Sunday, September 02, 2018

Fortnightly Book, September 2

Baudolino is the fourth of the novels of Umberto Eco, and also the next fortnightly book. I will, of course, be reading the William Weaver translation. Baudolino of Allessandria has come to Constantinople with singularly bad timing; he has barely arrived in 1204 when the Fourth Crusade sacks the city. He saves the life of the historian, Niketas Choniates, and while they are holed up trying to survive the sack and its aftermath, Baudolino tells Niketas the story of his life.

Of course, it's an Eco novel, so you know that there will be more to it than that. Baudolino is a compulsive liar; it's impossible to tell how much of what he says is true and how much is fiction. Niketas Choniates is a historical figure; he wrote an extraordinarily important history that is one of our sources for what happened during the Sack of Constantinople. So we have a liar telling his fictional history to someone concerned with historical fact; but, as you would expect from Eco, there is some question as to how false the lies are and how true the historical fact actually is. And a recurring theme throughout the work is the notion of a map of regions unknown, the picture of the world we build beyond the borders of the realm for which we can personally vouch. What is fiction and what is fact, especially when we are speaking of fictions about facts and facts about fictions?

In any case, it will be interesting to see Eco handling the Middle Ages again.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please understand that this weblog runs on a third-party comment system, not on Blogger's comment system. If you have come by way of a mobile device and can see this message, you may have landed on the Blogger comment page, or the third party commenting system has not yet completely loaded; your comments will only be shown on this page and not on the page most people will see, and it is much more likely that your comment will be missed.