A book by Julie Kagawa.
If a copy (often unread) of The Name of the Rose on the coffee table was a badge of intellectual superiority in 1983, Eco's second novel--also an intellectual blockbuster--should prove more accessible. This complex psychological thriller chronicles the … see full wiki
"Foucault's Pendulum" is a book rich in history and deep in mystery. Even when you reach the end, you may not be entirely sure what just happened. And of course, considering the subject matter, that is entirely the point.
The story centers around one Casaubon, a student writing a paper about the Knights Templar. By chance, he meets Jacopo Belbo, a book editor working for a small publisher in Milan. They strike up a fast friendship, and Casaubon shortly begins working for the same publisher, helping them to gather facts and imagery for a new series of books they are publishing.
Casaubon, Belbo, and another editor named Diotallevi take a morbid interest in the subject matter of the many books that are brought to them. The prospective authors, who they call "the Diabolicals," present them with far-fetched ideas about global historical conspiracies and a centuries-old plot to somehow rule the world from the shadows. While each story is different, the three men can see common threads running through all of them, and on their own time they explore the idea further themselves, just for the fun of it.
Using an early model of a word processor (celverly named Abulafia, after the Hebrew Kabbalah scholar), they begin borrowing random concepts from the work of the Diabolicals and stringing them together. They include other sources as well, just to mix it up a bit. What they discover is what they call the Plan, and it could be the most important conspiracy theory in the history of the modern world, involving the Rosicrucians, the Jewish Kabbalah, Masonic rituals, Napoleon, the Nazis, and of course at the center of it all, the Knights Templar, spanning over 600 years of European history... or, it could just be a huge coincidence.
What makes "Foucault's Pendulum" such a great novel is not just how it strings the different pieces of the puzzle together (which it does masterfully), nor simply how it makes it whole idea so compelling (which it also does well), but how, simulataneously, it makes you question everything you're reading. Right up until the end (and even beyond), Eco keeps you guessing as to what is "real" and what is not. Where other authors, covering similar subjects, make the conclusions predictable or melodramatic, Eco manages to find a place where the reader is never really sure if what they're reading about is fact, fiction, or something in between. The conclusion is subtle, and leaves nagging doubts in the reader's mind.
The history presented in the book is top-notch, and it's never presented in a way that is insulting or "dumbed down" for the reader. Many books like this tend to include long, painfully obvious passages of exposition, but with Eco one never feels like the information is being presented by sacrificing the story. He manages exposition quite well, and everything that is presented matches the needed context of story and the characters.
The characters themselves have depth, and their dialogue never fails to make them real for the reader. I particularly enjoyed one part, early on, when the three new friends discuss a School of Comparative Irrelevance, a course of studies for useless or impossible subjects, such as "Urban Planning for Gypsies," "Morse Syntax," and "The Phonetics of the Silent Film." This passage served many purposes. On the surface level, it was extremely amusing. It also told the reader a great deal about each of the main characters in an efficient, transparent way. Finally, it serves as foreshadowing of the far broader and deeper invention these characters would soon be embarking upon. To accomplish so much in just a few pages of (primarily) dialogue is the mark of a gifted author.
Through the course of the book Casaubon has many different experiences, both mystical and mundane. Abulafia becomes more than a simple word processor, it becomes a source of truth and another veil of mystery to be pulled aside. Belbo tries to reconcile his sardonic nature with the mystery they seem to be uncovering, trying to maintain a scholarly distance while becoming more and more entranced with the story beneath the stories they hear. And Diotallevi ties everything they learn in with his own beliefs, and what truth means to him.
In the end, "Foucault's Pendulum" is a story about faith, and both the wonderful and terrible things a powerful belief can accomplish. It is also about how different people can take the same facts and each will interpret them in their own way, often wildly different from one another. Eco conveys his ideas via a compelling, original story, and in so doing makes we, the readers, think about what he has to say. It is not the facts themselves that are important, but only the connections we make between them. Perhaps, in the end, it is the interpretations, not the facts themselves, which shape beliefs... and therefore shape the events of history.
"But 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."
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