Summary and book reviews of Baudolino by Umberto Eco

Baudolino

By Umberto Eco

Baudolino
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  • Hardcover: Oct 2002,
    528 pages.
    Paperback: Oct 2003,
    540 pages.

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Book Summary

It is April 1204, and Constantinople, the splendid capital of the Byzantine Empire, is being sacked and burned by the knights of the Fourth Crusade. Amid the carnage and confusion, one Baudolino saves a historian and high court official from certain death at the hands of the crusading warriors and proceeds to tell his own fantastical story.

Born a simple peasant in northern Italy, Baudolino has two major gifts--a talent for learning languages and a skill in telling lies. When still a boy he meets a foreign commander in the woods, charming him with his quick wit and lively mind. The commander--who proves to be Emperor Frederick Barbarossa--adopts Baudolino and sends him to the university in Paris, where he makes a number of fearless, adventurous friends.

Spurred on by myths and their own reveries, this merry band sets out in search of Prester John, a legendary priest-king said to rule over a vast kingdom in the East--a phantasmagorical land of strange creatures with eyes on their shoulders and mouths on their stomachs, of eunuchs, unicorns, and lovely maidens.

As always with Eco, this abundant novel includes dazzling digressions, outrageous tricks, extraordinary feeling, and vicarious reflections on our postmodern age. This is Eco the storyteller at his brilliant best.

1
Baudolino tries his hand at writing.

Rattisbon Anno Dommini Domini mense decembri mclv Cronicle of Baudolino of the fammily of Aulario.

I Baudolino son of Galiaudo Gagliaudo of the Aulari with a head that looks like a lion halleluia gratias to the Allmighty may he forgive me

ego habeo facto the greatest stealing of my life, I mean from the cabbinet of the Bishop Oto I have stollen many pages that may belong to the Immperial Chancellor and I have scraped clean almost all of them excepting where the writing would not come off et now I have much parchmint to write down what I want which is my own story even if I don't know to write Latin.

if they find out the pages are gone God knows the Hell they will raze et may be theyll think it was some spy of the Roman bishops who hate the Emperer Fredericus

but may be nobody cares in the chancellery they write and write even when theres no need and whoever finds them (these pages) can shove them up his...wont do ...

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Introduction

It is April 1204, and Constantinople, the splendid capital of the Byzantine Empire, is being sacked and burned by the knights of the Fourth Crusade. Amid the carnage and confusion, our hero, one Baudolino, saves a historian and high court official from certain death at the hands of the crusading warriors and proceeds to tell his own long and winding--and thoroughly fantastical--story. Born a simple peasant in northern Italy, Baudolino has two major gifts: a talent for learning languages and a skill in telling lies. When still a boy he meets a foreign commander in the woods, charming him with his quick wit and lively mind. The commander--who proves to be Emperor Frederick Barbarossa--adopts Baudolino and sends him to ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews
The New Yorker

The hero of this phenomenal puzzler is one Baudolino, an inveterate liar, poet, and adventurer, whose charm and wit win him the favor of Frederick Barbarossa.

Publishers Weekly

While this book lacks the suspense of The Name of the Rose, it is nevertheless a spirited story that might offer those previously daunted by his writing a more accessible entrée.

Kirkus Reviews

A little learning, reputedly a dangerous thing, can be lethal when allowed to overpower a story as relentlessly as it does in Baudolino.

Library Journal - Barbara Hoffert

If you have time to sink yourself deep into the text, this can be a delicious read, but there is less of the sparkling, diamond-cut investigation of ideas that can make Eco so much fun to read, and Baudolino's backing-and-forthing can get a bit tedious.

Booklist - Brad Hooper

Starred Review. The challenges and joys of this Italian professor's internationally best-selling Name of the Rose (1983) indicated that literary and popular are not necessarily mutually exclusive terms.... This is historical fiction at its best smart, enrapturing, and authentic.

Welt Am Sonntag (Germany)

Fuses historical events of the twelfth century with myths and fables, juicy romance, real political issues, and deep questions of faith--and the result is dazzling fireworks.

La Repubblica (Italy)

Without a doubt the author's most playful book, suffused with an atmosphere of fanciful freedom.

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