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A Novel by the Author of The Name of the Rose
Published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich in 1989
Book Review by Bobby Matherne ©2002
The book opens in a museum in Paris and through flashbacks ends there 640 plus pages later. The chapter headings draw us through the sefirah of the cabala from Kether to Malkuth. A mysterious coded message provides the first hint of a 600 year old plot by the Knights Templar — the 6X6 invisible knights that meet every 120 years at a new location to piece together this 4-D puzzle which can only be solved through 3-D space and the fourth dimension, time. The time of the pendulum of Foucault, that is , which will point to the location of the final denouement — the axis of the world — when the sun shines through the clear glass of the cathedral museum's windows on the dawn after St. John's Eve.
Along the way we learn of details and connections between the Templars, Rosecrucians, Masons, Crusades, Popes, comic strips, Hebrew, cabala, and the immortal Comte de St. Germain who wanders through the plot like a Brownian Motion particle in a ceramic oven.
In the world of creative imagination Causabon and His friend Belbo begin to create meanings for the coded message that the world begins to confirm. Hitler was searching for the location of the Axis Mundi and would have killed every Jew until he found it. Causabon's girl friend Lia interprets the coded message as a laundry list of flowers to be sent to six locations. Belbo decodes a set of nested ciphers within the message — the last of which was the author of the code cussing at having to code the message. (The nested ciphers is Eco's forte, being trained in semiology.)
A description of the cabala as an automotive metaphor was a nice touch. The difference between rear wheel and front wheel drive checks out with America in the '80's. The increasing popularity of the front wheel drive autos parallels the increasing number of people who are spiritually motivated(pulled from above) versus materially motivated (pushed from behind- the rear wheels).
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