|Sean Connery and Christian Slater in the movie version of The Name of the Rose (1980) by Umberto Eco.|
The Name of the Rose (1980)
by Umberto Eco
The Name of the Rose is one of those super unlikely international best-sellers, which didn't just ensure everlasting fame and audience for the author, Italian semiotician Umberto Eco, but also single-handedly created the genre of the medieval detective story. The Name of the Rose had to prove itself as a top seller four different times: First, in the original Italian, where it was a best seller. Next, in French and German translations, where it was a best seller. Then, in England, where it was a surprise best seller, finally, in the United States, where it sold millions of copy and became a film starring a young Christian Slater and Sean Connery.
Today, The Name of the Rose is very much in print (last edition in 2014) and still selling. The copy I checked out from the Los Angeles Public Library was the Everyman's Library edition, published in 2006, the same year as the first edition of the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list. Whoever would think that a book that is one part Sherlock Holmes and one part exegesis on the paths of heresy in Southern Europe in the 13th century would prove such a hit? Part of the credit due Eco is his recognition that the Europe of the pre-Black Plague era was a pretty interesting place, intellectually speaking. The other part is being able to write a tale that translated fetchingly into four different languages and finding an audience in all of them.
Eco wasn't exactly a one hit wonder- other of his novels have proved to be best-sellers, notably Foucault's Pendulum, but Eco never prostituted himself in an attempt to match the qualities which inspired the success of The Name of the Rose.