January 5, 2016

Happy Birthday Umberto Eco

Filed under: books — theresaurus @ 2:05 pm

“The Name of the Rose” — a wonderful novel.

“It was a beautiful morning at the end of November.”

“Indeed, once, as he poured some for us, he recalled for us that passage in the Rule where the holy founder observed that wine, to be sure, is not proper for monks, but since the monks of our time cannot be persuaded not to drink, they should at least not drink their fill, because wine induces even the the wise to apostasy, as Ecclesiastes reminds us. … We ate meat cooked on the spit, freshly slaughtered pigs, and I realized that in cooking other foods they did not use animal fats or rape oil but good olive oil, which came from lands the abbey owned at the foot of the mountain toward the sea. The abbot made us taste (reserved for his table) the chicken I had seen being prepared in the kitchen.”

“‘I will do,’ he said, ‘I will do cheese in batter.’
‘How is it made?’
‘Facilis. You take the cheese before it is too antiquum, without too much salis, and cut in cubes or sicut you like. And postea you put a bit of burrierro or lardo to rechauffer over the embers. And in it you put two pieces of cheese, and when it become tenero, zucharum et cinnamom supra positurum du bis. And immediately take to table, because it must be ate caldo caldo.'”

“The supper for the legation was superb. … We had a ragout of pigeon, marinaded in the wine of those lands, and roast rabbit, Saint Claire’s pasties, rice with the almonds of those hills — the blancmange of fast days, that is — and borage tarts, stuffed olives, fried cheese, mutton with a sauce of raw peppers, white broad beans, and exquisite sweets, Saint Bernard’s cake, Saint Nicholas’s pies, Saint Lucy’s dumplings, and wines, and herb liqueurs that put everyone in a good humor … .”

“The kitchen was a vast smoke-filled entrance hall, where many servants were already busy preparing the food for supper. On a great table two of them were making a pie of greens, barley, oats, and rye, chopping turnips, cress, radishes, and carrots. Nearby, another cook had just finished poaching some fish in a mixture of wine and water, and was covering them with a sauce of sage, parsley, thyme, garlic, pepper, and salt.”

“At that time I had passed very little of my life in a scriptorium, but I spent a great deal of it subsequently and I know what torment it is for the scribe, the rubricator, the scholar to spend the long winter hours at his desk, his fingers numb around the stylus (when even in a normal temperature, after six hours of writing, the fingers are seized by the terrible monk’s cramp and the thumb aches as it if it had been trodden on). And this explains why we often find in the margins of manuscripts phrases left by the scribe as testimony to his suffering (and his impatience), such as ‘Thank God it will soon be dark,’ or ‘Oh, if I had a good glass of wine,’ or also, ‘Today it is cold, the light is dim, this vellum is hairy, something is wrong.'”

“‘Why? To know what one book says you must read others?’
‘At times this can be so. Often books speak of other books… .’
‘True,’ I said, amazed. Until then I had thought each book spoke of the things, human or divine, that lie outside books. Now I realized that not infrequently books speak of books: it is as if they spoke among themselves. In the light of this reflection, the library seemed all the more disturbing to me. It was then the place of a long, centuries-old murmuring, an imperceptible dialogue between one parchment and another, a living thing, a receptacle of powers not ruled by a human mind, a treasure of secrets emanated by many minds, surviving the death of those who had produced them or had been their conveyors.”


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