Best 1988 Adventures (2)
March 17, 2020
One in a series of 10 posts identifying Josh Glenn’s favorite 1988 adventure novels.
Umberto Eco’s apophenic treasure-hunt adventure Foucault’s Pendulum.
A bit punch-drunk after having been required to read too many paranoid manuscripts concerning conspiracy theories about Gnostics, the Freemasons, the Bavarian Illuminati, the Jesuits, the Rosicrucians, the Knights Templar, and Opus Dei, not to mention the Assassins of Alamut, the Ordo Templi Orientis, Cabalists, the Elders of Zion, etc., etc. — Belbo, Diotallevi, and Casaubon cobble together “The Plan,” a satirical, all-encompassing conspiracy theory and intellectual game ultimately concerned with the lost treasure of the Knights Templar. Belbo is a frustrated semiotician and editor at a Milanese vanity press; he and his colleague, Diotallevi, a cabalist, had recruited Casaubon, a student activist and historian of the Knights Templar, to work for them as a freelance researcher. When Belbo is kidnapped by a secret society, it becomes apparent that a real-world secret society will stop at nothing to acquire the (mythical — or is it?) treasure, which may or may not be the Holy Grail, which itself may or may not be a radioactive energy source. The book opens with Casaubon hiding from the society near the titular pendulum in Paris’s Musée des Arts et Métiers. The great pleasure of this text is watching the “Plan” come together via our protagonists’ various absurd, yet somehow utterly convincing, intellectual-literary-computational experiments.
Fun facts: Eco founded and developed one of the most important approaches in contemporary semiotics, usually referred to as interpretative semiotics. When asked, after the publication of Dan Brown’s bestselling The Da Vinci Code (2003), whether he’d read it, Eco replied: “Dan Brown is one of the characters in my novel Foucault’s Pendulum, which is about people who start believing in occult stuff…. Dan Brown is one of my creatures.”
JOSH GLENN’S *BEST ADVENTURES* LISTS: BEST 250 ADVENTURES OF THE 20TH CENTURY | 100 BEST OUGHTS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST RADIUM AGE (PROTO-)SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TEENS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TWENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST THIRTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST GOLDEN AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FORTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FIFTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SIXTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST NEW WAVE SCI FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SEVENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST EIGHTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST DIAMOND AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST NINETIES ADVENTURES (in progress) | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | NOTES ON 21st-CENTURY ADVENTURES.