07 November 2011

Post 445:The Prague Cemetery

The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco. ISBN: 9780547577531 (eGalley - publishes November 8, 2011).

I've had a rough day and probably shouldn't be blogging, but here I am. So forgive me if this is a bit self-pitying and perhaps a bit morose. My life isn't exactly sunshine and puppies these days.

One of our main characters/narrators is Simonini, an intelligence agent of sorts, who begins keeping a diary because he discovers he is losing time. In the diary he reveals that he enjoys having secret identities because it gives him a sense of superiority for people not to know who he really is. I imagine that to some degree, all of us enjoy that little secret, even without the false beards and glasses. It is somewhat gratifying to know that there are people out there, however close they are to you, who do not know that you are interested in dressing up as a cartoon character on the weekends or that you still play with Barbies or that you once went to jail for stealing your grandmother's medication and tried to sell it at school.

There are aspects of our personalities and histories that represent who we are more at one time than at others. It makes more sense to us to hide those when they no longer become relevant, or to wait to present them to someone we feel "deserves" to know who we are. But sometimes holding onto that secret can be terribly lonely. And it's not that we don't want people to know who are, but that we don't want them to judge us negatively or assume things about who we are based on information that is only relevant in the sense that it influenced who we have become, rather than who we actively are. I believe that's why sites like Post Secret are so popular.

That Simonini has no desire to share himself with anyone (he actually manages to trump Holden Caufield with the amount and kinds of people he hates), is undeniably sad. What I find sadder is that the current consensus (at least on Goodreads) seems to be outright hatred for Simonini rather than pity. He is constantly alone, always looking to betray or be betrayed, or at the very least profit off of someone else. He is so alone that the only person he can turn to when he begins losing days and memory is himself, and he's not even certain he can rely on his own diary. While I may find myself increasingly alone in this world, at least I know that there are people that I can trust with my secret aspects, even if I choose not to at the moment.

My review can be found on Goodreads. Kirkus has a good overview of the book without giving too much away.
LibsNote: Review copy provided by Netgalley. Published previously in another language.

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