Reason as the Leading Motive

Umberto “yawn” Eco

Posted by Jerry on December 10, 2006

Umberto Eco’s book Foucault’s Pendulum is a stupendous achievement in boredom. It is a prime example of an evidently brilliant mind producing an intellectual lullaby.


The book–purportedly, a novel–takes up more than 125 pages to even get to the main plot (of you can call it that) of the story; and even then, it barely alludes to the plot before it once again careens into a literary labyrinth of historical exegesis, mythological narrative, and some philosophical mind-games.


There are, veritably, pages of utter nonsense–some in English, some in other languages–that resemble the verbal outpourings of some demented man who’s been in isolation for years and has been craving to speak to someone; aimless, purposeless, scattered, and meandering narration.


Then there are also the pages and pages of contrived speeches given by any one of the forgettable characters on some of the most inane topics, serving not to propel the story forward in some coherent direction but to merely have the reader turn yet another page in exasperation and in eagerness to get to the end. In that sense and that sense only, this book is a true page-turner.


As a fictional novel, it does not even fail miserably! One never really gets the sense that one is reading a novel; an encyclopedic volume on religious history, perhaps, but certainly not a novel.


Of course, there is nothing wrong in a book that’s dense with historical and conspiratorial interpretations on the Catholic Church, Judaism, Rosicrucians, the Templars, paganism, Indian mysticism, the Kaballah, etc., if only it did not sell itself as an “intellectual adventure story… sensational and thrilling… a tour de force.”


Frankly, it’s laughable!

2 Responses to “Umberto “yawn” Eco”

  1. Rubicund said

    Wow. While I admittedly never have read the pendulum, I really have enjoyed other Eco in the past, like “Traveling with a Salmon” and “The Island of the Day Before.” The former is a collection of essays and stories, and the latter is a novel – of shorter duration, I believe, than F’s P. Actually, come to think of it, I didn’t finish either, if memory serves me correctly. I don’t recall any undue discomfort, however. Perhaps I simply have a higher threshold for pabulum.

  2. Ergo said

    Well, and I think that’s the nature of Eco’s novel (admittedly, I’m making this judgment based on reading only one of his novels… it’s all I can stomach for now), they are so easily forgettable!

    I’ll be slightly generous and say that I did appreciate the diverse knowledge on varied topics like the Rosicrucians to vanity presses to the Pendulum and the trends in logic. But in the end, without a coherent, taut, and integrating plot, the book is merely a collection of informative pages.

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