Overview


It is April 1204, and Constantinople, the splendid capital of the Byzantine Empire, is being sacked and burned by the knights of the Fourth Crusade. Amid the carnage and confusion, one Baudolino saves a historian and high court official from certain death at the hands of the crusading warriors and proceeds to tell his own fantastical story.

Born a simple peasant in northern Italy, Baudolino has two major gifts-a talent for learning languages ...
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Baudolino

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Overview


It is April 1204, and Constantinople, the splendid capital of the Byzantine Empire, is being sacked and burned by the knights of the Fourth Crusade. Amid the carnage and confusion, one Baudolino saves a historian and high court official from certain death at the hands of the crusading warriors and proceeds to tell his own fantastical story.

Born a simple peasant in northern Italy, Baudolino has two major gifts-a talent for learning languages and a skill in telling lies. When still a boy he meets a foreign commander in the woods, charming him with his quick wit and lively mind. The commander-who proves to be Emperor Frederick Barbarossa-adopts Baudolino and sends him to the university in Paris, where he makes a number of fearless, adventurous friends.

Spurred on by myths and their own reveries, this merry band sets out in search of Prester John, a legendary priest-king said to rule over a vast kingdom in the East-a phantasmagorical land of strange creatures with eyes on their shoulders and mouths on their stomachs, of eunuchs, unicorns, and lovely maidens.

With dazzling digressions, outrageous tricks, extraordinary feeling, and vicarious reflections on our postmodern age, this is Eco the storyteller at his brilliant best.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

The Barnes & Noble Review
Known primarily for the internationally bestselling medieval mystery The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco returns to that complex time period with a tale that's at once tremendously ambitious, scholarly, and wholly enigmatic.

In 13th-century Byzantium, the latest Crusade is underway. Its leader, Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa, comes across the young Baudolino, a skillful and captivating storyteller with a gift for lies and languages that will ultimately change the course of history. Charmed by the youth, Barbarossa adopts Baudolino and sends him to the finest university in Paris, where Baudolino is mystically drawn to major world events -- among them the canonization of Charlemagne -- and manages to leave his particular personal stamp on them all. Fable that becomes reality that becomes myth is one of the many themes to be discovered in this dazzling, voluminous novel. Baudolino eventually gathers a bizarre band of followers and begins a search for Prester John, a legendary king whose lost empire in the East might hold the secrets to the Holy Grail -- and the key to a murder mystery Baudolino believes he can solve.

Eco uses the Forrest Gump-like concept of a character making an imprint on history to great effect. Stylish, weighty, and shrewd, the narrative is as much a chronicle of our world as it is the story of a fictional hero. A masterfully crafted and wonderfully erudite historical fantasy-cum-mystery, Baudolino is an impressive literary work with brilliant cross-genre appeal. (Tom Piccirilli)

The New Yorker
The hero of this phenomenal puzzler is one Baudolino, an inveterate liar, poet, and adventurer, whose charm and wit win him the favor of Frederick Barbarossa. Seeing a brilliant counsellor in the making (which he sorely needs), Frederick adopts him and packs him off to study in Paris, where, hunkered down with his drunken and licentious cronies, Baudolino weaves a grand, shimmering tale of a priest-king called Prester John, whose extraordinary purlieu is populated by beauteous maidens and beasts of every description. True or false? Baudolino and his band set out in the middle of the Third Crusade to find out. In this whimsical yet deadly earnest tale, Eco puts forth the question that perpetually beguiles him and with which he beguiles the rest of us: If a teller of tales tells us he's telling the truth, how can we know for sure what really happened?
Tom LeClair
Sometimes faulted for lacking narrative drive, Eco flogs the hero of his new novel across the known and unknown twelfth-century world. Born poor and Italian, Baudolino is adopted by the Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. Educated in bawdy Paris, Baudolino reports on sieges in Italy, falls in love with his step-mother, heads out on a crusade, sidetracks into a quest for the mythical Prester John and observes the sack of Constantinople. These adventures and Baudolino's road warrior friends exist so Eco can display the exotica of medieval Europe: arcane theological and scientific disputes between Baudolino's friends, forged relics, ingenious engines of war, monsters both real and invented, eunuchs, heretics, lepers and much more. The esoteric stuffing is often interesting, but when Baudolino leaves Europe for the purely imaginary Asia of Prester John in the last third of this latter-day romance, Eco's archival mania becomes tedious.
Library Journal
Brother William of Baskerville heads to an Italian abbey in The Name of the Rose. Father Caspar sails the seven seas in The Island of the Day Before. Eco's characters are forever on the move, and his new protagonist is no exception. In 1204, as Constantinople is being plucked apart by knights of the Fourth Crusade, a hapless courtier named Niketas is rescued by Baudolino - adopted son of the emperor known as Barbarossa and a man with a fantastic tale to tell. And tell it he does, to the obliging Niketas, in over 500 pages of elaborate, historically precise detail. Baudolino's journey takes him from northern Italy, where as a clever peasant boy he encounters Barbarossa and is immediately taken to court, to studies in Paris, travels throughout Italy to defend Barbarossa's cause, and finally a quest deep into the East, where he hopes to find the magical kingdom of Prester John. If you have time to sink yourself deep into the text, this can be a delicious read, but there is less of the sparkling, diamond-cut investigation of ideas that can make Eco so much fun to read, and Baudolino's backing-and-forthing can get a bit tedious. Still, Eco is ever popular, this book is getting a big push, and Baudolino's adventures should please anyone looking for the ultimate medieval road novel. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/02.] - Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An adventurer who boasts of his proficiency as a liar unburdens his colorful history to a skeptical Greek historian during the siege of Constantinople in a.d. 1204: in this erudite and intermittently sluggish fourth novel from the philosopher-semiotician author (Foucault's Pendulum, 1989, etc.). The eponymous Baudolino, a resourceful cross between Voltaire's Candide and Thomas Berger's "Little Big Man," is a lively enough narrator who regales his exhausted hearer (one Niketas Choniates) with the story of Baudolino's agreeably misspent youth, his accidental meeting with warlord emperor Frederick Barbarossa, and the remarkable events that ensue when Frederick effectively adopts the clever stripling (possessed of "the gift of tongues") and sends him to study in Paris. Bonding with several fellow students (including a moony would-be "Poet," a love-starved half-Moor, and a pragmatic rabbinical scholar), Baudolino thereafter undertakes to compose a history of his benefactor's exploits, helps defend a defiant city created to withstand Frederick's anticipated sacking of it, and conceives a plan to locate the legendary Holy "Grasal" (a.k.a. "Grail") and make it an offering from Barbarossa to the even more legendary Prester John, the fabulously wealthy Christian King of the Orient whose "sovereignty extended over the Three Indias . . . reach . . . [ing] the most remote deserts, as far as the tower of Babel." None of this is nearly as much fun as it sounds, particularly since action is kept to a minimum while Eco permits his characters to engage in lengthy philosophical conversations-the least defensible being Baudolino's Platonic dissection of the phenomenon of love with the beautiful half-woman,half-unicorn (Hypatia) who steals his heart. The wily cupiditous monk Zosimos, whose "necromancy" complicates our hero's efforts, has a few good moments, and there are such incidental pleasures as the glimpse of Paradise reported by Baudolino's dying father Gagliaudo ("It's just like our stable, only all cleaned up"). A little learning, reputedly a dangerous thing, can be lethal when allowed to overpower a story as relentlessly as it does in Baudolino.
From the Publisher
ADVANCE PRAISE FOR BAUDOLINO

"Fuses historical events of the twelfth century with myths and fables, juicy romance, real political issues, and deep questions of faith—and the result is dazzling fireworks."—Welt Am Sonntag (Germany)

"Without a doubt the author's most playful book, suffused with an atmosphere of fanciful freedom."—La Repubblica (Italy)

PRAISE FOR THE NAME OF THE ROSE

"A superbly entertaining and extraordinary work of novelistic art."—Harper's

"Fascinating, ingenious, dazzling."—Newsweek

"The kind of novel that changes our mind."—Los Angeles Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547537214
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 10/6/2003
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 528
  • Sales rank: 281,863
  • File size: 813 KB

Meet the Author

Umberto Eco
UMBERTO ECO is a professor of semiotics at the University of Bologna and the best-selling author of numerous novels and essays. He lives in Italy.

Biography

Back in the 1970s, long before the cyberpunk era or the Internet boom, an Italian academic was dissecting the elements of codes, information exchange and mass communication. Umberto Eco, chair of semiotics at the University of Bologna, developed a widely influential theory that continues to inform studies in linguistics, philosophy, anthropology, cultural studies and critical theory.

Most readers, however, had never heard of him before the 1980 publication of The Name of the Rose, a mystery novel set in medieval Italy. Dense with historical and literary allusions, the book was a surprise international hit, selling millions of copies in dozens of languages. Its popularity got an additional boost when it was made into a Hollywood movie starring Sean Connery. Eco followed his first bestseller with another, Foucault's Pendulum, an intellectual thriller that interweaves semiotic theory with a twisty tale of occult texts and world conspiracy.

Since then, Eco has shifted topics and genres with protean agility, producing fiction, academic texts, criticism, humor columns and children's books. As a culture critic, his interests encompass everything from comic books to computer operating systems, and he punctures avant-garde elitism and mass-media vacuity with equal glee.

More recently, Eco has ventured into a new field: ethics. Belief or Nonbelief? is a thoughtful exchange of letters on religion and ethics between Eco and Carlo Maria Martini, the Roman Catholic cardinal of Milan; Five Moral Pieces is a timely exploration of the concept of justice in an increasingly borderless world.

Eco also continues to write books on language, literature and semiotics for both popular and academic audiences. His efforts have netted him a pile of honorary degrees, the French Legion of Honor, and a place among the most widely read and discussed thinkers of our time.

Good To Know

Eco is a professor of semiotics at the University of Bologna, though in 2002 he was at Oxford University as a visiting lecturer. He has also taught at several top universities in the U.S., including Columbia, Harvard, Yale, and Northwestern.

Pressured by his father to become a lawyer, Eco studied law at the University of Turn before abandoning that course (against his father's wishes) and pursuing medieval philosophy and literature.

His studies led naturally to the setting of The Name of the Rose in the medieval period. The original tentative title was Murder in the Abbey.

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    1. Hometown:
      Bologna, Italy
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 5, 1932
    2. Place of Birth:
      Alessandria, Italy
    1. Education:
      Ph.D., University of Turin, 1954

Read an Excerpt

Baudolino tries his hand at writing

Rattisbon Anno Dommini Domini mense decembri mclv Cronicle of Baudolino of the fammily of Aulario.

I Baudolino son of Galiaudo Gagliaudo of the Aulari with a head that looks like a lion halleluia gratias to the Allmighty may he forgive me

ego habeo facto the greatest stealing of my life, I mean from the cabbinet of the Bishop Oto I have stollen many pages that may belong to the Immperial Chancellor and I have scraped clean almost all of them excepting where the writing would not come off et now I have much parchmint to write down what I want which is my own story even if I don't know to write Latin.

if they find out the pages are gone God knows the Hell they will raze et may be theyll think it was some spy of the Roman bishops who hate the Emperer Fredericus

but may be nobody cares in the chancellery they write and write even when theres no need and whoever finds them (these pages) can shove them up his...wont do anything about them

ncipit prologus de duabus civilitatibus historiae AD mcxliii conscript

saepe multumque volvendo mecum de rerum temporalium motu ancipitq

these lines were allready here before and I couldnt scratch them away so I leave them

if they find these pages now Ive writen on them not even a chancelor will understand them because this lingua here is what they talk at la Frescheta but noboddy knows to write it down

but even if its a langwadge noboddy understands they can tell right away its me because everyboddy says we Frescheta people talk a lingua no Kristian ever heard so I have to hide these pages well

Jesù writing is hard work all my fingers ake allready

my father Galiaudo always use to say I must have a gift of Santa maria of Roboreto because since I was a little pup if someboddy say just quinkue five V words I could do their talk right off whether they came from Terdona or from Gavi and even from Mediolanum where they talk stranger than dogs, anyway even when I met the first Alamanni in my life who were laying siege seige seege to Terdona, all Toische and nasty and they say rousz and Myn got, before the day was over I was saying rousz and Myn got too and they woiud would say to me Kint go find us a pretty Frouwe and we'll do fiki fiki even if she doesn't wan to just tell us where she is and we'll grab her fast

whats a Frouwe I said and they said a womman a feemale du verstan and with theiur hands they made like big tits because in this siege we were kinmd of scarce on women, the ones in Terdona are in the town and when we enter just leave it to us but the wommen outside the town don't show their faces and then they set to cursing with words that gave even me goosebumps

lousy shitty Hunns, you needn't think I'm going to tell you where the Frouws are, I'm no informer, keep jerking off

mamma mia, they like to killed me

kill or necabant, now I'm writing Latin almost, not that I understand Latin even if I learned to read from a Latin librum and when they talk Latin to me, I understand but its the writing I don't know how you write the words

Goddamm I never know if it's equus or equum and I always get it wrong while for us a horse is always a chivaus and I never get it wrong because nobody writes Horse in fact they dont write anything because they dont know how to read

but that day things went all right and the germanns didn't harm a hair of my head because just then some milites arrived yelling come on come on we're attacking again and then Hell broke loose and I couldnt think with the cavalry going this way and the foot soldeiers going that way with their banners and trumpets blowing and wooden towers tall as the trees of Burmia moving like carts with bowmen and fundibulari on them and others carrying ladders and all these arrows raining down on them like hail and the others flinging stones with a kind of big Spoone and they whistled over my head like the iaculi that the Derthonesi threw from the walls, what an uproar!

and I hidd myself for a good two hours under a bush saying sancta virgine help me then everything calmed down and some men ran by me speaking like people from Pavia and yelling they'd killed so many Derthonesi that it looked like a lake of Blood and they were very happy because now the Derthonesi would find out what it meant to side with the Mediolanenses

since those alamanns with the Frouwe business were coming back, may be not so many, because the Derthonesi hadnt exakly been idle I said to myself I better cleer out

so I walked and walked and got home when it was almost day and told the whole story to my father Galiaudo who said you big booby getting mixed up with seiges and the like one of these days you'll get a pike up your ass that stuff is all for the lords and masters so let them stew in their own juice because we have the cows to worry about and we're serious folk forget about Frederick, first he comes then he goes then he comes back and it adds up to fuckall

anyway Terdona didnt fall because they never got the fort. And it went on right up to the end of my story when the Allamanns cut off the water and so instead of drinking their own piss they told Frederick they were his men, he let them come out but first he burned the city and then chopped it to pieces like what the men of Pavia did because they're dead set against the Derthonesi here non est like the Alamans who all love one another and are as close as my crossed fingers but here at Gamondio if we see someone from Bergolio it makes our balls spin

but now back to my storey of when I was in the Frescheta woods there specially when theres real fog when you cant see the tip of your nose and things appear all of a sudden and you dont see them coming then I have visions like that time when I saw the unicorn and the other time when I saw Saint Baudolino who spoke to me and said sonofawhore youre going to Hell because the unicorn story goes like this everybody knows that to hunt a unicorn you have to put a girl whose still a virgin at the foot of a tree and the animal smells the virgin smell and comes and puts his head in her lap so I took Bergolio's Nena who had come with her father to buy my fathers cow and I said to her come into the woods with me and we'll hunt the unicorn then I put her under the Tree because I was sure she was a virgin and I said to her sit still like this and spread your legs to make room for the animal's head and she asked spread like this and I said there right there and I touched her and she began making some noises like a nanny goat dropping a kid and I lost my head and had something like a napocalips and afterwards she wasnt pure like a lily any more and she said o my god now how will we make the unicorn come and just then I heard a voice from Heaven said that the unicorn qui tollis peccata mundis was me and I started jumping around the bushes and crying hip heee frr frr because I was happier than a real unicorn because I had put my horn in the virgin's lap and this was why Saint Baudolino had called me son et setera but then he forgave me and I caught site of him other times but only if there is plenty of fog or if it isnt bright like to scorch everything.

but when I told my father Galiaudo that I saw Saint Baudolino he hit me on the back thirty times with a stick saying O Lord this had to happen to me, a son who sees things and cant even milk a cow either I bust his head with my stick or I give him to one of those men who visit the fairs making an African monky dance and my sainted mother shouted at me goodfornothing your the worst all what have I done to make the Lord give me a son who sees saints and my father Galiaudo said its not true he sees saints hes a wors liar than Judass and he makes things up to get out of working

I am telling this story because if I dont you wouldnt undertstand what happened that evening with the fog so thick you could cut it with a knife and it was already april but in our Parts theres fog even in august and if your not from those Parts you get lost between Burmia and Frescheta especially if there isnt a saint to take you by the bridle and there I was heading for home when I saw right in front of me a baron on a horse all covered with iron

it was the baron covered with iron not the horse and with a sword he looked like the King of Arragon

and I like to died Mamma mia you want to bet this really is Saint Baudolino whose here to take me to Hell but he said Kleine kint Bitte and I caught on that he was an Alaman lord lost in the wood because of the fog and he couldnt find his friends and it was almost night and he showed me a Coin and I had never seen Money before and he was happy I could answer in his language and in Diutsch I said to him if you keep straight youll end in the swamp sure as sunshine

may be I shouldnt have said sunshine with that fog you could cut with a Knife but he understood all the same

and then I said I know the Germanes come from a country where its always Spring and maybe the seeders of Lebanon grow there but here in the Palea theres fog and in this fog there are some bastards roming around who are still the grandsons of the grandsons of the Ayrabics who fought against Charlemain and theyre a bad bunch and when they see a stranger they hit him in the face with a club and they steal even the hair on his head ergo if you come to my fathers hut youll find a bowl of hot broth and some straw to sleep on in the stable then tomorrow morning at daybreak Ill show you the road specially if you have that Coin gratias benedicite we're poor folk but honest

so I took him to my father Galiaudo who started yelling you damn fool whats got into your head you told my name to a stranger whose with those people theres no telling maybe hes even a vassal of the marquis of Monferrato and hes going to ask me for a tithe de fructibus and de hay and leguminibus or a tax on the cattle now we are ruined and he was about to reach for his stick

I told him the Gentleman was an Alaman et non from Mon Ferrato and he said all the worse but when I told him about the Coin he calmed down because the Marengo people have heads hard as a bulls but sly as a horse and he understood that he could make something out of this and he said to me you speak all laangwidges so say these things to him

Item: we are poor folk but honest

Ive already told him that

all the same its better to repeat it and item thanks for the Coin. But theres also the matter of the hay for the horse item besides the hot soup I can add a piece of cheese and some bread and a jug of the good stuff item he can sleep where you sleep by the fire and tonight you go to the stable item show me the Coin and I want a Genovine solido and then fiat like one of the family because for us Marengo folk the guest is sacred

the Gentleman said haha you are smart you Marincum folk but a negotio est un negotio I will give you two of these Coins and you wont ask for a Genovine solido because with a Genovine solido I can kauf your house and all your stock but take this and be quiet because youre still making a profit my father kept quiet and took the two Coins that the Gentleman dropped on the table because the Marengo folks heads are hard but sly and he ate like a wolf (the gentleman) or rather like two (wolfs) then while my father and my mother went off to sleep after breaking their backs all day while I was out in the Frescheta the herre said this wine is good I'll drink a bit more here by the fire so mine kint tell me how it is that you speak my langwidge so well

ad petitionem tuam frater Ysingrine carissime primos libros chronicae meae missur

ne humante pravitate

heres another place I couldnt scrape off

now to go back to my story of that Alaman lord who wanted to know how it was that I spoke his lingua and I told him that I have the gift of tongues like the Apossles and the gift of Vision like the Madalenes because I walk in the wood and I see Saint Baudolino riding a unicorn milk-colored like his twisted Horn just where horses have what for us would be a Nose

but a horse doesn't have a Nose other wise underneath there would be a beard like that Gentleman had who had a fine beard the color of a copper pan where as the other Alamans I had seen had yellow hair even in their ears

and he said well well you see what you would call a unicorn and maybe you mean the Monokeros but where did you learn that there are unicorns in this world and I told him I had read it in a book that the Frescheta hermit had and with his eyes so wide he looked like an owl he said What You know how to read too

Lordamercy I said now Ill tell you the Story

so the story went like this there was a holy hermit near Bosco who every so often the people took him a fat hen or a hare and he would pray over a written book and when people go by he hits his chest with a Stone but I say its a clod id est all dirt so he doesnt hurt himself so much anyway that morning we took him two eggs and while he was reading I said to myself one for you and one for me like good Christians if only he doesnt see me but I don't know how he managed but he caught me by the Neck and I said to him diviserunt vestimenta mea and he started laughing and said you know something youre a smart puerulus come here every day and Ill teach you to read

so he taught me my written Letters to the tune of raps on my head. only later when we were friends he began saying what a handsome sturdy youth you are with a Lions head but show me how strong your arms are and whats your chest like let me touch here where the Legs begin to see if your sound then I figured out where he was heading and I hit him with my knee on the balls I mean the Testicules and he bent double saying Godamighty Im going to tell the Marengo people your possessed by the devil so theyll burn you alive and I say all right but first I will tell how I saw you at night sticking it in the belly of a Whitch. And then we'll see who they think is possessed and then he said no wait I was just joking and wanted to see if you had the fear of God lets say no more about it come tomorrow and I'll start teaching you to write because reading is one thing that costs nothing you just have to look and move your lips but if you write in a book you need paper and ink and the inkwell that alba pratalia arabat et nigrum semen seminabat because he always spoke Latin

and I said to him when you learn to read then you learn everything you didnt know before. But when you write you write only what you know allready so patientia Im better off not knowing how to write because the ass is the ass

when I told this to the Alaman gentleman he laughed like a Lunnatic and said Goot Kint those hermits are allesammt Sodomiten but tell me tell me what else you saw in the wood but thinking he was one of those that wanted to take Terdona like the troops of Federicus Imperator I said to myself Id better satisfy him and maybe hell give me another Coin and I told him that two nights before Saint Baudolino had appeared to me and said that the Emperor makes a victory at Terdona because Fridericus was the one and only lord of all Longobardia including Frescheta

then the gentleman said you Kint have been sent by Heaven would you like to come to the imperial Camp and say what Saint Baudolino said and I said that if he wanted I would say also that Saint Baudolino said that Saints Peterandpaul would come to the siege and lead the imperial troops and he said Ach wie Wunderbar for me just Peter by himself would be enough

Kint come with me and your fortune is made

illico or almost illico anyway the next morning that gentleman says to my father that hes going to take me with him to a place where I will learn to read and write and may be Ill become a Ministerial

my father Galiaudo didnt know what this meant but he understood that he would be getting rid of one who ate more than he was worth and he wouldnt suffer any more when I went roming. But he thought that may be this gentleman one of those men who go to the fairs and the marketplaces with a Monky and may be he would lay his hands on me and he didnt like that idea but that gentleman said he was a grand comes palatinus and among the Alamans there werent any Sodomiten

what are these sodomiten my father asked and I explained theyre kypioni shit he said kypioni are everywhere but when the Gentleman pulled out another five Coins after the two of the night before then he forgot everything and said son go then and maybe this is a piece of luck for you and may be for us too since one way or another these Alamans are always around our partts and this means you can come and see us now and then and I said I swear I will and I was ready to leave but I still felt a lump in my throat because I saw my mother crying like I was going off to die

et so we left and the Gentleman told me to take him to where the Castrum of the imperials was and I said thats easy you just follow the sun that is go where it comes from

and as we were going and could already see the tents a company of horsemen arrived all decked out and when they see us they fall on their knees and lower their pikes and their banners and raise their swords why what can this be I asked myself and they started yelling Chaiser Kaisar here and Keiser there and Sanctissimus Rex and they kissed that gentlemans hand and my jaw almost fell off because my mouth was open so wide like an oven because it was only then I understood the gentleman with the red beard was the emperor Fridericus in flesh and blood and I had been telling him madeup stories all night like he was any old asshole

now he'll have them cut off my head I say to myself but still I cost him VII coins and if hed wanted to cut my head off he would of done it last night gratis et amoredei

et he said dont be afraid of anything its all right Im bearing news of a great Vision little puer tell us all the vision you had in the wood and I drop down like I had the falling sickness and my eyes open wide and theres foam on my mouth and I yell I saw I saw and I tell the whole storey of Saint Baudolino who made the prophecy to me and they all praise Dominnus Domine Deus and say Miraculo miraculo gottstehmirbei

and with them there were also the messengers of Terdona who hadnt yet decided whether to surrender but when they heard me they lay flat on the ground and said if even the saints were against them then they better surrender because it couldnt go on anyway

et then I saw the Derthonesi who were all coming out of the City men women and children et vetuli too and they were crying while the alamans carried them away like they were beeccie that is berbices and sheep everywhere and the people of Pavia who cheered and entered Turtona like lunnatics with faggots and hammers and clubs and picks because tearing a city down to the ground was enough to make them come

et towards evening I saw on the hill a great smoke and Terdona or Derthona was just about gone and this is how war is as my father Galiaudo says its an ugly animal war is

but better them than us

et in the evening the Emperor comes back all happy to the Tabernacula and gives me a slap on the cheek like my father never did and then he calls a gentleman who turned out to be the good canon Rahewinus and tells him he wants me to learn to write and the abacus and even gramar which then I didnt know what it was but now slowly I learn and my father Galiaudo never immagined such a thing

what a great thing to be a man of learning and who would ever have thought it

gratis agimus domini dominus I mean thanks to the Lord

all the same writing a story makes you sweat even in winter also Im afraid because the lamp has gone out and as the man said my thumb akes

© 2000 RCS Libri S.p.A
English translation copyright © 2002 by Harcourt, Inc.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be mailed to the following address: Permissions Department,
Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

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First Chapter

Baudolino tries his hand at writing
Rattisbon Anno Dommini Domini mense decembri mclv Cronicle of Baudolino of the fammily of Aulario.
I Baudolino son of Galiaudo Gagliaudo of the Aulari with a head that looks like a lion halleluia gratias to the Allmighty may he forgive me
ego habeo facto the greatest stealing of my life, I mean from the cabbinet of the Bishop Oto I have stollen many pages that may belong to the Immperial Chancellor and I have scraped clean almost all of them excepting where the writing would not come off et now I have much parchmint to write down what I want which is my own story even if I don't know to write Latin.
if they find out the pages are gone God knows the Hell they will raze et may be theyll think it was some spy of the Roman bishops who hate the Emperer Fredericus
but may be nobody cares in the chancellery they write and write even when theres no need and whoever finds them (these pages) can shove them up his...wont do anything about them
ncipit prologus de duabus civilitatibus historiae AD mcxliii conscript
saepe multumque volvendo mecum de rerum temporalium motu ancipitq
these lines were allready here before and I couldnt scratch them away so I leave them
if they find these pages now Ive writen on them not even a chancelor will understand them because this lingua here is what they talk at la Frescheta but noboddy knows to write it down
but even if its a langwadge noboddy understands they can tell right away its me because everyboddy says we Frescheta people talk a lingua no Kristian ever heard so I have to hide these pages well
Jesù writing is hard work all my fingers ake allready
my father Galiaudo always use to say I must have a gift of Santa maria of Roboreto because since I was a little pup if someboddy say just quinkue five V words I could do their talk right off whether they came from Terdona or from Gavi and even from Mediolanum where they talk stranger than dogs, anyway even when I met the first Alamanni in my life who were laying siege seige seege to Terdona, all Toische and nasty and they say rousz and Myn got, before the day was over I was saying rousz and Myn got too and they woiud would say to me Kint go find us a pretty Frouwe and we'll do fiki fiki even if she doesn't wan to just tell us where she is and we'll grab her fast
whats a Frouwe I said and they said a womman a feemale du verstan and with theiur hands they made like big tits because in this siege we were kinmd of scarce on women, the ones in Terdona are in the town and when we enter just leave it to us but the wommen outside the town don't show their faces and then they set to cursing with words that gave even me goosebumps
lousy shitty Hunns, you needn't think I'm going to tell you where the Frouws are, I'm no informer, keep jerking off
mamma mia, they like to killed me
kill or necabant, now I'm writing Latin almost, not that I understand Latin even if I learned to read from a Latin librum and when they talk Latin to me, I understand but its the writing I don't know how you write the words
Goddamm I never know if it's equus or equum and I always get it wrong while for us a horse is always a chivaus and I never get it wrong because nobody writes Horse in fact they dont write anything because they dont know how to read
but that day things went all right and the germanns didn't harm a hair of my head because just then some milites arrived yelling come on come on we're attacking again and then Hell broke loose and I couldnt think with the cavalry going this way and the foot soldeiers going that way with their banners and trumpets blowing and wooden towers tall as the trees of Burmia moving like carts with bowmen and fundibulari on them and others carrying ladders and all these arrows raining down on them like hail and the others flinging stones with a kind of big Spoone and they whistled over my head like the iaculi that the Derthonesi threw from the walls, what an uproar!
and I hidd myself for a good two hours under a bush saying sancta virgine help me then everything calmed down and some men ran by me speaking like people from Pavia and yelling they'd killed so many Derthonesi that it looked like a lake of Blood and they were very happy because now the Derthonesi would find out what it meant to side with the Mediolanenses
since those alamanns with the Frouwe business were coming back, may be not so many, because the Derthonesi hadnt exakly been idle I said to myself I better cleer out
so I walked and walked and got home when it was almost day and told the whole story to my father Galiaudo who said you big booby getting mixed up with seiges and the like one of these days you'll get a pike up your ass that stuff is all for the lords and masters so let them stew in their own juice because we have the cows to worry about and we're serious folk forget about Frederick, first he comes then he goes then he comes back and it adds up to fuckall
anyway Terdona didnt fall because they never got the fort. And it went on right up to the end of my story when the Allamanns cut off the water and so instead of drinking their own piss they told Frederick they were his men, he let them come out but first he burned the city and then chopped it to pieces like what the men of Pavia did because they're dead set against the Derthonesi here non est like the Alamans who all love one another and are as close as my crossed fingers but here at Gamondio if we see someone from Bergolio it makes our balls spin
but now back to my storey of when I was in the Frescheta woods there specially when theres real fog when you cant see the tip of your nose and things appear all of a sudden and you dont see them coming then I have visions like that time when I saw the unicorn and the other time when I saw Saint Baudolino who spoke to me and said sonofawhore youre going to Hell because the unicorn story goes like this everybody knows that to hunt a unicorn you have to put a girl whose still a virgin at the foot of a tree and the animal smells the virgin smell and comes and puts his head in her lap so I took Bergolio's Nena who had come with her father to buy my fathers cow and I said to her come into the woods with me and we'll hunt the unicorn then I put her under the Tree because I was sure she was a virgin and I said to her sit still like this and spread your legs to make room for the animal's head and she asked spread like this and I said there right there and I touched her and she began making some noises like a nanny goat dropping a kid and I lost my head and had something like a napocalips and afterwards she wasnt pure like a lily any more and she said o my god now how will we make the unicorn come and just then I heard a voice from Heaven said that the unicorn qui tollis peccata mundis was me and I started jumping around the bushes and crying hip heee frr frr because I was happier than a real unicorn because I had put my horn in the virgin's lap and this was why Saint Baudolino had called me son et setera but then he forgave me and I caught site of him other times but only if there is plenty of fog or if it isnt bright like to scorch everything.
but when I told my father Galiaudo that I saw Saint Baudolino he hit me on the back thirty times with a stick saying O Lord this had to happen to me, a son who sees things and cant even milk a cow either I bust his head with my stick or I give him to one of those men who visit the fairs making an African monky dance and my sainted mother shouted at me goodfornothing your the worst all what have I done to make the Lord give me a son who sees saints and my father Galiaudo said its not true he sees saints hes a wors liar than Judass and he makes things up to get out of working
I am telling this story because if I dont you wouldnt undertstand what happened that evening with the fog so thick you could cut it with a knife and it was already april but in our Parts theres fog even in august and if your not from those Parts you get lost between Burmia and Frescheta especially if there isnt a saint to take you by the bridle and there I was heading for home when I saw right in front of me a baron on a horse all covered with iron
it was the baron covered with iron not the horse and with a sword he looked like the King of Arragon
and I like to died Mamma mia you want to bet this really is Saint Baudolino whose here to take me to Hell but he said Kleine kint Bitte and I caught on that he was an Alaman lord lost in the wood because of the fog and he couldnt find his friends and it was almost night and he showed me a Coin and I had never seen Money before and he was happy I could answer in his language and in Diutsch I said to him if you keep straight youll end in the swamp sure as sunshine
may be I shouldnt have said sunshine with that fog you could cut with a Knife but he understood all the same
and then I said I know the Germanes come from a country where its always Spring and maybe the seeders of Lebanon grow there but here in the Palea theres fog and in this fog there are some bastards roming around who are still the grandsons of the grandsons of the Ayrabics who fought against Charlemain and theyre a bad bunch and when they see a stranger they hit him in the face with a club and they steal even the hair on his head ergo if you come to my fathers hut youll find a bowl of hot broth and some straw to sleep on in the stable then tomorrow morning at daybreak Ill show you the road specially if you have that Coin gratias benedicite we're poor folk but honest
so I took him to my father Galiaudo who started yelling you damn fool whats got into your head you told my name to a stranger whose with those people theres no telling maybe hes even a vassal of the marquis of Monferrato and hes going to ask me for a tithe de fructibus and de hay and leguminibus or a tax on the cattle now we are ruined and he was about to reach for his stick
I told him the Gentleman was an Alaman et non from Mon Ferrato and he said all the worse but when I told him about the Coin he calmed down because the Marengo people have heads hard as a bulls but sly as a horse and he understood that he could make something out of this and he said to me you speak all laangwidges so say these things to him
Item: we are poor folk but honest
Ive already told him that
all the same its better to repeat it and item thanks for the Coin. But theres also the matter of the hay for the horse item besides the hot soup I can add a piece of cheese and some bread and a jug of the good stuff item he can sleep where you sleep by the fire and tonight you go to the stable item show me the Coin and I want a Genovine solido and then fiat like one of the family because for us Marengo folk the guest is sacred
the Gentleman said haha you are smart you Marincum folk but a negotio est un negotio I will give you two of these Coins and you wont ask for a Genovine solido because with a Genovine solido I can kauf your house and all your stock but take this and be quiet because youre still making a profit my father kept quiet and took the two Coins that the Gentleman dropped on the table because the Marengo folks heads are hard but sly and he ate like a wolf (the gentleman) or rather like two (wolfs) then while my father and my mother went off to sleep after breaking their backs all day while I was out in the Frescheta the herre said this wine is good I'll drink a bit more here by the fire so mine kint tell me how it is that you speak my langwidge so well
ad petitionem tuam frater Ysingrine carissime primos libros chronicae meae missur
ne humante pravitate
heres another place I couldnt scrape off
now to go back to my story of that Alaman lord who wanted to know how it was that I spoke his lingua and I told him that I have the gift of tongues like the Apossles and the gift of Vision like the Madalenes because I walk in the wood and I see Saint Baudolino riding a unicorn milk-colored like his twisted Horn just where horses have what for us would be a Nose
but a horse doesn't have a Nose other wise underneath there would be a beard like that Gentleman had who had a fine beard the color of a copper pan where as the other Alamans I had seen had yellow hair even in their ears
and he said well well you see what you would call a unicorn and maybe you mean the Monokeros but where did you learn that there are unicorns in this world and I told him I had read it in a book that the Frescheta hermit had and with his eyes so wide he looked like an owl he said What You know how to read too
Lordamercy I said now Ill tell you the Story
so the story went like this there was a holy hermit near Bosco who every so often the people took him a fat hen or a hare and he would pray over a written book and when people go by he hits his chest with a Stone but I say its a clod id est all dirt so he doesnt hurt himself so much anyway that morning we took him two eggs and while he was reading I said to myself one for you and one for me like good Christians if only he doesnt see me but I don't know how he managed but he caught me by the Neck and I said to him diviserunt vestimenta mea and he started laughing and said you know something youre a smart puerulus come here every day and Ill teach you to read
so he taught me my written Letters to the tune of raps on my head. only later when we were friends he began saying what a handsome sturdy youth you are with a Lions head but show me how strong your arms are and whats your chest like let me touch here where the Legs begin to see if your sound then I figured out where he was heading and I hit him with my knee on the balls I mean the Testicules and he bent double saying Godamighty Im going to tell the Marengo people your possessed by the devil so theyll burn you alive and I say all right but first I will tell how I saw you at night sticking it in the belly of a Whitch. And then we'll see who they think is possessed and then he said no wait I was just joking and wanted to see if you had the fear of God lets say no more about it come tomorrow and I'll start teaching you to write because reading is one thing that costs nothing you just have to look and move your lips but if you write in a book you need paper and ink and the inkwell that alba pratalia arabat et nigrum semen seminabat because he always spoke Latin
and I said to him when you learn to read then you learn everything you didnt know before. But when you write you write only what you know allready so patientia Im better off not knowing how to write because the ass is the ass
when I told this to the Alaman gentleman he laughed like a Lunnatic and said Goot Kint those hermits are allesammt Sodomiten but tell me tell me what else you saw in the wood but thinking he was one of those that wanted to take Terdona like the troops of Federicus Imperator I said to myself Id better satisfy him and maybe hell give me another Coin and I told him that two nights before Saint Baudolino had appeared to me and said that the Emperor makes a victory at Terdona because Fridericus was the one and only lord of all Longobardia including Frescheta
then the gentleman said you Kint have been sent by Heaven would you like to come to the imperial Camp and say what Saint Baudolino said and I said that if he wanted I would say also that Saint Baudolino said that Saints Peterandpaul would come to the siege and lead the imperial troops and he said Ach wie Wunderbar for me just Peter by himself would be enough
Kint come with me and your fortune is made
illico or almost illico anyway the next morning that gentleman says to my father that hes going to take me with him to a place where I will learn to read and write and may be Ill become a Ministerial
my father Galiaudo didnt know what this meant but he understood that he would be getting rid of one who ate more than he was worth and he wouldnt suffer any more when I went roming. But he thought that may be this gentleman one of those men who go to the fairs and the marketplaces with a Monky and may be he would lay his hands on me and he didnt like that idea but that gentleman said he was a grand comes palatinus and among the Alamans there werent any Sodomiten
what are these sodomiten my father asked and I explained theyre kypioni shit he said kypioni are everywhere but when the Gentleman pulled out another five Coins after the two of the night before then he forgot everything and said son go then and maybe this is a piece of luck for you and may be for us too since one way or another these Alamans are always around our partts and this means you can come and see us now and then and I said I swear I will and I was ready to leave but I still felt a lump in my throat because I saw my mother crying like I was going off to die
et so we left and the Gentleman told me to take him to where the Castrum of the imperials was and I said thats easy you just follow the sun that is go where it comes from
and as we were going and could already see the tents a company of horsemen arrived all decked out and when they see us they fall on their knees and lower their pikes and their banners and raise their swords why what can this be I asked myself and they started yelling Chaiser Kaisar here and Keiser there and Sanctissimus Rex and they kissed that gentlemans hand and my jaw almost fell off because my mouth was open so wide like an oven because it was only then I understood the gentleman with the red beard was the emperor Fridericus in flesh and blood and I had been telling him madeup stories all night like he was any old asshole
now he'll have them cut off my head I say to myself but still I cost him VII coins and if hed wanted to cut my head off he would of done it last night gratis et amoredei
et he said dont be afraid of anything its all right Im bearing news of a great Vision little puer tell us all the vision you had in the wood and I drop down like I had the falling sickness and my eyes open wide and theres foam on my mouth and I yell I saw I saw and I tell the whole storey of Saint Baudolino who made the prophecy to me and they all praise Dominnus Domine Deus and say Miraculo miraculo gottstehmirbei
and with them there were also the messengers of Terdona who hadnt yet decided whether to surrender but when they heard me they lay flat on the ground and said if even the saints were against them then they better surrender because it couldnt go on anyway
et then I saw the Derthonesi who were all coming out of the City men women and children et vetuli too and they were crying while the alamans carried them away like they were beeccie that is berbices and sheep everywhere and the people of Pavia who cheered and entered Turtona like lunnatics with faggots and hammers and clubs and picks because tearing a city down to the ground was enough to make them come
et towards evening I saw on the hill a great smoke and Terdona or Derthona was just about gone and this is how war is as my father Galiaudo says its an ugly animal war is
but better them than us
et in the evening the Emperor comes back all happy to the Tabernacula and gives me a slap on the cheek like my father never did and then he calls a gentleman who turned out to be the good canon Rahewinus and tells him he wants me to learn to write and the abacus and even gramar which then I didnt know what it was but now slowly I learn and my father Galiaudo never immagined such a thing
what a great thing to be a man of learning and who would ever have thought it
gratis agimus domini dominus I mean thanks to the Lord
all the same writing a story makes you sweat even in winter also Im afraid because the lamp has gone out and as the man said my thumb akes

© 2000 RCS Libri S.p.A
English translation copyright © 2002 by Harcourt, Inc.

All rights reserved.
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Reading Group Guide

The matriarch of a diverse, dynamic family, Zipporah Zangwill prizes sincerity far more than tradition. Role models for the art of exuberant living, she and her husband watch their children discover individual ways to love, develop their talents, and experience faith. With wit and candor, the characters in Hortense Calisher's Sunday Jews raise universal questions about the true significance of cultural ties and legacy-particularly when a tragedy fatefully unites Zipporah's family with a young widow from Israel.

1. What distinctions do Zipporah's children make between their father's Catholicism and their mother's Judaism? In what ways do their maternal and paternal relatives differ?

2. Hortense Calisher made several subtle choices when creating the novel's cast of characters, including the mention of a child who succumbed to cancer at a young age. How does Mickey's absence affect the plot?

3. Does each Duffy child reflect an aspect of Zipporah's persona? Are any of the children antithetical to her?

4. Discuss the significance of Zipporah's decision to change her name to Zoe, along with the fateful events of her "naming party" hosted at the beginning of the novel. Why do you suppose Mrs. Calisher varies the names she uses for this character?

5. Does the murder of diamond broker Lev Cohen-a man of integrity as well as wealth-bring about a cultural shift in Zipporah's life, or does it instead enhance her immutable identity?

6. In what way does Zipporah's opinion of Zionism echo her work as an anthropologist? What does her friendship with Debra reveal to her about Israel?

7. Besides her practical assistance as a nurse, what does Debraprovide Peter and Zipporah that their children could not?

8. What makes Italy such an appropriate backdrop for Peter and Zipporah's final days together?

9. The book's title is discussed on page 135. In light of the definition given there, is Zipporah indeed a Sunday Jew?

10. Page 135 also includes the following sentence: "And the children, riding in buses with guards on them, seeing lush foreign movies in the meantime, could scarcely be blamed for assuming that among those Sunday Jews there must be a lot of Americans. In what ways is Zipporah distinctly American? In what ways is she an atypical American?

11. Explore the author's style for writing dialogue. What techniques does she use to evoke distinct voices for her characters?

12. Examine the profusion of symbolic elements that accompany Peter's dying words on page 221-the Ark of the Covenant, the spirit of Lev, the synagogue itself, the wristwatch designed by Zach. Do you agree with the assertion that he has been a guest in his own life?

13. Does the inheritance from Norman create an entirely new chapter of Zipporah's life? What is the significance of money and death in Sunday Jews?

14. How would you have responded to Katrina's plea that Zipporah marry Foxy?

15. The Duffys honor a fascinating range of immigrant orthodoxies and new-world philosophies. What is the expatriate folklore of your family?

16. What makes Bart a better match for Debra than any of his brothers?

17. Zipporah dies surrounded by many generations of relatives, including an infant descendant. What can be expected from these future generations? What do you imagine her legacy will be?

About the Author

Hortense Calisher is the author of more than twenty books, including False Entry; Saratoga, Hot; and In the Palace of the Movie King. Past president of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and of PEN, she has been a National Book Award finalist three times as well as the recipient of an O. Henry Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She lives in New York City with her husband, the writer Curtis Harnack.

Copyright (c) 2003. Published in the U.S. by Harcourt, Inc.

Reading Group Guide prepared by Amy Root

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 29 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 29 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2006

    Good Read

    I really enjoyed this book. My sister gave it to me for Christmas last year and I read the first chapter and decided I didn't want to read it- I was frustrated by not being able to understand the different languages, the references to the locations and events of the time, etc., and the main character seemed a little raunchy. However, I picked it up again a few months ago and I liked it a lot. I decided to just 'go with it' and not try to figure out what everything meant, where everything was, what was going on at the time, etc. I found the entire book enjoyable (not just the end (though I did think the ending was fitting as well)... while I was reading I didn't feel like I wanted to finish to get it over with- I enjoyed the journey.) My point is this: I think the book can be read on two different levels. One, you can try to understand everything about the time period, the places, and the languages spoken, which would probably be even more interesting/exciting or two, you can just take things for face value and enjoy the story. This is what I did and I loved it. To the people who were bored by this book and thought it was too long, I would advise trying to read it again but without worrying about understanding every detail and historical reference. I have a lot of trouble finishing books, but I didn't have any trouble with this one, so I think it is a good book both for people who want a book dense with historical references, and for people who want a lighter read, just a fun read, or a 'beach book.'

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2002

    OUR GRADUATE STUDIES IN SEMIO-MEDIEVALISM CONTINUE

    This is another big win for Umberto Eco. He's not really a novelist -- just like Graham Greene, he calls his fiction "entertainments" -- and instead is the leading scholar of semiotics, the philosphy of signs and symbols, and so each story is typically an extended intellectual game. Although it's very heavy going, the "hard thinking" here is made palable because, as in each of the other novels, the main character is a young man, and so the historical events and issues are juxtaposed against his coming-of-age. This time it's the 12th Century, so you get a crusade, one of the sackings of Constantinople, the Ur-german Emperor Barbarossa, conspiracy theories going back to Charlemagne, and the architecture of Prester John. It's not a cozy read, and there's a reason why it was released in the Fall; this is not beach-reading. It's not too far a stretch, instead, to compare this, and Eco's others, to the weightiest writings of any language, like Plato or Melville or Eliot. This work can be read and re-read and re-read, again and again, and will yield anew each time.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2002

    FLUID PROSE AND PROVOCATIVE THOUGHTS

    Renaissance man Umberto Eco continues to enthrall with a return to the era he so masterfully painted in "The Name Of The Rose." An intrepid, nonparallel story teller he again visits the Middle Ages with Baudolino, a marvelous blend of history and imagination. It is April 1204 and a northern Italian peasant, Baudolino, is in Constantinople, the resplendent capital of the Byzantine Empire. The city staggers under the relentless onslaught of the knights of the Fourth Crusade who pillage and burn. Oblivious to his own safety Baudolino rescues an important personage, a historian from sure death at the hands of the marauding warriors. This is the person to whom Baudolino recounts his life story - a colorful narrative laced with fantasy and adventure. Although of humble birth, we learn that Baudolino is rich in two areas: the art of inspired prevarication and an aptitude for learning languages. When still a youngster he was adopted by Emperor Frederick Barbarossa who later sent the boy to the university in Paris. Affable and quick, Baudolino soon made friends in France with those who shared his somewhat reckless taste for adventure. Together a group of them journey to the east and embark upon a search for a mythical priest-king, Prester John. It is believed that Prester John's domain is a fabled land inhabited by eunuchs, unicorns, beautiful maidens, and bizarre beings with misplaced orifices. As is his wont the unsurpassed Eco weaves his story with ruminations of weighty matters such as theology, politics, government, and history. He does this with fluid prose and provocative thoughts that inevitably draw readers into the author's unique land of enchantment, a magical place that one is reluctant to leave.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2004

    One who really likes books!

    Let's make a couple of things totally clear: 1. This is a book for bookworms. If you don't have ample historical and classic training, don't even start. 2. This is not a book for dummies. If you can not concentrate for more than 15 minutes, if you can't analyze and keep several threads of thought active simulteneously, if you don't want to pay attention to details, and if you don't appreciate elegant language and prose, don't waste your time. Go read Stephen King instead. If you can do all the above mentioned and also some serious intellectual inclination or training, this is the book for you. I thought Eco has lost his touch after 'Island of the Day Before'. But I really enjoyed this book. It is funny, interesting, and packs a lot of medieval philosophycal punch. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2002

    Intriguing medieval myth - eventually

    Umberto Eco is a master of historical novells. Ever since his world wide bestseller 'The Name of the Rose' (made into a major film with Sean Connery in the leading role) Eco has earned a place among the best writers of historic fiction. Now 'Baudolino' is about to be released in English. In Baudolino he tells the tale of Fredrik I Barbarossa, the germanic emperor who opposed pope Alexander the III in the 12th century. In this story he weaves the life of Baudalino - a north-italian country boy that Barbarossa adopts as his own son. I greatly enjoyed his first two novells 'The Name of the Rose' and 'Foucault's Pendulum' but was dissapointed by his third (at least the third released in Swedish) 'The Island of the Day Before' therefore I was a bit apprehensive of this book. Would be a new Rose or a new Island? As it happened I think it's more of an Island than a Rose. Fredrik Barbarossa (Red beard) lived was born about 1120 and died on the third crusade in Asia in 1190. According to my encyclopedia he was made king over 'Germany' and the western Roman empire in 1152 and had numerous problems with the more or less independent (northern) italian city states. During the period 1158-1168 he had several campaigns in Italy which Eco in his book pays utmost attention - which makes the main part of the book a slow read. The main action in this part of the book is endless travels between Paris (where Baudalino is studying), Germany and northern Italy. In the campaign Milano is won and completely destroyed. In 1167 the fortress Alessandria (just outside Baudalinos place of birth) is built and in the book turned into a small town. Eco tells the tale of how Baudalino saves the town from the besieging troups of Barbarossa, and in fact the real Alessandria was never captured by the emperor. Although it is doubtfull if it was saved in the way portraid in the book. On route from the unsuccessfull campaign against Alessandria, Barbarossas troups are set upon by troups of the north-italian league and thoroughly routed. This is also a historic fact. At the end of his reign Barbarossa engaged in the third crusade. And this is were Eco's novell is saved. Eco manages the portray the crusade and the adventures to Baudalino and his comrades in style. Barbarossa dies in 1190 by drowning in the river Salef. In the book this is turned into a question of foul play or was it natural causes? We are eventually given Eco's suggestion but we have to wait many pages for the surprising conclusion. When Barbarossa dies, Baudalino et consortes sets off on a quest to find the promised land of Johannes the mythic priest and king. The best part of the tale is of the battle at the mythic city of Pndapetzim where all sorts of groteque beings battle with the huns for their lives and the city. All in all I think the book is let down by the slow pace of the first part of the book. When we reach the tale of the crusade (if the reader manages to keep the interest up for that long) we are led on an intriguing journey in the mythological world of medieval Europe.

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  • Posted March 5, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    “Baudolino” is a fanciful and mythical novel by Umbe

    “Baudolino” is a fanciful and mythical novel by Umberto Eco, set in the twelfth century Europe and the Near East. Eco, best known for his masterwork “The Name of the Rose,” returns with “Baudolino” to the theme medieval Europe, albeit of somewhat earlier date. The eponymous protagonist of this novel finds himself adopted by an accident by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I, which sets him on the path of high adventure. During Baudolino’s years of study in Paris, he befriends a motely crew of thinkers, poets, and adventurers, and with their help conjures a plan to discover the land of mythical Prester John, who supposedly lives somewhere far in the East. Most of the second half of the novel concerns the journey of Baudolino and his companions. Most of the stories in here are told from the Baudolino’s perspective, as he narrates them to Niketas Choniates, a famous twelfth century Byzantine historian, whose life he had saved during the sacking of Constantinople.

    Frederick I and Niketas Choniates are just a couple of actual historical characters who appear in “Baudolino” under very unusual and highly fabricated circumstances. Eco knows his history very well, and is able to push the plausibility into the lacunae of our knowledge and fill them up with fanciful interconnected narrative. In the latter part of the book, though, he almost completely abandons any appeal to realism, and takes the reader on a wild ride through some of the most fantastic and imaginative scenes taken from the medieval myth and lore.

    Both readers and the literary critics have not in general been impressed by any of the Eco’s fictional works, with the notable exception of the “Name of the Rose.” That book had propelled Eco well into the stratosphere of modern literary celebrities, and he’s been able to capitalize on that reputation for the better part of the last three decades. Unfortunately, “Baudolino” does nothing to repair the generally low impression that Eco’s later novels had left. Despite the dazzling displays of erudition and mastery of medieval history and lore, the novel doesn’t have a sense of unified and coherent narrative. The characters are very colorful, but they lack the depth of emotion and are not very convincing as actual flash and blood individuals. It’s almost as if Eco had tried to develop every character around a particular idea. This can sometimes work in a short story, but in order for the reader to care about them over the course of a long novel, they needed to poses a lot more verisimilitude to the actual human beings.

    Parts of the novel are intended as a tongue-in-cheek criticism and lampooning of the medieval inter-Christian controversies and disputes. This in itself has some appeal, and it leads to some of the funnier situations and scenes in the book, but even here Eco manages to go overboard and overwork his points. Overall, “Baudolino” is an interesting exercise in adapting comedia dell’arte for the modern audience, but unfortunately it is too overwrought and overstylized for it to be either amusing or engrossingly thought provoking. It’s still an interesting enough novel, and if you are into the medieval history then you’ll find a lot of curious and fascinating material in it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2012

    Worth sticking it out

    This isn't Eco's best work, but it's still very good. I noticed a lot of people give up before their even a quarter of the way through, but Eco rewards a stubborn reader. The second half of the book is really the best half.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2011

    Solo un poco entretenido

    No lo que esperaba

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2004

    A Regular Kick in the Pants

    Eco clearly enjoyed himself in writing this, and he's always sure to take advantage of his main character's (and sometime narrator's) habit of telling lies. The book is refreshingly challenging, and a fun read besides. If you don't like a good character driven story once in a while, you had probably better not read this one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2004

    Does not lead you anywhere

    Beware! This book is a novel about nothing. It is the fantastic hallucination of Ecco's, with a total absence of history, adventure, interesting dialogues, romance or anything else. ABSOLUTELY BORING!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2004

    Bored-O-Lino

    Definitely not my style. Made myself read the first 100 pages of this incredibly long book. Reminds me of things I had to read for college. Cure for insomnia.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2004

    Okay, a little long and boredolino

    All in all a good read. To those who know Italians from the north it is fun to read all those names. Umberto Eco wrote a fine piece here.I wonder how it would read if I could read Italian. I was charmed and put off by this spinner of yarns, and it made me think, how much hocum has passed for real history and how many lies have put upon us by political and religious leaders just to keep us 'believing?' What does the grail look like anyway? Does anyone know? Does it even matter? I got tired of the tale spinning and did't quite finish. But I think I may go back and do so.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2003

    Amazing

    Umberto Eco brilliantly tells an intriguing story set in the middle ages. He does a wonderful job of mixing history with fiction and the result of his work is this book which is truely a masterpiece, blending in the superstitions of the medieval period and myths of the mysterious Prester John. Eco weaves an enchantingly complex novel set with a rich setting that allows a classic to be born. READ THIS BOOK!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2002

    Wandering through history

    There is no doubt that this massively detailed history will be as popular as The Name of the Rose! What a goldmine for history buffs and fable readers!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2003

    Great Read Though Tedious At Times

    Reading Eco is like listening to a good opera -- it is a sublime experience punctuated by embarrassing moments of slumber. Baudolino is standard Eco, a medieval period piece with the esoteric mingled with the swashbuckling. The underlying themes of truth and the sources of history give the book intellectual depth, as is common to all of Eco. Eco's only fault is his inclination to the multi-sentence listing (influence of Homer?) of things that do not serve the story, and his overambitious monologues/dialogues -- both of which slow down the pace of his stories a bit much. But that's Eco's signature, his profund learning spills out on the pages of his novels. Read it, but don't be afraid to skip paragraphs that are superfluous to the plot. Four and one-half stars, really -- close to masterpiece but a bit too Apollonian for its own good.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2002

    worth reading, but Eco has written better novels

    While this book is not yet available in the American market, I have read this book in a german translation (you would not think that this book is available on the German market more than one year before it comes out in the U.S.). I would have appreciated the book a lot and I would recommend it highly, if it was not for the last third of the story line. The book starts with a brillant story about the life of medieval emperor Friedrich and his servant/advisor Baudolino. The story is told by Baudolino, who himself influences world history more than emperor Barbarossa himself. After about two thirds of the story line, the story turns almost abruptly into a 'Fantasy Tale' a la Tolkien. I found this break rather irritating, but someone else might like it. Altogether, it is still a good book. It contains an exciting story and it will certainly pose a theological/philosophical challenge to many readers. Though, if you have not read it, you should read Eco's novel 'Name of the Rose' first.

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    Posted October 30, 2010

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    Posted August 27, 2011

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    Posted February 4, 2010

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    Posted July 12, 2011

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