May 8, 2011

Umberto Eco: The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:41 by Miracle

I never emerged from books…

There is no denying that reading Eco is one of the most stimulating modes of entertainment. Nevertheless, if the reader is in quest for “fun”, I caution that the fun wanes in the latter part of The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, but even that does not mean that it ceases to be entertaining; the tone simply becomes more sober towards the finale.

In this eloquent book, Eco conveys an opulence of philosophy, psychology, Italian history, literary intertextuality, and pop-culture as Yambo, a rare-book magnate experiences a peculiar case of amnesia where he loses his episodic memory but retains his semantic memory. In other words, he memorizes poetry and the books he has read in the past, and yet he cannot remember anything about his family and personal life.

“Meanwhile the children were calling me Grandpa, I knew I was supposed to love them more than myself, and yet I could not tell which was Giango, which was Alessandro, which was Luca. I knew all about Alexander the Great, but nothing about Alessandro the tiny, the mine.”

By retreating to his old family home, Yambo attempts to repossess his past by rummaging through memorabilia of yore. It is there that he begins to rediscover the ideas, influences, and even the first love that frame who he is, and where Umberto Eco is successful in writing “not an autobiography, but the biography of a generation.” Despite an almost anticlimactic ending, it remains to be a brilliant novel.

“I had it wrong, like all lovers; I had given her my heart and asked her to do as I would have done, but that is how things have gone for millennia. Were it otherwise, literature would not exist.”


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After such a great read, I am tempted and fired-up to proceed to another book… but unwinding from one book is necessary, and post-reading reflections are needful, and I take to heart, one of the most important elements in reading.

The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana spoke to me on another level as it made me realize that even all the acquired knowledge from every book one has read will always be inadequate compared to one’s life outside book covers.

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