Original Research

Umberto Eco’s The Prague cemetery: A game of double co-incidence

Maria Spruyt
Literator | Vol 36, No 1 | a1146 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v36i1.1146 | © 2015 Maria Spruyt | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 August 2014 | Published: 19 June 2015

About the author(s)

Maria Spruyt, Research Fellow, University of Zululand, South Africa

Abstract

Although classified as a literary novel with a fictional plot, The Prague cemetery is crammed with historical information on 19th century Europe, with the focus on the rise of anti-Semitism during this period. The overwhelming amount of data has been criticised as distracting from the plot and creating difficulty for the reader in making sense of the storyline. This article examines the role of the reader in deciphering the twisting of historic events and fiction in The Prague cemetery, that is, a literary text packed tight with historical data intertwined with a fictional story, loaded with signs, symbols and hidden meanings that have to be decoded. It is demonstrated, firstly, that a Model Reader with encyclopaedic knowledge will be able to decode the hidden meanings in the text; secondly, that the nonmodel, or empirical reader, who does not actualise all of the meaning content, will not be hindered in his understanding of the story and thirdly, that the author’s intentions will duly be accomplished.

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