Numero Zero is the feverish and delightfully readable tale of a ghostwriter in Milan whose work pulls him into an underworld of media politics and murderous conspiracies (involving the cadaver of Mussolini's double, naturally). This novel is vintage Eco - corrupt newspapers, clandestine plots, imaginary histories - and will appeal to his many readers and earn him legions of new ones.
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"Suspicions never go too far. Suspect, always, suspect, that's the only way you get to the truth. Isn't that what science says?"
-- Umberto Eco
I'm not sure what it is about aging, but some of my favorite writers DeLillo, Roth, and Eco produce absolutely sh!t novellas in their later years. Delillo seems to have hit his high mark with 'Underworld'. Philip Roth with 'The Plot Against America'. The minor books these greats wrote in their later years (Roth's entire Nemesis series, for example) just seem like the apathetic efforts of grumpy old men who don't know how to NOT write, but actually seem fairly uninterested in the processes now. It bores them, and thus it bores us too.
And let me just say that when writing a book of less than 200 pages, all future authors take note, PLEASE don't use the term 'danse macabre' more than once unless you are writing ON the medieval genre or allegory or personification of death. Seriously, where was the editor?
OK, to walk back my review, just a bit. There were a few interesting sections of this novella. The Mussolini/Vatican/Gladio/Stay-Behind conspiracy WAS interesting. Also, Eco's critique of journalism was pretty d@mn sharp. Just not sharp and interesting enough to make this anything more than a G-chord (muted middle finger) of a novel. But I would argue you get better writing and a more interesting story from the French Flaps on either Foucault's Pendulum or The Name of the Rose than you get from the entire Numero Nada.
"An excellent novel and an excellent narrator"
I love all Eco's novels, and it is good that he was able to publish just one more before he passed away. May god bless his soul.
"the final act of the maestro...a short conspiracy"
we have a short conspiracy for those who can't get enough of Umberto Eco and his intelligently impotent characters. the cards are stacked against the little guys and echoes little guys are the only ones who stumbled on that truth.
Just notice the length of this book and you know it can’t be a typical Eco novel. If you’ve read Foucault’s Pendulum, just imagine taking that book, swapping out the occult for a few largely Italy-specific political conspiracies, and scaling it way down (it’s about 1/4th the size and scope). Eco even recycles jokes from FP (e.g. I love you even though you’re stupid, and knowing German means never graduating). It reminds me of Pynchon’s Crying of Lot 49, being the author’s shortest and (alas) weakest work. But still enjoyable, minute for minute I rank it higher than the latest Lee Child (for example, and not that that was bad at all), hence the top rating I’m giving it.
The reader did an excellent job.
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