Monday, June 7, 2010

Foucault's Pendulum - Umberto Eco

Casaubon, the narrator of Foucault's Pendulum, is writing a thesis on the Templars when he meets Jacopo Belbo, an editor at Garamond Press, at a bar, and they start talking. Casaubon, Belbo, and Belbo's colleague Diotallevi begin to inspect the wild theories of Colonel Ardenti, who claims that the Templars constructed a centuries-long plot for revenge against those who caused the disbanding of the order. Casaubon, Belbo, and Diotallevi consider Ardenti's ideas to be complete lunacy, and decide, as a joke, to construct their own, fake version of the Templar plan. Unexpectedly, Colonel Ardenti disappears, and the made-up Plan begins to take on a life of its own as "They" find out about the plan and want the information necessary to complete it.

I've been intending to read Foucault's Pendulum for just under a year, but forgot about it entirely until recently, when I decided to make a list of books to read over the summer. I decided to start with Foucault's Pendulum because it was one of the longer books on my list, and found that not only is it long--it is vitally necessary to keep a dictionary at hand while reading this book, and not just any dictionary, because many won't have all the words. While some people might find this intimidating or cumbersome, it just made me enjoy the book even more because I got to learn a ton of new words along the way (though I probably won't remember half of them). As for the plot, I was massively confused, though entertained, for most of the first half of the book. If you plan to read Foucault's Pendulum, be warned: you will probably feel the same way. However, Eco intended this confusion, so don't despair, carry on, and it will come clear eventually.

While Publisher's Weekly calls Foucault's Pendulum a "psychological thriller," I wouldn't really describe it as such. There are certainly elements of a psychological thriller, but there are also elements of historical fiction, conspiracy theory books (not sure that's a genre, but betting that it is), metaphysics, and occultism. I really don't know what genre to put this book in, and I think that's a good thing. I generally find that if a book is not easily defined or categorized, it ends up being more complex and interesting. While I was indeed very, very confused for parts of the book, I was, without exaggeration, intrigued from the very first until the very last page, and I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who thinks they'd enjoy it (if you don't think you'd enjoy it, you probably wouldn't).

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