The Name of the Rose

nameoftherose

You know, maybe it’s just me, but I simply cannot picture Christian Slater as Adso. He’s too… Christian Slater-y for my liking. I cannot, however, un-see Sean Connery as William of Baskerville, it’s the perfectly smug role for him.

The Name of the Rose is a 1980 novel by Umberto Eco, originally published in Italian. It was translated and was a film in 1986 starring, yeah, Sean Connery and Christian Slater as Brother William and his junior scribe novice friend, Adso of Melk. I’ve previously read Foucault’s Pendulum, and while I still have no idea what happened there, The Name of the Rose is much, much easier to understand and ends really quite well.

The book is said to be a real account of events in the year 1327, where a series of killings occur at a monastery in the mountains of Italy. Adso, at that time a young man, records the events in his old age many years later, and it is a translation of his manuscript we are supposedly reading. This device works fairly well, as we are only privy to what Adso knows of the events, and on the few occasions where he gets ahead of the narrative, he rebukes himself, which is enjoyable.

Unlike my experience with Foucault’s Pendulum, I finished this novel and went “ahh, that makes sense!”, which I was not expecting to do. I found all the elements clicked nicely at the end, like a detective novel should be. Sure, I like to rag on Sherlock Holmes for using the same device of “the narrator doesn’t have all the same pieces the real sleuth does, so you can’t really see the answer”, which to me is generally unsatisfying, but I feel the difference is this: Sherlock Holmes, and in particular A Study in Scarlet, pulls a nonsense answer literally out of nowhere. It makes Holmes seem smart because he makes utterly insane deductive leaps which turn out to be correct. When WIlliam of Baskerville confronts the killer at the end of The Name of the Rose, he lays out precisely how he came to these conclusions. It’s logical, it makes sense, and you feel as if you could have made that same conclusion yourself, were you as learned a scholar as William.

Sherlock Holmes is an autistic genius who shoots up cocaine and pulls his answers from the aether. William of Baskerville is an educated man who actually deduces things. Anyone could be like William; no one can be like Sherlock.

Is it good or is it ain’t?

It’s good. I can see myself rereading this for pleasure, despite the interminable religious and philosophical debates which I will readily admit to skimming when they clearly extend for more than a page or so. It’s cool to see William sling knowledge in verbal fisticuffs with other people, but when none of the references make sense because I am totally unfamiliar with the works discussed, the sick burns are slightly less amazing.

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~ by Tim H on October 29, 2013.

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