Review: Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco

February 6, 2013
Author: Umberto Eco
Publisher: Vintage
Year: 2001
ISBN: 9780099287155
Rating: ★★★★☆
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Umberto Eco’s is never an easy read. And his book, Foucault’s Pendulum is no exception to this. Dubbed as a ‘serious reader’s Dan Brown’ type, in this novel, Eco deals with the world of secret brethrens and lost mysteries with a sardonic simplicity. Almost like a short history of everything controversial, perhaps even untrue, mystic and spiritual hullabaloos of the west and their very many cults!

Foucault’s Pendulum is a narrative by one of the three lead characters of the plot, who are editors of a publishing house planning to release books on occults and mysticism-that-sells. But what starts as a curiosity driven search for ancient knowledge systems, later turns out to be a twisted ‘Plan’ that changes the whole world around them, the way they lived it before. As the plot progresses through murders, disappearances and conspiracies from a thousand years ago, the three men find them tangled in the intricate webs of love, power and desires.

The pages that follow are maddening – confusion of the narrator and his friends transcribed through a series of notes and journal entries. Another main part of the book is one of the editor’s computer, which helps them out a lot with the secret language of the ancient traditions, as if it had a mind of its own. We learn the secrets of the Rosicrucaceans and fall of the Templars and stories of the many other brotherhoods and societies, each unique in their aims and means to attain one ultimate destination – to conquer it all!

I found the Da Vinci Code fascinating when I first read it in school, Foucault’s Pendulum made me spellbound. To be transported into another secret world of magic and mystery often disconnected me with the mundane business of daily life. With every dead end I felt the same anguish as the stupefied editors did; every puzzle solved pushed me in the same happy frenzy as them! Not to forget the many instances of ‘I told you so’ and ‘How did I not see that’ phases I went through. To connect to a book, of not human emotions but absolute absurd, is an experience I suggest we must all go through once in our lives.

Eco makes the book a potpourri of unheard trivia and strange workings of the human minds into a beautifully crafted piece of fiction, worth a patient read. It has in it a perfectly balanced essence of mystery, drama, romance and the unknown. Foucault’s Pendulum in fact, was no breezy easy skim through read for me! It made me run to an encyclopedia or browse google, more than what I have probably ever done in my life-before-reading-Eco. So if it’s a long stretch of holidays that awaits you and your mind is not preoccupied of daily dose of worries, then pick a copy of Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum and be ready to enter a labyrinth of the Unusual!

Shradha Shreejaya

Still figuring the exacts.Bibliophile by choice and student by nature.

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