Book Reviews of Foucault's Pendulum

Foucault's Pendulum
Foucault's Pendulum
Author: Umberto Eco
ISBN-13: 9780345368751
ISBN-10: 0345368754
Publication Date: 11/13/1990
Pages: 560
Rating:
  • Currently 3.3/5 Stars.
 183

3.3 stars, based on 183 ratings
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

30 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed Foucault's Pendulum on
Helpful Score: 5
This is an amazingly rich and complex book about a series of mysteries, codes, conspiracies, and hidden lore. The ending certainly isn't what you expect going into this book but I found it to be serious food for thought.

I won't kid you, it is a very hard book to get into initially, but if you stick with it and don't focus so much on keeping track of every tiny thread, you will really enjoy it. When I feel a need to challenge myself mentally I pick up my hardcover copy and dive into it again and again.

One more thing, I did love his Name of the Rose book a great deal, but this is nothing like it. Please don't pick this up expecting it to be...we are talking apples and oranges here. Two really great fruits, but in essence nothing alike.
reviewed Foucault's Pendulum on
Helpful Score: 3
An excellent and thought-provoking book. This is the book that "The da Vinci Code" wants to be when it grows up. If any of your friends begin enthusing about Dan Brown, make them read this. If they can't or won't, then unfriend them.

Eco hits it out of the park with this one. As in-depth and detailed as "The Name of the Rose" is, "Foucault's Pendulum" is better. Brilliant, alive, and filled with so many details and symbols that only a semiotician could have written it. An excellent companion piece not only to "The Prague Cemetery" (which is like a mini-version of this tale), but to Eco's studies of aesthetics in the Middle Ages, as well. Just read it.
reviewed Foucault's Pendulum on + 7 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
Excellent conspiracy theory-a million times better than Dan Brown.
reviewed Foucault's Pendulum on + 10 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
A masterpiece. As noted by another reviewer... this is not the most accessible of books. Having some familiarity with medieval history, secret societies and occult traditions is a huge help in really appreciating this book. But... that being said, I think it's an amazing book. I've read it several times and would highly recommend it.
reviewed Foucault's Pendulum on + 13 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
This is a very cerebral book, it requires alot of focus and knowledge of some cultural points that quite honestly even I'm not aware of. I bought it because it was recommended to me by a friend, but Umberto Eco is far too difficult a write for me to swallow. Perhaps someone else may be able to break through the complicated and rather boring first chapter.
reviewed Foucault's Pendulum on + 114 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
This complex psychological thriller chronicles the development of a literary joke that plunges its perpetrators into deadly peril. The narrator, Casaubon, an expert on the medieval Knights Templars, and two editors working in a branch of a vanity press publishing house in Milan, are told about a purported coded message revealing a secret plan set in motion by the Knights Templars centuries ago when the society was forced underground. As a lark, the three decide to invent a history of the occult tying a variety of phenomena to the mysterious machinations of the Order. Feeding their inspirations into a computer, they become obsessed with their story, dreaming up links between the Templars and just about every occult manifestation throughout history, and predicting that culmination of the Templars' scheme to take over the world is close at hand. The plan becomes real to them--and eventually to the mysterious They, who want the information the trio has "discovered." Dense, packed with meaning, often startlingly provocative, the novel is a mixture of metaphysical meditation, detective story, computer handbook, introduction to physics and philosophy, historical survey, mathematical puzzle, compendium of religious and cultural mythology, guide to the Torah (Hebrew, rather than Latin contributes to the puzzle here, but is restricted mainly to chapter headings), reference manual to the occult, the hermetic mysteries, the Rosicrucians, the Jesuits, the Freemasons-- ad infinitum . The narrative eventually becomes heavy with the accumulated weight of data and supposition, and overwrought with implication, and its climax may leave readers underwhelmed. Until that point, however, this is an intriguing cerebral exercise in which Eco slyly suggests that intellectual arrogance can come to no good end.
reviewed Foucault's Pendulum on + 38 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
Foucault's Pendulum
Umberto Eco


It took me a long time to convince myself to give this book a try. I had been sorely disappointed in Eco's "internationally acclaimed" Name of the Rose. In his own words, "I was aghast, unable to decide whether this was an extraordinary revelation or the wild raving of a madman." (p. 37) And through 36 pages of the work I was convinced I'd been right to avoid it; but then as chapter 6 began the tone switched from that of a madman's narrative, filled with arcane and insensible mutterings, to that of a modern man speaking English and making sense, in a sense. Of course the kind of sense being made is absurdity, which marks all of Eco's works as far as I know, possibly even his scholarly works in semiotics if there is such a thing. Such a thing as semiotics (the study of meaning in signs and symbols) being a scholarly pursuit, that is. One is forced to conclude Eco is poking fun at himself with his concept for reforming higher education by creating a School of Comparative Irrelevance: "The Tetrapyloctomy department has a preparatory function; it's purpose is to inculcate a sense of irrelevance. Another important department is Adynata, or Impossibilia. Like Urban Planning for Gypsies. The essence of the discipline is the comprehension of the underlying reasons for a thing's absurdity. We have courses in Morse syntax, the history of Antarctic agriculture, the history of Easter Island painting, contemporary Sumerian literature, Montessori grading, Assyrio-Babylonian philately, the technology of the wheel in pre-Columbian empires, and the phonetics of the silent film." (p. 64) One might suggest another course: The Eco novel as a source of common sense. In other words, if one has way too much time on one's hands and would rather giggle or smirk away the hours contemplating whether the Templars begat the Rosicrucians or verse-visa and which of them begat the Masons, or if other secret societies have a better grip on what passes for reality, this might be the book for you. Of course the real secret (please don't pass this along to anyone else) is that to make perfect sense of this novel one must read it backward.. "Lufitaeb os s'ti. Htiaf elttil fo yeht. Meht gnillet meht..." See? Just like a Fellini movie. No, not Fellini. Closer to Monty Python, through nowhere near as entertaining.

Don LeCouteur
Ocotillo
29 December 2011
reviewed Foucault's Pendulum on + 23 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I found this a bit dense, but the story is good if you can handle the writing.
reviewed Foucault's Pendulum on
Helpful Score: 1
It takes a bit of time to get into the story, but once you get it it's a wild ride.
reviewed Foucault's Pendulum on + 17 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
An intellectual adverturer story.
reviewed Foucault's Pendulum on + 7 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Great book. Heavy read.
reviewed Foucault's Pendulum on + 5 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This is one of my favorite novels ever! While it is certainly not for the fainthearted, those who persevere will be richly rewarded by Eco's brilliant writing. I recommend reading it with access to a good dictionary Google. If you thought the Da Vinci Code had an interesting premise, but was otherwise disappointing, pick this up.
reviewed Foucault's Pendulum on + 11 more book reviews
Creepy Illuminati story (Is their any other kind?) Cloak and dagger suspense gives way to metaphysical musings by the end. John Dee makes an appearance, as do the Knight Templars. Not as cool to leave on your coffee table as The Name of The Rose, but I think that's Eco's point, actually.
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One of my favorite books ever. Dense intellectual games with a qabalist's sense of humor.
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From Publishers Weekly:

If a copy (often unread) of The Name of the Rose on the coffee table was a badge of intellectual superiority in 1983, Eco's second novel--also an intellectual blockbuster--should prove more accessible. This complex psychological thriller chronicles the development of a literary joke that plunges its perpetrators into deadly peril. The narrator, Casaubon, an expert on the medieval Knights Templars, and two editors working in a branch of a vanity press publishing house in Milan, are told about a purported coded message revealing a secret plan set in motion by the Knights Templars centuries ago when the society was forced underground. As a lark, the three decide to invent a history of the occult tying a variety of phenomena to the mysterious machinations of the Order. Feeding their inspirations into a computer, they become obsessed with their story, dreaming up links between the Templars and just about every occult manifestation throughout history, and predicting that culmination of the Templars' scheme to take over the world is close at hand. The plan becomes real to them--and eventually to the mysterious They, who want the information the trio has "discovered." Dense, packed with meaning, often startlingly provocative, the novel is a mixture of metaphysical meditation, detective story, computer handbook, introduction to physics and philosophy, historical survey, mathematical puzzle, compendium of religious and cultural mythology, guide to the Torah (Hebrew, rather than Latin contributes to the puzzle here, but is restricted mainly to chapter headings), reference manual to the occult, the hermetic mysteries, the Rosicrucians, the Jesuits, the Freemasons-- ad infinitum . The narrative eventually becomes heavy with the accumulated weight of data and supposition, and overwrought with implication, and its climax may leave readers underwhelmed. Until that point, however, this is an intriguing cerebral exercise in which Eco slyly suggests that intellectual arrogance can come to no good end.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal:

Student of philology in 1970s Milan, Casaubon is completing a thesis on the Templars, a monastic knighthood disbanded in the 1300s for questionable practices. At Pilades Bar, he meets up with Jacopo Belbo, an editor of obscure texts at Garamond Press. Together with Belbo's colleague Diotallevi, they scrutinize the fantastic theories of a prospective author, Colonel Ardenti, who claims that for seven centuries the Templars have been carrying out a complex scheme of revenge. When Ardenti disappears mysteriously, the three begin using their detailed knowledge of the occult sciences to construct a Plan for the Templars[...] In his compulsively readable new novel, Eco plays with "the notion that everything might be mysteriously related to everything else," suggesting that we ourselves create the connections that make up reality. As in his best-selling The Name of the Rose, he relies on abstruse reasoning without losing the reader, for he knows how to use "the polyphony of ideas" as much for effect as for content. Indeed, with its investigation of the ever-popular occult, this highly entertaining novel should be every bit as successful as its predecessor. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/89. -- Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
reviewed Foucault's Pendulum on + 29 more book reviews
Foucaults Pendulum by Umberto Eco

This book is The Da Vinci Code on steroids. Nevermind that The Da Vinci Code was written in 2003 and this first in 1988, Im gonna postulate that Ecos documented jealousy of other writers stealing his genius comes from Dan Browns novel. He puts himself in league with whomever supposedly ghost wrote for Shakespeare. Trust me, Umberto, youre no Shakespeare!

As it is, Umberto Eco, a Professor of Semiotics [Huh? It is the study of cultural sign processes (semiosis), analogy, metaphor, signification and communication, signs and symbols] cannot help himself--he must associate this with that, this with that until it borders on mental illness. The Dan Brown book features a symbologist professorvery similar. Aha! Ive found yet another connection! That is the kind of twisted logic this book is all about.

But Professor Eco is also a literary critic, and as such, should know what constitutes good novels. Each part needs to contribute something to whole or it shouldnt be included. Two-thirds of this 641-page book could and should have been edited out so that it actually was a compelling mystery. But Eco cant do that. I think some consider this a classic because they are afraid to admit they didnt follow much of what the novel drivels on about.

So why did I chose this book? I understand the impulse of the mind to make connectionsbetween all kinds of things. Often, its difficult for me to find others who are similarly interestedor care-- about the connections that I constantly see between this behavior and that, this theory and current events. I thought Umberto Eco sounded like a kindred spirit. But the book is an extended metaphor for Six Degrees of Separation (or Kevin Bacon. however you chose to play it).

I had heard many theories about Knights Templar / Masons, / the Illuminati, Rosicrucians and other organizations ruling the world. I had just recently gained a rudimentary understanding of Kaballah and cabalists,which is a major theme the idea that the knowledge of the Universe can be gained by rewriting the Torah into all its permutations by reorganizing the words (?letters). Its the old 100 monkeys writing the classic novels of the world theory. And I think thats how he decided to write this one! I thought with a little French and Latin, Id be OK.

The beginning images of the huge Foucaults Pendulum, which swings based on some intangible point out in space, with no width and depth, and traces the lines of evidence of a rotating Earth were compelling, so I continued.

There are portions of the novel that contribute to the plot, but massive portions are erudition about obscure topics which no one would care about after the first 25 side tangents. Here is a typical paragraph from the 641 dense pages of the book:

I knew nothing at all about Trithemeius, but in Paris I found an edition of his Steganographia, hoc est ars per occultam scripturam animi sui voluntatem absentibus aperiendi cert, published in Frankfurt in 1606. The art of using secret writing in order to bare your soul to a distant persons. A fascinating man, this Trithemius. A Benedictive abbot of Spannheim, late fifteenth early sixteenth centuries, a scholar who knew Hebrew and Chaldrea, Oriental languages like Tartar. He corresponded with theologians, cabalists, alchemists, most certainly with the great Corenelius Agreppa of Nettesheim and perhaps with Paracelsus

Other than to reinforce the theme that Everything is related it serves very little purpose. But there are unending sections like this, usually untranslated Latin or French or Italian. To say finishing this book was a slog is a gross understatement.

What I did find a little interesting was the man behind the book. He does seem to have a mistrust of his own writing skills as well as a resentment of others who do write. All main characters are essentially the same one. Never in real life would you find three people who loved the pursuit of endless minutia for its own sake the way the three main characters do. You could interchange any one of them for the other. It is not by accident that one of the publishing companies is called Manutian (minutia). [Eco also apparently hates publishers and considers them stupid.]

He inserted unfinished sections of things he had written before, as the writings of another character. It is sprinkled as well with personal memories that had some impact on him. But the as to the discipline of including only what contributes to the storyline of a novel, he is incapable.

I will say that I probably picked up some new vocabulary, and perhaps some new information about Nazis or cabalists or almost everything else. But probably not since I was never sure if he was exaggerating the information and connections like some grand Tin Hat Theory.

I remember reading someone elses review of this book saying she finally made it through with a dictionary in hand. But no one would ever finish this book if they looked up each obscure reference he makes.

But, whos the fool here? I finished the damn thing!
reviewed Foucault's Pendulum on
I'd heard great things about this book, but it was WAY over my head. Definitely not a light read.
reviewed Foucault's Pendulum on
One of the few books I've had to read with a dictionary at my side, but I enjoyed it immensely. It reminds me of The DaVinci Code, but with some more meat on its bones.
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A long, rambling and utterly fascinating book about the Knights Templar and conspiracy theories in general. If you liked Da Vinci Code but would love to read something with a little more "meat", this is the book for you.
reviewed Foucault's Pendulum on
"An intellectual adventure story"
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Very difficult to read. I did not like this book.
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One of the most amazing books I have ever read! Literaly changed my world view. There are so many levels to this book. Opened my mind to things I had never thought about. I read this book when I was 17, and it just blew my mind. One of the few books I read over and over again. I have probly read it at leat 50 times. I also give this book as a gift to everyone I know!
reviewed Foucault's Pendulum on
The tone of this tome is egotistical and pompous, the read itself is pseudo-intellectual and painful. I suffered through about 3/4 of it eons ago, nasty business.
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Brilliant, exprimental and finny,a quest novel that is deeper and richer than THE NANE OF THE ROSE.
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It took some time to get into but it was a fascinating read once it got going
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Eco is a great storyteller but can be difficult to follow the story. Great book
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This is a FANTASTIC book, Eco has gotten a little into numberology in some of his other books and this one explains a lot more. I think this is his best writtings, even better than The Name of the Rose. This book has been through 5 moves with me, and I have read it twice. It does have some wear in a corner of the cover and some color has come off the right hand side of the cover, but other than some age wear it is perfectly fine and none of the pages are damaged.
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I've heard great things about this novel- but absolutely could not get into it. I loved "The Name of the Rose."
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Unbelievably boring.
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This is the same author as who wrote The Name of the Rose. Great book.