Sunday, June 19, 2016

Fortnightly Book, June 19

Stat rosa pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemus.

There was some interest in reading Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose a couple of weeks ago, so it makes sense to do it earlier rather than later. Ironically, the striking title has very little significance of itself -- it was deliberately chosen not to give away anything and to suggest possible meanings in such a way that it will never be possible to pin down the real meaning. And that is very much the theme of the book -- the medieval confidence in reason is breaking down and giving way to a modern perplexity that can never decide if the things we see in the world are really there or not. We follow the signs -- and at the end we find only more signs.

But, of course, that sounds quite bland, and The Name of the Rose is not a bland book, so it will be fun to re-read. And since it is Eco, the work is an epistemological thriller and turns on some finer points of semiotics and philosophy.

To set the mood, here is a lovely picture of the Sacra di San Michele, in the Susa Valley of Piedmont, Italy, which is widely thought to be Eco's inspiration for the Abbey:

La Sacra ammantata dalla neve

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