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Reviews of Foucault's Pendulum (1988)

Review by benya (2012-08-26)
For me, the second book of Eco was a bit too much... There ara too many numbers, dates and unnessecary names, and even too many french words. I must admit that there were a few story and even a consequence beneath the numbers, but that wasn't enough for me. Maybe I had too big expectations towards this book after the Name of the Rose, maybe not, but all in all, I'm now a bit disappointed.
But anyway, if you like conspiracy theories, the french language and the templars, I dare to recommend this book to you even though I didn't like it.

(Sorry for the spelling and grammar mistakes, english isn't my native language)

Review by koudawei (2009-04-08)
Reality is fragile. I believe individuals construct their vision of it by what they choose to believe. The characters inb this book create a direction that becomes a reality and the mystery of that fiction surpasses anything Dan Brown created. This book challenges what I believe in, not the facts of this story but the framework that quides my behaviors. I like that in a book.

Review by mojosmom (2005-04-11)
It certainly held my interest, though I admit it took a bit to get into it.

Our narrator, Casaubon, is a doctoral student, preparing his dissertation on the Templars. His friends, Belbo and Diotallevi, work for a publisher who has a side business in vanity publishing. One day, a man calling himself Colonel Ardenti arrives with a manuscript, one in which he has, he says, decoded the truth about the Templars, a truth that says they are still extant, with a deep secret. Casaubon and the editors decide that they will prepare a manuscript of their own, on similar conspiratorial lines. They will gather up all sorts of bits from hermetic theories, Rosicrucianism, Brazilian voodoo, and any other odd ideas they can come up with, feed them all into a computer, and come up with a grand scheme. But it appears they may have accidentally stumbled upon the truth . . .

Complex, confusing, brilliant, intelligent, a splendid skewering of conspiracy theorists (I broke into loud laughter when, in the midst of medieval crusaders and Kabbalah, someone cries out, "I'a Cthulhu! I'a S'ha-t'n!") and an interesting mystery. Well worth the trouble.

Review by Beaver (2004-08-07)
I read Focault's Pendulum because it was supposed to be a better written, more literary Da Vinci Code. It was better in some ways and worse in others. I thought the prose was too flowery and was a little pretentious and difficult to read at times. The plot was difficult to follow. Eco throws out a lot of byzantine and obscure conspiracies and info. There are too many names, sects, cults, rites and whatever bandied about with little explanation - Sefirah (Kabbalah), Vattan, Comte de Saint Germain, Alexandre Saint Yves d'Alveydre, Count Cagliostro, Rosicrucians (1,2), Knights Templar (1,2), Assassins and the Old Man of the Mountain, Cabalism, Illuminati, Freemasons, Ayer's Rock, Hollow Earth (and Hitler) (1,2), Telluric currents, the Holy Grail, Pyramids (1,2), Francis Bacon links with Shakespeare and Don Quixote, Stonehenge, Shambhala, Agartha, Synarchy, Father Kircher, and Jesuits. There was not much characterization, just a lot of exposition on conspiracy theories. To top it off, the ending was rather disappointing. 6/10

Review by naran500 (2003-03-08)
Foucault's Pendulm is a heavy weight suspended from the ceiling. Left to swing freely, it will slowly trace out a circle at the edges of its swing over the course of the day. Usually taken as proof the Earth turns, but some people erroneously believe the pendulum points to some absolute immovable position in the heavens. A meditation on this is the opening of a strange and mysterious book exploring the need for absolute truths in a world without only relative ones.

This is a fun read, not just because of the historical research and the fully working BASIC program at the beginning of the book. The characters are all looking for an absolute. Something bigger than themselves that gives meaning to their lives, that makes them important. But we live in a cynical, ironic world where having a meaningful life is elusive and important people tend to be fashion models and rock stars.

The publishing house where Casaubon and Diotallevi work exploits this human need where the Italian Colonel preys upon wannabe authors need to be published and appreciated. The works never actually get bought, and almost no one reads them (except maybe the typesetter), but the illusion of relevance is enough for them. So when the Colonel explains the book sold poorly, the star-struck writer will buy up the unsold books on the spot and give the publishing house its income.

In a sense, this is a microcosm of what happens later in the book when Diotallevi comes up with a great idea: writing a grand conspiracy book that ties the Knights Templars with all that's wrong in the world. This idea is a fun project at first, but as they do the research and inform the reader of the history of Templars, someone begins to take it seriously. Then, Diotallevi and Casaubon become convinced they really have discovered something and become equally obsessed with it. Except, what is it really other than something they cooked up in their overheated imaginations? They have no physical or objective proof they are right, but everyone around them begins to behave as if it was true. Does that make it true?

That, in a nutshell, is what this book is about. Does the Universe have meaning and importance on its own, or is all meaningfulness and importance just creations of the human imagination that everyone subscribes to? And even if it is the latter, people are willing to die for those beliefs even if it isn't true, because it makes them feel their life was important and had meaning.

©Steven Jeffery /, 2017
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