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Foucault's Pendulum is divided into ten segments represented by the ten Sefiroth. The novel is full of esoteric references to the Kabbalah. The title of the book refers to an actual pendulum designed by the French physicist Léon Foucault to demonstrate the rotation of the earth, which has symbolic significance within the novel. Bored with their work, and after reading too m Foucault's Pendulum is divided into ten segments represented by the ten Sefiroth. The novel is full of esoteric references to the Kabbalah. The title of the book refers to an actual pendulum designed by the French physicist Léon Foucault to demonstrate the rotation of the earth, which has symbolic significance within the novel. Bored with their work, and after reading too many manuscripts about occult conspiracy theories, three vanity publisher employees (Belbo, Diotallevi and Casaubon) invent their own conspiracy for fun. They call this satirical intellectual game "The Plan," a hoax that connects the medieval Knights Templar with other occult groups from ancient to modern times. This produces a map indicating the geographical point from which all the powers of the earth can be controlled—a point located in Paris, France, at Foucault’s Pendulum. But in a fateful turn the joke becomes all too real. The three become increasingly obsessed with The Plan, and sometimes forget that it's just a game. Worse still, other conspiracy theorists learn about The Plan, and take it seriously. Belbo finds himself the target of a real secret society that believes he possesses the key to the lost treasure of the Knights Templar. Orchestrating these and other diverse characters into his multilayered semioticadventure, Eco has created a superb cerebral entertainment.


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Foucault's Pendulum is divided into ten segments represented by the ten Sefiroth. The novel is full of esoteric references to the Kabbalah. The title of the book refers to an actual pendulum designed by the French physicist Léon Foucault to demonstrate the rotation of the earth, which has symbolic significance within the novel. Bored with their work, and after reading too m Foucault's Pendulum is divided into ten segments represented by the ten Sefiroth. The novel is full of esoteric references to the Kabbalah. The title of the book refers to an actual pendulum designed by the French physicist Léon Foucault to demonstrate the rotation of the earth, which has symbolic significance within the novel. Bored with their work, and after reading too many manuscripts about occult conspiracy theories, three vanity publisher employees (Belbo, Diotallevi and Casaubon) invent their own conspiracy for fun. They call this satirical intellectual game "The Plan," a hoax that connects the medieval Knights Templar with other occult groups from ancient to modern times. This produces a map indicating the geographical point from which all the powers of the earth can be controlled—a point located in Paris, France, at Foucault’s Pendulum. But in a fateful turn the joke becomes all too real. The three become increasingly obsessed with The Plan, and sometimes forget that it's just a game. Worse still, other conspiracy theorists learn about The Plan, and take it seriously. Belbo finds himself the target of a real secret society that believes he possesses the key to the lost treasure of the Knights Templar. Orchestrating these and other diverse characters into his multilayered semioticadventure, Eco has created a superb cerebral entertainment.

30 review for Foucault's Pendulum

  1. 4 out of 5

    Will

    Imagine three sarcastic, over-educated editors who work at a vanity publisher. Owing to their occupation, they naturally end up reading an abundance of books about ridiculously grand conspiracy theories and occult societies - the Freemasons, the Templars, the Rosicrucians, the Illuminati (Bavarian and otherwise), and so on. So they start to play a sort of free-association game: Let's connect all these things, using the same half-mad logic as the authors of these books, into one grand design. Thu Imagine three sarcastic, over-educated editors who work at a vanity publisher. Owing to their occupation, they naturally end up reading an abundance of books about ridiculously grand conspiracy theories and occult societies - the Freemasons, the Templars, the Rosicrucians, the Illuminati (Bavarian and otherwise), and so on. So they start to play a sort of free-association game: Let's connect all these things, using the same half-mad logic as the authors of these books, into one grand design. Thus The Plan is born. But they're too good at it. The Plan starts to get away from them. After so long immersed in the dream-logic of conspiracy theories you can form seemingly-natural (and ominous) connections between any pair of things. So when strange and ominous things do happen, when the pieces seem to start falling into place, is it just coincidence? Are the things they thought they were making up real? Yes, as others have said, you'll get more out of this book if you know multiple languages, have a dictionary handy, have some background in the occult, etc. Considering that the author and the protagonists are all polyglot intellectuals with doctorates in literature and/or medieval history, it'll naturally help you if you are similarly educated. But I don't think that's necessary to enjoy the book overall. It is wry and intellectual but at its heart it's a detective thriller: A friend goes missing and Our Hero needs to find out why. And he finds a lot more than he bargained for. Some notes for readers: this book follows the pattern "Our Hero, just before the Final Confrontation, takes a moment to flash back to all the circumstances leading him to this moment." So you start out right near the end. You will be confused and overwhelmed. Press on, dear reader. All the important things will be explained. Don't worry too much if you don't know everything about Kabbalah or Socialism in Italy in the 1960s - they are not vital to the story. But reading about them does add to the enjoyment. In fact, I think that might be one of my favorite things about this book: the sheer breadth of the references and allusions - medieval history to James Joyce to the Beatles. I could probably spend a couple of months plugging everything I didn't understand from my first reading into Wikipedia and seeing what I find out. Which I plan to do. On my second reading.

  2. 5 out of 5

    This Is Not The Michael You're Looking For

    This book consists of predominantly two things: (1) Endless dialogue by mentally unbalanced paranoid conspiracy theorists; (2) Endless dialogue by scholars who study mentally unbalanced paranoid conspiracy theorists. This is not a bad book, but its not an easy read, and not really a particularly enjoyable one. My enjoyment, or lack thereof, was tempered by the fact that I was apparently trying to read one story, but the author was trying to tell a different one. Put another way, I was trying to This book consists of predominantly two things: (1) Endless dialogue by mentally unbalanced paranoid conspiracy theorists; (2) Endless dialogue by scholars who study mentally unbalanced paranoid conspiracy theorists. This is not a bad book, but its not an easy read, and not really a particularly enjoyable one. My enjoyment, or lack thereof, was tempered by the fact that I was apparently trying to read one story, but the author was trying to tell a different one. Put another way, I was trying to read about plot, but the author was trying to write about person. Conceptually, this book is fascinating, but the execution was wanting; again, this may be because Eco was trying to tell a different story than I wanted to read. Many others describe this book as "thrilling" or a "roller coaster ride" but it's not. It's supposed to be, I think, but the tension is lost in the morass of dialogue and background. In the end, rather than being a book about conspiracy theorists (which is what 90% of the text is about), it's almost more a book about self-image. It does show how conspiracy theorists can make any idea self-prophecisizing (sp?), but it could have been done in a much cleaner, approachable fashion.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Il Pendolo di Foucault = Foucault’s Pendulum, Umberto Eco Foucault's Pendulum is a novel by Italian writer and philosopher Umberto Eco. It was first published in 1988, and an English translation by William Weaver appeared a year later. Foucault's Pendulum is divided into ten segments represented by the ten Sefiroth. The satirical novel is full of esoteric references to Kabbalah, alchemy and conspiracy theory—so many, that critic and novelist Anthony Burgess suggested that it needed an index. The Il Pendolo di Foucault = Foucault’s Pendulum, Umberto Eco Foucault's Pendulum is a novel by Italian writer and philosopher Umberto Eco. It was first published in 1988, and an English translation by William Weaver appeared a year later. Foucault's Pendulum is divided into ten segments represented by the ten Sefiroth. The satirical novel is full of esoteric references to Kabbalah, alchemy and conspiracy theory—so many, that critic and novelist Anthony Burgess suggested that it needed an index. The pendulum of the title refers to an actual pendulum designed by the French physicist Leon Foucault to demonstrate Earth's rotation, and has symbolic significance within the novel. Some believe it refers to the philosopher Michel Foucault, noting Eco's friendship with the French philosopher, but the author "specifically rejects any intentional reference to Michel Foucault" —this is regarded as one of his subtle literary jokes. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و هشتم ماه دسامبر سال 2011میلادی عنوان: آونگ فوکو؛ نویسنده: امبرتو اکو؛ مترجم: رضا علیزاده؛ مشخصات نشر تهران، روزنه، 1389؛ در دو جلد و 1172ص، اندازه 21/5س.م در 14/5س.م.، واژه نامه، شابک 9789643343187؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان ایتالیایی - سده 20م داستان «آونگ فوکو» در زمان حاضر می‌گذرد؛ ماجرای سه ویراستار بسیار کارکشته را، بازگو می‌کند، که پس از تلاش بسیار در کار خود، دچار سستی می‌شوند، و تصمیم می‌گیرند، برای رهایی از رخوت، طرحی مشترک را اجرا کنند و ...؛ «امبرتو اکو» در خلال بازگویی ماجرا، به بحث درباره ی تاریخ، ادبیات، متن، و تفسیر متن نیز می‌پردازند؛ «آونگ فوکو» نام نوعی آونگ نمایشی است، که به منظور نشان دادن چرخش کره ی زمین، به کار می‌رود؛ آونگ، نخستین بار برای نشان‌ دادن حرکت وضعی زمین، توسط «لئون فوکو»، در سال 1851میلادی آزمایش شد، و مورد توجه قرار گرفت تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 23/09/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ian "Marvin" Graye

    PLAYFUL: An Opening Gambol While I first read this novel in 2009, I bought a second-hand copy in May, 2013 for $7, which I thought was a bargain price for the degree of pleasure it's given me. Only when I was half way through did I notice a sheet of white paper slipped into the last pages. It shows four hand-drawn circles, each of which contains the name of a city and a number. If the numbers represent years, they cover 21 years. If you add 2 and 1, you get the number 3. If you examine the gaps betw PLAYFUL: An Opening Gambol While I first read this novel in 2009, I bought a second-hand copy in May, 2013 for $7, which I thought was a bargain price for the degree of pleasure it's given me. Only when I was half way through did I notice a sheet of white paper slipped into the last pages. It shows four hand-drawn circles, each of which contains the name of a city and a number. If the numbers represent years, they cover 21 years. If you add 2 and 1, you get the number 3. If you examine the gaps between the years, you get the numbers 11, 4 and 6. If you add these numbers, you get 21, which when added together, comes to 3. If you add 1, 1, 4 and 6, you get 12, which when added, comes to 3. If the numbers are not years and you add them together, you get 8,015. If you add these numbers, you get 14, and if you add 1 and 4, you get 5. If you add 3 and 5, you get 8, which is exactly twice the number of circles on the sheet. Here is a photo of the sheet: I've been back to the bookshop where I bought my copy, but the owner wasn't able to remember who she had bought the book from. I'm not sure how many of these cities get mentioned in the novel [all but Madrid, as it turns out, unless I'm mistaken]. However, I've since discovered the following facts with the assistance of Professor Googlewiki. Manchester is the home of the Manchester Unity of Odd Fellows in England, from which some Rosicrucian Orders derive their charter. Madrid is the home of Gran Logia AMORC, Jurisdicción de Lengua Española para Europa, Africa y Australasia. The Rosicrucian Order, Christian Order of the Hermetic Gold & Rose+Cross is based in Los Angeles. In Paris, the Temple was a medieval fortress, located in what is now the 3rd arrondissement. The Knights Templar originally constructed it as their European headquarters. If you have any ideas about the significance of this sheet of paper, please message me or post them in the comments below, with a spoiler warning. Alternatively, please send them with a stamped, addressed envelope containing US$20 processing fee [plus any gratuity you are happy with] to my home address. If you're the first to work out some sort of solution that convinces me of its authenticity, I'll post a photo of something that might absolutely amaze you. P.S. Brian's hypothesis has convinced me. How Foucault's Pendulum Works (Maybe) 1. Imagine the Earth is a perfectly spherical hollow ball (it is, you know, or is it?). 2. Imagine that a steel cable 6,371 kilometers long is attached to the bottom side of the North Pole. This is more or less the radius of the Earth. 3. Imagine that a really bloody heavy lead bob is attached to the end of the cable. 4. Let's imagine that the Earth isn't tilted off its axis. 5. Let's say we're sitting underground on a couch somewhere north of the Equator, and we drag the cable and bob over to the inside of the sphere, then we let it go, so that it starts swinging through the centre of the Earth and over to the other side. 6. Let's assume that the bob swings in the one plane, a constant relative to the space outside the sphere of the Earth, e.g., as measured relative to the stars. 6. Let's try to do this very carefully, just in case it swings back to exactly where we're sitting on the couch. 7. But it doesn't! (See steps 10 and 11.) 8. Let's assume that the bob swings so quickly that it takes an hour to swing back to the side it started (i.e., a complete cycle). 9. Let's assume that the Earth is rotating once every 24 hours (it is, you know, or is it?). 10. Every hour, the earth moves 15 degrees around its own 360 cycle (360 degrees/24 hours = 15 degrees). 11. By the time the bob returns to our side of the Earth, it touches the inside of the sphere 15 degrees away from our couch. 12. Repeat another 23 times, and the bob comes full circle and smashes our couch. 13. Fortunately it doesn't smash us as well, because by now we understand how Foucault's Pendulum works, and we got off the couch just in time. 14. If we map the path of the bob, it will look something like this (except that there would be 24 repetitions instead of eight): 15. If we mapped 24 repetitions, the map would look more like a rose. Hence, in mathematics, this type of map is referred to as a "rose" or "rhodonea curve", and each half of a repetition (from the circumference to the centre) is called a "petal". 16. Hence, in "Foucault's Pendulum", Umberto Eco takes us from "The Name of the Rose" to "The Shape of the Rose". 17. It is possible that everything I've said to you so far is false. SERIOUS: The Quest for Happiness "Foucault’s Pendulum" is at once a Post-Modernist and an Existentialist novel. Umberto Eco’s focus is not just Religion. It’s any form of ideology: Fascism, the Resistance, God, Socialism. For Eco, these ideologies or belief systems are “Fixed Points” that determine our relationship with the cosmos. While individual lives might be relatively chaotic, in constant motion, the belief systems are supposed to fix and secure our relationship with the universe. They create order. The vehicles through which the novel explores these issues are the Word, the Book, the Manifesto, the Strategy, the Plan, even the Five Year Plan. All of these things exist, because we don’t quite know what we need or want. We’re not yet happy, nor do we really know how to get happy. Each one is an apparatus which is offered to us to help in our quest for happiness. The Credulity of the Non-Believer Eco loosely quotes G.K. Chesterton as follows: "When men stop believing in God, it isn’t that they then believe in nothing: they believe in everything." There is some uncertainty about the actual origin and wording of this quotation. I wondered whether it had simply been translated from English to Italian and then back to English, without checking the original. However, the more accurate version of it is: "When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing — they believe in anything." Filling the Void Religion maintains that God exists everywhere for us and that "the void does not exist". However, its opponents acknowledge that there is a void, but argue that it should not exist: "A void had been created, and it has to be filled!" What is to be done? Somehow, the Book (whether or not it contains the "Holy Word") has become the vehicle with which to fill the void, create meaning, document beliefs and practices, and address the need to be happy. Esoterica Major Religions have their own Holy Book. However, side by side with them are heretical, esoteric and occult works that cater to the same need. Many fraternities and orders have grown up around these books. [I wonder what proportion of the members are female?] Their members derive order from their order. In the case of the more military orders, the members also get their orders from their order. To the extent that these books and beliefs have been perceived as heretical or threatening by mainstream religious institutions, a culture of secrecy has grown up around them, hence the term "secret societies". The Mystery Dance There is often a sense in which some level of mystery and imprecision needs to be preserved: "The Templars' mental confusion makes them indecipherable." Because heretical beliefs are erroneous in the eyes of the Church, Eco implies that error is almost a secondary issue within esoterica: "An error can be the unrecognised bearer of truth. True esotericism does not fear contradiction." What’s more important is the question and the mystery, as opposed to the answer and the certainty. A secret remains enchanting until it has been revealed, at which point it has been emptied of enchantment. Eco even speculates that the secret might be that there is no secret, as long as those outside the order believe those inside know something they don't know. Secrecy is more important than the substance of the secret. Perhaps what is most valuable is the bond between the members of the order. The secret might simply be the framework or glue that initially connects them. Once the order is in place, it can survive of its own accord. A Post-Modernist Prank The Post-Modern aspects of the novel derive from the narrative in which its three protagonists (Casaubon, Belbo and Diotallevi) resolve to fabricate a work of esoterica, so that a specialist publisher for which they work can capitalize on a credulous market ("the Plan"). "Foucault’s Pendulum" becomes a novel about the invention and construction of a work of non-fiction that is actually fictitious, perhaps one that even seeks to "arrive at the truth through the painstaking reconstruction of a false text.". The work needs to have words and facts and connections. Like the bond of a secret society, the power of words emerges from their connection: "Any fact becomes important when it’s connected to another. The connection changes the perspective; it leads you to think that every detail of the world, every voice, every word written or spoken has more than its literal meaning, that it tells us of a Secret. The rule is simple: Suspect, only suspect. You can read subtexts even in a traffic sign that says ‘No littering.’ " "Invent, Invent Wildly" The protagonists discover that their creative process follows certain apparently spontaneous rules. The foundation stone is: "Concepts are connected by analogy. There is no way to decide at once whether an analogy is good or bad, because to some degree everything is connected to everything else." That said, readers are more comfortable with the conventional, with what they have heard before, with facts with which they are already familiar: "The connections must not be original. They must have been made before, and the more often the better, by others. Only then do the crossings seem true, because they are obvious." The connections can be crazy, as long as the facts are recognised. The protagonists are urged to: "Invent, invent wildly, paying no attention to connections, till it becomes impossible to summarize." "Tout se tient" in the end. If "tout se tient" in the end, the connection works. So it’s right. It's right because it works. This concept and phrase is usually attributed to the semiotician Saussure. In language, every element connects to, supports and is supported by every other element. You can also see Eco's theories about how we read influencing not just his own novel, but the Book, the Plan that his protagonists are authoring. Protagonists and Spectators The characters' level of participation and commitment to the project varies: "[Belbo] would never be a protagonist, he decided to become, instead, an intelligent spectator." He can’t write fiction, but he can fabricate non-fiction. He also maintains a diary in which he fictionalizes his past and present. Ironically, despite his lack of creative self-confidence, Belbo remains a major protagonist in Eco’s novel: "Fear forced him to be brave. Inventing, he had created the principle of reality." Existentialism, Doubt and Confidence Belbo's realism results from courage, which in turn strengthens Casaubon’s resolve. Casaubon learns the real source of Belbo’s lack of confidence, an event in his childhood when he had to fill in for a trumpeter in an impromptu public performance. Casaubon concludes that there are for all of us certain decisive moments when we have to confront the essence of our character and fate. How we deal with these moments determines the happiness in the rest of our lives. These moments don’t necessarily have anything to do with God, Fate or the supernatural. Nor do they depend on the execution of Plans. They do have to deal with self-doubt and our inner reserves, both of energy and of insight. These discoveries force Casaubon to question his adherence to the principles of the Enlightenment (including Cartesian Doubt). "I had always thought that doubting was a scientific duty, but now I came to distrust the very masters who had taught me to doubt... "I devoted myself to Renaissance philosophers and I discovered that the men of secular modernity, once they had emerged from the darkness of the Middle Ages, had found nothing better to do than devote themselves to cabala and magic." Eat a Peach Casaubon has his own existential "trumpet moment" at the end of the novel, when he must learn to play with the cards that Fate has dealt him: "...yet, like Belbo when he played the trumpet, when I bit into the peach, I understood the Kingdom and was one with it." Ultimately, it’s a moment that only the individual can handle. We have to figure it out for ourselves. There is no Plan, there is no Map. "Kill me, then, but I won’t tell you there’s no Map. If you can’t figure it out for yourself, tough shit." "Foucault's Pendulum" takes us on this journey with consummate intelligence, traditional, esoteric and pop cultural allusiveness, literary skill and humour. The Hollow Obelisk AFFECTIONATE: Casaubon’s Last Letter to His Wife, Lia Animula vagula blandula, Hospes comesque corporis * It hurts me to think I might not see you again. It was all my fault. I was seduced away from you, not by another woman, but by another Other, something I thought was beautiful, because I was helping to construct it. "People are hungry for plans, for cosmic solutions," you said. "If you create one, they’ll descend on it like wolves. If you make one, they’ll believe it. It’s just make believe, Pow, it’s wrong." You always knew the book was superficial, that it was a fake, that there was no truth contained between its covers. But I made them all believe it had both truth and depth. Deep down, I knew they desired what this book had to offer: mystery, secrecy, answers, certainty. Even though once they had read it, the mystery would dissipate and they would be left satisfied, but empty, with nothing left, nothing new to strive for. Neither grail nor quest. My audience was weak, unlike you, who are strong. You don’t need answers from outside. You’ve found them within. In your own body. "Oh, I almost forgot," you said. "I’m pregnant." I remember looking at you just before you told me. You were caressing your belly, your breasts, even your ear lobes. I was oblivious. I couldn’t understand these moves you were making. I had always thought of you as so slim and supple. Now I picture you as buxom, rosy-cheeked and healthy – I should have realised that you were pregnant. You were trying to solve my problem. I was single-minded about that. You spoke confidently. You radiated a serene wisdom. You were luminous. You illuminated both of us. I realise now it might have been your maternal instinct, a fledgling matriarchal authority, that there were three of us present - you, me and Guilio – and that you were speaking for all three. I know you will take good care of Guilio. Please let him know I will always love him. * Little soul, you charming little wanderer, my body's guest and partner - Hadrian A Letter from Lia to Guilio on the Occasion of His Thirteenth Birthday My dearest son, Giulio, your father wasn’t born a wise man, but he died a wise man. He didn’t plan to be wise or to die when he did, but in many ways it was the result of a Plan, even if it wasn’t only his Plan. Your father died when he was ready. He died at peace. He died as soon as he had attained peace. He attained his peace when finally he understood his place in the world. He died when there was nothing left to learn and nothing left to understand. By the time he died, he had learned his place in the cosmos, on this earth, on this rock that is our home. Your father, Casaubon, was a philosophical man. In the end, the wisdom that he had finally learned gave him great certainty and comfort. You were a big part of it. You gave him certainty and comfort, he called you his philosopher’s stone, that’s how much you meant to him, but equally he hoped and knew that the wisdom he had gained would pass on to you. This is what he learned and what he wanted me to tell you on his behalf. Having learned, he wanted to teach you. There is no map. There is no plan. There is only life. There is only us. Your father has gone already. And one day, when I am gone, there will only be you left. But you will have your wife and your children, and each of them will be your philosophers’ stone. Life will pass through your father and me to you and then from you and your wife to your children. These are the connections between us. What your father learned is no secret, yet few get to know it in their lives. Too many people look without success for secrets, for profundity, for inspiration. Life is only as complicated as you make it. Happiness is an open secret, it’s within you, it’s in your soul, and all you have to do is open it. I know how happy you have become, how happy you are. I am so proud of you, and I know your father would be too. We are grateful to you, our son, for the happiness you have given us and those who surround you. SOUNDTRACK: Beth Orton - "Sweetest Decline" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SjF6ak... "She weaves secrets in her hair The whispers are not hers to share. She's deep as a well. She's deep as a well. What's the use in regrets They're just things we haven't done yet What are regrets? They're just lessons we haven't learned yet." Beth Orton & M. Ward - "Buckets of Rain" (Bob Dylan cover) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlJ2hc... John Cale - "I Keep A Close Watch" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7UX_Py... This video is an hilarious juxtaposition of lyrics and imagery, just like the novel. dEUS - "Nothing Really Ends" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbmBUU... "The plan it wasn't much of a plan I just started walking I had enough of this old town And nothing else to do It was one of those nights You wonder how nobody died We started talking You didn't come here to have fun You said: "well I just came for you"" dEUS - "Nothing Really Ends" [Live] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lO_SwO... READING NOTES: I transferred my reading notes and updates to My Writings here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    When it comes to novels the size of bricks I have to admit to being a bit of a lightweight, only reading a handful of books over 600 pages long, and always enter with some trepidation. Eco's Foucault's Pendulum is not quite brick big, but then it doesn't look like it's been on a diet either. In terms of sheer scope and passionate ambition this really is something, and it felt like a history lesson and a novel combined, so kudos there. This is a complex piece of writing that does require hard work When it comes to novels the size of bricks I have to admit to being a bit of a lightweight, only reading a handful of books over 600 pages long, and always enter with some trepidation. Eco's Foucault's Pendulum is not quite brick big, but then it doesn't look like it's been on a diet either. In terms of sheer scope and passionate ambition this really is something, and it felt like a history lesson and a novel combined, so kudos there. This is a complex piece of writing that does require hard work from the reader, in basic terms what starts out as a literary joke for three Milan based book editors soon sees them enter a world of deadly peril. The narrator, Casaubon, an expert on the medieval Knights Templars, and two editors working in a branch of a vanity press publishing house in Milan, are told about a purported coded message revealing a secret plan set in motion by the Knights Templars centuries ago when the society was forced underground. As a lark, the three decide to invent a history of the occult tying a variety of phenomena to the mysterious machinations of the Order. Feeding their inspirations into a computer, they become obsessed with their story, dreaming up links between the Templars and just about every occult manifestation throughout history, even Mickey Mouse gets a mention. But things start to turn very real for them, and are targeted by an unknown enemy. Just how much do they really know? To say this is a densely packed novel would be an understatement, way more than half of it's content is Eco having fun as a history Professor cramming in physics, philosophy, historical survey, mathematical puzzles, religious and cultural mythology, rituals, Rosicrucians, Jesuits, Freemasons, Druids, on so on.....Hitler and his cronies come into the plot as well with a quite outrageous reason for slaughtering the Jews. I would best describe Foucault's Pendulum as a metaphysical meditation, but also part detective story, it doesn't always work, there are moments of brilliance within, just not enough of the time, the narrative eventually becomes bogged with so much accumulated data and supposition that had me going into meltdown. It was no doubt intriguing, and highly ambitious which I give him credit for, and Eco's passion for history is paramount throughout. Only down side is that after 641 gruelling pages the finale was not really a finale, I felt a little cheated after all the effort, and wished for another 50 pages or so, as to reach some sort of closure. But to Eco's credit at least he made Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code look like it was written by a 12 year old.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Traveller

    Descartes said: Cogito, ergo sum. Eco says: I seek meaning, therefore I am human. It's very hard to succinctly describe exactly what this novel is. From looking at the plot description, you may be forgiven for assuming that it is a book like Holy Blood, Holy Grail, by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln, or Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. There is an overlap in the fact that all three books deal with conspiracies that revolve around the mystical and mythical order of the Knight's Templ Descartes said: Cogito, ergo sum. Eco says: I seek meaning, therefore I am human. It's very hard to succinctly describe exactly what this novel is. From looking at the plot description, you may be forgiven for assuming that it is a book like Holy Blood, Holy Grail, by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln, or Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. There is an overlap in the fact that all three books deal with conspiracies that revolve around the mystical and mythical order of the Knight's Templar, (view spoiler)[who were among the most wealthy and powerful of the Western Christian military orders and were among the most prominent actors of Christian finance. The organization existed for nearly two centuries during the Middle Ages. Officially endorsed by the Catholic Church around 1129, the Order became a favoured charity throughout Christendom and grew rapidly in membership and power. Templar knights, in their distinctive white mantles with a red cross, were among the most skilled fighting units of the Crusades. Non-combatant members of the Order managed a large economic infrastructure throughout Christendom, innovating financial techniques that were an early form of banking, and building fortifications across Europe and the Holy Land. The Templars' existence was tied closely to the Crusades; when the Holy Land was lost, support for the Order faded. Rumours about the Templars' secret initiation ceremony created mistrust and King Philip IV of France, deeply in debt to the Order, took advantage of the situation. In 1307, many of the Order's members in France were arrested, tortured into giving false confessions, and then burned at the stake. Under pressure from King Philip, Pope Clement V disbanded the Order in 1312. The abrupt disappearance of a major part of the European infrastructure gave rise to speculation and legends, which have kept the "Templar" name alive into the modern day. (See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knights_... ) (hide spoiler)] as well as the mystical and mythical quest for the Holy Grail, and mystical aspects revolving around the Torah, the Bible, and various cults that have existed around all of the aforementioned cultural phenomena. However, that is more or less where the similarity ends. The Baigent book presents itself as non-fiction; as a serious thesis presenting an alternate history of Christ, Christianity and phenomena such as that of the myth of the Holy Grail and the true origin of the Knight's Templar. Holy Blood, Holy Grail was first published in 1982, and its authors apparently built most of their theory on the testimony of Pierre Plantard for the argument in their book. Now bear with me on this: One of the theses I'd like to pose in my review, is that Eco's novel, Foucault's Pendulum, (which was first published in 1988), is to some extent reactionary to this whole pallaver, which caused a big stink toward the end of the twentieth century, especially since many readers had taken the Holy Blood and the Holy Grail pretty seriously: " The Prieuré de Sion, translated from French as Priory of Sion, is a name given to multiple groups, both real and fictitious. The most controversial is a fringe fraternal organisation, founded and dissolved in France in 1956 (abiding by the 1901 French Law of Associations) by Pierre Plantard. In the 1960s, Plantard created a fictitious history for that organization, describing it as a secret society founded by Godfrey of Bouillon on Mount Zion in the Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1099, conflating it with a genuine historical monastic order, the Abbey of Our Lady of Mount Zion. In Plantard's version, the priory was devoted to installing a secret bloodline of the Merovingian dynasty on the thrones of France and the rest of Europe. This myth was expanded upon and popularised by the 1982 pseudohistorical book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail and later claimed to be factual in the preface of the 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code. After becoming a cause célèbre from the late 1960s to the 1980s, the mythical Priory of Sion was exposed as a ludibrium created by Plantard as a framework for his claim of being the Great Monarch prophesied by Nostradamus. Evidence presented in support of its historical existence and activities before 1956 was discovered to have been forged and then planted in various locations around France by Plantard and his accomplices. Nevertheless, many conspiracy theorists still persist in believing that the Priory of Sion is an age-old cabal that conceals a subversive secret. The Priory of Sion myth has been exhaustively debunked by journalists and scholars as one of the great hoaxes of the 20th century. Some skeptics have expressed concern that the proliferation and popularity of books, websites and films inspired by this hoax have contributed to the problem of conspiracy theories, pseudohistory and other confusions becoming more mainstream. Others are troubled by the romantic reactionary ideology unwittingly promoted in these works. (See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priory_o... ) In the novel under review, Eco has written an elaborate critique of hoaxes such as that of Plantard and of others like him who have made an appearance through the course of history. (Plantard seems to make an appearance in the novel as well, (view spoiler)[ in the form of the character Agliè (hide spoiler)] ). Eco's novel exposes the perfidious at worst and delusive at best nature of conspiracy beliefs and scams such as these, and while doing so, he shows the history of many theories and myths that have existed around secret societies and occult schools of thought through the centuries. Eco displays a delicious sense of humor, poking fun with many of the ideas and personages. (For instance, Eco even manages to work in, in a very humorous way, the controversy around the 'real identity' of Shakespeare and similar controversies that don't usually have anything to do with the Knights Templar or secret societies as such.) However, the novel is more than just that. It also extensively delves into the fields of semiotics (the examination of meaning and how it is interpreted ) and epistemology, and even ontology. This brings me to make a confession: silly little me, not knowing my history of science well enough, had, until I researched Foucault's pendulum, (-the actual scientific discovery/mechanism, not the novel), not realized that Léon Foucault is not the same person at all as Michel Foucault , the poststructuralist sociologist/ philosopher/psychologist, the latter whom I would immediately associate with Eco, via the link of being associated with linguistics and semiotics, since both published work in these areas in more or less the sixties to the eighties, so I'd be much more likely to associate Michel Foucault with Eco rather than I would associate Leon Foucault, a physicist living in the nineteenth century, with Eco. Perhaps I can be excused for having fallen foul of the psychological phenomenon of tending to want 'closure'. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Closure_... This psychological phenomenon can be illustrated more clearly by a similar phenomenon that we find with our brain's cognitive function in regard to perception; and most strikingly so when it comes to visual perception. (See emergence and reification here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gestalt_... ) Reification: In the image, a triangle is perceived in picture A, though no triangle is there. In pictures B and D the eye recognizes disparate shapes as "belonging" to a single shape, in C a complete three-dimensional shape is seen, where in actuality no such thing is drawn. A bit further down on the linked page, we see that :"The fundamental principle of gestalt perception is the law of prägnanz , (pithiness), which says that we tend to order our experience in a manner that is regular, orderly, symmetric, and simple. [And meaningful]. " In fact, my error with the "wrong" Foucault, perfectly illustrates the law of closure which states that individuals perceive objects such as shapes, letters, pictures, etc., as being whole when they are not complete. Even if you literally 'don't have the full picture' your mind will fill it in for you, because doing this tends to make our daily functioning more fluid and efficient, except on the off-chance that our brain filled the picture in WRONG. Most often though, the filling in it does, is quite adequate; since it bases its assumptions on previous experience. Our minds file all of our experience in a sort of subliminal database which is often the source for a 'sixth sense' feeling about something. I also fell foul of the law of similarity, which states that elements within an assortment of objects are perceptually grouped together if they are similar to each other. In my mind, Michel Foucault and Umberto Eco often get grouped together in regard to structuralist/poststructuralist theory, so I automatically grouped them together. But, as regard to the Foucault referred to in the novels' title, I was WRONG! Why am I embroidering on my little mistake for so long, you may ask? Well, because it so eloquently describes exactly the kind of thing Eco is talking about in this book. Psychologically speaking, humans simply don't like things that don't make sense. We tend to group things together based on various associations, through likeness, symbolism, or a variety of other associations. We also need to see the 'sense' of things, we need to know the 'why' of things, which is why, perhaps, it was necessary for so many religions to put the emphasis on belief as opposed to knowledge, on faith as opposed to proof, and why Jesus exhorts his followers to become as the little children [who believe blindly and innocently]. The relevant religion then becomes the 'reason' for everything unexplained in life: "Your child died because God willed it so; He wanted your child to be with the angels, where he/she belongs better than on earth." or, "War and pestilence and sorrow and tsunamis and tornados and earthquakes happen because of original sin; because humans have, through their sins, caused that the world, God's perfect creation, has become an imperfect place, and we have brought all of these sorrows upon ourselves, just by dint of our being. Also, if something does not make sense to us, we'll fill in the missing bits out of what seems most reasonable to us, rather than to leave things unexplained. For instance, seeing strange flying things in the night, would 200 years ago most probably have been explained as having seen ghosts, whereas many modern people would prefer to believe that they saw UFO's. But in addition, humans are intensely social creatures, and we can conceptualise social phenomena as constructs which can regulate our behaviour in emotional ways; for instance, we have a need to belong, we have a capacity to feel guilt, and we believe in cause and result. Many humans also have a desire for spiritual meaning - a need to believe that life has a "higher purpose". These and other characteristics cause us to often seek solace and 'meaning' with cults and religions. Eco dissects the results of these tendencies, he shows us how myths are created, often through humans' need for closure-so if there is something missing in our 'picture' of something, we tend to make up the missing bits to best fit in with our currently held needs and beliefs. Eco eloquently demonstrates this when the central group of characters in the novel, three editors at a publishing firm, work out an elaborate esoteric explanation for some of the missing text on a partly destroyed piece of paper that they have been told holds a great secret concerning the Knight's Templar; only to be shown up by the narrator's wife, who deftly demonstrates that the partly obliterated text actually represents a shopkeeper's goods delivery list, and nothing close to the two or three different interpretations that had been made by people who had assumed that it holds a tantalizing secret. Fun of a similar manner ensues in various places in the novel, for instance when one of the editors aptly applies the shape and the meaning of the Mystical Kabbalah to the body and inner workings of a motor vehicle. Eco shows us how easily connections are formed in the human mind, and how easily such a chain of associations can lead through the most unlikely chain of associations, right back to the origin again, if necessary. Drawn in by the "game" of applying mystical symbolism to "everything", our three editors devise a story which they call "The Plan" . The Plan works very much like a regular game of "Word Association" : "In our game we crossed not words but concepts, events, so the rules were different. Basically there were three rules. Rule One: Concepts are connected by analogy. There is no way to decide at once whether an analogy is good or bad, because to some degree everything is connected to everything else. For example, potato crosses with apple, because both are vegetable and round in shape. From apple to snake, by Biblical association. From snake to doughnut, by formal likeness. From doughnut to life preserver, and from life preserver to bathing suit, then bathing to sea, sea to ship, ship to shit, shit to toilet paper, toilet to cologne, cologne to alcohol, alcohol to drugs, drugs to syringe, syringe to hole, hole to ground, ground to potato. Rule Two says that if tout se tient [the connections prove valid] in the end, the connecting works. From potato to potato, tout se tient [therefore it holds true]. So it's right. Rule Three: The connections must not be original. They must have been made before, and the more often the better, by others. Only then do the crossings seem true, because they are obvious. " Throughout the book, Eco basically shows us that one can justify any theory, any line of thought if there is a psychological or practical need to make the argument 'work', and that any theory, if you formulate it according to certain 'rules', can become accepted by a large group of people. Hubris: One of the themes of the novel is that our three protagonists become the victims of their own hubris. As one of the three editors, Diotallevi, points out, that after their 'game' had drawn them in, it started consuming them with its addictive power and it started spilling over into reality in alarming ways, like a Frankenstein's monster run wild: " You're the prisoner of what you created. But your story in the outside world is still unfolding." Eco points out that when we create a story, whether meant to be fictional or not, that story takes on a life of its own, and it has consequences. ...but even more so than when the story is presented as fiction, is when the story is presented as truth. When we meddle with how history is presented, we create consequences. Certainly, history is written by the victors and is therefore almost always a subjective account of events, so we must be very very careful when presenting versions of events. Versions of events are often skewed for personal gain, but, as Diotallevi points out, when we do it as a game, just for fun, that is particularly unforgivable, because whatever version of events that we'd put out there, it still has consequences. Interestingly, each person in the novel experiences the consequences of their deception in a different way. All of them experience guilt in various ways, ...but let me stop there lest I put out too many spoilers. The best part of the novel for me, was the poignant character sketch of Jacopo Belbo, the introvert who struggles to engage, who can never put himself in the midst of things, who is always on the periphery, except for one two glorious moments in his life, when Eco brilliantly makes him become the center of the universe. IS ECO A PART OF WHAT HE SCORNS? Ironically, to some extent yes. In the novel, Eco himself is prone to showing off and legerdemain, almost as much as his characters who become a part of the conspiracies they have scorned. BOTTOM LINE: Five stars for the astonishing range and depth of Eco's erudition, for his mischievous and clever sense of humor and his amazing accomplishment of drawing so many threads together in a remarkable tapestry of history, epistemology, semiotics and characterization; but minus a half star for the many superfluous bits of knowledge that are repeatedly offered, in what seems to be more showing-off sessions than being really functional with regard to the novel's plot or theses.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jaidee

    3 "the last of the pentalogy of puzzlement and perseverance" stars !!! A very difficult book to both rate and review. As I read this book I reflected on four other books that have been considered great by so many of my friends and in particular, my darling partner. These five books to me were seeds and shadows of greatness but I felt were so heavily flawed that they became only fair to average good reads for me. These books are: 1. 1Q84 (2.5 stars) 2.Cloud Atlas (3 stars) 3. A Fine Balance (3 stars) 4. 3 "the last of the pentalogy of puzzlement and perseverance" stars !!! A very difficult book to both rate and review. As I read this book I reflected on four other books that have been considered great by so many of my friends and in particular, my darling partner. These five books to me were seeds and shadows of greatness but I felt were so heavily flawed that they became only fair to average good reads for me. These books are: 1. 1Q84 (2.5 stars) 2.Cloud Atlas (3 stars) 3. A Fine Balance (3 stars) 4. The Goldfinch (3 stars) 5. Foucault's Pendulum (3 stars) They were all extremely long books that perplexed me and I had to push push push to get through. I have no regrets reading any of them but I doubt I will return to any of them as they frustrated me to no end and I was not left with a feeling of awe or wonder or sense that I had read anything close to a masterpiece but rather more like half finished paintings or half formed statues , tepid tea, cold pizza. These books often had me question myself on my level of intelligence, my sense of esthetics or if I was truly a worthwhile reader as these books were raved about by many people I admire and a few I even love. In the end, however, I am entitled to feel ambivalent about what I read, like what I like and see these books as struggles that helped me grow as a reader and further define my tastes in literature. This book in particular, challenged me throughout as at most I understood a third of the context. I admired the fine line between truth and delusion and references to history, religion, science and magic. I could have spent much longer on this novel and could have done much research to deepen my understanding but would throughout the book consciously choose not to. I will leave you with a quote from the book that sums up the main gist of the book to my very limited understanding of what this novel is about: "There are no bigger secrets because the moment a secret is revealed, it seems little. There is only an empty secret. A secret that keeps slipping through your fingers. The secret of the orchid is that it signifies and affects the testicles. But the testicles signify a sign of the zodiac, which in turn signifies an angelic hierarchy, which then signifies a musical scale, and the scale signifies a relationship amont the humors. And so on...." And so my reading adventures will continue.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    This is a novel that contrasts the acceptance, and delight, in the world as it is with the consequences of the desire to read in meanings to everything that we see about us. In Eco's earlier book,The Name of the Rose, the detective mystery was parodied and this is taken one step further in this novel. The Detective mystery assumes that there is a mystery that can be solved. It invites investigation. In this novel the constant working deeper into mysteries produces only more obscurity ("the penis This is a novel that contrasts the acceptance, and delight, in the world as it is with the consequences of the desire to read in meanings to everything that we see about us. In Eco's earlier book,The Name of the Rose, the detective mystery was parodied and this is taken one step further in this novel. The Detective mystery assumes that there is a mystery that can be solved. It invites investigation. In this novel the constant working deeper into mysteries produces only more obscurity ("the penis is just a phallic symbol"(view spoiler)[ or as has been said in Britain Brexit means Brexit (hide spoiler)] ) which is undercut, or rather has the cork removed, by the surface of events. The childhood memories of one character, the love and impending fatherhood of another. The desire to find out why Professor Plum is dead in the library with a lead pipe next to him is shown to be a self-destructive one that can only end in a never ending kaleidoscope of ambiguity. Eco's next step, naturally enough, in Baudolino is to show extraordinarily commonplace and political origins for some of the myths and legends that so obsess the legion of diabolicals in this novel. At the centre of the story are an unlikely trio; Belbo, Causabon and Diotallevi. They work for a curious publisher, Garamond. The curiosity lies partly in the everyday with the one armed warehouseman who deals with all the deliveries and dispatches and partly in the esoteric transmutation of ordinary mortals into authors. The publishing house has two parts. One a respectable business the other a theatrical lure to entice and catch self-financing authors. It is a vanity press and a very profitable business the production of authors turns out to be. Spotting a gap in the market they become involved in producing a series of books on magic, mysticism and hermetic 'learning' to feed the credulity of the reading public. The publishing house here is not a beacon of enlightenment but rather a smoky fire that seeks to deepen a smog of obscurantism over readers. As we read we are drawn through a world of varied, contradictory but passionately held beliefs. As the publishing house offers the untalented the opportunity to become authors. So too the cults and sects the trio deal with offer meaning and a grand significance to people's lives. In short both sides of the operation, the publishing and the cults, are a con. The kind of con in which you get exactly what you wanted, but it simply costs more than you expected. This allows Eco to give a good kicking in passing to Holy Blood Holy Grail but also shows how bizarre beliefs in the hollow earth, the Druidical training of the Aryan Jesus and the fantasies of the Alchemists in a divinely meaningful universe spill over to affect our cultural and political lives. Perhaps is a novelist's response to Religion and the Decline of Magic. The heroes attempt to out do the irrational beliefs of a world of faith, clinging only to the involvement of the Templars with everything, is sure to end badly when their inventiveness is taken terribly, terribly seriously. Remember, The Templars have something to do with everything. At the same time this is also a book about the stories that we create and recreate about ourselves while growing up and how one can become trapped within them and as it turns out, few things are as fatal as being trapped within a story of one's own construction. (An earlier version of this review was eaten by the Templar internet.)

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kara Babcock

    I read a lot, and the people around me are used to seeing a new book in my hand every day or couple of days. Naturally, they ask me what I'm reading, usually in a way that implies I should divulge more than just the title and the author, which are plainly visible on the cover. How do I respond when I'm reading something so sublime and transcendental as Foucault's Pendulum? It defies ordinary description of plot, because Umberto Eco has again unified his narrative with his themes and characters t I read a lot, and the people around me are used to seeing a new book in my hand every day or couple of days. Naturally, they ask me what I'm reading, usually in a way that implies I should divulge more than just the title and the author, which are plainly visible on the cover. How do I respond when I'm reading something so sublime and transcendental as Foucault's Pendulum? It defies ordinary description of plot, because Umberto Eco has again unified his narrative with his themes and characters to create a complex masterpiece. Even the hook on the back of my paperback edition doesn't do it justice. At its core, Foucault's Pendulum is a fable about conspiracies. It is a cautionary tale that demonstrates what happens when people begin to believe in conspiracy theories; lending credence lends life, which can have unfortunate consequences for everyone involved. The main characters begin as sceptics, working for a publishing house that's allied with a vanity press, who begin constructing a fictitious Plan by connecting seemingly-disparate historical facts. When organizations and individuals begin showing up seeming to be acting in accordance with this Plan, however, our protagonists realize that if you make up a Plan, even a false one, someone might try to execute it. This book is not about conspiracy theories though. It has been compared to The Da Vinci Code, and of course there are similarities; both books deal with Templar mythology, for instance. Foucault's Pendulum is so much more though. It isn't a mystery about a conspiracy theory; it's a mystery that looks into the effects of conspiracy theories on otherwise rational, scholarly people. The narrative parallels the characters' journey in its own structure, beginning with a strong foundation in logical principles and eventually transforming into a very spiritual, emotional text. We have so many books based on the premise that such and such conspiracy theory is actually valid. Here, the theories are all fictitious; it begins as a harmless game among three people determined to mock conspiracy theories and the obsession with finding hidden meaning through occultism. The theory only becomes real because people begin believing in it; they begin seeing meaning where before there was nothing, no relationship. Characters emerge, ones we're familiar with from prior in the book, who appear to have a part in this Plan and think it has been in operation for centuries. These characters are in some ways created by their fellow characters (our protagonists); Foucault's Pendulum is very meta-authorial in that respect, much like Sophie's World. Eco gives us an unreliable narrator so that we're forced to think critically about the story we're given and wonder how much is true and how much may be the feverish imaginings of an unbalanced, misguided mind. The narrator is named Casaubon, and I'm very glad I read Middlemarch before reading this book. Casaubon is sort of like his namesake from Middlemarch, who devotes his life to the syncretic task of unifying human myths. In Foucault's Pendulum, Casaubon and his friends Belbo and Diotallevi sift through the slush of conspiracy lunatics ("Diabolicals") to compile a master theory, a Plan, spun around the framework of the dissolution of the Knights Templar. As they come to believe in the reality of their own Plan, the world around them changes, becomes darker and more sinister. All conflicts in this book, even the external ones, are ultimately internal, created from our characters' own imaginations. The fact that some of these internal conflicts manifest externally, through the antagonism of rivals like Colonel Ardenti or Agliè, gives the story plenty of variety. In between, we get glimpses of Belbo's childhood in rural Italy, and Eco mentions both historical and contemporary Italian politics. As an outsider, I found this part of the book fascinating, since I'm totally unfamiliar with Italian history or even how its citizens were affected by the rise of fascism and their time under Mussolini. That's what I like so much about Eco: he reminds me that I'm steeped in my own ignorance, but he doesn't condescend me for it. Instead, he forces me to meet him on his intellectual level. One thing that makes Foucault's Pendulum so transcendental is the fact that it's rife with allusions to medieval and Enlightenment history and philosophy, arcane rituals and religions, and other esoteric and occult phenomena. You'd practically need a degree in these areas (like Eco has) to understand it all without a reference book; I don't, and I admit I got lost at times. Almost every page is filled with this historical references, particularly when Casaubon, Belbo, and Diotallevi are thick in their discussions of the Plan. Consider that for a moment: I got lost in the historical detail of the book, yet I'm still giving it five stars. That's how good it is; even its flaws are strengths. Still, the tendency of this text toward tones academic will turn some people off the book. It may not be for everyone. If you find yourself reading my review and thinking, "Hmm, this sounds like it is right for me," however, don't wait. Go out and get this book now. Read it, and then read it again--I will, some day, because Foucault's Pendulum is one of those books where you need to read it through several times to grasp its complexity. And every reading will be its own reward, as reading should be.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Bradley

    The best and the worst thing I can say about this novel is that it's a difficult read. Sure, the author is Italian, but that doesn't automatically make it difficult, only a novel that I've read out of its normal language. No, the novel isn't even difficult in the traditional sense, where the sentence structure is hard to follow and there might be four hundred commas per dozen pages. The writing is quite nice. No, the novel is difficult because it requires the reader to read and understand a whol The best and the worst thing I can say about this novel is that it's a difficult read. Sure, the author is Italian, but that doesn't automatically make it difficult, only a novel that I've read out of its normal language. No, the novel isn't even difficult in the traditional sense, where the sentence structure is hard to follow and there might be four hundred commas per dozen pages. The writing is quite nice. No, the novel is difficult because it requires the reader to read and understand a whole substructure of literature that can be loosely classified as occult, or at least marginally so, otherwise a grand majority of the in-jokes and satire would be lost on the reader. Mr. Eco is fantastically well-informed and has done an amazing job at his research, and despite the fact that the novel IS tongue-in-cheek, it's hard not to get the impression that our author is a seeker of knowledge. This will also be true for anyone who gets into this book. We seek, we want knowledge, we want wisdom. I include myself in this grand voyage because I, too, was sucked into the world presented; and I, too, needed to know, to understand, to make the connections. For my young self, I read this novel as a pure soul, and like Diotevelli, I got corrupted. I had never realized that an occult world like this had existed. The second time I read this novel, I had read at least a dozen books either related or referenced in this novel, and by then I understood a greater majority of the in-jokes, and more importantly, I understood the book's message to stay grounded at all times, or you might fly away in the world of conspiracies or get lost in the labyrinths of the diabolicals. So whether you're a Jungian seeker, a literary delver, a philosopher, or an occultist, I can guarantee a wild ride in this novel, perhaps one the best ever written. The actual plot is not that important, so don't read this novel expecting a novel like Dan Brown writes, 15 years after Eco wrote this. Like all of the best books, you get out of it what you put into it, and I admit freely that I put a lot of time and energy into this one, spending years attempting to decipher the full stories within stories within stories, periodically shocking myself from the dream to ground myself before delving into the abyss once again. Is the actual action of the novel that great? No, not at all, but the underlying threads more than make-up for it. This is one of my favorite books because it makes me work for it; it made me think and research and delve so that I would be properly armed for the second read. And now that I've had my third read, I'm satisfied and amazed. I am still missing half the book in my researches. Perhaps in another decade, when I read this again I'll have the perfected Mileau in my mind. Then again, probably not. That's the problem with this subject... the depths are greater than any other field of study, and the most occluded. You, dear reader, can't see it on me, but I've got a satisfied smile on my face and I'm sighing every few seconds in the reflection of the read. Update 2/21/16: You will always be missed, Mr. Eco. You were a bright light in the heavens.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nathan

    The best book I have ever read. It is the creepiest, deepest, and most brilliantly executed piece of literature. Umberto Eco is a genius, and if I could have a conversation with anyone, it would be him. The book, however, is very difficult to read. The language is dense, and in the first 200 pages, it beats you over the head with history of the Knights Templar and the Rosicrucians. All of this history is necessary to make the second half cause you to shit your pants. It's basically about these gu The best book I have ever read. It is the creepiest, deepest, and most brilliantly executed piece of literature. Umberto Eco is a genius, and if I could have a conversation with anyone, it would be him. The book, however, is very difficult to read. The language is dense, and in the first 200 pages, it beats you over the head with history of the Knights Templar and the Rosicrucians. All of this history is necessary to make the second half cause you to shit your pants. It's basically about these guys trying to write a fictional book about the plan for the universe by tieing together all of the secret societies and cults. While they weave together all of this to create fiction, it all begins to work as fact. Then, really creepy shit starts going down. I recommend this book to EVERYONE. Just be patient, it will pay off.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Dolors

    “ “Us two? All three of us are in this. If we don’t come out honorably, we’ll all look silly.” “Silly to whom?” “Why, to history. Before the tribunal of Truth.” “Quid est veritas?” Belbo asked. “Us,” I said.” ” (p.435) Truth? What is truth? Truth is relative. Or isn’t it? The fact that Umberto Eco portrays one of his characters quoting Pontius Pilate’s assertion that truth is hard to ascertain with some sort of consistent resonance of a Nietzschian Superman who has passed “beyond good and evil” “ “Us two? All three of us are in this. If we don’t come out honorably, we’ll all look silly.” “Silly to whom?” “Why, to history. Before the tribunal of Truth.” “Quid est veritas?” Belbo asked. “Us,” I said.” ” (p.435) Truth? What is truth? Truth is relative. Or isn’t it? The fact that Umberto Eco portrays one of his characters quoting Pontius Pilate’s assertion that truth is hard to ascertain with some sort of consistent resonance of a Nietzschian Superman who has passed “beyond good and evil” is no coincidence. There is nothing superfluous or redundant in Eco’s challenging and maybe even misinformative novel, which results to be an erudite map of connections throughout the history of humankind in a quest to find meaning to the mystery of existence. Or so believe the three protagonists of this complicated historical fugue, Casaubon, Belbo and Diotallevi, when they decide to embark on a mission they call “The Plan” to decipher the encrypted message inscribed in an ancient parchment brought to Garamond Press in Milan, a firm where Belbo and Diotallevi work as editors, by a suspicious Knight Templar fanatic called Ardenti, who claims the document to be proof of the existence of a master plan of secret societies which has been passed down for centuries involving telluric energy that will give unlimited powers to whoever capable of unraveling its encoded enigma. Casaubon, acting as an omniscient narrator and a Doctor whose thesis is focused in the Knights Templar and the collection of German secret societies in the 17th century called Rosicrucians, goes forward and backward in time to display the creation of “The Plan”, which starts as a harmless game involving random computing processes and the analysis of symbols and semiotics through historical facts only to develop into a full-scale obsession blending speculation with the most shocking conclusions about some historical personalities ranging from Francis Bacon and Shakespeare to Elizabeth I or Hitler. Even the characters of the novel, the quotations at the beginning of each chapter and the division of the story following the Kabbalah esoteric tradition carry extra meaning to reinforce Eco’s trial of the Western arcane tradition. Casaubon is presented as the epitome of logic and sense, the skeptic type as a counterpoint to ascetic Diotallevi, who is in turn convinced by his passion for Kabbalah that he comes from Jewish ancestry without any real evidence. Belbo arises as the anti-heroic protagonist whose biggest frustration relays in his inability to become a writer after an alienated childhood that shaped him with insecurities and a low self-esteem. “The Plan” represents Belbo’s triumph over his past failures and he clings to it until it becomes a life consuming mania that transcends into fatal consequences. Eco’s idea of femininity is presented in the dichotomy between the characters of Lorenza and Lia, the first conveying the reincarnated Gnostic muse Sophia, the forbidden fruit and the volcanic passion of love; the second depicting the idea of fertility, matriarchal authority and nourishing balance. On Lia: “You live on the surface. You sometimes seem profound, but it’s only because you piece a lot of surfaces together to create impression of depth, solidity. That solidity would collapse if you tried to stand it up” (p. 365) On Lorenza: “For I am the first and the last. I am the honored and the hated. I am the saint and the prostitute.” — Fragment of Nag Hammadi 6.2. (p. 41) Eco’s intellectual display of historical facts commingles with his deep knowledge of ancient traditions and ancestral esoteric beliefs while playing with the reader, who finds himself in a true terra incognita, lacking the necessary background to be able to discriminate factual truth from fiction, mesmerizing him with obscure spirituality and metaphysical philosophy concluding with the controversial Conspiracy Theory in the form of the quintessential battle among the forces of darkness. What is the message behind this deliberate scholarly obfuscation? Is there a hidden lesson to be learnt amidst this subtle intellectual and emotional manipulation? Is Reason or Faith the conduit to find the meaning of existence, the truth of the making of History? Is life the biggest joke we’ve been submitted to? Eco laughs unashamedly at having pulled the reader’s leg and demonstrated his point with dexterous subterfuges and his disguised critic tone on spirituality. But beware my fellow reader. Eco’s position, which has been delivered with much ambiguity, biplay and paradoxical meandering, might be a hard blow to take hitting the soul where it hurts the most because it proves the insignificance and the meaningless purpose of existence. And that is something I am not ready to accept as the fallible and imperfect human being I am. “Where have I read that at the end, when life, surface upon surface, has become completely encrusted with experience, you know everything, the secret, the power, and the glory, why you were born, why you are dying, and how it all could have been different? You are wise. But the greatest wisdom, at that moment, is knowing that your wisdom is too late. You understand everything when there is no longer anything to understand.” (p. 640)

  13. 5 out of 5

    Gerard

    One of those books where the author tediously says next to nothing, and all the semi-litterati can't figure out what he's trying to say, so they conclude he must be brilliant. A wasted effort by an otherwise talented (so I hear) author, and that portion of the gullible public that assumes that something profound is being said so long as they can't understand it. One of those books where the author tediously says next to nothing, and all the semi-litterati can't figure out what he's trying to say, so they conclude he must be brilliant. A wasted effort by an otherwise talented (so I hear) author, and that portion of the gullible public that assumes that something profound is being said so long as they can't understand it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Manuel Antão

    If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. The Revelation of the Identical:"Foucault's Pendulum" by Umberto Eco "You cannot escape one infinite, I told myself, by fleeing to another; you cannot escape the revelation of the identical by taking refuge in the illusion of the multiple." In "Foucault's Pendulum" by Umberto Eco I've always been a keen follower of Prof. Eco's books, both literary and academic. If there's one question I would like to ask him is this: "What about the questi If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. The Revelation of the Identical:"Foucault's Pendulum" by Umberto Eco "You cannot escape one infinite, I told myself, by fleeing to another; you cannot escape the revelation of the identical by taking refuge in the illusion of the multiple." In "Foucault's Pendulum" by Umberto Eco I've always been a keen follower of Prof. Eco's books, both literary and academic. If there's one question I would like to ask him is this: "What about the question of being, as the Greeks first raised it? Do you think Professor that this question is no longer a question, perhaps entirely dissolved by the sign and/or the 'language game'? Ontology dissolved by epistemology (in the modern era) and which is in turn also dissolved by the signs humans come up (post-modern era). William of Ockham, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein rule supreme -- matter closed. No question of being. Is that it, Professor?" There's more on the other side of the rainbow.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Hadrian

    What strikes me on reading this again is not just how much minutiae Eco loves to cram into his books - here we have a list of vintage French cars, histories of the Fourth Crusade, the Knights Templar, the Rosicrucian esoteric movement, and Afro-Brazilian religion, but what I keep thinking about was his description of the conspiracy theory and how people fall victim to it. Our protagonists, a gang of layabouts at a vanity publisher, decide to invent a conspiracy theory as a joke. Eventually, peop What strikes me on reading this again is not just how much minutiae Eco loves to cram into his books - here we have a list of vintage French cars, histories of the Fourth Crusade, the Knights Templar, the Rosicrucian esoteric movement, and Afro-Brazilian religion, but what I keep thinking about was his description of the conspiracy theory and how people fall victim to it. Our protagonists, a gang of layabouts at a vanity publisher, decide to invent a conspiracy theory as a joke. Eventually, people do in fact believe the joke, and the all-devouring conspiracy theory begins to tear them apart - where The Plan is a search for religious meaning. It all starts simply - taking random trivia from history, especially with political elites or secret organizations, mashing together snippets of text from a computer program, and then taking advantage of the human tendency towards pattern recognition and having the act of 'researching' or finding out more as a lure to draw more people in. I thought of it as an intriguing novel several years ago, put aside, and in past years I realize with horror that some slob playing pretend on a 4chan offshoot has led thousands of people worldwide to believe in a pedophile conspiracy about fetal blood harvesting and a secret coup d'etat planned by Obama, the Clintons, and George Soros. That would be QAnon. The grotesque joke is real. As the joke starts with the Templars and expands outward to include several centuries of history, the conspiracy theory explains everything -- and anyone who is credulous enough and lets their sense of pattern recognition overrun their skepticism is willing to believe more conspiracy theories and fold them into the grand plan. For Eco, a story about the Templars includes the Bavarian Illuminati, the Cathars, the Jesuits, the Bogomils, and whoever forged the vile slurs of 'The Protocols of the Elders of Zion'. For a conspiracy theorist today, well, take your pick.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mattia Ravasi

    Video review A masterpiece, a must-read, dirò di più, a great novel. At once an ecyclopedic study of human stupidity, a flight of fancy of historical proportions, and a seven-hundred-page praise of a rather pretty Piemonte hill. Traps you into the same mechanisms that doom its characters, but it's gentle in showing you the trap's functioning, and sympathetic in sharing your pain. Not for kids who find it challenging to sit still through fifty-minute lectures. Video review A masterpiece, a must-read, dirò di più, a great novel. At once an ecyclopedic study of human stupidity, a flight of fancy of historical proportions, and a seven-hundred-page praise of a rather pretty Piemonte hill. Traps you into the same mechanisms that doom its characters, but it's gentle in showing you the trap's functioning, and sympathetic in sharing your pain. Not for kids who find it challenging to sit still through fifty-minute lectures.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Terry

    I think it could be validly opined that all of Umberto Eco’s novels primarily exist to show off how much he knows. They are all jam-packed with esoteric knowledge from such specialized and varied sources that one wonders how a single human being managed to fit them all into his head, let alone turn them into fodder for a story. In this sense Eco seems much like his own creation of Casaubon from this novel, “the Marlowe of culture”: one able to sift through the vast repository of arcane and seemi I think it could be validly opined that all of Umberto Eco’s novels primarily exist to show off how much he knows. They are all jam-packed with esoteric knowledge from such specialized and varied sources that one wonders how a single human being managed to fit them all into his head, let alone turn them into fodder for a story. In this sense Eco seems much like his own creation of Casaubon from this novel, “the Marlowe of culture”: one able to sift through the vast repository of arcane and seemingly arbitrary bits of knowledge and not only pull out the bits he wants, but to put them together to create an impressive and coherent edifice. These influences and bits of knowledge aren’t just “high culture” things one might expect from an ivory tower academic, but also include numerous pop culture references that show a deep affection for them on Eco’s part. I can get behind that kind of syncretism. From the Templars, South American religious cults, and telluric currents to the secret masters of the world, the mysteries of alchemy, and the hollow earth Eco seems to fit pretty much every occult mystery you could think of (and many you couldn’t) into his work. There is also a prevalent fascination with Cabala, the nature of words, and the way in which words (and the ideas they form) shape our reality...only natural for a semiotician I suppose. I’m sure you all know the basic premise of the story, and in its most common shorthand description, one that I think is fairly apt, it’s been called “the thinking man’s _Da Vinci Code_”. It's the story of three clever men undone by their own ingenuity, or perhaps they are actually undone by the credulity of others. Either way these three friends, working for a small publishing house in Milan, decide to play a little game after one too many crazy ‘diabolicals’ obsessed with the occult and the mystery of the Templars comes to their office peddling the next conspiracy theory of the secret masters of the world. Why not look at all of the vast theories out there, as well as numerous other ‘normal’ facts, and tie them all together into the grandest, and most elegant conspiracy theory of them all? Beat the crazies at their own game! What happens, though, when the crazies get wind of your incredibly elegant theory and begin to suspect that maybe there’s something to it and their lust for the ‘secrets’ you possess will brook no pleas of innocence and ignorance on the matter? Eco does a lot of clever things in this novel, not least of which is coming up with a syncretic theory of nearly everything that plausibly ties huge swathes of western history and occult theories into an overall Master-Plan neatly tied up with a bow. He also manages to keep things off kilter enough that the reader is left wondering at the end just what is real and what is false. It seems, for most of the book, that the occult-obsessed diabolicals are truly insane monomaniacs. They pursue their goal with single-minded abandon and are able not so much to ignore any fact that contradicts their ideas, as to take it and twist it to align with the meaning their world-view requires with ridiculous ease. Indeed, Casaubon and his friends Belbo and Diotallevi show just how ridiculously easy it is to twist meaning to your own ends…that’s the whole point of their game, sending up the ridiculous blinders of those they mock. And yet…there are enough strange occurrences and unexplained phenomena to give one pause. Could it be true? Is the story more than just a story? Do things dove-tail so nicely because they should? Casaubon is the viewpoint character for Eco’s little drama, immediately plunging the reader in medias res as we are thrust abruptly into the tail end of a conspiracy gone bad, though bit by bit he reveals the source of his troubles and terrors as he remembers the path of folly that led him to his current dire straits. While Casaubon is thus central to the story in many ways it is also (or perhaps “really”) the sad story of the life of poor Jacopo Belbo, a man whose existence has been, in his own mind at least, little more than a string of disappointments and failures. His reminiscences play a melancholic counterpoint to the larger story of the Templar conspiracy that threatens to overwhelm the three hapless editors. It is, indeed, through his single success at being the driving force (through the means of both his own thwarted creative impulses and his computer Abulafia) behind the crafting of the disparate and unlikely elements that become the Plan that his greatest failure lies...or is it his only true victory? Belbo’s story is ultimately the beating heart of the novel, the thing that keeps it grounded in human experience and ensures its wide and varied flights of fancy never take it too far from what we live and know at a gut level. I think this is a great book that runs the gamut from ‘high-brow’ meditations on the nature of history and the mysteries of reality to ‘low-brow’ penny dreadful adventure and intrigue. The main characters are fairly well drawn, even when done so by the merest brush strokes, though the real stars in this regard are probably the large and varied cast of ‘diabolicals’, foremost amongst them that most urbane and witty cabalist, the Comte de Saint-Germain. If you like occult mysteries, conspiracy theories, and books that are densely packed with nuggets of lore then this is the book for you.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Théodore

    Reading " Le Pendule de Foucault ", I understand where Dan Brown and the other amateur writers of sensationalist literature, with esoteric flavor - were inspired. I would never have thought that Eco was the initiator of these tendencies to revive interest in the mysteries of the Templars, and in what is supposed to be behind religious " truths ", on a extensive book, built in a multiple way, combining history with mystery, and finally with a postmodern irony. The frame story is simple : three fr Reading " Le Pendule de Foucault ", I understand where Dan Brown and the other amateur writers of sensationalist literature, with esoteric flavor - were inspired. I would never have thought that Eco was the initiator of these tendencies to revive interest in the mysteries of the Templars, and in what is supposed to be behind religious " truths ", on a extensive book, built in a multiple way, combining history with mystery, and finally with a postmodern irony. The frame story is simple : three friends and a colonel passionate about the history of the Templars, interprete the message from a found sheet, ( here I had a little fun, going back about 25 years ago, when I was vibrating at this stuff..) - as an indication of the " Plan" - a secret mission of the Knights Templars, begun in 1308. Initially a pastime, the interest of the three slips more and more into the obsession of deciphering the message, which occupies about a quarter of the book. From the second half, the narrative takes the undoubted form of the thriller, the plan captures entirely the three, and it destroyes their lives, for once this plan is imagined - it gets out of control, the signifier no longer sends to any meaning, as long as the initial assumptions were based on an overturned logic. The meaning becomes meaningless, everything floating in the absurdity of the Sign, which has only the power to destroy its creator. If so far, Eco has kept me in some lethargy, well, the end part of the novel has really stunned me. Eco demolishes the entire building he so meticulously built. It's all a big farce, brought to life by the power of words, formulas, variants of interpretation,which give the feeling of a relentless logic. In a kind of postmodern death of the Author, the so-called plan, born rather from the need of the characters to believe in mystery, devours its creators, accentuating the absurdity of the insistence of giving meaning, even to the vacuum. After so much effort in keeping up the appearance of logic and seriousness, Eco does not hesitate, in the end, to expose the perfidy of reason, and the absurdity of our stubborness to see connections, and to impose meaning where there is not even the beginning of a connection. " But if you want to find connections, they are everywhere, and in everything, the world explodes in a network, in a whirlwind of kinship , and everything sends to everything, everything explains everything. "

  19. 4 out of 5

    40 Forte

    Eco once said that author Dan Brown (Angels & Demons, DaVinci Code, etc) might have very well been one of the characters he created in Focault's Pendulum. Eco uses Focault's pendulum to showcase the absurdity in over analyzing ancient legends or secret societies and in the process creates an intellectual and dizzying tale that stands in direct contrast to the Dan Brown's of the world writing for the pop culture masses. The work is a discourse in secret societies (Templar Knights, Freemasons, Jesu Eco once said that author Dan Brown (Angels & Demons, DaVinci Code, etc) might have very well been one of the characters he created in Focault's Pendulum. Eco uses Focault's pendulum to showcase the absurdity in over analyzing ancient legends or secret societies and in the process creates an intellectual and dizzying tale that stands in direct contrast to the Dan Brown's of the world writing for the pop culture masses. The work is a discourse in secret societies (Templar Knights, Freemasons, Jesuits, Rosicrucia s, etc), religions, political revolutions, and the basic tensions of confronting and conquering one's fear. But unlike most conspiracy works, we are let in on the secret from the beginning....that namely, the main characters do not believe the story they are creating-and they are essentially creating this story to mock those who have tried to dedicate their lives to the concepts of world domination through the occult. Specific plot details are difficult to relay since there are really 2 stories one encounters when reading this. The 1st story is those of the men in the book and their interactions and personal growth, and the second is the actual "plan" those characters create in massive and at times very perplexing detail. The "plan" itself is simply a fictional plan for world domination which will explain most of the secret societies throughout history and their efforts to control the earth. It's created by the main protagonists in the story to mock others who so easily believe such things and to make profits off the sale of the "plan" in book form. But nothing about the "plan" remains simple-for the reader we get a massive-and I mean massive amount of information from the mythology and reality of all cultures...and for the characters creating the "plan" becomes an obsession which threatens their existence. This is one book that I don't mind re-reading or researching specific facts or people further....because it only lends to the incredible depth of the work. When Eco writes he expects you to put a little effort into your reading....and if you do, you'll find it well well worth it (even if you do miss a reference here and there.)

  20. 4 out of 5

    J.I.

    Between his home and his summer home, Umberto Eco has some 50,000 books to his name. I believe that he has read every one of them, some probably twice. Which is to say that this is an erudite novel. A warning to the reader: you will be wading into lists of reference materials. You are about to be presented with conversations that run for pages that are dedicated solely to the minutiae of conspiracies, most about the Templars. I warned you. But this book is not just about secret societies and the Between his home and his summer home, Umberto Eco has some 50,000 books to his name. I believe that he has read every one of them, some probably twice. Which is to say that this is an erudite novel. A warning to the reader: you will be wading into lists of reference materials. You are about to be presented with conversations that run for pages that are dedicated solely to the minutiae of conspiracies, most about the Templars. I warned you. But this book is not just about secret societies and the practices of their members and those that wish to be members. This is a book about learning and knowledge. How do we come to know something and how do we come to believe something? How do these two interact and how do we come to believe something that we do not necessarily know? These are the questions that arise in this tale of three editors and their journey down a path, a game to them at first, that leads them deep into the secret plot that they, themselves, created. Told mostly in flashback, the story is thickened with tales of the end of the second world war, loves and loves lost, the changing of regimes and the changing of revolutionaries as they age, often without grace. The story gets down to it, eventually, leading the end of the book at quick pace down the road of conspiracy. But it seems to be strongest when it is sitting around at a bar, discussing history and historical anomalies. While this is about about occultists an it is a book full of facts, it is really a book about people, three people in particular, but us in general: the way we learn and the way we fraternize and the way we love and the way that we fail to understand. Understanding is what this boils down to, in the end. So I recommend that this book be picked up and a severe hunk of time dedicated to reading it (it will take quite a bit of time). You will learn more than you ever wanted to know about the supposed plots of the Templars, middle to late medieval history and the like. You will also learn, however, about the act of learning. And that alone is worth the price of admission.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    020219 from ??? 90s: i think of this as literary philosophical corrective to pynchon’s work (any of his books...), where everything is involved in a massive conspiracy. more, not denying this but informed by learning so many, so constant, ludicrous, dangerous, hateful creative conspiracy, this book offers sort of the ‘theory of conspiracy’... this book insists that now and then, before and after, never and forever that disparate unrelated events or knowledge can all be made to connect, that once 020219 from ??? 90s: i think of this as literary philosophical corrective to pynchon’s work (any of his books...), where everything is involved in a massive conspiracy. more, not denying this but informed by learning so many, so constant, ludicrous, dangerous, hateful creative conspiracy, this book offers sort of the ‘theory of conspiracy’... this book insists that now and then, before and after, never and forever that disparate unrelated events or knowledge can all be made to connect, that once you begin with conspiracy it quickly becomes an article of unshakable faith and not reasoned arguments, that there is no escape from suspicion and possibility, that even attempts at escape are obviously part of some conspiracy, that- my favorite bit (spoiler)- the entire world is turned inside-out and every evidence contrary is part of worldwide deception (my joke...) for me this is even more a favorite than name of the rose. but then i deeply enjoy the first hundred pages of that book, the ‘test’ of a reader’s worthiness eco claimed was deliberate. this is kind of like that as an entire book...

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sud666

    Before we delve too much into this book I have to give this caveat- this book is most certainly not for everyone. You will find it called "Da Vinci Code with a brain" and I can certainly see that aspect. However, this is a dense and deep book. There is a lot going on here, yes some of it is nonsense, and can be a lot to take in. This can lead people to hate Eco's work ("Name of the Rose" suffers from this often, though it is a magnificent book!). A vague working knowledge of Latin, French and It Before we delve too much into this book I have to give this caveat- this book is most certainly not for everyone. You will find it called "Da Vinci Code with a brain" and I can certainly see that aspect. However, this is a dense and deep book. There is a lot going on here, yes some of it is nonsense, and can be a lot to take in. This can lead people to hate Eco's work ("Name of the Rose" suffers from this often, though it is a magnificent book!). A vague working knowledge of Latin, French and Italian (or at least the desire to try to translate it yourself) helps tremendously. Now just a bit of the history esoterica that will help with this tale- the whole Rosy Cross thing. During the early 1600's throughout Europe there was a story of a famous hermeticist (a follower of the philosophy/religion and esoteric tradition of Hermes Trismegistus) named Christian Rosenkreuz. He had allegedly studied alchemy and many mystical offshoots of the Abrahamic religions, from Kabbalistic Jews to Sufi Islamists to Catharite Christians. This Rosenkreuz became famous enough that in the 1700's talk of this mysterious order founded by Rosenkreuz was the province of such luminaries such as Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor. So it was a big deal, as was, the eternal desire for the alchemical formula to create gold. Now without giving too much away this is a book that deals with historical and pure "conspiracy theory" nuttery. Most of the stuff about the Templars up to the Trial is fairly accurate, after that we step on board the LSD train and go off chasing the Grail. This is also where it can lose some people, unless they have a good idea about things as diverse as medival history, mysticism, Gnosticism, cabalism, time charts and numerology, pagan rituals, World War II nostalgia, Brazilian macumba religion, satire of the Left and it's clueless ideology....there is a lot here. Now the bare bones of the plot: An Italian Colonel shows up to a publishing house with an alleged document showing the secret of the Knight Templars. The Publishers (the three characters who are the main characters in the story) do not pay him much attention until he is killed. In the subsequent investigations as they uncover more of this seemingly impossible conspiracy and decide to create a "Plan" purporting to out the secret of the Masters of the World. They never realized that they would attract the attention of the real thing. More than that I leave to you to read and learn. I loved almost everything save Belbo's horrid writing parts. That was a true drag and kept me thinking "Where is this going?!!". But the rest is truly out there. I find it amazing that Eco has the imagination and intellect to not only write this tale but to create "The Plan" is a work of true genius. The complex understory of how "it all works together" is a truly impressive display of intellect. It is for that reason I urge you to ignore his often cryptic passages and some odd prose and read the story for the story and marvel at the plot. It is a devastating attack at the whole conspiracy nut types and their truly warped logic. Yes, if you read between the lines, that goes for the religions here as well- Judaisim, Christianity and Islam. All had their heretics, all had their mystics and all had their mysteries that had a similarity to the core rites/principles (though they rarely admit such things) and that man of the mystical sects of the religions have a very odd version of the same religion. If you laugh at the tenuous basis for the "reality" of the Plan to Rule the World, if you are religious take a look at the tenuous nature of your own tale's version of "reality". Oh one last thing- Foucault's Pendulum? That thing is real. A French Physicist, Léon Foucault , did a public exhibition in the Paris Observatory to show that by the basis of a pendulum hung at the equator can prove that the Earth rotates by virtue of the plane of oscillation remaining fixed, relative to the Earth's rotation. So as it swings back and forth (though it's center/starting point has not changed) the plane of that movement is, depending on the time of day, pointing at different compass points.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Eco likes to show off his knowledge and the depth of his reading and he does so with a great flourish in this novel. It’s a difficult one to classify as it crosses genres and throws all sorts of references into the pot. It is really part thriller, part detective with a good dose of conspiracy theory and meandering down the byways of historical obscurity. Of course the whole thing may just be a postmodern joke! There are lots of nods, winks and jokes throughout. Eco was good friends with the Frenc Eco likes to show off his knowledge and the depth of his reading and he does so with a great flourish in this novel. It’s a difficult one to classify as it crosses genres and throws all sorts of references into the pot. It is really part thriller, part detective with a good dose of conspiracy theory and meandering down the byways of historical obscurity. Of course the whole thing may just be a postmodern joke! There are lots of nods, winks and jokes throughout. Eco was good friends with the French philosopher Foucault and the literary and historical references are numerous. Ten years before Dan Brown, Eco throws in the Templars, the Masons, the Kabbalah, Gnosticism, the Elders of Zion, the Jesuits, the Cathars and the Rosicrucian Enlightenment to name but a few. Obviously the grail is at the centre of it all; as is a device called Foucault’s pendulum. The plot revolves around three friends who work for a rather esoteric and dubious publishing company. There is a great deal of fun with coded and secret manuscripts and secret organisations and the friends after much research and following clues construct their own grand conspiracy theory called The Plan (completely made up). Throughout their researches and travels they have come across various members of secret societies, (most of them based on the Templars) and once they are told about the plan the trouble really starts. A grand over-arching plan is what most conspiracy theorists dream about and they fall for it and having been told there is a secret map and word are determined to get it. This puts the friends in danger. The whole thing is narrated in flashback by Casuabon. Another element is the thought that Casuabon may not be an entirely reliable narrator. Casuabon, as his name indicates (Middlemarch and there was an actual scholar called Casuabon) represents knowledge. Another friend, Belbo, seems to seems to represent the search for inner fulfilment (possibly) and Diotallevi seems to represent a more religious certainty. There are so many references and lines of inquiry to follow that the reader has to decide whether to take the time to do so. I decided to drift through the whole thing with a limited follow up as the book could have taken all year! It’s great fun and much better than Dan Brown. I thought the ending was a bit of a letdown, but I must admit I wouldn’t have known how to end it!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Olivia

    While I loved The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco blew my mind as a teenager with Foucault’s Pendulum. It’s a book filled with so many interesting tidbits about history, religion, philosophy, esoterica etc. And it’s easy to get lost in the wealth of information Eco so clearly possessed. But...the beauty of this book is that everyone can enjoy the story. There’s no need to retain any of the tangents and info, or to look up any of the rare vocabulary, you can just read the story and you’ll still unde While I loved The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco blew my mind as a teenager with Foucault’s Pendulum. It’s a book filled with so many interesting tidbits about history, religion, philosophy, esoterica etc. And it’s easy to get lost in the wealth of information Eco so clearly possessed. But...the beauty of this book is that everyone can enjoy the story. There’s no need to retain any of the tangents and info, or to look up any of the rare vocabulary, you can just read the story and you’ll still understand it. But for people who want to dig deeper, there’s layer upon layer of fascinating bits to uncover and connect. Three editors come up with a conspiracy theory that rewrites the entirety of European history and gives it a new meaning. And it blows my mind how easy it would be to believe that this made-up theory is exactly why our history unfolded the way it did. It’s a book about meaning and how nothing has meaning and how meaning can be found in everything. This is not a book about characters, it’s about the plot and the cynic in me would say: it’s about Eco showing off his knowledge. But Foucault’s Pendulum still amazed me the second time around, and I enjoyed most of Eco’s tangents. Had I read it for the first time I’d be giving it 4, perhaps 4.5 stars. However, I fondly remember the way it made me feel as a teenager, and that’s why I’m keeping it as one of my few five star books.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Baba

    Did Not Finish. I got up to page 67, of this 600+ page book and thought, I can't take no more of this. Impenetrable and kind of pointless. I'm sure there's probably more to it, and it might have something to do with me reading the last 26 pages during a 34 degree London heatwave, but I'm done with this! Did Not Finish. I got up to page 67, of this 600+ page book and thought, I can't take no more of this. Impenetrable and kind of pointless. I'm sure there's probably more to it, and it might have something to do with me reading the last 26 pages during a 34 degree London heatwave, but I'm done with this!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ray

    It goes without saying that Foucault's Pendulum is one of the most profound novels I've ever read, and is more relevant than ever in these conspiratorial times. Eco's expertise in the realm of all things occult is astounding, and even more so as he criticizes the fields of "Neo-Templarism" and secret societies which portend to have historical merit and try to influence the world by way of obscure publishing. Then there is the saga of the game which goes out of control, simply amazing writing. Mu It goes without saying that Foucault's Pendulum is one of the most profound novels I've ever read, and is more relevant than ever in these conspiratorial times. Eco's expertise in the realm of all things occult is astounding, and even more so as he criticizes the fields of "Neo-Templarism" and secret societies which portend to have historical merit and try to influence the world by way of obscure publishing. Then there is the saga of the game which goes out of control, simply amazing writing. Much to be learned from this. However, in this review I have to critique the abridged audiobook edition. Expertly read by Tim Curry, the acting is excellent and a great intellectual European vibe fitting for the tone of the book. But the only thing is, it's far too short. A tale of this complexity shouldn't be abridged, it should take as many dozens of hours necessary. I suppose it's a good edit as these things go, and I commend whomever is in charge of that for shortening the story to a mere seven and a half or so hours, but apparently I am too much of an purist so not the intended audiences. And, guess the famous actors who narrate won't do unabridged... Still, it is a powerful read and highly recommended. The most literary of the conspiracy theory novel subgenre, with an important moral to not take such things too seriously lest we go mad. Good advice these days indeed.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Vit Babenco

    Sitting on the Sephiroth Tree Cabbalists, Illuminati, Knights Templar, Rosicrucian Order… Conspiracies and counter conspiracies. If it isn’t enough for you than create your own clandestine order with some obscure and opaque agenda… The obscurer the better. “That was when I saw the Pendulum. The sphere, hanging from a long wire set into the ceiling of the choir, swayed back and forth with isochronal majesty. I knew—but anyone could have sensed it in the magic of that serene breathing—that the period w Sitting on the Sephiroth Tree Cabbalists, Illuminati, Knights Templar, Rosicrucian Order… Conspiracies and counter conspiracies. If it isn’t enough for you than create your own clandestine order with some obscure and opaque agenda… The obscurer the better. “That was when I saw the Pendulum. The sphere, hanging from a long wire set into the ceiling of the choir, swayed back and forth with isochronal majesty. I knew—but anyone could have sensed it in the magic of that serene breathing—that the period was governed by the square root of the length of the wire and by it, that number which, however irrational to sublunar minds, through a higher rationality binds the circumference and diameter of all possible circles. The time it took the sphere to swing from end to end was determined by an arcane conspiracy between the most timeless of measures: the singularity of the point of suspension, the duality of the plane’s dimensions, the triadic beginning of K, the secret quadratic nature of the root, and the unnumbered perfection of the circle itself.” There is an ingress to the labyrinth of mysticism but there’s no egress… Don’t you play with the esoteric knowledge it is dangerous… First of all it is dangerous for your sanity.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Heidi

    Maybe this will make me look stupid... but this book was far too brainy, academic and philosophical to be a really engrossing read. I had to make myself slog through certain portions of this book -- Eco is clearly brilliant, but needs to learn to keep a plot together. Too much extraneous information, too many digressions, too much detailed background information, and you distract from the plot. This is not an easy read. This book will take patience, ambition, and perseverence to read. It's worth Maybe this will make me look stupid... but this book was far too brainy, academic and philosophical to be a really engrossing read. I had to make myself slog through certain portions of this book -- Eco is clearly brilliant, but needs to learn to keep a plot together. Too much extraneous information, too many digressions, too much detailed background information, and you distract from the plot. This is not an easy read. This book will take patience, ambition, and perseverence to read. It's worth it to some, but me? Even though the plot is good once it's all laid out and unraveled, I still kind of wish I had never bothered.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Andreea

    This was my second attempt at Umberto Eco's novel, the first time I only got through about half of the book before giving it up in favor of, simply put- more "exciting" books. I picked it up again because I had to read a book about secret societies for the Summer Challenge on The Next Best Book Club and the only alternative was Dan Brown's Angels and Demons (and I'm not that keen on Dan Brown's writing style). In the end, once I tried to think everything through, the book proved to be amazing an This was my second attempt at Umberto Eco's novel, the first time I only got through about half of the book before giving it up in favor of, simply put- more "exciting" books. I picked it up again because I had to read a book about secret societies for the Summer Challenge on The Next Best Book Club and the only alternative was Dan Brown's Angels and Demons (and I'm not that keen on Dan Brown's writing style). In the end, once I tried to think everything through, the book proved to be amazing and completely worth my time and patience. i. I think that one of the things that drives people away from this book is the fact that they take it much to seriously, its charm lies in mockery and sarcasm. The fact that Eco mocks popular historical thrillers is undoubted and many readers pick up on that, or at least expect the book (written by an European scholar) to be like that, but what a lot of people don't see is that the mockery expands much beyond that. More than a book about secret societies, it's a book about books- writing books, editing books, publishing book, reading books. After a lifetime spent making the world a juster place through editing books, Belbo buys a personal computer and names it Abulafia not because he wants to play around with Kabbalah, but because he wants to write. They years haven't made him give up his teenage dream of becoming a writer. Diotallevi on the other hand is the editor. He loves his job because it allows him to pretend he's a Kabbalist, the same way the fact that he's an orphan allows him to he claim/pretend to be a Jew. Mr Garamond introduces us to the world of vanity publishers and you can't help but laugh at the things he says. Actually, I think you should laugh at all the characters because they all take themselves much too seriously -they're all intellectual independent middle aged men, yet they all behave like children. The first three hundred pages of the book where almost nothing happens are much easier to digest if you look at things in a lighthearted manner, instead of trying to find some complicated connections between Eco's novel and Foucault's philosophy (and by the way, he did say that the pun was not intended, but he's a very cunning author so I have my doubts). But, of course, Eco mocks you too, for being a reader of historical thrillers and for expecting his book to be an exciting read. I'm almost sure he feels a great deal of pleasure whenever somebody tells him the book is boring and that he should've gotten a better editor, the author doesn't feel the need to hold the reader's attention because he doesn't want to produce a "page turner", he wants to tease you. Although it was published before The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, I think we as witnesses of their phenomenal popularity can enjoy Eco's book all the more. Because in Foucault's Pendulum we encounter all kinds of people who blindly believe in all kinds of books. How many people do you know who believe that Dan Brown's novels hold some truth? ii. If you look at the book even deep you discover it's very ingenious and funny. I'm quite proud of my theory about Casaubon the narrator-character and judging by the book's complicated structure (memories are involuntary) also the author (and editor) of the text. The first thing that doesn't tie in with the plot is the book's structure itself. When did Casaubon have the time to write such a complicated long novel? He says he arrives at the the Canepas house/mannor at six in the evening and that as he's writing the last two chapter of the book it's already three a.m. But how is it possible to write a 600 pages novel in 9 hours? The answer is very simple- it's not. Let's assume for the sake of the argument that Casaubon only has to write 500 pages and the rest are Belbo's documents, let's also assume that each pages has on average 250 words and we'll reach the conclusion that the novel has 125 000 words. A good average handwriting speed is 20 wpm, thus 1200 words per hour, at which you could write 10 800 words in 9 hours. Casaubon couldn't finish the book in 9 hours even if he wrote ten times faster than that. Also odd are the numerous refrences to books and scientific papers, unless you're Funes you just can't remember Latin title of book if it has more than 20 words. I don't think that Umberto Eco can be that sloppy about his writings, I read his Six Walks in the Fictional Woods a few weeks ago and I simply can't imagine how somebody who understands how important time and temporal clues are in a story to completely ignore time in his. I've read that some people think Casaubon is so caught in the Plan and that he imagines/hallucinates all the events in the last part of the novel, but I prefer a more innocent theory. I think Casaubon really is an unreliable narrator, but in the sense that the whole story he tells is false. Obviously, we usually think that fiction is made up, but here the narrator is trying to trick us into believing that the story he tells is true at least in the context of the novel. Moreover, Foucault's Pendulum tells so much about people who thought books were true, when they were actually made up. Either way, I think Eco manages to make the reader a character in the novel beautifully because whether you believe Casaubon is telling the truth or that he's trying to trick you you've fallen under the books spell- either by believing everything you read, or by seeing conspiracies and theories everywhere. There are more than one way of reading a book, the first time I tried reading Foucault's Pendulum I read it as a "serious" book, but when I picked it up again I looked at everything with a more incredulous eyes and excepted sarcasm and jokes, I hope that in the future I'll read it again and find something else in it.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I loved The Name of the Rose. I liked the obscure, Medieval tone of it. I enjoyed the characters and the story. I was prepared to feel the same about Foucault’s Pendulum, although I had been warned there was little similarity between the two. I was disappointed. Foucault’s is Dan Brown on steroids. It is as if Eco (who never needs to prove his brilliance), needed to prove his brilliance on absolutely every page. There are references to Rosicrucians and Templars, as they are at the heart of the st I loved The Name of the Rose. I liked the obscure, Medieval tone of it. I enjoyed the characters and the story. I was prepared to feel the same about Foucault’s Pendulum, although I had been warned there was little similarity between the two. I was disappointed. Foucault’s is Dan Brown on steroids. It is as if Eco (who never needs to prove his brilliance), needed to prove his brilliance on absolutely every page. There are references to Rosicrucians and Templars, as they are at the heart of the story, but there are also references to Akhenaton and constant French titles to remote treatises and a conspiracy theory that throws in everyone in history from Bacon to Descartes, Shakespeare to Hitler, and that spans a globe and requires a pretty rich understanding of the history of every nation on earth from 1344 forward. It was tiring. The underlying story crept in often enough to keep me reading and then I found I had committed to over 300 pages and I had to complete the tome. I felt the story could have been told well with about half the references and half the pages. But, who am I to instruct Umberto Eco? In the end, it didn’t really work for me because it was just too clever. There are madmen all around us, that much I can agree with, and you might stumble into a coven of them, but I wonder if everyone you meet would be part of the coven, if they would have the kind of power he attributes to them, if they could keep themselves functioning in a society where everything is secret and even the members themselves are subject to sudden elimination, and if men who are portrayed as being so erudite and scholarly would be so easily taken in by a manufactured clue. No one else would have had the stamina or ability to keep weaving this story together. Eco is masterful in so many ways. There are so many reasons to give his writing a high rating, and yet, I did not enjoy this, and I was mostly relieved to close the back cover and say “done”. I have The Prague Cemetery sitting on my shelf and I wonder if The Rose should make me want to read it, or if Foucault’s should guarantee that I don’t. I was warned, but I wanted to read this, so I did. My warning to others is don’t go into this thinking you are going to spend time with the writer of The Name of the Rose. This is an entirely other enterprise, or dare I say, conspiracy.

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