Friday, March 15, 2013

"The Prague Cemetery" by Umberto Eco

Umberto Eco’s 2010 novel is about a fascinating subject. It is the fictional account of the creation of a real fake document, a late Nineteenth Century conspiracy thriller. The main character, and Eco’s speculations of his involvement in the historic events depicted are made up, but every other character and event is based in reality. The document in question is the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and the events that surround its creation are the history of anti-Semitism in Europe in the second half of the 1800s. The forgery was used by many to justify much of the racial hatred in the Twentieth Century, long after it was proven to be a fake.

Unfortunately, it reads a little too much like a history book. It is dry and slow and requires quite a bit of work to slog through. That is unfortunate because the story’s message is an important one. It reveals the way culture and thought can be manipulated to serve the powerful; and it shows how easy it is to shape public opinion through lies. There are a lot of parallels to be seen between the events of this book and the current cultural atmosphere.

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