Day 896: The Name of the Rose

Day 896, Monday, November 5, the day when we discussed Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose in the genre fiction workshop. I wasn’t really drawn into the book. It is one of such works, in case of which you know it is important and has loads of layers, imbued with meaning, but cannot really like it. One of those books, the discussing of which is more interesting than actually reading it. It does take an eternity to get into the book and Eco made the beginning to drag intentionally, stating that if you wanted to live in the abbey for a week, you would have to make an effort. The story is set in an abbey during the medieval times. Dark ages. Focus on religion. Long-long-neverneding chapters containing too many names and their sufferings. Philosophy and signs cluttered all around the book. Many that you actually cannot see if you are not a sign-detective, a semiotician. Which Eco was.

The Name of the Rose is difficult to categorise when it comes to genre. We had to read it as an anti-detective novel: there are clues, there is a murder mystery, but the crimes are committed by several people or… no one. There are clues, signs, but they might not even mean much anything, unless we give them a meaning. It is an open work. The author must ‘die’ (obviously, Eco was friends with Roland Barthers who spoke of the death of the author) for the reader to strive. Once the work is ready, the author no longer influences it and it is for anyone else (reader) to give it a meaning. Open work – yes, it is a postmodernist story in a way as well. No clear solution. Intetextuality, linking to other texts.

It could also be considered a historical novel, if you focus on the parts where the stories of different religious people are discussed. There is loads of that stuff. This is the part that I mostly skipped, unable to be immersed into it, unable to be interested. I don’t care about religious history, I care about the story. Eco was a medievalist. If you are someone who is interested in the complex religious mysteries and the different orders of the medieval age, you would find these passages excellent.

Eventually, it could also be considered to be a bildungsroman. Young novice monk Adso discovers his sexuality and then decides that he wants to dedicate himself solely to God. During the seven days in the abbey, he learns a lifetime’s worth of things. He grows up. All this thanks to his curious mind and asking lots of questions from the older monks as well as thanks to his investigation alongside William. He is the narrator, looking back at this formative period that he experienced at 18, while he is already 80. Thus, he could also be an unreliable narrator. Does he remember everything correctly? Eco possibly even wants us to doubt him.

The Name of the Rose is not an easy book to read. Not something that you would read just before falling asleep. It is something you read if you want to broaden your mind. Probably, you would need complete silence for this. It is dense, superdense. Most people in the class couldn’t get into it but liked to discuss it. I see its charm, but a bestseller…? I don’t know. Could have been when it first got out, which was in 1980.

Progress Report

1. Own and live in a house.

Said goodbye to the big house, spent a homeless travelling day on the route of Shrewsbury-Birmingham-Cardiff-Bristol-Weston-super-Mare, arrived back in the same place where we spent a week in October. In this smaller apartment I find myself wanting to have a house even more. And it also makes me realise that we are quite tidy people. The apartment is a bit dirty, to be honest.

2. Write AND publish a book.

Didn’t write anything myself (apart from loads of blog posts) but had a fruitful genre fiction workshop. It is great to discuss literature, to try and understand why authors wrote something in the way they did. We also discussed how we would write an anti-detective story ourselves. It could be the detective being the criminal instead, the crime solution discovered by an accident, not thanks to following the clues, open ending…

3. Win a major race.

Was supposed to be a rest day but did a small run (6.6 km/4 miles) in the morning. Then, walked loads and loads up the hill in Cardiff and back down after the class (10K total). Active day despite all the sitting on the bus!

Photo of the Day



Hello, Birmingham. Goodbye, Birmingham. On my way from Shrewsbury to Cardiff.


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