Short summary - Foucault's Pendulum - Umberto Eco

Italy literature summaries - 2023

Short summary - Foucault's Pendulum
Umberto Eco

The plot of this novel by a famous Italian writer, philologist and literary historian falls on the beginning of the seventies of the XX century, a time when youth riots were still raging in Italy. However, the "political choice" of the narrator, a student at the Casaubon University of Milan, becomes, in his own words, philology: "I came to this as a person who boldly takes up the texts of speeches about the truth, preparing to correct them." He strikes up a friendship with the scientific editor of the Garamon publishing house Belbo and his colleague Diotallevi, which does not interfere with the age difference; they are united by an interest in the mysteries of the human mind and in the Middle Ages. Casaubon writes a dissertation on the Templars; Before the eyes of the reader passes the history of this chivalric brotherhood, its emergence, participation in the crusades, the circumstances of the trial, which ended in the execution of the leaders of the order and its dissolution.

Further, the novel enters the realm of hypotheses - Casaubon and his friends are trying to trace the posthumous fate of the Order of the Knights of the Temple. The starting point for their efforts is the appearance at the publishing house of a retired colonel, confident that he has discovered the encrypted Plan of the knights of the order, a secret conspiracy plan, a plan for revenge, designed to last for centuries. A day later, the colonel disappears without a trace; he is presumed to have been killed; this incident itself, or the unpleasant aftertaste left from it, separates Casaubon from his friends. The separation drags on for several years: after graduating from the university and defending his diploma, he leaves for Brazil as a teacher of Italian.

The immediate reason for leaving is his love for a local native of Amparo, a beautiful half-breed, imbued with the ideas of Marx and the pathos of a rational explanation of the world. However, the very magical atmosphere of the country and the unusual encounters that fate throws up to him with inexplicable persistence force Casaubon to make a reverse evolution almost imperceptibly for himself: the advantages of rational interpretations seem to him less and less obvious. He again tries to study the history of ancient cults and hermetic teachings, introducing the skeptical Amparo to his studies; he is attracted by the land of sorcerers - Baia, in the same degree as the lecture on the Rosicrucians read by an Italian compatriot, by all indications - one of those charlatans, the number of which he has yet to guess. His efforts to penetrate the nature of the mysterious are bearing fruit, but for him they turn out to be bitter: during the magical rite, in which they were invited as a sign of special disposition, Amparo falls into a trance against his own will and, waking up, cannot forgive this either. yourself, not him. After spending another year in Brazil after that, Casaubon returns.

In Milan, he meets Belbo again and through him receives an invitation to collaborate with the Garamon publishing house. At first, we are talking about compiling a scientific encyclopedia of metals, but soon the area of \u200b\u200bhis interests expands significantly, again capturing the sphere of the mysterious and esoteric; he admits to himself that it is generally becoming more and more difficult for him to separate the world of magic from the world of science: people about whom he was told at school that they carried the light of mathematics and physics into the jungle of superstition, as it turns out, made their discoveries, “based on on the one hand, on the laboratory, and on the other, on Kabbalah. The so-called Hermes project, the brainchild of Mr. Garamond, head of the publishing house, contributes a lot to this; Casaubon himself, Belbo, and Diotallevi are connected to its implementation. Its essence lies in the fact that by announcing a series of publications on the occult, magic, etc., to attract both serious authors and fanatics, crazy, ready to pay money for the publication of their creations; these latter are supposed to be merged into the Manutsio publishing house, whose relationship with Garamon is kept in the strictest confidence; it is intended for the publication of books at the expense of the authors, which in practice comes down to the merciless "milking" of their wallets. Among the occultists, "Garamon" is counting on a rich catch and therefore urges Belbo and his friends not to neglect anyone.

However, publications intended for Garamon still must meet certain requirements; on the recommendation of Casaubon, a certain Mr. Allier, whom he knew from Brazil, is invited as a scientific consultant to the project, either an adventurer, or a descendant of a noble family, perhaps a count, but in any case a rich man, with a delicate taste and undoubtedly deep knowledge in the field of magic and the occult sciences; he talks about the most ancient magical rituals as if he himself were present at them; in fact, sometimes he directly alludes to it. At the same time, he is not at all a snob, he does not shy away from obvious charlatans and psychos, and he is sure that even in the most useless text one can find “a spark, if not of truth, then at least of an unusual deceit, and in fact often these extremes are in contact.” Hoping to divert a stream of tares with his help, directing it to enrich their master, and perhaps find in it a few grains of truth for themselves, the heroes suppressed by the authority of the “Mr. Count” find themselves forced to wallow in this stream, not daring to reject anything: in any chaff there may be a grain, invisible and undetectable by either logic, or intuition, or common sense, or experience. Here are the words of the poor alchemist, overheard by Casaubon during another, this time not distant, shamanistic, but utterly close to their native homes, where they get at the invitation of Alya: “I tried everything: blood, hair, the soul of Saturn, Marcasites, garlic, Martian saffron, shavings and slags of iron, lead litharge, antimony - all in vain. I have been working on extracting oil and water from silver; I burned silver with and without specially prepared salt, as well as with vodka, and extracted caustic oils from it, that's all. I used milk, wine, rennet, the sperm of stars that fell to the ground, celandine, placenta; I mixed mercury with metals, turning them into crystals; I directed my search even to the ashes... Finally...

- Finally what?

Nothing in the world requires more caution than the truth. Finding her is like drawing blood straight from the heart ... "

Truth is capable of turning or destroying the world, because it has no defense against it. But the truth has not yet been discovered; that is why nothing should be neglected - it is better to try again everything that has ever been the subject of the efforts and hopes of one of the initiates. Let it be unjustified; let it be erroneous (and what then were they dedicated to?) - it does not matter. “Each mistake can be a fleeting bearer of truth,” Allier says. “Real esotericism is not afraid of contradictions.”

And this whirlpool of erroneous truths and errors fraught with truth again pushes friends in search of the Plan of the Knights Templar; the mysterious document left by the disappeared colonel is studied by them again and again, and historical interpretations are sought for each of its points: this was allegedly carried out by the Rosicrucians, this is by the Paulicians, the Jesuits, Bacon, the Assassins had a hand here ... If the Plan really exists, it should explain everything; under this motto, the history of the world is rewritten, and gradually the thought “we have found the Plan according to which the world moves” is replaced by the thought “the world moves according to our Plan”.

Summer passes; Diotallevi returns from vacation already seriously ill, Belbo is even more enthusiastic about the Plan, good luck in working on which compensates for his defeats in real life, and Casaubon is preparing to become a father: his new girlfriend Leah is due to give birth soon. Meanwhile, their efforts are nearing completion: they understand that the place of the last meeting of the participants in the Plan should be the Paris Museum in the abbey church of Saint-Martin-des-Champs, the Vault of Arts and Crafts, where the Foucault Pendulum is located, which at a strictly defined moment will indicate to them point on the map - the entrance to the domain of the King of the World, the center of telluric currents, the Navel of the Earth, Umbilicus Mundi. They gradually assure themselves that they know both the day and the hour, it remains to find a map, but then Diotallevi finds himself in the hospital with the most disappointing diagnosis, Casaubon leaves with Leah and the baby for the mountains, and Belbo, driven by jealousy for Alya, who became his happy rival in his personal life, decides to share with him their knowledge of the Plan, keeping silent about the absence of both the map and the certainty that all this decoding is not the fruit of their common raging imagination.

Leah, meanwhile, proves to Casaubon that those fragmentary notes of the end of the 19th century, which they took for an outline of the Plan, are most likely the calculations of the owner of the flower shop, Diotallevi at death; his cells refuse to obey him and build his body according to their own plan, whose name is cancer; Belbo is in the hands of Alier and a pack of his associates, who first found a way to blackmail him, and then lured him to Paris and forced him, under pain of death, to share with them the last secret - the map. Casaubon rushes in search of him, but manages to catch only the finale: in the Vault of Arts and Crafts, a distraught crowd of alchemists, hermetists, satanists and other gnostics led by Allier, here already, however, called Count Saint-Germain, desperate to get recognition from Belbo in the location of the map , executes him by strangling him with a rope tied to the Foucault Pendulum; at the same time, his beloved also dies. Casaubon flees; the next day there is no trace of yesterday's incident in the museum, but Casaubon has no doubt that now it will be his turn, especially since, when leaving Paris, he learns of the death of Diotallevi. One was killed by people who believed in their Plan, the other by cells who believed in the ability to create their own and act on it; Casaubon, not wanting to endanger his beloved and the child, locks himself in Belbo's house, leafing through other people's papers and waiting for who and how will come to kill him.