Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose

A long time ago, when I was fairly in middle school, I was up late at night flipping channels while working on a project. Some local cable channel had a rather sketchy movie on. My mum and I settled down to watch it. It had Sean Connery, mum’s favourite actor. Soon the title of the movie came up, The Name of the Rose. My mum’s immediate reaction – change the channel. I protested, but she was adamant. I relented. But since then, this name was stored carefully at the back of the head.

Years later, when I realized it was the debut novel of Umberto Eco, a name that does wonders to a mind at an impressionable age, I knew I had to get a copy of my own. The best part about reading this book is not just the story, its setting and enjoying the shenanigans of its characters, but the author. Eco was a learned novelist, a professor who managed to combine the likes of biblical stories with semiotics – that includes the study of signs and symbols – and literary theory, medieval history and more. The takeaway in reading this book is beyond imagination, all the while enriching us in some aspect or the other.

Essentially a murder mystery wrapped with a lot of meaningful issues and clash of ideologies that plague society and religious groups, the book centres on a learned Franciscan friar William of Baskerville and Adso of Melk, are sent to the Benedictines’ monastery to solve the mysterious deaths of almost six monks. It also depicts in many ways how religious orders are often resistant to change and refuse to accept science.  This book also introduced me to a host of Latin phrases, in fact I found myself looking up a lot of things while reading this book.

The story starts with Adso, an old man, who recounts his tale as a young novice to William in 1327. The Benedictine abbey in northern Italy is said to have a renowned scriptorium where many scribes copy, translate and illuminate books. When a young illuminator dies in mysterious circumstances, the abbot reaches out to William of Baskerville to use his powers of persuasion and reasoning to bring the shed some light on the event.

Being a typical murder mystery at its core, I do not wish to get into the details, but Eco masterfully managed to string in a lot of elements. There is one scene that irritates me to the core, when the young Adso had sex with a village girl. I just don’t buy into how he managed to partake in that? Why did he not stop himself or even her? What is the point in taking the oath of chastity, poverty and celibacy, wherein at some point one has broken each and every one of them? Yes, we’re all human, but then why do some have to lord over others? Anyway, these were just some of the passing questions that popped in my head. All in all, this book is a treasure trove in terms of content, stories and characters, and I can’t wait to start my second book by Umberto Eco soon.

This post is part of the eighth annual A to Z Challenge that takes place in the month of April. The theme for this month is ‘Between Pages’. It’s my second attempt at this. Feedback is most welcome, constructive criticism, even more. Share your experiences and let’s enjoy this month of fabulous blogging.


5 thoughts on “Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose

  1. I read the story a looooong time ago. I did like it, but I think I was probably too young to get much of the things you talk about. I barely remember the story. I migh tbe in need of a reread.
    I also watched the film. Good one, too.

    The Old Shelter – 1940s Film Noir


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