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Foucault's Pendulum
by Umberto Eco

Overall: 7
Readability: 3
Intelligence: 10

Three editors, who read way too many crackpot manuscripts on the occult by fanatics and zealots, are visited by a suspicious Colonel who relates a dubious tale of conspiracy and a mystic source of power greater than atomic energy. They decide to invent connections between numerous events throughout history in order to make the "Plan" (to rule the world) true. They believe its a game, until the game takes over.

This book had a lot of potential, and I'm a bit dissapointed. Eco attacks all the historical information with gusto, and at times it really works well. Other times it doesn't. It takes quite a long time to get to the meat of the story, and once your there you get inundated with historical minutae like names, places, books, etc., many of which are in a foreign language. This isn't necissarily a bad thing. Like I said, sometimes it works really well, especially since I had an interest in the Templars and their "Plan".

My other gripe with the book was Abufalafia, the fictional computer which the books described as "an incredible computer, capable of inventing connections between all their entries". As someone who is immersed in the computer technology world, I was excited at the possibilites the book offered. But Abulafia makes only the briefest of appearances. Its role is basically that of a word processor that can spit out random chunks of text.

Don't get me wrong, this is a good book. Highly intelligent and nuanced, it maps out a slow descent into obsession. An obsession of ideas and connections, history and thought. I went into it with high (and in the case of the computer, false) expectations, and was disappointed. If you like history, intellectual discussions of secret societies like the Templars or the Masons, or conspiracy theories you'd probably like this book.

Links: buy it here!

Warning - some SPOILERS below
page 314: "Any fact becomes important when its connected to another. The connection changes the perspective; it leads you to think that every detail of the world, every voice, every word written or spoken has more than its literal meaning, that it tells us of a Secret."
page 418: "Ma gavte la nata." ... "Its a Turin dialect. It means, literally, 'Be so kind as to remove the cork.'"
page 513: A plot, if there is to be one, must be a secret. A secret that, if we only knew it, would dispel our frustration, lead us to salvation; or else knowing of it in itself would be salvation. Does such a luminous secret exist? Yes, provided it is never known.
page 514: The true initiate is he who knows that the most powerful secret is a secret without content, because no enemy will be able to make him confess it, no rival devotee will be able to take it from him.

Further Discussion:
• What sort of information do you think a computer that is actually capable of inventing connections between its entries could come up with? Do you think such a thing is a possible and/or worthwhile venture?

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