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Overview

Baudolino by Umberto Eco

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780156029063
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 10/06/2003
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 544
Sales rank: 512,325
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.99(d)

About the Author

UMBERTO ECO (1932–2016) was the author of numerous essay collections and seven novels, including The Name of the Rose,The Prague Cemetery, and Inventing the Enemy. He received Italy's highest literary award, the Premio Strega, was named a Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur by the French government, and was an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Hometown:

Bologna, Italy

Date of Birth:

January 5, 1932

Date of Death:

February 19, 2016

Place of Birth:

Alessandria, Italy

Education:

Ph.D., University of Turin, 1954

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Baudolino 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.'
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Tunguz More than 1 year ago
“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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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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Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!