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The Mysterious Flame Of Queen Loana: An Illustrated Novel [Paperback]

Umberto Eco , Geoffrey Brock
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Jun 2006

In this fascinating, abundant new novel from the incomparable Eco, Yambo, a rare-book dealer, has suffered a bizarre form of memory loss. He can remember every book he ever read but nothing about his own life.

In an effort to retrieve his past, he withdraws into his old family home and searches through boxes of old newspapers, comics, records, photo albums and diaries kept in the attic. And so Yambo relives his youth: Mussolini, Catholic education, Josephine Baker, Flash Gordon, Fred Astaire. His memories run wild, and life racing before his eyes takes the form of a graphic novel. Yambo struggles through the flames to capture one simple, innocent image, that of his first love.

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The Mysterious Flame Of Queen Loana: An Illustrated Novel + Island Of The Day Before + Baudolino
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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; paperback / softback edition (1 Jun 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099481375
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099481379
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 76,257 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Confirms Eco as an outstanding writer of philosophy dressed as fiction" (Stephanie Merrit Observer)

"As always with Eco, there is much to admire" (Sunday Times)

"A beautiful evocation of a difficult period of Italian history, full of the flair and erudition for which we love Eco" (Metro)

"Genuinely clever...the writing, the quotes and the pictures often tickle the brain" (Irish Independent)

"Witty, playful, and incorrigibly erudite, Eco clearly had fun writing this book. There is much to enjoy" (Daily Mail)

Book Description

This remarkable illustrated novel is Eco's most accessible and entertaining book since The Name of the Rose.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Less than a novel - yet so much more 1 Mar 2006
By Mr. D. Clark VINE VOICE
Its a fact that all of Umberto Eco's novels are remarkable. Which doesn't necessarily make them easy to read. Both "Foucault's Pendulum" and "The Name of the Rose" are on my all time top ten list - while I couldn not finish either "Baudolino" or "The Island of the Day Before. " I'm glad to say that I finished TMFOQL .
The premise of the novel is fascinating. Yambo, an Italian antiquarian book dealer comes to in hospital ,following a car crash, and has no memory of his personal life right up to his accident. However, he remembers the plot of almost every book which he has ever read. The only ones he doesn't remember are those which he had an intense personal connection to. The narrative of the novel deals with Yambo's attempts to recapture his own personal history, which he does through revisiting his boyhood home, and much of the literature of all kinds which he read when he was young.
If that sounds dry or rather academic, please don't be put off. Its far more than this. The novel makes deeply interesting points about the way that we make memories, and the part that literature, music, in fact all forms of popular culture cannot be divorced from our everyday lives, but are in fact an integral part of the tapestry of memory. I became highly involved with Yambo's quest, and found it deeply moving. Don't be surprised, though, as you read it, if you find yourself wondering wether Yambo should ever have tried to recapture his past . Actually, thinking about this I am sure that Eco is implicitly asking the reader this question.
You must stick with this one. It does drive to a point. Even if it strikes you that the seemingly endless recollection of comic books, pul literature, and adolescent adventure stories from Yambo's childhood does go on for too long, it is necessary and important.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed thoughts. 14 Oct 2009
I thought a lot about how many stars I should give 'The Mysterious Flame'. I thought two stars would be unfair, given the intellectual value of its content. On the other hand, it is not the kind of narrative I would personally give four stars.

'The Name of the Rose' was a masterpiece, a true gift to world literature; it was atmospheric, and exciting. It had a plethora of unique characters, and a great story to tell. 'The Mysterious Flame' is personal, focusing on the identity search of a man suffering from amnesia. It offers a unique journey to Italian culture and the events of the years of the dictatorship, through the illustrated comic books and stories a whole generation loved. At times it offers vivid pictures of the narrator's childhood, and even certain moments of suspense.

But that's as far as it goes. 'The Mysterious Flame' is far too literary for my personal tastes, I'm afraid. It is more like a sophisticated sequence of self-analytical and self-exploring thoughts, than an actual story. That said, there is a character arc to be completed; but it's subtle. You really need to become one with the narrator in order to follow every idea, to feel every bit of anxiety and hope in his skin; to understand not just the necessity of re-establishing his identity, but rather the reasons for why this is so. And that's where the problem lies, in my opinion. Eco's narration stays on the mental level throughout the whole book. The protagonist's emotions derive from his thoughts, they are not given on a parallel level.

Let's take a moment to think about James Joyce's 'Portrait'. What was it, that despite the endless philosophical approaches to self-determination, placed it sublimely among the greatest autobiographical works ever created?
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally something equal to The Name of the Rose 19 May 2005
I have been fowllowing the author's books since my early teens, when I first came upon The Name of the Rose in my uncle's library. It was a hard read for me at the time, but it made a big impression on me. Several years later I bought my own copy and reread the book, to decide it would be forever in my top 10 list. I have read all Eco books since then, always hoping to find something equally great. Unfortunately, I was always disappointed. I have never come across a bad book of the author, but they just could not compare. Then, a few days ago I came upon The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana. And finally, I had one more book I just could not put down. The subject is a little "hard", a middle-aged Italian trying to recover his memory by scanning through his childhood books and mementos, practically reliving his childhood years and attempting to rediscover himslef. Maybe it will be a little foreign to people not familiar with post-WW2 european history, but I still highly recommended. At some point around the middle of the book, I thought it would get tiresome, and then a great twist in the plot and my attentions is completely captured again. Eco at his best.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Tedious Self-Indulgence of Professor Eco 10 Nov 2006
On p.252 of this novel GianBattista Bodoni, the first person narrator, says "It was a ramshackle story, no part of which held water ... an incredibly slipshod narrative that lacks both charm and psychology". Bodoni's comments refer to an old comic book called "The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana", but apply equally to Eco's novel of the same name, which is a scruffy, self-indulgent, tedious homage to the literature and art of Bodoni's childhood. In this, Bodoni is Eco's mouthpiece, and Eco takes full advantage in an exhaustive and nostalgic journey through the major cultural influences of his early years, and the fantasy worlds they helped him, as a child, to build. Given the narrator's comments about the Queen Loana comic book, it is just possible that Eco is playing a trick on his readers - by leading them through a fiction that is as ramshackle, slipshod and charmless as the comic book Bodoni describes. Ha, ha, the joke's on you reader. If so, that would just confirm the vanity and self-importance that are this novel's hallmarks. I think the truth is more mundane, if rather puzzling - Eco has produced an absolute stinker.

Bodoni is trying to recover his affective and emotional memory following a stroke. The stroke has not affected his encyclopedic memory - he can remember words and facts from all the books, newspapers, films, posters, comics etc he has read or seen. But he doesn't recognise his wife or family, and cannot recall anything that is held in the memorey by its association with emotional states (love, political and ethical convictions, tastes and preferences etc.). So he goes on a journey to his childhood home, to browse through an attic full of mementoes in an attempt to recover his memory and thereby find out who he really is.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful meditation on culture and memory
It is interesting to see how this novel has divided reviewers: perhaps the division says more about what people with different temperaments expect from a novel than it does about... Read more
Published on 15 Sep 2010 by Dr. G. C. Watson
4.0 out of 5 stars Typical Umberto
I have enjoyed reading all of Umberto Eco's books because of his high quality of writing. I fall deeply into the world that he creates in each story. Read more
Published on 28 Aug 2010 by John Schell
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Eco at his best, but some nice flourishes
A good soul searching look at growing up in fascist Italy and the second world war. I enjoyed the evocative descriptions of events and places. Read more
Published on 28 Aug 2009 by S. Zacharias
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Evocation of Memories and their Graphical Form
This is a magnificent book, a fantastic whirling evocation of a past life revealed to a troubled mind, physically diseased and hovering on the brink of extinction but nevertheless... Read more
Published on 31 July 2009 by Clifford
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I love Umberto Eco's books. I struggle through them and feel like I've really acheived something by finishing them! Read more
Published on 28 Jan 2009 by Tricia B
1.0 out of 5 stars Utter Crap
has professor eco peaked already? has all his success gone into his head? does he think he has a band of followers ready to devour half eaten scraps he throws in the waste... Read more
Published on 1 Dec 2007 by seldon
2.0 out of 5 stars Only the worst of Eco
I have often joked that I would rather read Umberto Eco's shopping list than many of the so-called popular novels. In this book, Eco goes to prove me wrong. Read more
Published on 5 Oct 2007 by Thomas Paul
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating and thought-provoking
I'm going somewhat against the grain of the other reviewers here by stating that this is a fantastic book. Read more
Published on 19 Jun 2007 by Nicholas John
3.0 out of 5 stars A good read, but lacks an ending
A 60 year old man wakes up unable to remember any of his own history, but with his factual memory intact. Read more
Published on 17 Jun 2007 by Mr. Paul J. Bradshaw
2.0 out of 5 stars Turgid test of stamina and patience
I have only ever not finished two books: The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell and...this one. That I did manage to hold out until page 231 of Eco's latest novel would suggest... Read more
Published on 16 Jun 2007 by Nigel Collier
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