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Description - Baudolino by Umberto Eco

An extraordinary epic, brilliantly-imagined, new novel from a world-class writer and author of The Name of the Rose. Discover the Middle Ages with Baudolino - a wondrous, dazzling, beguiling tale of history, myth and invention. It is 1204, and Constantinople is being sacked and burned by the knights of the fourth Crusade. Amid the carnage and confusion Baudolino saves a Byzantine historian and high court official from certain death at the hands of the crusading warriors, and proceeds to tell his own fantastical story.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780099422396
ISBN-10: 0099422395
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 129mm x 33mm)
Pages: 528
Imprint: Vintage
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 2-Oct-2003
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Other Editions - Baudolino by Umberto Eco

Book Reviews - Baudolino by Umberto Eco

UK Kirkus Review » Baudolino, son of a Ligurian peasant, adopted son of the Emperor Frederic Barbarossa, rescues Niketas, a Byzantine court official, during the Fourth Crusade's sack of Constantinople in 1204 and during the succeeding days tells him his life story. It is a story, a game even, of two halves, for Baudolino is nothing if not ludic: ironic, parodic, fantastic, funny, tragic, occasionally tiresome, self-indulgent and above all playful. The first half recounts how Baudolino goes to school in Paris where he meets the friends who will accompany him on most of his adventures. The most notable of these is The Poet, identified with the historical Arch Poet. After Paris Baudolino drifts between Frederick's perambulating court as the emperor seeks to bind the reluctant cities of north Italy to the empire, and the people he grew up amongst, including his real father. A wooden cup belonging to his real father is taken to be the Grasal or Holy Grail and acts as the link to the second half. So far the story has inhabited a recreation of the period based on real events, with historical characters. But by now we have reached 1189, the Third Crusade. As they pass through Constantinople Baudolino and his friends, employed as Barbarossa's closest minders, pick up Zosimos, a villain. Barbarossa dies mysteriously in a locked room, Baudolino and his friends fake his historical drowning and set off on a quest to find the kingdom of Prester John, a quest which is also a pursuit of Zosimos, the presumed assassin. At this point we leave the real world of the chronicles and enter that of Mandeville's Travels. Clearly Eco has mined Mandeville and the sources behind Mandeville - we meet the sciapodes, the anthropophagi, and even men whose heads grow beneath their shoulders, weird forests, rivers of stones and so on, all re-created here with often nightmareish vigour. Having survived all sorts of horrors Baudolino meets a Lady and her unicorn. She is an avatar of Hypatia, the neo-platonist murdered by Christian monks in 415, who reveals to him a neo-platonic vision of the Unique which chimes with much modern thinking about the nature of the creative impulse we used to call god. In short we are back with Eco's main concerns as a philosopher and even mystic, which informed, in a more discreet way, The Name of the Rose. Baudolino plays with philosophy, physics and metaphysics, geology, minerology, theology, just about every -ology you can think of. It is outrageously inventive, outrageously derivative. Yet the characters of Baudolino, The Poet, Barbarossa, Zosimos, the sciapode Gavagai and finally Hypatia herself are deeply realized and give the whole rambling mass a unity and human interest which make it Eco's most approachable book since The Name of the Rose. Force-fed as we are by anglophone realism (pace Pullman et al.), it reminds us how boundless the possibilities of extended fiction are. Finally,William Weaver's translation allows us to forget it is a translation, and one can't say better than that. Julian Rathbone's latest novel is A Very English Agent. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » An adventurer who boasts of his proficiency as a liar unburdens his colorful history to a skeptical Greek historian during the siege of Constantinople in a.d. 1204: in this erudite and intermittently sluggish fourth novel from the philosopher-semiotician author (Foucault's Pendulum, 1989, etc.). The eponymous Baudolino, a resourceful cross between Voltaire's Candide and Thomas Berger's "Little Big Man," is a lively enough narrator who regales his exhausted hearer (one Niketas Choniates) with the story of Baudolino's agreeably misspent youth, his accidental meeting with warlord emperor Frederick Barbarossa, and the remarkable events that ensue when Frederick effectively adopts the clever stripling (possessed of "the gift of tongues") and sends him to study in Paris. Bonding with several fellow students (including a moony would-be "Poet," a love-starved half-Moor, and a pragmatic rabbinical scholar), Baudolino thereafter undertakes to compose a history of his benefactor's exploits, helps defend a defiant city created to withstand Frederick's anticipated sacking of it, and conceives a plan to locate the legendary Holy "Grasal" (a.k.a. "Grail") and make it an offering from Barbarossa to the even more legendary Prester John, the fabulously wealthy Christian King of the Orient whose "sovereignty extended over the Three Indias . . . reach . . . [ing] the most remote deserts, as far as the tower of Babel." None of this is nearly as much fun as it sounds, particularly since action is kept to a minimum while Eco permits his characters to engage in lengthy philosophical conversations-the least defensible being Baudolino's Platonic dissection of the phenomenon of love with the beautiful half-woman, half-unicorn (Hypatia) who steals his heart. The wily cupiditous monk Zosimos, whose "necromancy" complicates our hero's efforts, has a few good moments, and there are such incidental pleasures as the glimpse of Paradise reported by Baudolino's dying father Gagliaudo ("It's just like our stable, only all cleaned up"). A little learning, reputedly a dangerous thing, can be lethal when allowed to overpower a story as relentlessly as it does in Baudolino. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Umberto Eco

Umberto Eco has written works of fiction, literary criticism and philosophy. His first novel, The Name of the Rose, was a major international bestseller. His other works include Foucault's Pendulum, The Island of the Day Before, Baudolino, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana and The Prague Cemetery, along with many brilliant collections of essays.

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