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Readers Corner
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Book Review: The Key to "The Name of the Rose"
Authors: Adele J.Haft, Jane G.White, and Robert J.White.
Reviewed by Donal Higgins
The Key to "The Name of the Rose" The Key to "The Name of the Rose is subtitled "Demystifying Umberto Eco's novel, The Name of the Rose. It includes translations of all non-English passages.

This book is intended as a key, to be used while reading "The Rose". It is divided into four main parts, each of which helps to deepen the understanding of Eco's text.

Chapter one contains a short essay on Eco, "Umberto Eco, Semiotics and Medieval Thought." Eco is a leading expert on Semiotics - the science of signs, or rather the study of the different sign systems that humans use to communicate to one another. Eco's interest in Semiotics and fascination with the Middle Ages have a major bearing on "The Rose".

Chapter two contains a chronology of events relating to the novel. The Middle Ages is a nebulous period, it has no easily defined beginning or end. The timeline this chapter presents is therefore a useful reference.

A glossary of historical and literary references in "The Rose" form Chapter three. Arranged alphabetically, this chapter is a "Who's Who" (and a "What's What"!) of characters and events in "The Rose". Combined with Chapter two, it gives a concise introduction to the history of the Middle Ages.

Chapter four contains a page by page translation of all non-English passages and notes on the text. The references back to the text carry the page and line numbers from the Harcourt Brace clothbound edition of 1983 and the 1994 paperbound Harvest edition. All quotations from the Bible are from the Authorized King James Version.

The authors are academically qualified to decode "The Rose"; Adele J Haft is associate professor of Classics at Hunter College of the City University of New York, Jane G. White is the Chairman of the Department of Foreign Languages at Dwight-Englewood School NJ and Robert J.White is a professor in the Department of Classical and Oriental Studies of Hunter College. The original was published in 1987 and the current version was re-released in 1999. It is the only English commentary on "The Name of the Rose".

The book is written with enthusiasm and a sense of humor. Sherlock Homes fans may immediately spot Eco's homage in the naming of Brother William of Baskerville, but may miss the association of Adso of Melk with Watson through the French version of the name.. Adson. The "Key" is full of little gems like this and there is an interesting discussion on Eco's parody of the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, who appears in "The Rose" as Jorge of Burgos.

The final section (the postscript of course)is reserved for those who have finished the novel and know the solution.

The "Key" is well worth the $14.95 cover price. Paperback - 190 pages (November 1999) University of Michigan Press; ISBN: 0472086219 ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.57 x 8.00 x 5.39
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