Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco

Boychik Lit Book Review - No. 32

Here’s my book review of The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco.

This novel is no less than an attempt to trace the origins of anti-Semitism in Europe over the last two centuries. Author Umberto Eco’s story is a partially true but barely believable plot behind the multiple versions of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a racist tract that inspired Naziism. Eco's account is narrated by the one character he admits to being fictional, Simonini, a master forger who made a living not only creating official documents but also fabricating the facts and stories they contained. The plot suggests that this man was hired to create the The Protocols as a deliberate hoax to incite hatred and build a political power base.

Eco has been a lifetime student of occultist movements and secret societies, including the Knights Templar, the Rosicrucians, the Freemasons, and various anti-clerical, anti-Papist, anti-royalist, anarchist, and, yes, anti-Semitic political and religious groups, including their agent provocateurs.

Behind this story is a general conclusion about the nature of conspiracy. In this web of loosely woven plots, conspiracy is not a masterfully directed and highly coordinated effort. It is, instead, a monstrous disease that has no direction other than its own propagation. It has no head and no permanently governing body. Spanning generations, it goes wherever it feeds best, and it serves whomever will feed and sustain it. It likewise destroys, not a specific enemy, but any person, group, or ideology the persecution of which will benefit, even for the short term, the feeders of conspiracy.

In short, it has been convenient for various groups at various times to promote hatred of marginalized social groups. But as Eco demonstrates, this agenda has  much more to do with consolidating power than with persecuting or exterminating the  victims.

Ultimately, it's about political expediency and rousing the emotions of the masses – not to destroy an enemy but to enrich their persecutors.

For Boychik Lit, I’m Gerald Everett Jones. I’m the author of Mr. Ballpoint. Catch these podcasts at

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