Swedish (2)  French (1)  Hungarian (1)  Dutch (1)  Portuguese (1)  All languages (84)
Showing 1-5 of 67 (next | show all)
Read Borges instead. ( )
  Adammmmm | Sep 10, 2019 |
Who doesn't like to read about the Crusades? I -- for one -- don't care if the story is true or not. There was so much wild-and-crazy stuff going on that anything becomes possible. Religion is a crock, which makes the Crusades a fiction writer's paradisical milieu and can be a reader's all-time greatest adventure. Silverlock for Sanity, anyone? ( )
  NathanielPoe | Mar 25, 2019 |
Didn't finish. Lost interest.
  ritaer | Dec 22, 2018 |
Baudolino is the twelve-year-old son of a peasant in twelfth-century Italy when he finds Frederick Barbarossa, the Holy and Roman Emperor, lost in the local pea-soup fog. Impressed by the young man's cleverness, Barbarossa quickly cuts a deal with Baudolino's father to take him back to his court. Baudolino quickly discovers that his knack for creative storytelling, not to say outright lying, gets him a lot further than boring old factual truth, which in fact almost always gets him in trouble.

Many years later, in 1204, Baudolino rescues a Byzantine official, Niketas, from the sack of Constantinople, and tells him what may or may not be the true story of his colorful life.

Baudolino openly admits to being an unreliable narrator, so we don't need to fret too much about what is believable and what isn't as he recounts his early days in Barbarasso's traveling court, his education in Paris and wild adventures with his friends there, and rising in influence at Frederick's court on his return. All through this time, he's dreaming of the ultimate great adventure, a journey to discover the kingdom of Prester John, a mythical Christian priest-king ruling somewhere far to the east.

When tragic and dangerous events finally give him and his friends good reason to be somewhere else, they set off to find Prester John, carrying with them twelve fake heads of John the Baptist, and a bowl that might be, but isn't, the Holy Grail. Along the way, they have magnificent adventures and encounter all the fantastic marvels of the mediaeval bestiary, of which unicorns and skiapods are almost the least. It's a tale of friendship, love, betrayal, marvels and wonders, and a map no one dwelling in the real world would recognize.

It does reflect but not dwell on the ways in which twelfth century Europe was a brasher and cruder time than our own.

It's all rollicking good fun. Well worth a read, or a listen.


I bought this book. ( )
  LisCarey | Sep 19, 2018 |
Is this a fantasy? It's hard to say with any certainty. Undoubtedly we see many fantastic and magical things as Baudolino recounts his journeys, but Baudolino's a liar.

We meet Baudolino in 1204, as Constantinople is being sacked and burned by the Fourth Crusade. He rescues a high-ranking court official and historian, Niketas Choniates--a real person who did survive the sack of the city and subsequently wrote a history of Byzantium including the story of the sack. He then asks Niketas to listen to his own story, so that he can work out the meaning of it--if any.

Calling this an unreliable narrative is a gross understatement. Baudolino himself says that he habitually confuses what he wants to see with what he does see, and has often told colorful tales rather than the boring truth. An additional layer of unreliability is added by the fact that he's telling this tale entirely from memory, the journal he had kept for years having been lost in the course of his journeys. So this is a tale told from unreliable memory, most of it years after the fact, of an habitual liar.

As a young boy in twelfth-century Italy, Baudolino sets out on the road to fortune and adventure by telling a passing foreign knight that St. Baudolino has appeared to him and told him that Frederick Barbarossa would conquer Terdona (with which he was then at war.) Since the passing knight is Frederick Barbarossa, this prediction naturally goes down very well. In short order, Baudolino has thoroughly charme d the emperor, and is adopted as his son. He is raised in Frederick's court, and eventually, having no taste for war, is sent to Paris to study and returns to be a ministerial of the imperial court. There are elements of secret history to the story, as Baudolino becomes responsible for the founding of the city of Alessandria and the canonization of Charlemagne, amongst other things. In alternating sections, we get the story of Baudolino's rescue of Niketas and his family and their escape from Constantinople, and Baudolino's lifetime of colorful adventures, including his lifelong fascination with the fabled kingdom of Prester John. After Frederick's death, this fascination leads to Baudolino and a group of good friends and more dubious allies setting out for the distant east, following one expedition member's memories of a map claiming to show the way. In the course of their journey, they meet most of the creatures out of the more fantastic mediaeval bestiaries, including unicorns, but also skiapods ponces, and blemmyae, and encounter other wonders.

One of those "other wonders" is a raging river of stone, cutting off the route to Prester John's kingdom. Baudolino's Jewish companion, Rabbi Solomon, had told them of this wonder and its features that make it an unc rossable obstacle: the river flows with a powerful current for six days, and stops completely on the Sabbath. Jews, of course, cannot cross it on the Sabbath. Gentiles could, but when the stones stop, an impassable barrier of flames springs up on both riverbanks. They reach river, look in vain for a way to cross it at or above its source, and eventually give up, travelling downriver again to wait for its Sabbath stoppage. When this happens on schedule, they wait for the flames--and nothing happens:

"So you see you mustn't always believe what they tell you," Baudolino concluded. "We live in a world where people invent the most incredible stories. Solomon, this is a tale you Jews put into circulation to prevent Christians from coming to these parts."

Well, Baudolino--and Eco--certainly ought to know, at least about people inventing incredible stories.

This is a beautifully written book, a delight to read, and there's no need to wonder, as with Isabel Allende's City of the Beasts, whether Eco was well served by his translator. ( )
  LisCarey | Sep 19, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 67 (next | show all)
It's a mystery that begins well, and ends well, too, drenched in the scholastic logic and the intricate, entertaining literary gamesmanship that is Mr. Eco's territory. The problem is that while ''Baudolino'' contains plenty of learning and imagination, it is so strenuously fanciful that it becomes tedious, like a Thanksgiving Day parade that lasts all day.

» Add other authors (23 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Eco, UmbertoAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Boeke, YondTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Guidall, GeorgeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Krone, PattyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weaver, WilliamTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Rattishbon Anno Domini mense decembri mclv Cronicle of Baudolino of the fammily of Aulario.
"Faith makes things become true."
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