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3.8 out of 5 stars
117
3.8 out of 5 stars
Foucault's Pendulum
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on 24 May 2017
On the whole a good and interesting read, with intriguing insights into how conspiracy theories are formed and develop. But very long, and in the end it just seemed to run out of steam. Also, the internal logic seemed to break down (e.g. when, in the timescale of the action, did the narrator find time to set down this long and elaborate text, full of arcane references?)
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on 2 April 2017
Excellent and value for money!
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on 20 September 2017
Nice book
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on 2 January 2017
In truth I found it a little juvenile in comparison to his other works, yet it was still entertaining enough to inspire the
likes of Dan Brown obviously.
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on 11 October 2017
Read this book back in 1991 and remembered really enjoying it. Had forgotten how much humour was slipped in among all the intrigue. A great read.
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on 4 October 2017
If you want to learn about weird parts of history this book is great.
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on 18 July 2017
Excellent
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on 26 February 2016
Brilliant searching reflection on the shadier side of Western history. A collage of historical quotes, narrative and personal diaries, layers of propaganda and fantasy massaging credulity only to be broken down, absorbed and rehashed by publishers and self publicists. A conspiracy handbook of the cult world of secret societies set against the backdrop of Italian politics.
The theme derides conspiracy theorists only to set the year for the Templar's revenge as 66 years after 1944. Whist Umberto Eco claims these things are silly nonsense he couldn't have picked a worse year as an example, but that's assuming you believe he doesn't believe in conspiracy theories.
Just as his characters often own collections of rare literature such was Umberto Eco's fantastic personal library and one wonders what he came across during the research for this book. I think his point is that the more fantastic the conspiracy theory the greater the smoke screen. The question becomes, why do theories do their best to cover what they claim to be exposing. No prizes for answering that one.
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on 26 July 2017
Five Stars are quite rare - but this book would probably have got that first time round (have hardback and paperback copies somewhere).
This purchase on Kindle was prompted by a memory sparked by something I saw on tv which made me want to look back.
It is probably one of Eco's best novels - challenging to get started unless you are familiar with the background but thoroughly fascinating. It explores how secret societies and religions become powerful because of the effect on what people (will) believe.
No spoilers as I'm just getting back into it, only reading a short section most days in lunchbreak!
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on 4 August 2017
(Warning - long post offering a different perspective on some of the criticisms people have brought up).
From the negative reviews I have read, people appear to have two main problems with Foucault’s Pendulum. Firstly, it draws on so many esoteric sources, and goes into so much depth, that it comes across as pretentious an unapproachable. Secondly, the description of these sources is at the expense of the story, such that there isn’t any real plot in the first half of the book. Whilst I can see why people say this, I thought I would offer a slightly different interpretation of these aspects of the book.
So, is it completely unapproachable? In the book, the protagonists piece together a conspiracy surrounding western history and the church. They do this by drawing on a lot information about people and events since the crusades. Eco doesn’t just give the reader the conclusions though, he slowly takes them though the reasoning of the protagonists, trying not to miss a step. Because of this, some people think that Eco is just using this book to show the audience just how much he knows about medieval Europe, boring them in the process. This ties in with another criticism I had when first reading the book – Eco starts every chapter with a cryptic quote from a strange occult text. Sometimes, it is not even clear what the quotes have to do with the story. Again, this can come across as pretentious.
However, I think people tend to exaggerate just how much of the historical detail you need absorb to enjoy the book. Though there are a lot of proper names and dates, most of the time you only need to get the gist of what is being said. Sometimes a figure or event does happen to be more importance than you realised, but in these situations google has you covered. It is easy to do a quick search to remind yourself what the protagonists are on about, and who people such as ‘St Germain’ are supposed to be. So, if you are comfortable reading some of the historical bits without full retention, then I wouldn’t worry too much. I also came to like the quotes. I think they are actually playing quite an interesting narrative role for Eco, at least they did for me. Just as the protagonists trawl thought ancient texts and begin to see a conspiracy, the reader is forced to do the same (at times it can be tempting to agree with their conclusions). Perhaps I am wrong, but this seems like Eco’s way of making the reader complicit in the actions of the protagonists. If this is the case, Eco is not being a smart-ass, but utilising quite an interesting technique.
But is all this exposition at the expense of story? I don’t think so. For one, the facts are often presented in interesting ways, such as flash back (if you can call them that). And its not like the main story just is the conspiratorial world that Eco is presenting us with. There is a clear story line the characters are following, which I won’t spoil. Whilst the plot is a bit slower than in other novels, I think there is a good reason for this pacing. (I think) Foucault’s Pendulum is unpicking humanity’s drive to be a creative force in the world, how this creative drive can be frustrated, and the tension between being a source of change, and accepting the world as it is given to us. But Eco does not always explore this theme directly. He lets these themes develop themselves through presenting the actual work of people, and the paths they are led down. This makes the story a bit slower, but I thought it was an interesting and different way to explore this theme. (I say humanity, but Eco’s lack of developed female leads should be noted).
I wouldn’t recommend this book to everyone though. I already had an interest in a lot of the topics addressed in the book, such as the history of western thought, the philosophy of language/meaning, and the study of religion (if you have similar interests then you should definitely read this book, if you hate them then, conversely, you probably shouldn’t). As a result, I have probably underestimated how foreign some of the ideas that Eco draws on are. For example, the book starts with an intimidatingly complex analysis of the Torah and its relation to problems in mathematics and computation. Whilst loved this section, in this bit Eco really isn’t doing much to avoid the ‘pretentious and unapproachable’ label. But ultimately, getting the gist of this section is sufficient for enjoying the rest of the book (see above).
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