I’ve been reading The Prague Cemetery every chance I’ve had since I received the book yesterday afternoon. So far, so good! The main character, Simone, a truly hateful and hate-filled man, is a fascinating study of the prejudices of 19th century Europe, and the fact that he is the one fictional character set amongst a rich array of historical characters (both major and minor), and is at the center of some of the era’s major events, just adds to his role as a reflection of the darker side of the times. It has called to memory a book that I just recently finished, Peter Gay‘s Cultivation of Hatred, but I’ll leave that train of thought for another post. I will also leave any detailed discussion about the book for later, as I want to get just a little further into it (I haven’t even reached the halfway point).
I did, however, want to mention how much I am enjoying Eco’s blurring of the lines between Reader, Narrator, and Author. In fact, one of the narrators (there are three, although two may be the same person), is writer (of diary entries that the other narrators read), reader (of the diary entries of his possible “second self”), and narrator. One of the voices “The Narrator” speaks (writes) directly to The Reader (in this case, me), after reading the diaries and letters of the two others, further complicating this already intricate dance between text and reader. Have I mentioned how much fun I’m having with all of this?
I’m reminded of what he wrote in regards to constructing the perfect reader in his Postscript to the Name of the Rose, where he states,
What model reader did I want as I was writing? An accomplice, to be sure, one who would play my game.. . . But at the same time, with all my might, I wanted to create a type of reader who, once the initiation was past, who would become by prey – or, rather, the prey of the text – and would think he wanted nothing but what the text was offering him. A text is meant to be an experience of transformation for its reader.
He’s succeeded, I’ve fallen prey once again and I’m certainly more than willing to play his game.
There so much else going on here that I will have to sit and write more when I have more time. There’s the story itself, the history, the conspiracy theories (reminiscent of Foucault’s Pendulum), the notion of memory and loss thereof (a theme he explored in his previous novel The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana), the concept of the word as a cosmological force (a reoccurring theme for Eco, as we’ve seen in Baudolino, Foucault’s Pendulum, and The Island of the Day Before) the question of the reliability of every word printed on the page, and, of course, what role I, the reader, am playing in all of this.
The book calls…