Dan Sandman

51: The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco

In Books, Fiction, Spy on 20/12/2013 at 12:00 pm

The Prague Cemetery by Umberto EcoHistory is a story, based around grand events, focusing on great men. The History of The Decline And Fall of the Roman Empire is a narrative, Julius Caesar is a character in a play, William Shakespeare is a myth. Everything that has ever been written, put into a book and sold was not written in isolation. Texts intermingle with texts, offering glimpses into things that have happened, are happening, and may happen. The thoughts of intellectuals mingle together in a melting pot of ideas: a cauldron full of every kind of writing – historic, journalistic, novel – that has been recorded, published or posted on the internet. This process of mixing together texts to form something new has been referred to as intertextuality.

The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco is a novel about textual relationships. Eco uses his expert knowledge of history, literature and semiotics (the study of how we communicate using signs, such as language or clothing) to create an inspired work of profound originality. The Italian writer craftily and skillfully transforms historic fact into fiction. In a way that is both thrilling and humorous, a cynical light is cast upon some of the nineteenth century’s most shady corners. And in their shadowy darkness, lies the shady protagonist Simone Simonini, brilliantly evil, and – it must be added – strangely appealing.

Wherever there is trouble, there is Simonini: Orchestrating anti-Semitic propaganda leading to the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion; rallying bomb experts for blowing up ships whilst working for the Carbonari (the Italian secret society, whose influence paved the way to unification in 1861); forging the notorious documents connected with the Dreyfus Affair – the dastardly and cunning Simonini is always there, lurking in the shadows. He is xenophobic, schizophrenic, Machiavellian, and representative of a distilled and strong evil. It would be appropriate to compare him to another villain, Shakespeare’s Iago, whose malevolent presence still continues to capture audiences on stage. Like Iago, Simonini is great fun to follow and can be enjoyed best when taken with a pinch of salt. This disturbed fictional character is, in addition, a great device for creating a few conspiracy theories along the way.

To conclude, Umberto Eco’s latest novel plays with language in an ambitious way, which highlights the intertextual nature of stories, and stresses the fallibility of grand historical narratives. It gives to the world a marvelously murderous protagonist whose sinister exploits are a joy to peruse. This book will stimulate the mind, exercise the imagination, lead to enlightenment, and give approximately twelve hours of pleasure.

In other words, it’s a very good book.

  1. There are some interesting points in time in this article but I don’t determine I see all of them center for you to heart. There’s some truth but I will take hold view until My spouse and i look into this further. Good article , thanks so we want much more! Added to FeedBurner too

    • Hi Martina,

      Did you use a translator to construct that comment? Strange grammar!

      I’m very happy you have taken an interest in my writing.



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