The Prague Cemetery - Umberto Eco

"19th-century Europe - from Turin to Prague to Paris - abounds with the ghastly and the mysterious. Conspiracies rule history. Jesuits plot against Freemasons. Italian republicans strangle priests with their own intestines. French criminals plan bombings by day and celebrate Black Masses at night. Every nation has its own secret service, perpetrating forgeries, plots, and massacres. From the unification of Italy to the Paris Commune to the Dreyfus Affair to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Europe is in tumult and everyone needs a scapegoat. But what if, behind all of these conspiracies both real and imagined, lay one lone man? What if that evil genius created its most infamous document?  

Eco takes his readers here on an unforgettable journey through the underbelly of world-shattering events. This is Eco at his most exciting, a book immediately hailed as his masterpiece." (Source)

I have read fiction and non fiction books by Umberto Eco and so far never encountered a book that I didn't like. I loved The Name of the Rose or Focault's Pendulum and the non fiction book "Wie man eine wissenschaftliche Abschlußarbeit schreibt" (~ how to write a scientific paper) was really interesting too. So you can imagine that I was happy to find out that Eco wrote another book a few years ago. I nearly forgot about it, but when I saw it in a bookstore a few months ago, I had to buy it - because what could go wrong? I enjoyed his other books, why not this? Well, now I know better. I love Eco's writing style, how he manages to write things in a way that makes me feel I'm actually there with his protagonists. But I had a lot of problems with The Prague Cemetery and to be honest, I didn't want to give this book only two stars, I mean it's Umberto Eco... But I had to, because this book is only about a guy who hates everyone and especially women and jews and he dedicated his life to make those look bad. Eco filled this book with the hate of the protagonist - Simonini - towards others and for me personally it was just too much. I got really angry while reading and never managed to read more than a few pages at one time. I heard that this book and Simonini's attitude should be satirical and it should be a mirror for our society. But I don't care about Eco's reasons to shower the reader with prejudices throughout the book - it was just too much. To exaggerate things surely is part of a satire, but in my opinion it should be about quality and not quantity. 


"And when I was old enough to understand, he [the grandfather] reminded me that the Jew, as well as being as vain as a Spaniard, ignorant as a Croat, greedy as a Levantine, ungrateful as a Maltese, insolent as a Gypsy, dirty as an Englishman, unctuous as a Kalmyk, imperious as a Prussion and as slanderous as anyone from Asti is adulterous through uncontrollable lust [...]."


Apart from this problem I had with The Prague Cemetery, I also thought that Eco didn't really integrate the whole story good into the historic frame. It was just a succession of one historic event after the other and somewhere in between those Eco tried to fit his story which in my opinion just didn't work - it often seemed a litle bit out of place. But not all was bad - I have to acknowledge that. You could see Eco's skill to describe things - when he wrote about food my mouth started to water instantly. And the ideas of the relationship between Simonini and the priest Dalla Piccola were really good. Especially their written discussion in a diary - really mysterious. In the end those two positive aspects just couldn't let me forget all those negative parts, so I ended up giving The Prague Cemetery only two stars.