Sub Rosa: The Name of the Rose

I would never have known about this book if it were not for Sean Connery. The man who was to be known as James Bond on the silver screen was to be known for other roles as well as half the pair of adventurers out to seek their fortune and perhaps a kingdom in Rudyard Kipling’s A Man Who Would be King or as the world weary Robin in Robin and Marian but his role as Brother William of Baskerville led me to Umberto Eco’s novel The Name of the Rose. If it were not for the film adaptation I would never have the opportunity to meet and read this book.

And since this book has been one of those books that one goes back to from time to time to re-read the passages and savor particular chapters and stories in the novel.

The story centers around events that occurred in famous abbey during the Dark Ages. Brother William and his student Adso of Melk reached an abbey, where within a few days representatives of the Pope and the Holy Emperor would meet and settle the issue if Jesus Christ died without money – and discover that a young monk had under a suspicious cloud. Prompting the Abbot to seek the help of Brother William in seeking a solution to this mystery – a crime that is said to be the work of the Anti-Christ.

The mystery though is not just a mystery. This was the time of turmoil and controversy in Europe. The Pope was in Avignon and not Rome. The Inquisition and the Iquisitor was all-too powerful. And the belief that these were the end of days made living inside that abbey somewhat terminally dangerous for a number of monks.

But what makes this book a great read then and now?

First, A monk is dead and there is a mystery to be solved.

Second, There is great debate that is about to start. Whether Jesus Christ die a pauper or not.

Third, Nearly each character comes with their own set of stories. From the first dead monk, to the Abbot, to the delegates, to Adso and of course for Brother William. Thus it is quite easy to get lost within the pages of the book. A maze to be explored and a pleasure to be lost in.

Fourth, In many aspects it is also a modern tale.

Fifth, There is more in the book than in the film. The movie only glossed over some of the points.

Sixth, It show life in an abbey and the work that happens inside.

Seventh, A lover of books and information will enjoy the tales woven around Incunabulas, Manuscripts, Scriptoriums, library and librarian.

The first copy of the book I was able to buy was a paperback was a dour portrait of a monk. Recently, I was able to get hold of a hard bound copy of the book published by the Everyman’s Library – acquired for a very reasonable price. It is acid free paper and will not rot over time.

The original novel was written in Italian – Il nome della rosa . And will join the list of books one must have and for which one must learn another language. Alongside Cervantes’ The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha or El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha and Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterisimo.

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