Il cimitero di Praga

In the plane back from Kyoto, I did read most of Umberto Eco’s The Prague Cemetery, as my computer was down and as I had by then reviewed both PhD theses I had taken with me…  I am always impressed by Eco’s books and the erudition they show, and I read The Name of the Rose several times. I also enjoyed very much Foucault’s Pendulum as well as the Island of the Day Before.

The main idea of this book is to demonstrate how modern anti-semitism was fueled by conservatism forces during the French and the Italian 19th century revolutions. And how forged documents were produced to this effect, culminating with the alas famous Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The story mostly takes place in Paris, as the central character is an agent provocateur and con-artist at the centre of those forgeries, employed by various and sometimes ennemy secret services and societies to move public opinions against Jews, free-masons and republicans. Not only he is at the origin of the Protocole, but he also forged the letter incriminating Captain Dreyfus (and later Esterházy). Not a very pleasant character, to be sure. Especially since he suffers from schizophrenia. And seems to be only motivated by greed. Not a pleasant story either!

Once again, and as usual with Eco’s books, the story is well-documented. Actually, the author says that every character appearing in the book is real except for the narrator. However, I find the pseudo-Dickensian/Dumasian style Eco adopted in this book rather heavy-going, while the plot is not particularly gripping. In a related vein of conspiracies and secret societies, Foucault’s Pendulum was way better..

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