Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Intertextuality, as they say

I've just finished reading The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco. Long ago, I thought this was just another crime novel. Then, I got a bit more familiar with Eco's essays, and thought it might be another kind of book after all. I was right: it's not only a crime novel. It's full of references to a load of other minor or major works of literature (and I'm sure I've not even caught 10% of them). The double level of lecture makes it fun to read, if you pay attention.

For example, in the very first page, I could spot an allusion to the opening of Don Quixote. Later, multiple allusions to Dante, including a direct interpolation of a verse of the Divine Comedy into the text. The character Jorge de Burgos, the blind man, guardian of a labyrinth-library, is evidently a nightmarish version of the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges. The delirious dream of Adso, towards the end of the book, is treated like James Joyce could have done. And, last but not least, the hero, Guillaume of Baskerville, is evidently a clone of Sherlock Holmes, with who he shares many physical and moral features (including a predilection for drugs).

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