Baudolino by Umberto Eco
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Aside from a few parts that I got a little bored with, this novel was, by and large, a tour de force of humorous historical storytelling proportions. I was delighted and totally amused by Baudolino, the inveterate trickster, storyteller, and liar.
Putting aside actual history for a moment and the MC's way of explaining that he is, as always, a liar, but he only lies for good, the novel grows epic from the first passages. We start with the fall of Constantinople, getting in tight with Barbarossa (the Holy Roman Emperor), and move into an amazing and amusing set of circumstances that include the founding of Alexandria, going on several quests for Prester John, meeting all manners of strange creatures and lands right out of the weirdest Medieval descriptions, and so much more.
This is Umberto Eco, after all. If we're not knee-or-thigh-deep in fascinating historical footnotes couched in an expansive idea-rich adventure, then we must have wandered into someone else's novel.
I laughed-out-loud many times. I especially loved the whole con game about selling relics. In this case, the seven severed heads of John the Baptist. :) The kinds of lies that Baudolino and his cohorts told were fantastic, rich, and while they didn't always pan out the way they hoped, the effects were gorgeous to behold.
Is this a farce? A satire? A wonderful sarcastic and worldly tribute to imagination and The Pilgrim's Progress? (And better, too?) Hell, you know this is crazy when you have our hero carry around the Holy Grail.
But what is real and what is pure fabrication? Possibly everything, but even Baudolino warns us that he tells us lies to get to the very truth of things. And that's the best part of the novel.
I got lost in the stories and didn't care a fig about anything but the telling.
My only complaint was with the whole sequence around Hypatia. I kinda didn't care for the philosophical ramblings so much. I just wanted him to move on with the rest of the adventure. But aside from this, I loved everything. :)
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