The Name of the Rose

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The Name of the Rose
The Name of the Rose.jpg
First edition cover (Italian)
Author Umberto Eco
Original title Il nome della rosa
Translator William Weaver
Country Italy
Language Italian
Genre Historical novel, mystery
Publisher Bompiani (Italy)
Harcourt (US)
Publication date
1980
Published in English
1983
Media type Print (Paperback)
Pages 512 pp
ISBN 0-15-144647-4
OCLC 8954772
853/.914 19
LC Class PQ4865.C6 N613 1983

The Name of the Rose (Italian: Il nome della rosa [il ˈnoːme della ˈrɔːza]) is the 1980 debut 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. It was translated into English by William Weaver in 1983.

The novel has sold over 50 million copies worldwide, becoming one of the best-selling books ever published.[1] It has received many international awards and accolades, such as the Strega Prize in 1981 and Prix Medicis Étrangère in 1982, and was ranked 14th on Le Monde's 100 Books of the Century list.

Plot summary[edit]

In 1327, Franciscan friar William of Baskerville and Adso of Melk, a Benedictine novice travelling under his protection, arrive at a Benedictine monastery in Northern Italy to attend a theological disputation. This abbey is being used as an embassy between Pope John XXII, and the Friars Minor, who are suspected of heresy.

The monastery is disturbed by the death of Adelmo of Otranto, an illuminator revered for his illustrations. Adelmo was skilled at comical artwork, especially concerning religious matters. William is tasked by the monastery's abbot, Abo of Fossanova to investigate the death, and he has a debate with one of the oldest monks in the abbey, Jorge of Burgos, about the theological meaning of laughter, which Jorge despises.

The next day, a Greek scholar and translator, Venantius of Salvamec, is found dead in a vat of pig's blood. Previously, William and Adso had been prohibited from the library by the book keeper Malachi of Hildesheim, so they penetrate the labyrinth, discovering that there must be a hidden room, entitled the finis Africae. Bencio of Uppsala, a rhetoric scholar, reveals to William that Malachi, and his assistant Berengar of Arundel, had a homosexual relationship, until Berengar seduced Adelmo, who committed suicide out of religious shame. The only other monks who knew about the indiscretions were Jorge and Venantius.

By the day after, Berengar has gone missing, which puts pressure onto William. William learns of how Salvatore of Montferrat, and Remigio of Varagine, two cellarer monks, had a history with the Dulcinian heretics. Meanwhile, Adso is seduced by a peasant girl, with whom he has his first sexual experience. After confessing to William, Adso is absolved, although he still feels guilty. Severinus of Sankt Wendel, the herbalist, tells William that Venantius's body had ink stains on the tongue and fingers, which suggests poison. William and Adso penetrate the library once more, discovering that Venantius had a book stolen from him, which they pursue.

On the fourth day, Berengar is found drowned in a bath, although he bears ink stains similar to those of Venantius. Bernard Gui, a member of the Inquisition, arrives to search for the murderer via Papal deduction. Due to this arrival, Gui arrests the peasant girl Adso loved, as well as Salvatore, accusing them both of heresy.

Remigio is interrogated by Gui, who scares him into revealing his heretic past, as well as falsely confessing to the crimes of the Abbey. Severinus then is found dead in his room, to which Jorge responds by leading a sermon about the coming of the Antichrist.

Malachi returns to the early sermon that day near death, and his final words concern scorpions. Nicholas of Morimondo, the glazier, tells William that whoever is the librarian would then become the Abbot, and with new light, William goes to the library to search for evidence. The Abbot is distraught that William has not solved the crime, and that the Inquisition is undermining him, so he fires William. That night, William and Adso penetrate the library once more in search of the finis Africae.

William and Adso discover Jorge waiting for them in the forbidden room. He says that he has been masterminding the Abbey for years, and his last victim is the Abbot himself, who has been led into the library. The Abbot suffocates, and Jorge tells them that Venantius's hidden book was Aristotle's Second Poetics, which speaks of the virtues of laughter, something Jorge despises. Jorge poisoned the ink on the book, which is consumed when one turns the pages. Venantius was translating the book and died. Berengar found the body and disposed of it in pig's blood, fearing exposure, before reading the book himself and dying. Malachi was convinced by Jorge to retrieve the book, which was stashed with Severinus, so he kills Severinus and retrieves the book, before getting curious and dying as well.

All of the murders time out with the Seven Trumpets, which call for objects falling from the sky (Adelmo threw himself from a tower), pools of blood, poison from water, bashing of the stars (Severinus was killed with his head bashed in with a celestial orb), scorpions, locusts, and fire. Jorge consumes the book's poisoned pages and uses Adso's lantern to start a fire, which burns down the library. As the fire spreads to the rest of the abbey, William laments his failure. Confused and defeated, William and Adso escape the abbey. Years later, Adso, now aged, returns to the ruins of the abbey and collects books that were salvaged from the fire, creating a lesser library.

Characters[edit]

Primary characters
At the monastery
Outsiders

Major themes[edit]

Eco was a professor of semiotics, and employs techniques of metanarrative, partial fictionalization, and linguistic ambiguity to create a world enriched by layers of meaning. The solution to the central murder mystery hinges on the contents of Aristotle's book on Comedy, which has been lost. In spite of this, Eco speculates on the content and has the characters react to it. Through the motif 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.[2]

The Name of the Rose has been described as a work of postmodernism.[3] 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 idea that all texts perpetually refer to other texts, rather than external reality, while also harkening back to the medieval notion that citation and quotation of books was inherently necessary to write new stories. The novel ends with irony: as Eco explains in his Postscript to the Name of the Rose, "very little is discovered and the detective is defeated."[4] After unraveling the central mystery in part through coincidence and error, William of Baskerville 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.[3]

The aedificium's labyrinth[edit]

The mystery revolves around the abbey library, situated in a fortified tower—the aedificium. This structure has three floors—the ground floor contains the kitchen and refectory, the first floor a scriptorium, and the top floor is occupied by the library.[5] The two lower floors are open to all, while only the librarian may enter the last. A catalogue of books is kept in the scriptorium, where manuscripts are read and copied. A monk who wishes to read a book would send a request to the librarian, who, if he thought the request justified, would bring it to the scriptorium. Finally, the library is in the form of a labyrinth, whose secret only the librarian and the assistant librarian know.[6]

The aedificium has four towers at the four cardinal points, and the top floor of each has seven rooms on the outside, surrounding a central room. There are another eight rooms on the outer walls, and sixteen rooms in the centre of the maze. Thus, the library has a total of fifty-six rooms.[7] Each room has a scroll containing a verse from the Book of Revelation. The first letter of the verse is the letter corresponding to that room.[8] The letters of adjacent rooms, read together, give the name of a region (e.g. Hibernia in the West tower), and those rooms contain books from that region. The geographical regions are:

The aedificium's labyrinth
  • Fons Adae, 'The earthly paradise' contains Bibles and commentaries, East Tower
  • Acaia, Greece, Northeast
  • Iudaia, Judea, East
  • Aegyptus, Egypt, Southeast
  • Leones, 'South' contains books from Africa, South Tower
  • Yspania, Spain, Southwest outer
  • Roma, Italy, Southwest inner
  • Hibernia, Ireland, West Tower
  • Gallia, France, Northwest
  • Germania, Germany, North
  • Anglia, England, North Tower

Two rooms have no lettering - the easternmost room, which has an altar, and the central room on the south tower, the so-called finis Africae, which contains the most heavily guarded books, and can only be entered through a secret door. The entrance to the library is in the central room of the east tower, which is connected to the scriptorium by a staircase.[9]

Title[edit]

Much attention has been paid to the mystery the book's title refers to. In fact, Eco has stated that his intention was to find a "totally neutral title".[4] 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.[10] 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." In the Postscript to the Name of the Rose, Eco claims to have chosen the title "because the rose is a symbolic figure so rich in meanings that by now it hardly has any meaning left".[4]

The book's last line, "Stat rosa pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemus" translates as: "the rose of old remains only in its name; we possess naked names." The general sense, as Eco pointed out,[11] 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.

The title is also an allusion to the nominalist position in the problem of universals, taken by William of Ockham. According to nominalism, universals are bare names: there is not a universal rose, only the name rose.[12]

This text has also been translated as "Yesterday's rose 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: Eco quotes one Medieval variant verbatim,[13] 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).[14] The alternative text, with its context, runs: Nunc ubi Regulus aut ubi Romulus aut ubi Remus? / 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 only naked names."[15]

Also the title of the book may be related to a poem by the Mexican poet and mystic 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.[4]

Allusions[edit]

To other works[edit]

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 deriving from "ad Simplicio" ("to Simplicio"). Adso's putative place of origin, Melk, is the site of a famous medieval library, at Melk Abbey. And his name echoes the narrator of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Watson (omitting the first and last latters, with "t" and "d" being phonetically similar).[16]

The blind librarian Jorge of 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 an inspiration for the secret library in Eco's book.[17] 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' short story "Death and the Compass", in which 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.

The "poisoned page" motif may have been inspired by Alexandre Dumas' novel La Reine Margot (1845). It was also used in the film Il giovedì (1963) by Italian director Dino Risi.[18] A similar story is associated with the Chinese erotic novel Jin Ping Mei, translated as The Golden Lotus or The Plum in the Golden Vase.

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, like optics, manuscript illumination, music, medicine, priestly authority and the Church's attitude to scientific discovery and independent thought, and which also includes a character named John of Burgos.

Eco was also inspired by the 19th century Italian novelist Alessandro Manzoni, citing The Betrothed as an example of the specific type of historical novel he purposed to create, in which some of the characters may be made up, but their motivations and actions remain authentic to the period and render history more comprehensible.[19]

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.

To actual history and geography[edit]

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 setting was inspired by monumental Saint Michael's Abbey in Susa Valley, Piedmont and visited by Umberto Eco.[20][not in citation given] 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. Also in the background is the conflict between Louis IV and Pope John XXII, with the Emperor supporting the Spirituals and the Pope condemning them.

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. Eco notes in a companion book that he had to situate the monastery in mountains so it would experience early frosts, in order for the action to take place at a time when the historical Bernard Gui could have been in the area. For the purposes of the plot, Eco 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 Gui'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." Bernardo then points out that what Remigius the cellarer is saying is not that Remigius believes in the Creed, but that Remigius believes that Bernardo believes in the Creed. This is an example given by the historical Gui in his book to warn inquisitors against the slipperiness and manipulation of words by heretics. This use of Gui'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 integrates the historical Bernard Gui's text into his own through the fictional character of Bernardo.

Adso's description of the portal of the monastery is recognizably that of the portal of the church at Moissac, France.[21] Dante Alighieri and his Comedy are mentioned once in passing. There is also a quick reference to a famous "Umberto of Bologna"—Umberto Eco himself.

Adaptations[edit]

Film[edit]

Television[edit]

Dramatic works[edit]

Games[edit]

  • A Spanish video game adaptation was released in 1987 under the title La Abadía del Crimen (The Abbey of the Crime).
  • Nomen Rosae (1988), a Spanish ZX Spectrum maze video game developed by Cocasoft and published by MicroHobby. It only depicts the abbey's library of the novel.[25]
  • Il Noma della Rosa (1993), a Slovak ZX Spectrum adventure video game developed by Orion Software and published by Perpetum.[26]
  • Ravensburger published an eponymous boardgame in 2008, designed by Stefan Feld and is based on the events of the book.
  • Murder in the Abbey (2008), an adventure video game loosely based upon the novel. Developed by Alcachofa Soft and published by DreamCatcher Interactive.
  • La Abadía del Crimen Extensum (The Abbey of Crime Extensum), a free remake of La Abadía del Crimen written in Java was released on Steam in 2016 with English, French, Italian and Spanish-language versions. This remake greatly enhances the gameplay of the original, while also expanding the story and the cast of characters, borrowing elements from the movie and book. The game is dedicated to Umberto Eco, recently deceased, and Paco Menéndez, the programmer of the original game, who committed suicide in 1999.[27]

Music[edit]

  • The British rock band Ten released the album The Name of the Rose (1996), whose eponymous track is loosely based around some of the philosophical concepts of the novel.
  • The British metal band Iron Maiden released the song "Sign of the Cross" in 1995, part of their X Factor album. The song refers to the novel.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Library Journal Archived 2008-09-21 at the Wayback Machine. (no date)
  2. ^ Lars Gustafsson, postscript to Swedish edition The Name of the Rose
  3. ^ a b 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.
  4. ^ a b c d "Postscript to the Name of the Rose", printed in The Name of the Rose (Harcourt, Inc., 1984), p. 506.
  5. ^ First Day, Terce, paragraph 37
  6. ^ First Day, Terce, paragraph 67
  7. ^ Third Day, Vespers, paragraphs 50-56
  8. ^ Third Day, Vespers, paragraphs 64-68
  9. ^ Fourth Day, After Compline
  10. ^ Umberto Eco. On Literature. Secker & Warburg, 2005, p. 129-130. ISBN 0-436-21017-7.
  11. ^ "Name of the Rose: Title and Last Line". Archived from the original on 2007-01-21. Retrieved 2007-03-15. 
  12. ^ https://www.crisismagazine.com/1987/war-of-the-rose-the-historical-context-of-the-name-of-the-rose
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ As Eco wrote in "The Author and his Interpreters" Archived 2008-01-01 at the Wayback Machine. "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)".
  15. ^ See the 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.
  16. ^ Capozzi, Rocco, ed. (February 22, 1997). Reading Eco: An Anthology. Indiana University Press. ISBN 9780253112828. 
  17. ^ 1899-1986., Borges, Jorge Luis, (2000). The library of Babel. Desmazières, Erik, 1948-, Hurley, Andrew, 1944-, Giral, Angela. Boston: David R. Godine. ISBN 156792123X. OCLC 44089369. 
  18. ^ notes to Daniele Luttazzi. Lolito. pp. 514–15. 
  19. ^ Umberto., Eco, (1984). Postscript to The name of the rose. Eco, Umberto. (1st ed.). San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. ISBN 9780151731565. OCLC 10996520. 
  20. ^ "AVOSacra - Associazione volontari Sacra di San Michele". 
  21. ^ Petersen, Nils Holger; Clüver, Claus; Bell, Nicolas (2004). Signs of Change: Transformations of Christian Traditions and Their Representation in the Arts, 1000-2000. Rodopi. ISBN 9042009993. 
  22. ^ Canby, Vincent (September 24, 1986). "The Name of the Rose (1986) FILM: MEDIEVAL MYSTERY IN 'NAME OF THE ROSE'". The New York Times. 
  23. ^ Roxborough, Scott (November 2, 2017). "John Turturro, Rupert Everett to Star in TV Version of 'The Name of the Rose'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 14, 2017. 
  24. ^ Vivarelli, Nick (October 16, 2017). "John Turturro to Play Monk William of Baskerville in 'Name of The Rose' TV Adaptation (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved November 14, 2017. 
  25. ^ "Nomen Rosae - World of Spectrum". 
  26. ^ "Noma della Rosa, Il - World of Spectrum". 
  27. ^ "La abadía del crimen Extensum". 

Sources[edit]

  • 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". Archived from the original on 2007-08-14. Retrieved 2007-08-18. 
  • Wischermann, Heinfried (1997). Romanesque. Konemann. 

External links[edit]