May 8, 2010


“For this reason,” the abbot continued, “I consider that any case involving the error of a shepherd can be entrusted only to men like you, who can distinguish not only good from evil, but also what is expedient from what is not. I like to think you pronounced a sentence of guilty only when ...”
“... the accused were guilty of criminal acts, of poisoning, of the corruption of innocent youths, or other abominations my mouth dares not utter …”
“… that you pronounced sentence only when,” the abbot continued, not heeding the interruption, “the presence of the Devil was so evident to all eyes that it was impossible to act otherwise without the clemency’s being more scandalous than the crime itself.”
“When I found someone guilty,” William explained, “he had really committed crimes of such gravity that in all conscience I could hand him over to the secular arm.”

—Umberto Eco, THE NAME OF THE ROSE, translated from the Italian by William Weaver, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc and Martin Secker & Warburg, 1983. Originally published in Italy in 1980 under the title Il nome della rosa by Gruppo Editoriale Fabbri-Bompiani, Sonzogno, Etas SpA.

It’s almost as if he could indifferently look into the past and the future, and anticipate the issues of the present time while recalling those of a remote past...

I love re-reading my favorite books, and this time it’s The Name of the Rose’s turn. Generally speaking, it’s a wonderful adventure, always new and always different, because every time we re-read a book, we ourselves are new men and women, having been made such by the vicissitudes of life, by our personal experiences and achievements, both spiritual and intellectual. No one is the same person they were even as long ago as yesterday. That’s why re-reading great works of literature is such a wonderful experience: the more you read them, the more you fall in love with them. To say nothing about a book such as the Bible, the book of the books—I’ve lost count of the times I’ve re-read it…


  1. Have to wonder if there are books read that at the time you thought 'this is life altering stuff' and upon revisiting, thought 'yikes! I thought this was great'? For me it's all the Marxist and New Age stuff.

  2. There are many books like this, I presume, but fortunately I've never been a Marxist (when I was a lefty I was a "reformist socialist," the kind of socialist the Marxists used to hate most ...) nor have I ever been a New Ager ... ;-)

  3. What a great and thought provoking novel with alive, rich characters who are dealing with great debates! I read it several years ago and it is still my favorite book. If a wonderful novel should transport the reader to another time and place, Eco's novel did transport me to late middle ages to a Benedictine abbey in 1327 in Northern Italy...

  4. Umberto Eco is a genius and an amazing writer, but my favorite book is his Foucault's Pendulum.