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After nearly two weeks of toil, I finally completed Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum last night.  I enjoyed this book very much but it took a lot of effort to get through it.  Eco is a professor of semiotics at the University of Bologna, and his erudition is dazzling.  There is so much information packed on every page that it can be difficult to generate momentum.

Foucault’s Pendulum tells the story of three editors at a Milanese publishing firm.  The firm begins publishing a series of books on the occult, with submitted manuscripts ranging from the Templars to the Illuminati.  The three friends begin using a computer to generate random connections between the various conspiracies proposed by their authors, building a completely fictional conspiracy.  The creation of their fictional plan becomes a game for the editors, taking up more and more of their time.  Eventually they become somewhat obsessed by their game.  This isn’t a real problem until a group of occultists catches wind of the fictional plot and doesn’t realize the fiction.  I won’t spoil the ending, but needless to say the editors run into a bit of trouble thanks to the occultists.

The thing that distinguishes Foucault’s Pendulum  from the many other conspiracy based thrillers is the irony.  Three men who don’t believe in conspiracies eventually become consumed by a fictional one, and a group of people devoted to finding secret conspiracies don’t accept that the fictional plan is really fictional.  Instead of encouraging conspiracy theorists, Eco is highlighting the pointlessness of seeking out conspiracies.  Foucault’s Pendulum is like The Da Vinci Code, if Dan Brown didn’t take himself so seriously.  Foucault’s Pendulum predates the Dan Brown craze by more than ten years, and Eco is less than fond of Brown.  In fact, Eco has stated that “Dan Brown is one of the characters in my novel Foucault’s Pendulum, which is about people who start believing in occult stuff.”  Ouch.  If you like thrillers and appreciate that conspiracies generally don’t really exist, Foucault’s Pendulum is a good choice.

The Current Count:

51 Read, 49 To Go

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