A novice named Adso under a monk- William of Baskerville alive in the tumultuous world of medieval Papal politics including religious factions and the Church; are sent to a monastery to investigate a series of bizarre murders that have put all the monks’ lives in disarray. Armed with a sense of logical deducing and a progressive outlook towards knowledge and inventions William the monk is assigned the task of finding the culprit(s) in the midst of an abbey that is shadowed with hidden agendas, secrets, abominable acts and illicit activities, all the while embroiled in a debate of chastity versus fornication, poverty versus affluence, comedy and satire versus seriousness and solemnity.
And behind it all there is someone with a hidden agenda who is murdering these monks- to protect knowledge? To hide it? William realizes that the Aedificium which houses the library holds the very secret that is causing these grievous events to take place. But can he get to the mystery in time? Can he prevent the deaths and save the abbey?
I indulged in a book that was different from the ones I usually read- The Name of the Rose is not a book to be taken lightly. Despite its easy blurb and appealing plotline, this novel takes you on a tumultuous journey through theological and philosophical questions/ Was Christ poor? Did Christ indulge in laughter? How do you distinguish heretics from the divine, blasphemy from the true words of God? Should the truth be rigid and inflexible, the word of the Scripture law or are these notions and ideas open to any kind of debate? Are mockery, satire, comedy and allegorical distortions that bring smiles to the faces of the youthful and easily misled novices worthy of being banned? These are just some of the hard-to-grasp questions this book raises.
William and Adso proceed in Sherlock-Watson like fashion. Adso is a truly devoted novice, not immune to the sins beyond which monks swear to live, but William’s progressive thought process and paternal adoration of Adso seems to make everything okay. Reader of signs and a harbinger of modern thoughts and ideas, William is the protagonist who draws attention to himself the most and makes you admire him, given the times in which he is said to live.
As the two of them proceed through the mysteries of the abbey and are introduced to more characters, some of the others leave an impression as well. There are monks indulging in sodomy, in carnal pleasures of thee flesh, in curious thirsts for knowledge, in pride and gluttony and jealousy. This book shows us an abbey renown for its rich and diverse library and as a place of learning but behind the scenes, after the lamps are extinguished and the matins conducted, these monks practice what they do not preach and give in to the sins they condone.
The revelation of the mystery was the best part of this novel. There is a sense of tragedy, of loss, of the transience of humanity in the way the story ties together but some questions are answered. Some rigidity is replaced with flexible truth and Adso picks up some valuable lessons.
Minus point? Some long drawn out allegorical passages linked intricately with Bible and its teachings. There are dreams and symbols and signs which I could not completely understand. Some of the passages on politics and the historical background of the time also did not appeal to me much.
Plus point? William’s speeches and lectures and his deductions are lucid and delightful. His world views are perennially modern. He is, indeed, a Sherlock Holmes of sorts- intellectually vain but almost always upon the right track, funny and serious in ways which are amusing but immune to the polarizing depths in which most men find themselves turned into gossipers, plotters and inflexibly, inhumanly attached to objects and philosophies which would be better off if consumed in moderation.