The Name of the Rose
|The Name of the Rose|
1st edition (Italian)
|Original title||Il Nome della Rosa|
|Genre||Historical novel, Mystery|
|Publisher||Bompiani (Italy) Harcourt (US)|
|Published in English||1983|
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
|Pages||512 pp (paperback edition)|
|ISBN||ISBN 0-15-144647-4 (paperback edition)|
|Dewey Decimal||853/.914 19|
|LC Classification||PQ4865.C6 N613 1983|
The Name of the Rose is the first novel by Italian author Umberto Eco. It is a historical murder mystery set in an Italian monastery in the year 1327, an intellectual mystery combining semiotics in fiction, biblical analysis, medieval studies and literary theory. First published in Italian in 1980 under the title Il nome della rosa, it appeared in English in 1983, translated by William Weaver.
Franciscan friar William of Baskerville and his novice Adso of Melk travel to a Benedictine monastery in Northern Italy to attend a theological disputation. As they arrive, the monastery is disturbed by a suicide. As the story unfolds, several other monks die under mysterious circumstances. William is tasked by the abbot of the monastery to investigate the deaths as fresh clues with each murder victim lead William to dead ends and new clues. The protagonists explore a labyrinthine medieval library, discuss the subversive power of laughter, and come face to face with the Inquisition. William's innate curiosity and highly developed powers of logic and deduction provide the keys to unravelling the mysteries of the abbey.
- Primary characters
- William of Baskerville—main protagonist, a Franciscan friar
- Adso of Melk—narrator, Benedictine novice accompanying William
- At the monastery
- Abo of Fossanova—the abbot of the Benedictine monastery
- Severinus of Sankt Wendel—herbalist who helps William
- Malachi of Hildesheim—librarian
- Berengar of Arundel—assistant librarian
- Adelmo of Otranto—illuminator, novice
- Venantius of Salvemec—translator of manuscripts
- Benno of Uppsala—student of rhetoric
- Alinardo of Grottaferrata—eldest monk
- Jorge of Burgos—elderly blind librarian
- Remigio of Varagine—cellarer
- Salvatore of Montferrat—monk, associate of Remigio
- Nicholas of Morimondo—glazier
- Aymaro of Alessandria—gossipy, sneering monk
- Pacificus of Tivoli
- Peter of Sant’Albano
- Waldo of Hereford
- Magnus of Iona
- Patrick of Clonmacnois
- Rabano of Toledo
- Ubertino of Casale—Franciscan friar in exile, friend of William
- Michael of Cesena—leader of Spiritual Franciscans
- Bernardo Gui—Inquisitor
- Bertrand del Poggetto—Cardinal and leader of the Papal legation
- Peasant girl from the village below the monastery
||This section is written like a personal reflection or opinion essay rather than an encyclopedic description of the subject. (July 2011)|
Eco, being a semiotician, is hailed by semiotics students who like to use his novel to explain their discipline. The techniques of telling stories within stories, partial fictionalization, and purposeful linguistic ambiguity are all apparent. The solution to the central murder mystery hinges on the contents of Aristotle's book on Comedy, of which no copy survives; Eco nevertheless plausibly describes it and has his characters react to it appropriately in their medieval setting – which, though realistically described, is partly based on Eco's scholarly guesses and imagination. It is virtually impossible to untangle fact / history from fiction / conjecture in the novel. Through the motive of this lost and possibly suppressed book which might have aestheticized the farcical, the unheroic and the skeptical, Eco also makes an ironically slanted plea for tolerance and against dogmatic or self-sufficient metaphysical truths – an angle which reaches the surface in the final chapters.
Umberto Eco is a significant postmodernist theorist and The Name of the Rose is a postmodern novel. The quote in the novel, "books always speak of other books, and every story tells a story that has already been told," refers to a postmodern ideal that all texts perpetually refer to other texts, rather than external reality. In true postmodern style, the novel ends with uncertainty: "very little is discovered and the detective is defeated" (postscript). William of Baskerville solves the mystery in part by mistake; he thought there was a pattern but it in fact, numerous "patterns" were involved and combined with haphazard mistakes by the killers. William concludes in fatigue that there "was no pattern". Thus Eco turns the modernist quest for finality, certainty and meaning on its head, leaving the overall plot partly the result of accident and arguably without meaning. Even the novel's title alludes to the possibility of many meanings or of nebulous meaning; Eco saying in the Postscript he chose the title "because the rose is a symbolic figure so rich in meanings that by now it hardly has any meaning left".
Much attention has been paid to the mystery of what the title of the novel refers to. In fact, Eco has stated that his intention was to find a "totally neutral title". In one version of the story, when he had finished writing the novel, Eco hurriedly suggested some ten names for it and asked a few of his friends to choose one. They chose The Name of the Rose. In another version of the story, Eco had wanted the neutral title Adso of Melk, but that was vetoed by his publisher, and then the title The Name of the Rose "came to me virtually by chance."
The book's last line, "Stat rosa pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemus" translates as: "The primordial rose abides only in its name; we hold names stripped." The general sense, as Eco pointed out, was that from the beauty of the past, now disappeared, we hold only the name. In this novel, the lost "rose" could be seen as Aristotle's book on comedy (now forever lost), the exquisite library now destroyed, or the beautiful peasant girl now dead. We only know them by the description Adso provides us — we only have the name of the book on comedy, not its contents. As Adso points out at the end of the fifth day, he does not even know the name of the peasant girl to lament her. Does this mean she does not endure at all?
Perhaps this is a deliberate mis-translation. This quote has also been translated as "Yesterday's Rome stands only in name, we hold only empty names". This line is a verse by twelfth century monk Bernard of Cluny (also known as Bernard of Morlaix). Medieval manuscripts of this line are not in agreement (but the best are secure for Roma). Roma here introduces a "false" quantity, with a short-o for the Classical long-o; thus, a foolish scribe, or a merely a fool, wrote the "Classically impeccable" rosa, which betrays the overall context and flexible prosody of Bernard. Eco quotes one Medieval variant verbatim, but Eco was not aware at the time of the text more commonly printed in modern editions, in which the reference is to Rome (Roma), not to a rose (rosa). The alternative text, with its context, runs: Nunc ubi Regulus aut ubi Romulus aut ubi Remus? [Remus here also has a "false" long-e]/ Stat Roma pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemus. This translates as "Where now is Regulus, or Romulus, or Remus? / Primordial Rome abides only in its name; we hold names stripped (of presence)". See the new excellent source edition of 2009: Bernard of Cluny, De contemptu mundi: Une vision du monde vers 1144, ed. and trans. A. Cresson, Témoins de notre histoire (Turnhout, 2009), p. 126 (bk. 1, 952), and note thereto p. 257.
Also the title of the book has been inspired by a poem written by a Mexican lyric poet, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1651–1695):
Rosa que al prado, encarnada,
te ostentas presuntuosa
de grana y carmín bañada:
campa lozana y gustosa;
pero no, que siendo hermosa
también serás desdichada.
which appears in Eco's Postscript to the Name of the Rose, and is translated into English in "Note 1" of that book as:
Red rose growing in the meadow,
you vaunt yourself bravely
bathed in crimson and carmine:
a rich and fragrant show.
But no: Being fair,
You will be unhappy soon.
||This section is written like a personal reflection or opinion essay rather than an encyclopedic description of the subject. (July 2011)|
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (June 2010)|
To other works
The historical novel with medieval time setting was re-discovered in Italy a short time before by Italo Alighiero Chiusano, with his L'ordalia. The similarities between the two novels (time setting, the fact that both are bildungsroman (coming-of-age novels), the novice main character, and the older monk mentor), and the notoriety that L′ordalia had in 1979, of which an expert on literature such as Umberto Eco was definitely aware, making L'ordalia likely one of the first sources of inspiration of The Name of the Rose.
The name of the central character, William of Baskerville, alludes both to the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes (compare The Hound of the Baskervilles – also, Adso's description of William in the beginning of the book resembles, almost word for word, Dr. Watson's description of Sherlock Holmes when he first makes his acquaintance in A Study in Scarlet) and to William of Ockham (see the next section).
The name of the narrator, his apprentice Adso of Melk is among other things a pun on Simplicio from Galileo Galilei's Dialogue; Adso = ad Simplicio ("to Simplicio"). Adso's putative place of origin, Melk, is the site of a famous medieval library, at Melk Abbey.
As most of Eco's novels do, this novel displays erudition. The blind librarian Jorge from Burgos is a nod to Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges, a major influence on Eco. Borges was blind during his later years and was also director of Argentina's national library; his short story "The Library of Babel" is a clear inspiration for the secret library in Eco's book: "The Library is composed of an indefinite, perhaps infinite, number of hexagonal galleries, with enormous ventilation shafts in the middle, encircled by very low railings." Another of Borges's stories, "The Secret Miracle", features a blind librarian. In addition, a number of other themes drawn from various of Borges's works are used throughout The Name of the Rose: labyrinths, mirrors, sects and obscure manuscripts and books.
The ending also owes a debt to Borges's "Death and the Compass", wherein a detective proposes a theory for the behavior of a murderer. The murderer learns of the theory and uses it to trap the detective. In The Name of the Rose, the librarian Jorge uses William's belief that the murders are based on the Revelation of John to misdirect William, though in Eco's tale, the detective succeeds in solving the crime.
Eco seems also to have been aware of Rudyard Kipling's short story The Eye of Allah, which touches on many of the same themes – optics, manuscript-illumination, music, medicine, priestly authority and the Church's attitude to scientific discovery and independent thought – and which includes a character named John of Burgos.
Eco spent some time at the University of Toronto while writing the book. The stairs in the monastery's library bear a striking resemblance to those in Robarts Library. Throughout the book, there are Latin quotes, authentic and apocryphal. There are also discussions of the philosophy of Aristotle and of a variety of millenarist heresies, especially those associated with the fraticelli. Numerous other philosophers are referenced throughout the book, often anachronistically, including Wittgenstein. The "poisoned page" theme is in a classic Chinese novel, Jin Ping Mei, usually translated into English as The Golden Lotus.
To actual history, geography and current science
William of Ockham, who lived during the time at which the novel is set, first put forward the principle known as "Ockham's Razor": often summarised as the dictum that one should always accept as most-likely the simplest explanation that accounts for all the facts (a method used by William of Baskerville in the novel).
The book describes monastic life in the 14th century. The action takes place at a Benedictine abbey during the controversy surrounding the Apostolic poverty between branches of Franciscans and Dominicans; see Renewed controversy on the question of poverty. The Spirituals abhor wealth, bordering on the Apostolics or Dulcinian heresy. The book highlights this tension that existed within Christianity during the medieval era: the Spirituals, one faction within the Franciscan order, demanded that the Church should abandon all wealth, and some heretical sects began killing the well-to-do, while the majority of the Franciscans and the clergy took to a broader interpretation of the gospel.
A number of the characters, such as the Inquisitor Bernard Gui, Ubertino of Casale and the Minorite Michael of Cesena, are historical figures, though the novel's characterization of them is not always historically accurate. Dante Alighieri and his Comedy are mentioned once in passing. However, Eco notes in a companion book that he had to site the monastery in mountains so it would experience early frosts, in order for that action to take place at a time when Bernard Gui could have been in the area. For the purposes of the plot, he needed a quantity of pig blood, but at that time pigs were not usually slaughtered until a frost had arrived. Later in the year Gui was known to have been away from Italy and could not have participated in the events at the monastery.
Part of the dialogue in the inquisition scene of the novel is lifted bodily from the historical Bernard's own Manual for Inquisitors, the Practica Inquisitionis Heretice Pravitatis, for example the dialogue: "What do you believe?" "What do you believe, my Lord?" "I believe in all that the Creed teaches." "So I believe, My Lord"; whereupon Bernard points out that what Remigius the cellarer is saying is not that he (Remigius himself) believes in the Creed, but that he believes that Bernard believes in the Creed. This is itself an example given by Bernard in his book to warn inquisitors against the slipperiness and manipulation of words by heretics. This usage of Bernard's own book by Eco is self-consciously of a piece with his perspective that "books always speak of other books"; in this case, the author makes his character Bernard speak the historical Bernard's own words literally as the latter's text becomes part of the drama played out in the novel.
Adso's description of the portal of the monastery is recognisably that of the portal of the church at Moissac, France.. There is also a quick reference to a famous "Umberto of Bologna" – Umberto Eco himself.
- The Name of the Rose was made into a film in 1986, directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud and starring Sean Connery as William of Baskerville and Christian Slater as Adso.
- A play adaptation by Grigore Gonţa had its premiere at National Theatre Bucharest in 1998, starring Radu Beligan, Gheorghe Dinică and Ion Cojar.
- A 2 part radio drama based on the novel and adapted by Chris Dolan was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on the 16th and 23 June 2006.
- A radio parody inspired by the film adaptation was made as part of the Crème de la Crime series by Punt and Dennis, also on BBC Radio 4.
- A Spanish video game adaptation was released in 1987 under the title La Abadía del Crimen (The Abbey of Crime). A 1999 remake can be played in several languages, including English.
- A boardgame with the same name has been published in 2008 by Ravensburger. The game is written by Stephan Feld and is based on the events of the book.
- An adventure video game adaptation titled "Murder in the Abbey" developed by Alcachofa Soft and published in 2008 by DreamCatcher Interactive.
References in popular culture
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (July 2011)|
- The second album of the band Ten, released in 1996 is named The Name of the Rose, and the eponymus opening track is loosely based on the concept of what The Name Of The Rose is referring to.
- The song "Sign of the Cross" from Iron Maiden is about an execution during inquisition and openly cites the novel/movie title in the chorus lyrics.
- The song "Abbey of Synn", from Ayreon's album Actual Fantasy, is based on The Name of the Rose, specifically referencing the labyrinth, the blackened fingers, and the book that kills, among other plot points.
- The song "Neon Bible", from Canadian rock band The Arcade Fire's album Neon Bible, references The Name of the Rose's famous cause of death with the lyrics "Take the poison of your age / Don't lick your fingers when you turn the page". In addition, this song (and many others on the album) addresses Eco's theme regarding the futility of reading any text or message as an absolute truth.
- The song "Inverted" by the Canadian death metal Band Gorguts takes inspiration lyrically from The Name of the Rose.
- The videogame Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem features a character who is a Franciscan monk named Paul Luther, who, after arriving to a cathedral in Amiens during the Inquisition, finds the corpse of a monk and is judged guilty for the murder. After escaping arrest from the cathedral's authority, he starts to investigate the cathedral's dark secrets and the real reason of the monk's death.
- The song Witch Hunt sung by the Japanese virtual singer (also named Vocaloid) Megurine Luka is about a red-haired girl who is thought to be a witch. She is finally burnt. Although the majority of the lyrics are in Japanese, some are in Latin. In the chorus, we can find two sentences said by Salvatore in Umberto Eco's book: "Penitenziagite!" and "La mortz est super nos!".
- pointed out by Lars Gustafsson in a postscript to the Swedish edition of the novel.
- Christopher Butler. Postmodernism: A Very Short Introduction. OUP, 2002. ISBN 978-0-19-280239-2 — see pages 32 and 126 for discussion of the novel.
- "Postscript to the Name of the Rose", printed in The Name of the Rose (Harcourt, Inc., 1984), p. 506.
- Umberto Eco. On Literature. Secker & Warburg, 2005, p. 129-130. ISBN 0-436-21017-7.
- "Name of the Rose: Title and Last Line". Archived from the original on 2007-01-21. Retrieved 2007-03-15.
- Eco would have found this reading in, for example, the standard text edited by H.C. Hoskier (London 1929); only the Hiersemann manuscript preserves "Roma". For the verse quoted in this form before Eco, see e.g. Alexander Cooke, An essay on the origin, progress, and decline of rhyming Latin verse (1828), p. 59, and Hermann Adalbert Daniel, Thesaurus hymnologicus sive hymnorum canticorum sequentiarum (1855), p. 290. See further Pepin, Ronald E. "Adso's closing line in The Name of the Rose." American notes and queries (May–June 1986): 151–152.
- As Eco wrote in "The Author and his Interpreters" "Thus the title of my novel, had I come across another version of Morlay's poem, could have been The Name of Rome (thus acquiring fascist overtones)".
- in Italian: from the Journal "Letture", n. 614, February 2005: Memoria. Marco Beck ricorda Italo Alighiero Chiusano
- Eco, Umberto (1983). The Name of the Rose. Harcourt.
- Coletti, Theresa (1988). Naming the Rose. Cornell University Press.
- Haft, Adele (1999). The Key to The Name of the Rose. University of Michigan Press. ISBN 978-0-472-08621-4
- Ketzan, Erik. "Borges and The Name of the Rose". Retrieved 2007-08-18.
- Wischermann, Heinfried (1997). Romanesque. Konemann.
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