The Prague Cemetery

The Prague Cemetery 
Umberto Eco
2011 (Eng) / 437 pages / hard cover / rating 9
 

Oh yes,  this is one fine book in true Eco form –  but sad to say not the best of Eco’s novels.   I’ve read the lot of his fiction and I’d place The Prague Cemetery third in my rankings of his books.   Where I really enjoyed The Name of the Rose (#2)  and it hooked me on Eco – I loved Foucault’s Pendulum (#1),   how it caught my attention and dragged me in.  The Prague Cemetery kept me going and enjoying myself thoroughly,  but I had to work at staying involved in some parts.  This story of the origins of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is very, very dark and very dense.

In 1897,  in an old run-down shop on some strange street in Paris lives Simone Simonini,  an old and incredibly anti-semitic man who is writing what his anti-semitic grandfather and anti-Jesuit father told him years before.   Behind him,  in several senses of the term, lives a very strange man who watches and follows and writes Simonini notes.  Simonini  is a forger by trade and a liar and a schemer and eventually,  a murderer.  There are no likable characters in this book even though all but Simone are historical figures.   Every one of them is fouler than the sewers.
The story takes the reader from the Carbonari and the Italian Unification of the 1840s to December 1898 connecting each and every conspiracy theory regarding the Masons and the Jesuits,  to a much larger conspiracy involving the Jews.
The structure of the diaries and notes is interesting and lends some suspense to the story but can get a bit confusing what with Simonini writing his memories on one date but the memories themselves occurring long before,  at first just his grandfather’s stories.  And then there’s the other man living there and the Narrator (capital N) who steps up to clarify once in awhile.
All in all I’m happy to have read this – and I have it in hard cover which I’m also pleased with because there are numerous sketches illustrating the narrative.  Sometimes Kindle versions don’t include all the graphics.  They might be this time but I didn’t know a Kindle version would be available when I pre-ordered  the hard cover.
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