book reviews · Freelance Writing

Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco (Book Review)

They say it is the winners who write the history books. But, what if…what if…a new truth was written? What if you could not RE-write history, but write a new history? Three editors at a publishing house are frustrated with the dearth of manuscripts of occult conspiracy theory. So, they cook up a plan to…stir the pot of the truth. They devise a plan to invent their own occult conspiracy theory and call it a game. The problem is, sometimes, they forget it’s only a game to them and the consequences? Well…

See? Everything old IS new again. Even #fakenews.

The Pendulum Swings

Using an actual pendulum designed by French physicist Léon Foucault to demonstrate Earth’s rotation, the title, and story reference it across ten segments of esoteric references. The pendulum swings first one way, then the other, and back again. What is now has happened before and will happen again. Ready for things to change? Don’t wait. Make it happen.

First written in his native Italian in 1988, Foucault’s Pendulum was translated into English a year later. It’s been twenty years since it was published and ten since I read it. But, elements have always stayed with me. Considered postmodern literature, Eco takes the reader on a ride through the occult, not too unlike Dante’s machinations The Inferno.

History, mystery, myth, and politics converge to give as crystal ball-esque view of “what if?” Or is it a cautionary tale of the “what if?”

The Whole World is an Enigma

A few quotes to ponder from Umberto Eco’s Focault’sPendulum.

“I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.”
Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum
“There are four kinds of people in this world: cretins, fools, morons, and lunatics…Cretins don’t even talk; they sort of slobber and stumble…Fools are in great demand, especially on social occasions. They embarrass everyone but provide material for conversation…Fools don’t claim that cats bark, but they talk about cats when everyone else is talking about dogs. They offend all the rules of conversation, and when they really offend, they’re magnificent…Morons never do the wrong thing. They get their reasoning wrong. Like the fellow who says that all dogs are pets and all dogs bark, and cats are pets, too, therefore cats bark…Morons will occasionally say something that’s right, but they say it for the wrong reason…A lunatic is easily recognized. He is a moron who doesn’t know the ropes. The moron proves his thesis; he has logic, however, twisted it may be. The lunatic on the other hand, doesn’t concern himself at all with logic; he works by short circuits. For him, everything proves everything else. The lunatic is all idée fixe, and whatever he comes across confirms his lunacy. You can tell him by the liberties he takes with common sense, by his flashes of inspiration, and by the fact that sooner or later he brings up the Templars…There are lunatics who don’t bring up the Templars, but those who do are the most insidious. At first, they seem normal, then all of a sudden…”
“Each of us is sometimes a cretin, a fool, a moron, or a lunatic. A normal person is just a reasonable mix of these components, these four ideal types.”

Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum

It’s been ten years since I first read this story. Think I’ll pick it up again and read it in today’s light. Wonder what I’ll see I didn’t see before? Have you read this story? If so, let me know your thoughts in the comments below or send an email.
The Author’s Prerogative to Turn Things on Their Head
Not unlike his book, Umberto Eco is a scholar and a literary powerhouse, and one of the reasons I chose to review this book today is because of an article I came across on Brain Pickings.
We are bibliophiles you and I. We read whenever and whatever we can. But, have you ever heard of an AntiLibrary? These are the books we buy, but don’t read. I have a few. However, I am nowhere near Eco’s camp of 30,000 books in his library, many of which remain unread. Why? I asked myself and I’m guessing you’re doing the same.
Here’s the link to the article. I’ll let you decide your answer. I’m still working on mine.

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© Lisa Street Rogers 2018


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