Thursday, December 29, 2011
Erudite, playful, paranoid and obsessed with conspiracy, playful with and in love with literature, and also disturbing, Prague Cemetary is Eco at his best. Eco roots a character in the creation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and various other controversies of late 19th century Europe and gives insight into that notorious fraud, the bitter unification of Italy, the disaster of the Franco-Prussian War, the bloody rise and fall of the Paris Commune, Dreyfuss affair, and various mysterious deaths. Playful deconstructions of 19th century adventure and serial fiction with references to Dumas, Zola, and Stevenson provide the template for the text. Thomas Bernhard’s rants have been brought up as a comparison for the diseased rants of the protagonist, but I find them more focused than nihilistic, this is alongside comparisons to historical comic picaresque like Zelig, Candide, Flashman, Eco’s own Baudolino with a fictional character appearing in or occurring in historical events or interacting with famous characters(Garibaldi, Dumas, and many others), but it seems Prague Cemetery is most similar to Moorcock’s vastly underrated Pyatt Quartet which also explores the roots of the holocaust via a comic adventure. Some have expressed insult at this rather cavalier approach to such a somber subject, but I feel pulp fiction is an excellent vehicle to criticize the protocols since it is a document thoroughly rooted in pulp fiction itself.