I'll admit I am a fan of Umberto Eco but I was very surprised at how much of an impression this book made on me. The negative criticisms regarding the protagonists' vile anti-semitism miss the point entirely. The language and opinions expressed by the character penetrated many levels of society in Europe, Russia and even the good old USA in the late 19th century. All you need to do is read a little about the Dreyfuss affair to know that many characters from the book (e.g. Drumont) were popular real historical characters. The appalling (and to most modern ears absurd) words which Eco puts in their mouths come from contemporary records. If you can't stomach Ecos description of these attitudes you cannot stomach history - admittedly a pretty sordid and depressing history.
The disturbing thing is, of course, that the insane conspiracies referred to in this book are still widely held in some parts of the world and amongst otherwise ordinary people who find a flimsy but exotic conspiracy more appealing than an evidence based search for truth.
The book is brilliantly written and is a powerful reminder about how evil ideas can gain traction in spite of (or because of?) their preposterousness. This is also quite a humorous book and for me at least a real page turner. This book is rich in real historical characters whom I'm looking forward to learning about.
Can't believe Eco wrote this when he was almost 80....