(My own copy)
"You cannot escape one infinite, I told myself, by fleeing to another; you cannot escape the revelation of the identical by taking refuge in the illusion of the multiple."
In "Foucault's Pendulum" by Umberto Eco
I've always been a keen follower of Prof. Eco's books, both literary and academic. If there's one question I would like to ask him is this:
"What about the question of being, as the Greeks first raised it? Do you think Professor that this question is no longer a question, perhaps entirely dissolved by the sign and/or the 'language game'? Ontology dissolved by epistemology (in the modern era) and which is in turn also dissolved by the signs humans come up (post-modern era). William of Ockham, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein rule supreme -- matter closed. No question of being. Is that it, Professor?"
Anyone who hasn't read Foucault's Pendulum - please buy it today! I think that while the first chapter seems almost deliberately intended to put off the casual reader, once you get through that you find an incredibly absorbing plot, a totally immersive atmosphere, incredible amounts of research dressed in swathes of mystery, and above all some of the most fully realised characters I've ever seen. It also has some quite unbelievably good prose even in translation - the segment of book-within-a-book set in Prague (the bit with the golem, etc.) is astounding. And the ending is superb. Like much of his work (particularly the almost equally good “Baudolino”) it revolves around the conflict between truth and fiction, and the way Foucault addresses this is brilliant. Here's a man that's studied for decades, passing on choice concepts in story form over relatively few pages. It's not like trying to dive into Derrida or Heidegger!
(Bought in 1990)
Bottom-line: If I can give a piece of advice, anyone whjo reads this should concentrate on being introduced to the likes of the Count of Saint-Germain rather than obsessing over what "constopulosiously" might mean... Be grateful of the inclusion of Prester John in “Baudolino”, he didn't exist - but he sort of did... so you can set to inferring why it is we create such figures in our minds and apply that to other beliefs and interests (deities, physics, celebrities, modern art...). This is why I maintained his books are edifying rather than obscure. However, human lies and linguistic lies are of a different kind of complexity. The possibility of telling lies for their own sake with no other motive and the ability to tell lies to ourselves- and believe them- are what makes the difference between language and philosophy and a simple behavioural code. Indeed, perhaps language and philosophy are only possible because we can say things we know are not true and as a result of that imagine things that may or may not be true. Indeed - I have been through it 7 or 8 times. It's simply fascinating, alternately hilarious, erudite, and intensely moving. The 'long stretches' are only 'opaque' for those too dense to understand them, and these diversions throughout, are among the book's many highlights.