Ben Smithgall

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Bit pusher at Spotify. Previously Interactive News at the New York Times, U.S. Digital Service, and Code for America.





The Name of the Rose

By Umberto Eco (with William Weaver (tr))

Finished reading on March 14, 2019

The Name of the Rose is an absolutely wonderful book, much like Foucault’s Pendulum it mixes in brilliant, beautiful insight with long passages of absolutely impenetrable discurses on 14th century abbey organization and semiotics. It’s hard to know if Eco is a genius or a madman, or perhaps both. Whatever the case may be, he is a tremendous writer. His essay “Ur-facism” remains one of the best essays I have ever read.

Beyond this, though, The Name of the Rose contains some absolutely wonderful passages that relate directly to living today. Long debates about whether or not heretics are similar or different to each other is a beautiful way to discuss how people group themselves together and exclude outsiders. William of Baskerville’s monologues about the different kinds of evil present in different men illuminates behaviors that we see around us in the powerful every day.

Overall, it’s a wonderful read and I’m sure to pick it up again.