After several days of a headachy flu bug and phlegm and not being able to concentrate on any taxing reading, I was well enough earlier this week to get back on course with The Name of the Rose and am now into the final third of the book. I’ve now almost completely lost my voice, but laryngitis can’t stop me reading! Meanwhile, if you’d like to read my thoughts about the first third of the book, please visit here.
Please note: It might get slightly spoilery for the next few paragraphs – so skip down a bit if you don’t want any plot details. Although I’ve come to believe that, more enjoyable as it is for its accessibility, for Eco, the whodunnit aspect of this book is secondary to the commentary on the power struggles between the factions and orders in the Catholic church of the 14th century.
Late into Day Two, William and Adso begin to discover the secrets of the library when they go there at night, and discover the labyrinth layout of the library which covers the entire top floor of the Aedificium building (A). William and Adso got separated and Adso succumbed to a narcotic insense requiring his rescue by William. It’s clear to William that there is a hidden room in the centre of the library, the key may be in the inscriptions over each room’s door, but their exploration is cut short.
All kinds of revelations come thick and fast, from homosexual relationships between various monks, including the first to die, Adelmo, who committed suicide through shame, to William’s discovery that two of the monks at the Abbey had links to the heretical Dolcinian sect. This is compounded by Adso’s discovery that the cellarer had procured girls from the village for the monks. The village girl whom he encounters takes to Adso, and he briefly forswears his vow of chastity! William absolves him later. William also confers with Severinus, the herbalist, who tells him about the black tongue and finger tips found on the second body – poison!
Day Four begins with the discovery of another murder – this time Berengar, the assistant Librarian, ostensibly found drowned in the bath-house (J). William’s investigations are held up by the arrival of the Pope’s emissary for the talks; the party includes Bernardo Gui – a Dominican inquisitor – who soon finds out about the two Dolcinians who are taken to the cells, and the girl who is denounced as a witch for having a dead cat in a sack. “Tell him it was to eat…” Adso in despair urges William, who dare not defend her, but neither will he condemn, unlike Gui.
We’re getting to know William a lot more now. He’s a polymath, a man of science as well as philosopher/theologian/linguist. Eco makes much of the fact that he uses eyeglasses for reading, and the historical basis of this is sound for Roger Bacon, the Franciscan friar whom William revers talked about the magnifying properties of convex lenses, and the first eyeglasses were developed at the end of the 13th century in Northern Italy. As I said previously, William owes a lot to Sherlock Holmes, not least his name of Baskerville, but his character is also based on that other Franciscan William who coined the principle of “Occam’s Razor” – which cuts away superfluities to leave the simplest possible solution to a problem. This complements and contrasts neatly to Holme’s dictum that when one has eliminated the impossible, whatever remains – however improbable – must be the truth.
As for Adso, arguably, he becomes more of a man after his carnal experience which leaves him lovelorn, guilt-ridden, but wiser and not a little wistful realising he should never repeat the experience and stay a monk.
The library is beginning to yield its mysteries, but there is undoubtedly more danger to come. However, I have a feeling there’s an inquisition in the offing soon, and we will have some more theology to deal with before we’re done in the last three days of the week-long tale.
On this second reading I am certainly enjoying everything about this book more. If you’re reading along, how are you doing? Do tell me….